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text 2017-11-07 19:17
Task for Square #4 -- Penance Day -- Theses for Book Bloggers!

1.  Be Honest.


If you give a bad book a good rating because you want to keep getting free books to review, that's okay, but at least let your followers know that it's all about you and you don't really care about readers.


2.  Be Honest.


If you give a bad book a good rating because you just can't bring yourself to hurt the author's feelings, that's okay, too, but at least let your followers know that it's all about the author and you really don't care about readers.


3.  Be Honest.


If you give a bad book a good rating because you think all books are wonderful and you  can't tell the difference, that's okay, too, but at least let your followers know that it's all about fluff and you really don't know enough to care about the reader's experience.


4.  Be Honest.


If you give a bad book a good rating because you don't know how to identify the flaws, that's okay, too, but at least let your followers know that you don't know what you're doing and you don't care enough about the reader's experience to find out.


5.  Be Honest.


If you give a bad book a good rating because you just want to be a positive person whom everyone likes, that's okay, too, but at least let your followers know that it's all about YOU and not even about books, let alone readers.


6.  Be Honest.


If you give a bad book a good rating because you're a writer, too, and you want everyone to like you and like your book in return, that's okay, too, but at least let your followers know that it's all about you and your book and not about them at all.


7.  Be Honest.


If you give a bad book a good rating because someone paid you to do so, that's okay, too, as long as you make it very clear to your followers that you were paid and it's all about the money, not the reader.


8.  Be Honest.


If you give a bad book a bad rating because it's poorly written and you don't think your followers would like it, GOOD FOR YOU!

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text 2017-10-27 01:07
An all-day rant/blather on writing, reading, reviewing, etc., probably TL/DR but anyway. . . .
To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction - Joanna Russ

The past two days laid up with back spasms have given me the opportunity to cogitate at length on a lot of issues.


Including omens, which I don't believe in.  (Shut up, Shakespeare!  No one believes that bullshit about protesting too much any more.)


When I was writing up my blog post about the Kindle Unlimited scammers yesterday, I referenced an old review of mine.  In the process of looking up that review, I came across another old post, this one about back spasms that attacked right after last year's first art show of the season.  Without going through diary entries and more old blog posts, I'm still pretty sure of the cause of the back spasms: strained muscles from lifting the canopy in and out of my car.


The first show of the season is always the worst, because it comes after a summer during which physical activity is severely curtailed by the heat.  I can't be outside on the rock saw or in the studio working on rocks and other projects because it is simply too hot.  So I stay in the house and don't get nearly as much exercise as I should.  Hence the first show - which is outdoors and requires the canopy - is a shock to all those lazy muscles that haven't been exercised properly for six months.  Even though I try to spread out the physical labor by loading the car during the week before the show and unloading it (usually) over a few days afterward, the effect of unloading and setting up, then tearing down and reloading the car within the space of eight hours for a one-day show is way too much for me to handle alone without the risk of inevitable back muscle injury.


Something has to give.


I don't have another outdoor show until early December, and I'm going to try to a.) get some more exercise to stretch and strengthen those muscles; and b.) enlist some assistance even if only in the loading and unloading of the damn canopy.


I'm not, after all, getting any younger.  Or any taller.  Height equals leverage, and I ain't got much.



I do anywhere from eight to eleven shows per season, usually four between October and early December, the rest late January through the first of April.  Five of them are outdoors and require the canopy; I declined to even apply for another outdoor show that involves more physical effort than the others, because it simply wasn't worth it.


Financially I do reasonably well at these shows, bringing in the supplemental income that means the difference between barely subsisting and actually having something of a life. 


And that's where a good part of the cogitating came in:  If not the shows, then what?


I could conceivably skip the outdoor shows and eliminate the issues with the canopy, but two of those events are among my most successful.  So I have to take that into consideration.


Enlisting at least some assistance could also alleviate as much as half the risk of injury, or perhaps even more.  This is a topic for dinner conversation, so we'll see.




I've loved rocks since I was a toddler.  The bottom step on my grandparents' back porch was concrete, and I remember sitting on that step and being fascinated by all the little stones revealed where the cement had worn away a little bit.  My mother once told me, rather vehemently, that I must be mistaken because she had grown up in that house and the porch was all wood with no concrete steps, but alas, photographic evidence bore out my claims.


