Thursday, June 28, 2012

SM Johnson ~Thursday Morning Coffee~

This is what I've heard: Amazon is removing reviews by artists (in our case, this would be writers), publishers, manufacturers, etc. that they feel are in direct competition with the product being reviewed. Apparently that covers any writer reviewing other writers' works. But hey, it's still okay to get your 200 online friends to give your shitty book a 5-star review. Even if they haven't purchased it. Or read it.

Here's the letter Amazon sent to a writer who complained their reviews had been removed:

Dear (removed for anonymity),

I'm Jonathan Norberg of's Executive Customer Relations. Jeff Bezos received your email and asked me to respond on his behalf.

I'm sorry for any concerns regarding reviews of your books on our site. I realize we initially indicated the reviews disappeared as the result of a technical issue and, while we initially thought that was the issue, we've confirmed since that time the removals were intentional due to a violation of our policies. We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, family, or third-party merchants selling the product. 

We will not be able to go into further detail about our research but, rest assured, we're very careful to ensure we only remove reviews that don't follow our guidelines.

I regret any misunderstanding, and we do wish you the best of success with your books.


Jonathan Norberg
Executive Customer Relations

Honestly? I think anyone who buys a book has the right to review it. The end.

I am not a frequent reviewer, but still, I have 5 pages of reviews on Amazon, and it would really piss me off for them to disappear. Some of them I spent a lot of time writing. Some of them I just wanted to share a few short words to help other readers decide whether or not to purchase.

I have never trashed an author or a book with the intention of directing readers to my own books. I've only written one strongly negative review, and that was of a middle book in a series that I had high hopes for. And it wasn't the writer I was trashing, it was her Big 6 mass-market paperback editing team, who apparently didn't show up for work that day. Or any of the other days, either.

Whenever I hear some kind spiel that writers are in competition with one another, I call bullshit. We tend to be readers first. When I discover a book that blows me away, I'm not pissed off at the author for writing something amazing. No way. I'm half in love with that author for writing something amazing.

There's always room in my life and my heart for the next great story - why else do publishers, editors, and agents do what they do? Why else do readers keep buying books?

We all write different stuff. It's not like I'm producing a blue key chain and you're producing a red one, and I'm going to say the red one looks like blood and smells funny to get people to convince people to buy my blue one.

Come on. Comparing books is so often like comparing Folgers coffee to Coca-Cola soda.

I love Anne Rice. I love John Sandford. I love Lee Child. I love JC Andrejeski. I love Maggie Stiefvater. I love Elizabeth Berg. Sometimes I love Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

Just because I love Lee Child doesn't mean I can't buy Elizabeth Berg. Feeling that Anne Rice's werewolf, Reuben, is a fascinating creature doesn't stop me from also feeling that Maggie Stiefvater's Sam and Grace are the most tragically romantic werewolves ever.

I have room in my heart (and on my bookshelf) for all of them.

So shame on you, Amazon, to even attempt to promote the ludicrous idea that there is some kind of direct competition between writers. If that were true, publishing houses would only publish one book at a time.

Silly Amazon, reviews are for readers. And, doesn't the very act of writing a review make a person a writer?

I wrote an email to Amazon myself, about author groups manipulating Amazon stats by "liking," "tagging," and fluffing undeserving work with 5-star reviews. I suggested Amazon go the way of Smashwords, and only allow those who've PURCHASED the product through Amazon to post reviews.

Amazon didn't even bother to respond.

The Smashwords policy is somewhat frustrating - there are a lot of books I've purchased on Amazon or elsewhere that are also available on Smashwords, and as a means to help readers make book-buying decisions (and as a way to support writers whose work I find wonderful), I'd like to post my my reviews everywhere. But the policy makes a certain sort of sense, and it really does prevent someone from asking 500 people in a Yahoo group to quick click over to Smashwords and drop some 5-star reviews.


I supposed I don't know what the real answer is, just that I wish people would always be honest.

FYI - I copied all my Amazon reviews to Goodreads. I didn't want them to unexpectedly get lost when Amazon realizes that I'm a writer/reviewer.

Now, for a totally different topic:

Click here to view group
I am a member of a Goodreads group very aptly called  M/M Romance. The group is 6700 strong, and growing, and about to celebrate its 3rd Anniversary. Pretty cool. It's a huge group comprised of readers and writers, and readers are always encouraged to try their hand at writing.

A request went out for prizes for the Anniversary Celebration (I'm not even quite sure myself when this will be) and I am donating 100 copies of each of my M/M erotica novels (ebooks), Above the Dungeon, and Out of the Dungeon.

The group organizers are really shiny and happy and thanking me and stuff, because it's such a generous offer.

I don't know - it's not really generosity on my part. I was sitting here thinking, hmm, how many copies should I give? Maybe 10 of each?

And then I thought about the size of the group - 6700 people. Maybe 7000 by the time the event rolls around. 7000 people who read the kind of stuff that I write, M/M romance and erotica. Will there ever be a better group to offer my books as contest prizes? Ever?

Now granted, my stories sometimes miss the "romance" mark by not being able to offer a completely Happily Ever After (HEA) ending. But mostly there's a Happy For Now (HFN) ending, and that's quite often close enough.

So if I give away 100 copies of each book, I can get my words read by 200 new people. Maybe some of them will check out my other works. Maybe some of them will be fans. Maybe I'll become an "auto-purchase" for 3 people, who will each mention my work the 3 other people and so on and so forth.

These books are MINE to give away. I have only to answer to myself, and myself says giving some away can't hurt me.

I hate marketing and self-promotion. I really do. Offering free books is my favorite way to catch the attention of new readers.

My goals are simple. I want to sell one paid novel per day.

One sale a day is I need to feel like the formatting and promotional crap is worthwhile.

The writing happens whether there's an audience or not - I'd be barely breathing if I weren't spinning stories.

Have a great Thursday, darlings - and remember - Thursday is ALMOST FRIDAY!

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