Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review Exchanges, Amazon's Policy, etc.

There's been a flap because Amazon is cracking down (unevenly, as always) on people who review books written by people they view as "knowing them personally."

Here's the thing.

It's actually technically against Amazon's TOS for any author to review any other author's book. The actual policy in practice is that they'll swipe reviews that are either too positive or too negative. (Sometimes. Sometimes they don't seem to notice them). Which leaves the reviewer in the position of not actually being able to review honestly.

That's why I don't review other people's books on Amazon. I have been reviewing on Goodreads, but after a conversation the other day I've been thinking about this.

Somebody was on Facebook asking for "honest review exchanges" and they got very upset when multiple people told them not to do it. A review exchange is when you trade reviews. Thing is: If you review somebody you're trading with badly, they'll likely get upset. No matter how much we say we want honest reviews, there's always that secret desire to ensure good ones. We can only squash that way down and hide its presence.

So here's the thing.

Amazon's review system is a customer review system.

Professional reviewers should not use it. They do - and the author doesn't have any control over that. But Amazon's review system is for and by customers.

If you write books, you're a professional. Therefore, you should review as a professional if you're going to - ideally on your own blog. Yes, we're customers too, but we're also professionals.

This means our reviews are not the same as a review from some random person who bought the book. They have both more and less weight, depending on how you see it.

And also? We know each other. We have, in some cases, power over each other's work - many writers are also editors to at least some degree.

Amazon doesn't want us reviewing each other's books in their system and, you know what? Amazon's right.

Which is why I don't do reviews of books on Amazon. (Other products, absolutely).

And they're also right that we shouldn't review books written by our friends, relatives, etc.