Do We Need To Be Enemies?

The last few weeks have proven to be difficult for Indie authors on Amazon due to a number of policy changes, not the least of which has to do with book reviews.  Two months ago, many reviews were deemed invalid and were removed from the Amazon site which caused an uproar among a segment of Indie authors.

Some reviews removed were “paid for” reviews while others were “review for review swap” reviews.  Some were “doxing” reviews (in other words, the sole intent was to sink the author’s book before the author got a toehold in the market) and some were “toxic” reviews (in other words, the sole intent was to use the review format to personally attack the author).

But then there came to light another kind of review removal and that was the removal of reviews by those Amazon considered to be a friend of the author regardless of whether the review left by the alleged friend was legitimate.  What’s worse, Amazon refused to explain how they determined who was or was not a friend of the author.

Authors like Jas T. Ward and Imy Santiago were stung by Amazon’s new policy that removed reviews on the basis that the reviewer and the author in question were “friends” without providing additional details as to how that determination was made by Amazon.

Whether you’re an Indie author or an Indie recording artist or an Indie name-your-artistic-domain creator, when you’re an entrepreneur you rely on social media to get your message out to the marketplace.  With Facebook (pages and groups), Twitter, YouTube, WordPress or Blogger, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, Vine, Tagged, and countless other social media platforms, Indie creators are connected to thousands of people at a time … and sometimes people to whom they are connected actually interact with them online.

And every site runs cookies whether you’re aware of this or not, which means every time you visit a website, someone is getting some amount of information about you and your visit (even if it’s minimal, it’s still information mining).

The problem with Amazon’s use of cookies and whatever other data they have access to with which to determine who is and isn’t an Indie author’s friend is that it doesn’t consider how the new policy allows trolls to game the system against Indie authors trolls don’t like.  As luck would have it, trolls are rarely “fans” or “followers” of the Indie authors they harm.  By definition, they are most certainly NOT going to be considered “friends” by any stretch of the imagination.

But those who *do* like what an Indie author is doing is going not only follow or fan that Indie author, they may actually *gasp* go as far as to interact with them (no matter how minimally) on one or more social media platforms.  The act of communication between an Indie author and a fan or follower, however, does not automatically made them “friends.”

Social media — especially Facebook — has diluted the meaning of the word “friend” to a sliver of its former sense.  However, even if Facebook has succeeded in diluting the meaning of the word “friend” that doesn’t mean that the word “friend” doesn’t mean what it means.  It also doesn’t mean that “acquaintance” or “stranger” aren’t appropriate descriptors to use when speaking about the majority of people who follow Indie authors on social media platforms.

Friend_Merriam Webster Dictionary

Acquaintance_Merriam Webster Dictionary

Stranger_Merriam Webster Dictionary
And just because someone trolls an Indie author doesn’t mean the trolls are the Indie author’s enemies (although some trolls may feel they are the Indie author’s sworn enemy).

Enemy_Merriam Webster Dictionary
Trolls
are generally miserable people with nothing better to do with their time than visiting their misery upon those whom they dislike — usually for reasons that are only known to the trolls  in question.

So what would be a more efficient and more Indie author supportive way for Amazon to address the issue of friends and family posting positive reviews to an Indie author’s page on Amazon?

Add two more pieces to the Amazon review form.  Include two more lines of text and two boxes to go with those two lines of text.

After one box place this statement:  I am a personal friend or family member of the author.

After the second box place this statement:  I am not a personal friend or family member of the author.

For a review to be uploaded to Amazon, the reviewer must check either the first box or the second box.  Where a negative review is called into question by the author on the basis that the reviewer is not a personal friend or family member, the reviewer would then have to provide proof of the relationship (an easy enough thing to do if a relationship does exist).

So there you have it, Amazon — a simple solution to all the brouhaha your recently changed policies on reviews and reviewers have caused Indie authors and their fans and followers.

No need to thank me for the common sense solution, Amazon.  Just don’t start telling people we’re friends because I suggested a workable solution to Jeff Bezos and associates.

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

Amazon: About Customer Reviews
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201077870&pop-up=1

Amazon: Customer Review Creation Guidelines
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201602680

Amazon’s Policies Rile Self-Published Authors
http://mediashift.org/2015/08/amazons-policy-changes-rile-self-published-authors/

Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites
http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites

The Top 15 Social Networking Sites You Should Be Using
http://webtrends.about.com/od/socialnetworkingreviews/tp/Social-Networking-Sites.htm

The World’s 21 Most Important Social Media Sites And Apps In 2015
http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-networks/2015-04-13/worlds-21-most-important-social-media-sites-and-apps-2015

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13 Responses to “Do We Need To Be Enemies?”

  1. Author Karimah G Says:

    What I think we ought to do is start finding other avenues in which to sell our books. Additionally, start using and directing our readers to Goodreads and other sites for reviews. Maybe if we hit Amazon where it hurts, they will roll it back a few. Many of us only met virtually and that is what Social Media is about, right?

  2. Author Karimah G Says:

    Reblogged this on Author Karimah G and commented:
    What I think we ought to do is start finding other avenues in which to sell our books. Additionally, start using and directing our readers to Goodreads and other sites for reviews. Maybe if we hit Amazon where it hurts, they will roll it back a few. Many of us only met virtually and that is what Social Media is about, right?

  3. rosesarehappy Says:

    Great write up, Elyse! I just shared this on my blog. This topic certainly needs plenty of traction…

  4. cairennhouse Says:

    Reblogged this on Jayne Hyatt and commented:
    This is always the case, author, blogger, musician, and artist, Elyse Bruce, has provided a well thought out and entirely reasonable solution to a problem we Indie Authors have been struggling with lately. Now, if only Jeff Bezos will listen.

  5. tcarle62 Says:

    Reblogged this on Free to Be Me and commented:
    Please read and Know this issue is real!


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