Authors Beware: There are Sharks in the Water & Their Teeth Are Sharp!
The flurry of activity surrounding the release of LOVE TO WIN has mostly settled to a manageable hullabaloo. There is still stuff upcoming, of course—blog blitz, FB giveaways, etc. But the big bullhorn announcement and release of virtual confetti is done. The early feedback has been terrific. My book has already kept a couple of people up all night reading, and a few have confessed to crying big, fat, ugly tears. Always a good sign. 🙂
I probably should have thrown a Facebook release party. Those things are hugely popular, and they do a good job of introducing authors to new readers. The reason I opted out is because there are just so many Facebook release parties already. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I receive three to four invites per week. If I attended all of them, I’d never get anything done.
Being a “takeover author” on those release parties isn’t a bad gig, though. The way it works is that the hosting author invites other authors to “take over” for an hour. So, let’s say you are the hosting author, and you’ve set up your release party to last for twelve hours. You may run things for the first hour, but then you turn it over to another author, who an hour later turns it over to another author, who an hour later turns it over to another author, every hour for twelve hours. Each author plays games to engage comments from the readers who have dropped in, and comments put a reader’s name in the hat to win prizes. The prizes range from $5.00 gift cards to gifts worth hundreds of dollars. Crazy, right? The “takeover authors” are only responsible for their assigned hour. The hosting author has to hang out at the party pretty much all day.
I’ve been a “takeover author” twice. I gave away copies of my books and Amazon gift cards. The Amazon gift cards seemed like a great idea, because they are easy to purchase and send via email, so there is no lag time for the winners. But I learned something recently that ensures I will NEVER again gift an Amazon gift card to any reader for any reason.
Amazon, in their quest to eliminate dishonest reviews, tracks both the gift card purchaser as well as the recipient. If the giver is an author, and the recipient buys said author’s book and later reviews it, Amazon will disallow the review—no matter how innocent or honest the transaction. Not only that, but Amazon will disallow any review by that reader for any of the author’s future books as well! (I learned this recently and had it confirmed by a friend who attended a workshop with an Amazon rep sitting on the Q&A panel.) Add to that, they prefer that authors not leave reviews for other authors, because if both people are authors then surely they must be bosom buddies. HELLO! Authors are READERS. Authors read and review books all the time! How can Amazon pull reviews based on a person’s career choice, for heaven’s sake? In addition, now that Amazon owns Goodreads, they monitor those connections as well, so if someone is a “friend” on Goodreads and leaves you a review on Amazon, you’re toast. Even if you’ve never met or talked to the person.
Engaging readers and getting reviews is already tough for us little guys. We’re working to keep our heads above water and Amazon has thrown sharks into the tank.
I appreciate Amazon’s desire to keep things honest. Truly I do. They’re trying to eliminate reviews by family and friends who might be less than truthful about a novel’s attributes. And there are authors out there who try to cheat the system by paying for reviews—an unconscionable practice and one in which I would never engage. So I understand Amazon taking measures to keep their review system free of cheaters. But in today’s social media world, it’s a fair assumption that a good many reviews will be generated by people who are connected to an author via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. To Amazon, that’s an unlawful connection. To authors, it’s a lifeline. Social media is how we stay connected to readers and how we reach out to new ones.
As an author who sits on pins and needles waiting for honest reviews, this type of policing feels intrusive and wrong. On the flip side, because I do know of other authors who are not so particular, I appreciate Amazon trying to keep it aboveboard for their patrons. Still, the situation pretty much sucks. For well-known authors, none of this matters. Stephen King sure as hell doesn’t give a flip if ten of his 10,000 reviews are pulled. But to a newbie like me, those ten reviews are vitally important.
What’s your opinion? Is Amazon doing the right thing, or are they overstepping? With authors and readers so interconnected via social media, what is the solution?
A friend/reader/reviewer (OMG, the evil trifecta) gave me this link which is chock full of good information on this topic. If you’re an author, please read this to keep yourself out of Amazon’s shark tank. If you’re a reader and want your honest reviews to stand, this is also for you.
See you next Wednesday. Have a great week, buttercup!
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