 The penciled notation on the back of the snapshot reads "11 mos." and that means it was taken September 1949.  That's my grandmother Mom Helene behind me, and behind her is the concrete step.  (My dad is at the far right.)


So my fascination with rocks is almost as old as I am, literally.


Another photo, perhaps taken the same day, shows me at the fish pond my grandfather had built in the back yard . . . in the middle of his rock garden.  Pop and I had a lot of fun together in that yard.


The house is still there; so is the fish pond.


(Photo courtesy Redfin real estate site.)


I love my rocks.  I love playing with them, cutting them to see what surprises lie inside, turning them into gems and making jewelry out of them.  I'm not giving up my rocks!


But neither can I continue to risk the kind of injury I've been dealing with the past roughly two weeks and especially the past two days.


Up until the past two days, however, I was unaware of some other challenges I face regarding some alternatives.


Now, I know you're wondering -- if you've been foolish enough to read this far -- what all this nonsense has to do with Joanna Russ and To Write Like a Woman.  I'm getting there.


The end of my first writing career in 1995 was followed by my third (or fourth?) college career in 1998, which was in fact prompted by my discovery of another book about women and writing titled The Writing or the Sex, or why you don't have to read women's writing to know it's no good by Dale Spender.  Though Dr. Spender had written numerous books on women and writing and feminism, I was surprised to learn that most -- most -- of my women's studies professors at Arizona State University - West had never heard of her.  Hmmmmm. . . . .


But there were many authors I had never heard of, and to whom I was introduced over the two years of my undergraduate study and three years in the MAIS program at ASU-West.  One of those authors was Joanna Russ.


I learned of Russ when I was working on my undergrad honors thesis about romance novels.  One of my professors remembered a humorous article she had read years before, something about gothic romances and husbands killing their wives.  Research turned up Russ's article "Someone's trying to kill me and I think it's my husband," published in The Journal of Popular Culture in Spring 1973.


I had no way of knowing how far in advance of the "bodice ripper" boom that began in 1972 Russ had written the essay.  I only knew that she was absolutely spot on with her observations.  I obtained an authorized photocopy of the article for my research files.


I also bought Russ's book What are we fighting for? as well as Susan Koppelman Cornillon's Images of Women in Fiction: Feminist Perspectives, in part because it contained another of Russ's essays, "What Can a Heroine Do? Or Why Women Can't Write."  Both of those books, as well as several by Dale Spender, became part of that "personal canon" I started compiling here on BookLikes several months ago.


When the fiction writing bug bit me in the spring of 2016 and infected me enough that I actually finished The Looking-Glass Portrait (begun in 1994 or thereabouts) and then published it via Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, I had no real expectations of any kind of success with it.  It ended up shocking the living hell out of me by making some money.  Not big bunches, but frankly more than most of my print titles ever earned back in the 80s and 90s.  Almost immediately after finishing LGP, I began work on another contemporary gothic tale -- not so much with a menacing husband/lover as with hints of ghostly doings and dark family secrets -- and was having great fun with it and making steady progress. 




And then it stalled.


What stopped me?  Simple answer:  Art show season.


Oh, there were other reasons, too nebulous and complex to go into here for the sake of this particular musing, but the main reason was that I had to devote a great deal of energy and time and creative effort to my other artistic product lines, if you will, and there wasn't time for the writing.


Writing novels, unfortunately, does not provide immediate return on investment.  Or rather, the investment is very long, though in fact the return (thanks to digital self-publishing) can be fairly quick.  The return on an art show is almost instantaneous.


Well, it is if the show is successful.  And not all of them are.


But they were successful enough that in the short term, they provided that necessary supplemental income the longer term investment in writing just couldn't.  When the beginning of 2017 slapped me upside the head with several very large and very unexpected cash expenditures, I had to opt for the rocks and jewelry and other artsy-fartsy stuff that generated quick revenue.


The writing would have to wait.


And mostly it did.  Once summer arrived and shows were over and the outdoor temperatures relegated me to the house and the air conditioning, I tried to pick up where I had left off with Forgotten Magic.  Again, I made slow, but steady, progress.  The book and characters began to move in a slightly different direction that suggested this single story might evolve into a threesome -- no, not that kind! -- but it was going to take a lot more work.  And a lot more time.


