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).
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.
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.
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