Amazon, Friends, and Family

There’s been a bit of hullabaloo lately in the writing community and–SURPRISE–it’s all about our favorite website, Amazon.

Click here to read a nice, concise summary of the new policy.

Firstly, Amazon decided to ONCE AGAIN change the way books are reviewed. Remember the “Like” buttons? And then the “Author Likes” and then the “Author Page Follows”? Well, now reviews are being weighted based on “helpfulness” (that box you get to check under each review) and “verified purchases” (if you actually bought the book through Amazon, as opposed to another reputable dealer).

I didn’t bat much of an eyelash at this one, since Amazon seems to change this aspect of Likes and Reviews and Follows about once every six months. I don’t even bother asking my fans to “support me” every time this happens, forcing them to ask “How high?” just because Amazon has once again yelled “Jump!”

I’ve learned not to get too attached.

TRIXTER by Alethea KontisThe aspect of the change that has everyone across the Interverse screaming “Big Brother” is Amazon’s new refusal to allow friends and family to review books.

I experienced this myself when my mother posted a thoughtful and supportive review of my latest novella TRIXTER. Like anyone else who posts a review on Amazon, she read the book and gave her honest opinion. And then Amazon promptly deleted the review with no warning.

The day before Mother’s Day.

I happened to be at a conference that weekend, but I sprang into action as soon as I realized what had occurred. Since I had uploaded Trixter myself (thank goodness), I had the power to go behind the scenes and change the product description. So I did. (Click the link to see what Mom said.)

A bunch of you are playing Devil’s Advocate right now and saying to yourself, “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t trust any mother who reviewed their kid’s book.” But think about it…would you really? Or would you perhaps enjoy the honest-to-goodness review a parent posted that they KNEW their child could not change? Think about my very colorful family for a minute. Wouldn’t you sort of love to read all of their incredibly honest reviews of my work?

This occurred to me, so I instantly ran over to the Amazon page for AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First. You see…one of the first reviews for that book was from my grandmother.

My grandmother is celebrating a birthday this month (Happy birthday, Nana!). I can’t tell you how incredibly proud and honored I was when she took the time out of her busy schedule to write a review of my book. I was tickled.

But right then, as I realized what had happened to my mother’s review, I was scared. I did not want this beautiful memory erased by the Amazon machine. Happily, the review was still there in all its glory, caps lock, misspellings, and all. I made a screen shot. Which I am posting here, in the event that it eventually DOES vanish from the Amazon page.

Nana's Review of AlphaOops

Now, I’m not going to ask who among you would not find this review helpful, because I really don’t want to know. This review is precious TO ME, and worth more than any other review posted by anyone else.

Nana’s last name is Kontis. I’m almost sure this review will be deleted in time. But beyond this, Amazon is using a proprietary algorithm (which means they don’t have to tell you how they do it) that decides whether or not the author is reviewing is a friend. (Click here to read how one book blogger confronted Amazon after being accused of being an author’s friend, and Amazon’s incredibly crap response.) Of course, the person is not notified of this until AFTER he or she has typed up their very thoughtful review…that is now lost forever.

In my life, I have made many, many friends. I’ve even lost a few of them. Some are very close. Some are mere acquaintances. It never occurred to me that I should apply an algorithm to my life. BECAUSE THAT IS SILLY.

I’m neither for or against anyone in this essay, I’m just making sure you know just how far Crazy Uncle Amazon has gone around the bend this time.

And to suggest this: If you take the time to type up an Amazon review for a book, you may want to save it to a Word Document or something, just in case you get hit by the Friend Algorithm Stick.