In the interim, of course, there was the artsy-fartsy stuff.  To a certain extent, it was a kind of catch-22.  But the bills have to be paid, y'know?


The writing, of course, was going to take something else, something above and beyond, something I hate and don't have the financial resources for: Promotion.


My original writing career in the days when "traditional" publishing was all there was meant that the writer relied mostly on the publisher to get the word out and promote the book.  Cover art and blurbs were about all we romance writers had to stimulate word of mouth and get our books talked about.  In the early 1980s, Romantic Times came along, and Romance Writers of America, and from those two main sources came the push to promote, promote, promote.  Bookmarks and ads and all the other bullshit that takes money and/or makes my stomach turn.


So when I began reissuing my print titles via KDP, I didn't do promo.  I couldn't afford the paid stuff -- ads and such -- and I hated doing the rest of it.  Oh, I did my little blog and I posted a few times on Goodreads (once I found it) but I just can't shake my personal loathing for PR.  I still rely on the "if you write a good book, people will read it and talk about it," even though I know that's never really been true.  I did all right with the reissues, though not spectacularly, but I was never going to get rich from them.


The Looking-Glass Portrait was therefore a huge surprise.  I did no promo for it, took out no ads, sent out no ARCs, contacted no reviewers.  I think I posted a couple things here on BookLikes and a few short things on Facebook, but that was it.  Then I sat back and waited. 


I don't have a separate Facebook business page for either my arts & crafts stuff or my writing.  To be honest, I don't know how to do Facebook pages and I'm so afraid of doing it wrong and getting kicked off that I don't even try.  Don't even mention Instagram.


But . . . .  .  .  .   .   .   .    .    .       .


Then came The Secrets of White Apple Tree Farm. 




Suddenly I was writing three, four, six thousand words a day.  The story was writing itself, it knew where it was going even if I didn't. 


Halloween Bingo was less a distraction than a motivator.  The more I read of gothics and horror and ghost stories, the more I wanted to write.  The more I did write.


Production cut back, of course, as art show season approached.  I had to get inventory ready.  I had to clean the tables that had been sitting on the porch since last April.  I had to load the car.  But I still managed to write, even if it was only a few hundred words a night scribbled in a spare spiral notebook after I'd gone to bed.  There were things I wanted to say with this book, not just entertain.


What are we fighting for, anyway?


I've always believed there is untapped power in popular fiction.  Yes, even in romance novels.




Then came the first show of the season.  Financially, a success.  Physically, a disaster.  A catastrophe.  And a warning of what to expect in the future.


Even now, as I've started to recover today, the pain isn't gone.  Writing this has been enough of a strain -- along with fixing a sandwich for lunch and washing a few dishes -- that the twinges are becoming more painful and reminding me that I'm pushing it too far.


But the revelations of yesterday, of learning how Amazon allows writers to be screwed over, and how the only path to writing success seems to be promotion, promotion, PROMOTION, discourage me.  Indeed, they frighten me.


No, that's not right either.


They anger me.


David Gaughran preaches co-operation, but he practices competition.  Phoenix Sullivan, of that ghastly "romance" Spoil of War, practices high level, high tech promotion.  She has the extensive backlist of a top tier romance novelist to support her efforts, in terms of both finances and quality/visibility of product.  So where's the absence of competition?


Anne Rice and her alter ego Anne R. Allen preach kindness to authors, but only at the expense of honesty to readers.  They seem to have forgotten that some of the stuff being published is just plain terrible.  Is it kind to readers not to warn them when their hard-earned money is at stake, let alone their time?


Gaughran -- and Sullivan -- lament Amazon's favoritism toward readers at the expense of writers, but they seem to forget that Amazon's failure to protect readers from scams is just as bad as allowing scammers to scam writers.  It's all about what benefits Amazon, and screw the rest of us, writers and readers alike.


The co-operation needs to be not (just) amongst writers but between writers and readers.


If it's not about providing quality product, then it's not about co-operation; it's about competition.


