Authors banned from reviewing books on Amazon?!

An American Pit Bull Terrier muzzled. Español:...

How is this dog and owner like an author on Amazon? Both are being punished for the actions of someone they didn’t even know. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The latest publishing industry kerfluffle is Amazon’s banning of authors from reviewing books in their genres. You can read more about it here.

This is of course ridiculous, and there are so many reasons why.

Authors are good at writing. Authors are also good at writing about writing.

Who better to assess a book’s success or failure at meeting a genre’s expectations than people who read extensively in that genre and spend years honing the craft of it themselves? Who better to articulate an opinion in writing than a professional writer?

Authors help one another.

While there are a few nutters out there who think that trashing other books will help their own, the majority of authors know the truth: a stronger book market benefits all authors. No reader buys just one author (and if he does, his scrawny wallet isn’t worth fighting over, anyway); readers enjoy finding new talent, discovering new worlds, even reading new genres. Even better, authors want good books out there converting and retaining more readers in a world full of other types of competing media. On a personal and marketwide scale, you don’t win more readers by trashing books.

So while Amazon’s stated motive was to keep authors from trashing their perceived rivals due to “conflict of interest,” smart authors help one another, if anything. See more here.

Respect everyone, and quit focusing on the bad guy.

I personally have a big problem with punishing many innocent people for the wrong actions of a few, from breed-specific legislation to gun control to authorial review censorship. One dog of literal millions bites someone, ban the breed and punish responsible owners everywhere? Makes no sense.

This reviews topic drew more attention when one specific crime author was exposed writing anonymous negative reviews on other books and anonymous glorious reviews on his own. It’s wrong to then turn to the hundreds of thousands of other authors on Amazon and accuse them of doing the same. Gee, thanks for assuming I must be unethical.

Define “my genre.”

Amazon’s policy restricts me from reviewing books in my genre — but I don’t write in a single genre, and sometimes one book doesn’t even fit in a single genre. Kitsune-Tsuki has been variously categorized as historical, fantasy, and mystery. That’s an awful lot of books I now can’t comment on.

And it could get downright dangerous, if enforced evenly. Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked-Out: Training Crazy Dogs from Over-the-Top to Under Control is a book on dog training and behavior (coming out soon). My day job is in animal behavior, and I’m also certified in TAGteach for humans. If I as a professional can’t comment on training or behavior books, that means only non-professionals can speak to their validity, best practices, and advisability?

So, only non-mechanics (or mechanics who have not written on the subject) can recommend a book to purchase on engine repair. I see more than a bit of problem with this.

ramona and dozer

a perfectly normal pit bull! (Photo credit: ( kurtz ))

We aren’t the problem.

Yes, a few people play dirty. But rather than splashing their names and titles all over media in free publicity and then muzzling the rest of us, consider revising the review system (which has drawn some criticism already, particularly for anonymous reviews). I’m honestly not sure that the situation requires action, but if something really needs to be done, try doing it without insulting the rest of the industry which supplies your product or limiting the feedback consumers can access.

And now, in the spirit of practicing what I preach, here’s my frequent end-of-post recommendation to someone else’s product. :)

Recommended:

Stephen Lawhead’s tale of a monk carrying the Book of Kells to a city where he is prophesied to die is an a great look at many medieval cultures and one man’s sorely-tried faith.

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2 Comments

  1. Well, that’s a handy reason to not bother writing a few reviews. On the other hand, lots of ways to cheat with those criteria. I would rather not have someone who had a perception of me as a threat be able to review my book. It’s bad enough just having lots of haters out there looking for their next target.

    • Fortunately, Amazon has revised their review policies since this was posted. Amazon still has some review issues, don’t get me wrong — I had several reviews removed because the same people had reviewed other titles also by me, which apparently somehow suggested collusion rather than fandom — but their blanket assumption of evil-doing by authors seems to have faded.
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