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A couple of weeks back I posted about Goodreads’ policy allowing authors to rate/comment on their own books.  Today let’s address one facet of Amazon’s quirky review policy: not allowing friends and family to review your book.  From their About Customer Reviews: If you have a direct or indirect financial interest in a product, or perceived to have a close personal relationship with its author or artist, we’ll likely remove your review.

First off, “allowing” is a broad term, since first Amazon has to figure out WHO your friends and family are, so as long as they don’t mention the relationship, they should be all good, right?  NOPE.  Depending on who you want to believe in the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) forums, Amazon will yank down a review if the reviewer has the same last name, same mailing address on their account, same IP address, etc. as you.  Some people have theorized that Amazon has mysterious bots that lurk around, using algorithms to determine a potential relationship, and yanking down those reviews.  Kind of like The Matrix!

Conspiracy theories aside, as it stands, Amazon says NOPE to friends and family leaving reviews, which is pretty harsh when you think about it.  If you’re a struggling author, just starting out, who do you think is going represent the majority of your sales in the first month or so?  YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY!  Prohibiting them from leaving a thoughtful, honest review (because let’s face it, we all probably have family members that would leave us a one-star review and then point out “Well, you wanted me to be honest!”) really isn’t quite fair.  Are your friends and family and more or less likely to be bribed into leaving five-star reviews than strangers if I offered them (for example) a free copy of my next book as incentive for a good review?  This is ponderous man, really ponderous.

Taking it a step further, how does Amazon determine what makes a “close personal relationship” in enforcing this rule?  Family is fairly obvious, I suppose, but do they stop after a certain degree of distance is achieved?  (For example, I’m on friendly terms with my first cousin once removed, and yes I can calculate who my third cousin twice removed is…I had to learn it in my college History of the South class!)  And friends…I’m closer to some of my online friends (some of whom I’m never met in person) than some of my in-person friends!

So before my head explodes, here’s my question for you…how they calculate it aside, what do you think about Amazon’s “no friends or family reviews” rule?  Is it fair since, yes, f&f are probably more likely to leave a (possibly undeserved) five-star glowing review?  Or is it unfair since anyone who writes an intelligent, honest review should be allowed to have their opinion and rating posted?

I think you’ve figured out which side of the fence I come down on, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!!!  Even if you disagree with me, as long as it’s done respectfully, your opinion is welcome!!!

-Kate

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