If it's just about who gets the highest ranking on Amazon or who gets the most five-star reviews on Goodreads, then it's not about quality of product and reader satisfaction.  If it's about who buys the most ads on FreeBooksy or sends out the most ARCs via NetGalley or assembles the biggest street team -- whatever that is -- then it's not about writing a good book, it's about promoting a commodity of dubious quality.


I want to write.  I want to write good books that people will enjoy and that might subtly teach them something, too.  Not preachy like that stupid Terror in Tower Grove, but with a few laughs, a few chills, a few ohs and aaahs and aaawwwwws.


I won't become famous and I won't have an extensive backlist and I won't be invited to guest post on big book promoting blogs, but that's not the name of the game to me.


My back felt pretty good last night, so I crawled in bed and took To Write Like a Woman with me.  I skimmed through the table of contents, and skipped over the essay on gothics to the last entry in the book (before the index):  A Letter to Susan Koppelman.


It's dated 1984.  It mentions (feminist writer) Helene Cixous, about whom I had never heard before I entered the Women's Studies program at ASU-West in 1998.  It mentions Dale Spender, about whom my Women's Studies professors had never heard in 2000.


I started to cry.  Not from the pain of the back spasms, but from the anger that after 33 years the issue still of women's writing remains almost untouched.


And then came the real anger, because it wasn't just mine.  It was Joanna Russ's, too.



Part of the letter is available on Google Books here. The intro Russ supplies is amusing for its reference to Ursula K. Le Guin's response to a critic.  But the important part of this 1984 letter was about the anger.  That part of the letter isn't in the Google Books selection, but there's a reference to it here:


Russ's writing is characterized by anger interspersed with humor and irony. James Tiptree Jr, in a letter to her, wrote, "Do you imagine that anyone with half a functional neuron can read your work and not have his fingers smoked by the bitter, multi-layered anger in it? It smells and smoulders like a volcano buried so long and deadly it is just beginning to wonder if it can explode."[6] In a letter to Susan Koppelman, Russ asks of a young feminist critic "where is her anger?" and adds "I think from now on, I will not trust anyone who isn't angry."[13]


So, I am angry.  I have been angry before, but I have not had the kind of outlet for it that I have -- or at least think I have -- now.


Gaughran and Sullivan, Rice and Allen, and all the rest have a small bit of it right, but they have missed the essence by a mile.  The pact, the contract, the cooperation must be between the writer and the reader.  Not the writer and other writers. Not the reviewers and the writers.  Not the ARC suppliers and the advertising websites and the bloggers and the bundlers and the scammers.  It has to be the sacred bond between writer and reader.





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text 2017-10-25 19:14
Follow-up to Over Priced at $0.00 -- How the scam worked
Promised to an Earl: Arranged Marriage Historical Romance (Victorian Historical Romance) - Joyce Carroll

Disclosure:  I obtained the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on 6 January 2016.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of adult fiction and general interest non-fiction.




Thanks to comments by Darth Pony and Alexandra's Adventures in Books to my original "Over Priced at $0.00,"  I did some further research on how the scammers have operated to screw over readers -- and writers! -- via the Kindle Unlimited program.  Because I already had this item purchased and downloaded, it provides perfect material for analysis.


As you can see from the above screen shot (taken today), this item is now listed at $0.99 and is not available for Kindle Unlimited reading.  The lone Amazon review is a one-star warning not to buy the book.


According to the product information, this "book" is now 37 pages long.



Here's how the scam worked.


When Kindle Unlimited began, authors were paid the full royalty on any KU book the reader turned 10% of the pages.  This quickly proved too easy to scam, so the process was changed.  Authors were then paid a set amount per page turned (whether actually read or not).  It was still easy to pad books by double or triple spacing, leaving blank pages between chapters, and so on.  At that point Amazon came up with Kindle Edition Normalized Pages ("KENP"), which basically amounts to counting pages by equivalent words.  The current approximation is ~187 words per page, and the current royalty payment is ~$0.005 (one half cent) per KENP.


What the scammers did was to bundle dozens (literally dozens) of these short books/stories into a single volume, slap a cover and title on it, and publish it via Kindle Direct Publishing and enroll it in the KU program.  One book, of course, wouldn't be enough to rake in lots of royalties, so they took the same dozens of stories, shuffled the order, and republished them in other collections.  With new covers and new titles, they looked like another whole product, even though they weren't.


