Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic
Bots and Spammers are routinely purged.
:::::huge sigh of frustration:::::
Some of us have been around this circus long enough to remember when there was an entire website devoted to telling reviewers that they were wrong for writing negative reviews, that reviewers were supposed to support authors, that reviewers who were also authors were obligated to support and help other authors, that reviewers who were also indie/self-publishing authors were evil bastards if they didn't automatically promote other indie/self-publishing authors AND offer them free editing services.
Apparently Amazon made the decision sometime in 2018 or maybe even before that, that in order to leave a product review (including book reviews), a customer must have purchased $50 worth of goods from Amazon in the calendar year and continue to buy at least $50 worth of goods in each subsequent year. One presumes that this is an effort to curb the ongoing tsunami of fake reviews from fiverr accounts and other sources.
Some reviewers and/or authors are upset about this. One presumes that most of those upset are either authors (or other vendors) who were using fake reviews to boost their sales, or they were providers of fake reviews who were getting paid for them.
Please remember that the onslaught of fake reviews from fiverr and independent reviewers had been going on at least since 2013 and it had been brought to the attention of Amazon and its co-conspirator Goodreads with mountains of documentary evidence.
Please also remember that yours truly was responsible for the removal of over 6,000 fake reviews from Goodreads and it was only a drop in the bucket. Almost all of those reviews were five-star recommendations. A healthy portion of them had been purchased from fiverr. Some of the fiverr shills returned again and again and again under different Amazon and Goodreads accounts, leaving fake five-star reviews to boost the sales of otherwise underperforming, shall we say, books and their authors.
These are fake reviews because they are not based on an honest, unbiased reading of the book. They are purchased commercials, minus the disclaimer that the reviewer has been paid to deliver a glowing recommendation whether or not he/she has read a single word of the text.
Setting aside all of the fake, purchased, commercial postings that masquerade as reviews, what constitutes a real review?
Because Amazon is a commercial site -- they're directly selling products -- they are bound by certain regulations of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. So . . .
1. You can't review your own product, not even under another name/account.
2. You can't have a friend or family member review your product.
3. You can't negatively review a product with which your own product is in direct competition.
4. You can't take any compensation for a review.
Amazon makes all of this very clear in their guidelines. If they think you might have violated those guidelines, they can remove your reviews and even remove your account. It is their site; removing your reviews is not government censorship.
So let's suppose that you are an average consumer who has met Amazon's requirement to have spent $50 on the site. You've read a book and now want to review it. What are the rules and regulations for doing that?
There are none.
You don't have to read the whole book. If you loved or hated the first two pages, you can write and post a review based on that. You can even write a review based on your anticipation of reading -- or not reading -- the book.
You don't have to be helpful, to either the author or to other readers. You don't have to analyze why you liked or didn't like the book. You can say it was filled with errors and not list any of them. You can say it had the most sound scientific foundation of any book ever published even though you know nothing about science. You can claim it is historically inaccurate even if you know nothing about history.
Now, if you want to establish a reputation as a trusted reviewer, one who has a large following of dedicated readers who can't wait for your next recommendation, one who receives hundreds or even thousands of free books each year because authors and publishers value your opinion, then you probably want to learn about the science behind science fiction or the history behind historical fiction. You might want to refresh your knowledge of grammar and usage and punctuation. You don't have to know everything there is to know or read everything there is to read, but getting a solid background in the literary genre of your choice is still a good idea.
Back in the day when I was reviewing for Rave Reviews magazine, I got stuck with a lot of horror and hard science fiction novels. This was manifestly unfair to the authors and the readers, because I knew almost nothing about either genre. I couldn't tell if a book was a good example of its type or not. (I didn't get to review romance because that entire genre was handled by the parent magazine, Romantic Times, and they had their stable of professional reviewers.) But I could at least describe the plot and express an opinion on whether I liked the characters or the writing.
When an Amazon or Goodreads or BookLikes or blog-based reviewer takes on the task of reviewing any given book, the only rule is honesty -- and it's one many reviewers break without consequences. I understand this, and I've said so often enough before. If the reviewer decides she wants to maintain the flow of free books by giving everything a four- or five-star review, that's her choice. Is it honest? Probably not, but she'll never admit it. She'll say she just doesn't review books she doesn't like, or she only reviews books she finishes and she doesn't waste time on books she doesn't like. Or she may simply state that she's never read a really bad book.
Readers who trust these rave reviewers are free to do so. Maybe they don't care what the reviewer's real standards are. Maybe they don't want to risk going beyond the reviewer's recommendations. They're free to do so.
There's no rule that they have to post negative reviews.
But there's also no rule that a reviewer can't or shouldn't post a negative review. Nor are there rules governing how a reviewer writes a negative review.
A reviewer doesn't have to justify her dislike of a given book. She can if she wants to, but she doesn't have any obligation to. Again, if she wants to establish a large and dedicated following, the better her reviews help her readers make up their own minds about a book, the more likely she is to gain followers.
I'm a notoriously unlikable reviewer. I incurred the wrath of That Website because I didn't let up on authors who published what I thought were poorly written books. My reviews were often very detailed analyses of bad writing, bad research, lack of originality, poor formatting, and so on. Some readers criticized me for spending so much time on a negative review. Why go to all that trouble for a book I didn't like? Because I wanted to.
Because most of the books I reviewed like that were free on Amazon, and I felt free or not, they should have been better written. Even poor people like me deserve well-written books.
But I also know -- and I've said this before, too -- that there are too many writers out there who never get critical feedback on their work. Everyone tells them how great their book is, but "everyone" consists of Aunt Jane and Neighbor Brenda, and the writer never hears from someone who knows how stories are supposed to be constructed and how punctuation works.
Sadly, there are people out there who call this "gatekeeping," as if there should be no standards. They become angry and defensive, and yes, they have the right to do so. There are no rules against it. Neither are there rules against gatekeeping.
As a reviewer, I'm not going to like every sexually promiscuous heroine. I'm not going to like every medieval setting. I'm not going to like every beta hero. I reserve the right to judge each book on its own merits.
I also reserve the right to challenge people who try to tell me how reviewers should review. If you want to review that way, then go right ahead. But please, don't tell me I can't review my own way, too.