During the past 12 years, most of us have grown to regard Amazon.com as an immediate source for books we want to purchase: a) at a discount; b) from the convenience of our homes or offices; and/or c) because we can’t find them at our local bookstores and don’t want to wait for a special order. In fact, we’ve obliged this wonderful service so much that Amazon.com is not only the biggest bookseller in the country, but also one of our nation’s biggest and most cash-flush businesses.
I’ve written before about Amazon.com’s incredible customer focus. I featured it in an online tutorial that I wrote for corporate management and leadership training. Amazon.com’s way of automatically presenting buying choices based on your preferences, their crisp shipping practices and their ease-of-use platform all speak to extraordinary attention to detail. The customers come first. So much so that Amazon.com has an in-house goal: to never receive a complaint.
Well, today, they’re getting a very public complaint from one of their biggest supporters and customers the past 10 years: Me. It pertains to another of their finest features, allowing customers to post reviews.
Amazon.com has decided to disallow published authors from posting reviews on books. Any books. In other words, because 12 of the books I’ve written or ghostwritten are available on Amazon.com, I cannot write a review for your book, or my friends’ books, or the books written by any of the 440 people in my Word Journeys – Resources for Writers group on Facebook. Or anyone else’s book that I happen to buy and read.
This is absurd. Completely ridiculous. Does Amazon.com think that authors cannot write objective reviews? Do they think authors aren’t customers? If they ran some metrics on their buying customers (which they can do), they would find that a fat percentage of their revenue comes from working authors. By and large, we are obsessive book buyers. (For my part, I have 2,000 books, plus at least 3,000 that I’ve donated to libraries, schools or charities over the years). I mean, this is like telling librarians that they cannot recommend books to other librarians.
I love writing book reviews. I also love reading the reviews of my books, whether positive or critical. But I have ethics, too, and I do not write book reviews on Amazon or other online services for clients who enlist my services to edit or market their books. Much as I want to (and my clients want me to), I feel that’s a little too conflicting. However, I tell fellow authors about my clients’ books, and my other friends as well, and encourage them to review these titles.
Here’s the thing: Amazon.com works on a ratings system. The higher your book rates in sales, the quicker it pops up on the screen. This is particularly important when you have a title with common words, such as the latest effort by Dr. Steve Victorson and I, The Champion’s Way. We’ve sold copies, and we’ve had favorable reviews. Presto: Our book is seen by more casual browers.
If authors can’t write reviews anymore, who can other authors count on? If authors can’t support the effort and content of another’s book — with a particular, inside appreciation for that effort — that takes away a vital promotional asset. The beauty of having an author review your book is that they can address the way you put the story together, the journeys of the characters, and the voice you used. It’s a very collaborative and supportive act — something that I think is lost on the hyper-competitive Amazon. What Amazon.com needs to remember is that the book publishing industry has been torched by the combination of online bookselling, the migration to digital publishing and computing, and two recessions (2001-2 and 2008-onward). First, authors were forced to start promoting their own books. Next, publishing houses closed down by the droves. Now, many authors self-publish, a situation for which Amazon makes many millions of dollars through Create Space.
So Amazon is taking away a vital communications and promotional vehicle for authors. It’s as if they DON’T want authors to help each other out, which I find astonishing since they BENEFIT from our collaborative instincts through Create Space.
I know a lot of authors, many of whom have published through traditional houses, and some through Create Space. NONE of these authors would write the type of review that, I presume, Amazon.com thinks we would write — a blatant fluff piece that smokescreens the weaknesses in content, voice or writing of the reviewed book. We don’t do that. We’re professionals, and we write that way. We also know that we’re doing other authors and the reading public a disservice by sugar-coating book reviews.
And now, Amazon.com has chosen to silence the voices of those who feed both a hefty chunk of its online sales and its Create Space business. I certainly hope this suppression comes back to bite them hard enough to make them reconsider their decision. One thing for sure: I won’t be doing any holiday shopping on Amazon.com this year. Nor will a lot of authors that I know.
Let Amazon.com know how you feel. For those with Twitter accounts, a great handle to address is @AmazonBookPromo. Otherwise, let them know with your wallets.