(I have some more of these in my Kindle collection and I'll try to locate and post more screen shots later.)


Once the reader was enticed to download the book via KU, she encountered various enticements, such as this:



Yes, "at the very end of this Book."  But, look at the number at the very bottom of this page:  116459. 


By comparison, Marsha Canham's full-length historical romance Bound by the Heart only yields 6801 "locations."  (These are not actual pages; I'm not sure exactly what measurement is used.)



A single click to the end of 116,459 brought the scammers 17 times the KU royalty that a full-length novel by a real author would have brought.  If the reader found out the material was crappy, she didn't much care, because it came "free" with her monthly KU subscription.  There really wasn't much incentive to leave a negative review, and it would only have taken more of her time, which she may have already considered wasted.  Why waste more on a negative review?


Whether "Joyce Carroll" really is a New York Times bestselling author remains to be discovered.  She may have been one of those who sold a big bunch of books in a collection for $0.99 and ended up on some list.  Again, it's a scam.


Now, are readers hurt by this?  Well, they are if they spend good money on this crap.  I confess I haven't actually looked at the "Promised to an Earl" story yet, but the others I looked at were pretty poor fare.  Still, most KU readers probably only look at the time they spent on books they otherwise wouldn't have read, because there's no actual money involved for them.


Authors, however, are directly impacted.


The KU pool is determined by Amazon each month, and it is then divided amongst the participating books by those KENPs actually turned.  To give you an idea of how that works out, my book The Looking-Glass Portrait is listed at 391 pages on Kindle; Marsha Canham's book is listed at 406, so pretty darn close to equal.  LGP is calculated to have 827 KENPs.  So this scam book "Promised to an Earl" generated roughly $68.00 in royalties each time someone clicked on that link to take them to the end of the book for a freebie.


Sixty-eight dollars.


That $68.00 was pulled out of the pool of funds available to the authors who actually wrote books and lent them via Kindle Unlimited.


And we don't know how many of these scam books were actually listed.


Here's the review I did of one, however, along with one page from the text to show spacing and the location amount on the bottom.



Apparently Amazon has tried to rein in some of these scam books.  I don't know if The Second Sister has been trimmed down so it doesn't add up the KENPs; I'll check later.


But, friends and fellow readers, this is just another reason why negative reviews are important.  This is why we can't just shrug our shoulders and say "There's nothing I can do about it."  These tactics are wrong.  They hurt real authors, and they hurt real readers by depriving them of the well-written books real authors are putting out there.


Deal with it, Anne Rice. Deal with it.



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text 2017-10-25 02:45
Over priced at $0.00
The Westward Bride - Catherine Scott
Disclosure:  I obtained the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on Amazon on 23 October 2017.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of adult romance fiction and general-interest non-fiction.
This book was published on 17 October 2017, six days ago.  It currently has no reviews on Amazon.  It ranks quite high on Kindle free downloads.
No actual publisher is listed in the limited amount of front matter on the book.  There are links to a website aweber dot com that may (or may not) be a publisher of some sort.
Only 14% of this "book" actually consists of the title story The Westward Bride.  The balance is other "more hot romance stories."
The Westward Bride is immediately recognizable as unprofessionally prepared because of the lack of publishing information, but also because it is poorly formatted.
Now we get to the writing.  There are the obvious punctuation errors.  There are the frequent changes of tense.  By the second page, many more errors come to light.
American usage limits "dry goods" traditionally to fabrics, notions, and similar merchandise, distinct from groceries, even dry commodities such as flour.  Molasses is not even close.
The word "disinterested" is misused; the word wanted here is "uninterested."
The story will soon be seen to be set sometime after the death of Joseph Wilson in 1879.  The Panama Canal was not started until 1881, by France.  After France abandoned the project, the United States picked it up in 1904 and spent the next ten years completing it.
All of that information is readily available, and there is no excuse whatsoever for any author to have got it wrong.  Not in late 2017.  Not in the first two pages.
Is this the kind of work Anne Rice would insist readers give four or five stars?  Why?  To support a small, struggling, indie writer?  How do we even know that's the kind of person who wrote it?  It's bad writing.  It's bad publishing.  Even if Rice's objective is to support writers and publishers and the hell with the readers, how would support of this kind of garbage help anyone?
As a writer of romances, I can't give this book a negative review on Amazon, per both Amazon's guidelines and Federal Trade Commission regulations. Even if I were to identify myself as a romance writer, it's still against the rules for me to post a negative review of my competition on a commercial site.
Now, you may be wondering what's in it for the author of this drivel, if the book is free.  Here's the listing the day after I downloaded it.
The price is now $3.99, and maybe some people will pay that much for it, netting the author somewhere around $2.50 for each copy sold.  It's much more likely, however, that sales will come through Kindle Unlimited, where the author gets paid by the number of pages read.  Whether it's one page or 200, the author gets paid for each one on KU.
And there are dozens of these crappy books out there.  Some feature a Highlander main story, or a Regency, or a medieval, but the format is the same.  All poorly written, all poorly formatted.
Anne Rice would have us say nothing.
I guess she wants to raise up generations of readers who have no appreciation for good writing, who can't tell the difference between what a "real" book looks like and garbage.
But, hey, Anne, just keep calling me a thug reviewer.  I'll wear the title as a badge of honor.
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text 2016-10-27 23:49
Speculation regarding Amazon's "new" product review guidelines



