Debra — Amazon’s Review Policy and a Review

Because I want to support authors, even if I don’t publish them, I recently bought this fabulous fine art photography book:  PORCH DOGS.

BelleBooks knows the photographer, because we published Nell Dickerson’s first book, GONE.  That book contained not only photographs, but also a short story by the fabulous Civil War novelist, Shelby Foote.  GONE was a hybrid and we sell Southern fiction.  GONE was a fit for us, but PORCH DOGS was/is a different animal and needed to be published by a company with broad distribution in the art book market.  We applauded Nell every step of the way (encouraged her to go after art book publishers first) and even saw early versions of the book.  BUT, we are simply cheerleaders of the project and not involved.

Fast forward to publication of PORCH DOGS.  Several of us who know Nell, bought copies and left reviews.  Amazon has taken them down.  Why?  Because they’ve determined that the “several of us” have linked accounts.  Amazon is on a mission to police the integrity of their reviews.  Multiple reviews (3) from “linked” accounts are apparently suspect even if three (3) hardback copies of the book were bought and one of the accounts has no points in common with the other two.  The reviews weren’t written at the same time.  We do give each other gifts so our addresses would probably be in the address list for each account.  And yes, Deb Smith and I know each other very well.  We did publish Nell’s first book, if not this book.

Now, this policed review mission can be a good thing.  Compared to Barnes & Noble, which leaves up the most insanely inappropriate and off topic reviews (i.e. “Hey, Jody.  Meet me in the chatroom.), Amazon doesn’t have a lot of garbage reviews up.  Yay for Amazon.

On the flip side, honest reviews are sometimes taken down. As a result, this lovely, charming book has no reviews now.  Outrage!  (That’s a little dramatic, but . . . ) Authors rely on word of mouth.  That gentle buzz from friend to friend (not to be confused with social media) is critcal.  Authentic reviews give readers the confidence to plunk down hard-earned cash.  Study after study has shown that engagement about the book is key to sales conversion.  Having a discussion, a meaty review, pointing out the one thing that stays with you when you close a cover, those are the things that make readers take action.  Tweeting “Buy my/this book.” doesn’t have the same effect.

I want folks to know what a charming book this is, so, I’m doing a review.  Right here!  (Where it won’t be deleted.)

Nell Dickerson is not only an architect and someone who’s worked as a set designer in Hollywood, but she’s also passionate about preserving the culture of the South.  Porches and dogs are an indelible component of our DNA in the South.  Nell sweated in 100 degree weather to get many of these pictures.  She cajoled families who’d never seen her to let her have a snap or two.  Temple Grandin, the famous autistic veterinarian, says, “PORCH DOGS is one of the most endearing books on dogs I have seen in a long while.”  Robert Hicks wrote the foreword.  Terry Kay says, “Spending time turning its pages is a bit like taking a quiet and sweet journey to places of memory that rest comfortably in one’s soul.”

All of this is true.  So many dogs in this book are old souls, and you can feel how rooted they are to their people and their place.  Just like human Southerners.  I remember my mother and father sitting out “of an evening” (as we call it in the South).  They’d watch us play in the twilight and call us home for bed.  Usually with a dog beside them.

Anyone who ever sat on a porch and misses that time when life slowed down long enough to allow us a well-used porch will want this book.  There are some actual words to read as you go along, but not so many that you can’t get through the book in a reasonable sitting.  Some captions cause a smile and others a tug at the heart.  My dog-loving friends are getting this as a gift this year.  I love when a chunk of my Christmas shopping is done by May!

As a reader, do you leave reviews?  If you don’t, why not?  Are you intimidated by the little blank box?  Hate to say, “Ditto” when others have posted first?  Authors need you, now more than ever.  So let’s talk about reviews.  If you read them.  If you write them.  If they terrify you (readers and authors!).

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17 Responses to Debra — Amazon’s Review Policy and a Review

  1. Willa says:

    This book looks gorgeous . . and I would get it in a heartbeat if I could find it here in the UK, other than Amazon! I really like to support the other stores and not let them have all the cake.

    As for reviews, yes I have written them – particularly when I feel strongly about a book, positively or negatively. And then I run away, very fast! Lol!

    • debradixon says:

      Willa– I’m glad you post reviews. As a publisher I love the positive readers who give us great ratings. (g) As a consumer, I appreciate the carefully considered and honest review, even if the review isn’t glowing. So, I feel two ways about reviews. And I remind myself that I don’t have to write an essay. Just a couple or three sentences.

      • Willa says:

        Exactly – a measured review even if it is not good.