Not sure whether reblogging would mess things up worse, but I didn't want to hijack the original post with a huge long reply.  Then again, that may have been the best solution.  Oh, well, I usually screw things up anyway, so what the heck.  I'll cross reference this to it just in case.


Disclosure I:  I do not and will not review anything on Amazon.  As an author, I'm restricted to posting only positive reviews of books like might be close to my genre, which currently means anything in the romance category, plus paranormal/fantasy and mystery/suspense.  Rather than risk losing my KDP privileges, I just don't review anything.


Disclosure II:  Being banned from Goodreads for daring to call out shills and unethical authors, I don't review there either.  I never had any secret accounts there and have never attempted to set up any.  I have no interest in being on a site where I can't be honest, or where the dishonest are given more credibility, visibility, and leeway than I am.


After reading the Amazon info that Grey Warden posted in the linked blog and the subsequent discussions there and on Obsidian Black Death's reblog, I took about an hour away from the computer and did some thinking.  Which leads to - - - - -


Disclosure III:  As an author re-entering the publishing arena with new material, rather than just republishing old stuff, I have ulterior motives.  I do not have the means to pay for promotion, and I'm uncomfortable doing it myself, so I have relied on occasional mentions of my work here and on Facebook, then on word of mouth (or fingers, as the case may be).  I DO NOT READ ANY OF MY REVIEWS, but I do track my sales and sales ranking, and that requires a glance at the listing for my book on Amazon.  (I do not look at Goodreads or any other site, including BL)  As of this afternoon, the book has 7 reviews and an average of something around four stars.  I'm happy.  I have no idea who reviewed it or what they wrote, but my sales and Kindle Unlimited reads have been satisfying.  I sent out exactly one free ARC; all other copies have been purchased at full retail price or borrowed through Kindle lending programs.


With all of that out of the way, some observations and speculations.


Though it's been over three years since the Amazon merger with Goodreads and the subsequent GR September Purge, my belief is that Amazon has been under some pressure -- perhaps from the FTC but perhaps internal pressure -- to clean up the review mess.  I haven't even followed this "coupon club" issue, but from what I saw today, it looks like just another venue for scamming, and Amazon already has enough of that.


The fake reviews, whether they come from fiverr, from indie blogger shills, from review swap groups, or from reviewers who like the freebies that come with high reviewer ranking, could only hurt Amazon's brand.  I think we all know this.  And while Amazon may be the biggest online retailer and have a huge, huge, huge share of the SPA ebook market, thousands of five-star reviews for crap products could not be good for their brand.


If there were threats of enforcement from the FTC, that would make it even worse.


So down comes the hammer on the shills on 3 October, and now, less than a month later, a new program designed/hoped to further restrict the fake reviews.


The key part of the Early Rewards program, in my opinion, is that the product has to be purchased from Amazon.  This prevents sellers from shipping out freebies to solicit reviews.  It does not, however, weed out the organized shills, such as on fiverr, who simply charge the price of the product so they can buy it and review it and get the "verified purchase" tag.  And in the event of fulfillment by Seller, rather than by Amazon, more shenanigans are possible.


If the ER program is limited to fulfillment by Amazon, that problem may be taken care of.


But the real problem is still being masked, and that is the issue of Amazon selling crap products.  It's not the reviews that are hurting their brand; it's the crap they're allowing to flood their marketplace.


A year ago, when Amazon launched their Handmade @ Amazon platform, sellers had to apply and be accepted before they could list items in the marketplace.  Once a Seller was approved, they could pretty much list just about anything within the parameters; they weren't required to have new products juried in.  Though I haven't done any research at all, I suspect there are some sellers in the H@A marketplace who are selling items that would not have passed the original vetting process.  There's nothing *I* can do about it, though Amazon should take a hand in policing it.  They probably don't and probably won't.


Because they're so damn greedy and want every single selling fee they can get their hands on, consumers be damned AND sellers be damned.


There are crafters and artisans who will not list on H@A because they don't want to deal with the policies of the customer is always right and refunds are always given to quell complaints.  This has fostered an attitude amongst sellers -- it's rampant on eBay, too -- that the customer must be satisfied at all costs to avoid any kind of negative feedback.   Some Amazon sellers are successful enough that they can afford this kind of refund-on-demand, but others can't and are intimidated by it.  This, of course, encourages the purchasing of positive reviews, and it's what has gotten everything so messed up.


(The review policy on Etsy.com is much more restrictive -- only persons who have purchased the item can review it, and they can only review that specific product.  The system gets gamed, but not as badly as Amazon or Goodreads.)


At some point, Amazon may find itself forced to restrict what products it allows independent sellers to list on the site.  Attempts to regulate reviews and reviewers may simply not be enough, because if there are sellers who are trying to game the product system in the first place, they will continue to find ways to game the review system.


And at some point also, Amazon may very well have to take a position on how it justifies treating books as a separate product category.


Why is an ARC of a book any less of a free product than a bottle of organic vitamins or a non-stick waffle iron or a solar-powered phone charger?


Furthermore, why is a perma-free Kindle book, downloaded 20,000 times to get 100 five-star reviews, any less an incentive?


And what about the incentives and solicitations listed in the books themselves, encouraging readers to leave good reviews so the author can sell more?


How will all of the new regulations -- not just the October 3rd memo with its requirement that the reviewer have purchased $50 worth of merchandise but this new program and any others -- affect reviews on Goodreads?  They are no less sales devices than the reviews on Amazon, and I have a feeling it wouldn't take me long to find that some of our favorite fiverr shills are still at work there.  (The last time I looked was a few months ago, and it took me about ten minutes to locate the first one and then tie it to an Amazon review.)


Amazon wants the best of all worlds.  They want to sell all the products all the time, but they only want legit reviews, and preferably positive ones that sell product.  They don't want the hassle of vetting the products -- or the legal liability that would come with it -- but they want all products under the Amazon brand.  I think this newest program is an attempt -- and it has both strengths and weaknesses that I can see -- to clean up a horrific mess of their own making, but without actually cleaning it up.


As long as Goodreads is under the Amazon umbrella, there will be just as much dishonesty there as on Amazon, and perhaps much more.  Will GR start requiring purchases from Amazon in order to review?  What about reviews for out-of-print books not for sale on Amazon, or only on sale through affiliate/independent sellers?  What about reviews of library books, borrowed from friends?  Many of these books may not even be listed on Amazon.


If reviews are restricted on Amazon -- which they should have been from the beginning -- because Amazon is a retail site, will authors/publishers turn to Goodreads for shilling?  Will Goodreads be able to regulate it?  Or will Goodreads have to start instituting the same kind of restrictions as on Amazon?


I think that down the road, this new program by Amazon is going to have a big impact on book bloggers.  If ARCs and Kindle freebies are allowed to be reviewed, then why not free products in exchange for reviews?  And if free products are not permitted, then ARC and freebies should be banned, too.


I can't speak for non-book products, but I do believe, in all sincerity, that without a fully independent book reviewing site, this problem is going to continue and continue and get worse long before it gets better.


And now I'll shut up.  At least for a while.  Long enough to fix supper.



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