        Spoke to my friend in the U.S. and she now has the book in her wishlist! She loved it too 😀

  2. leannebanks says:

    The book looks WONDERFUL! But it really sucks that you can’t leave a review for a book that you genuinely enjoyed! Wah! I don’t leave negative reviews.

    • debradixon says:

      I know! It sucks. I do get the review policy of Amazon. And we all benefit from their taking a harder look at the fake/purchased review situation. But…Wah!

  3. Lois Greiman says:

    Yay Deb!!! Thanks so much for this blog.

  4. I can understand Amazon policing its reviews, in light of the glitch a few years back when actual reviewer names were inadvertently revealed (or…maybe not so inadvertently. Who knows?) and one could see some authors unabashedly leaving multiple, glowing reviews for their own works. And, I can imagine other unsavory plots to heavily tout books as well. But I think it’s unfair to remove all of the nice reviews you all gave this book. I’ve heard that lots of reviews by readers–who happen to also be authors–are removed as well. What a shame! It leaves people in the industry with no voice with which to publicly appreciate and recommend books they enjoy.

    I love animals, and will go check out this book. If I can afford it I’ll get it and leave a review. Glad you told us about this one, Debra!

    • debradixon says:

      Roxanne– I agree that they should have left at least one of the reviews for the bought and paid for books! I’ve also seen that Amazon will take down reviews from authors for other authors. Oh, well. Top Down let me gush and that’s a place I can give an honest opinion.

    • I did order it because it looks like such a charming book, and will leave a review…though who knows if it will stick. I went into Amazon and checked the book reviews I have done, and only a few of them are still in place. 😦

      • debradixon says:

        Really? They’ve tossed a lot of your reviews? Grrr. You know I BUY books. I should be allowed to review. :/

  5. Mona Kekstadt says:

    Debra, I always leave reviews on books and they have been through Amazon. I did not know they did this! I’m shocked…I always want to support authors by doing this, pre-ordering there books, telling others about…and not just family and friends. When I’m at Barnes and Noble if I need help I even tell that person that author is a great author…
    This book Porch Dogs is one book I will look for. I’m a big animal lover. I found this blog by Cindy Gerard’s website…I’m so glad I did…you all are so great…

    • debradixon says:

      Mona– Hello and welcome! First, Cindy Gerard is the bomb. We adore her. And, second, bless you for being a street team for authors. You have no idea how much we appreciate the readers who do what you do. I guarantee you are selling books! That’s what the studies are showing. Readers who love a book and tell people about that book are worth their weight in gold. 🙂

      • Mona Kekstadt says:

        Thank you…I plan on getting this book soon and one of everyone’s book on this blog to start..
        It is going to be hard to choose. I have already looked into some..
        The pictures in this book are gorgeous…I used to have a Greyhound/lab mix dog named Blitzy for short he’s name at the shelter where we found him was Bulletzky.. He was my baby…hope to,get another dog sometime soon. Take care all! I LOVE this BLOG…I plan on leaving my review right here after I read Porch Dogs and Face Book..

  6. Trish Jensen says:

    Deb:

    Yes, I post reviews on Amazon. I do a lot of shopping there besides books. But when it comes to books, I will not post a review if FOR ME, that book deserves a 3 or less. Because I feel I’m passing on negative judgment on a fellow author’s work which might cause another reader to take a pass on buying it, and possibly loving it. Maybe I’m too sensitive considering some of the whacko reviews I’ve received, but the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice…” applies. If I love it, I say so. If I don’t, I keep my mouth shut.

    This, however, doesn’t apply to other products. If I find them lacking, I say so in a “buyer beware” type of way.

    Trish, obviously using different standards, but there’s no way I’d publicly diss a book from a fellow author…

  7. Kylie Brant says:

    Yes. What Trish says. If I can’t gush unabashedly about a book I don’t leave a review. Just because something doesn’t hit the mark with me doesn’t mean it isn’t well-written. And I think the review policy (like much else at Amazon) is insane. With all the trolls bashing books, authors and each other on their boards, you’d think they’d focus their energy where it’s actually needed.

  8. I agree with Kylie and Trish. I never leave a review on a book if I don’t love it, because I won’t stab another author in the back. If I don’t like it, I won’t leave an Amazon review. Yet, like Kylie says, there are legions of mean people out there who seem to find great pleasure in slamming authors and their books. I’ve had some bad reviews that referenced plot details and characters that were not even in the book, so some of these people don’t even bother to read the books.

    Bless you, Mona, for being active in leaving reviews for the authors you read and enjoy!

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