Reviews

Rotten Reviews and Terrible Trolls

23 April 2017

From Lit World Interviews:

You will get bad reviews. It’s inevitable, I promise you. Take comfort in the fact that it’s a rite of passage all writers go through. Every – single – one of them, and after the first one has you on the floor, bawling your eyes out, and inexplicably trying to chew your own foot off for a while, they’re not so hard to deal with. Some are pretty funny, and some are just to be ignored. There are people out there who delight in trashing books, and sometimes the authors of books too, for reasons unknown to most decent humans. Sometimes it’s jealousy, and sometimes it’s just because they’re mean. Sometimes also these one star stabs to the soul are perfectly legitimate in their author’s hearts and minds, because they really didn’t enjoy what you wrote for reasons that do or don’t make sense to you. Whatever the reasons are for your one star clanger, you must never, ever, never, never, and I repeat, never respond to them. If you really need to share your pain then talk to a friend – preferably a writer friend, who will totally get you. I personally don’t think that it’s a good idea to respond to fabulous five star rave reviews either. “Liking” that wonderful review is good enough. The reviewer might actually not appreciate being gushed at by an unknown author, no matter how much you really want to catch a plane, find them, and kiss them on the lips. Reviews are for readers, good ones and bad ones. It’s best for you to let them be.

. . . .

When you do get a negative review, pass it on to that part of you who is the business – not the writer – figure out if there is anything to learn from it, in which case it becomes helpful, and if not, move right along and forget about it. Don’t waste your valuable online time on trolls and hurtful reviews.

Link to the rest at Lit World Interviews

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One-star review activism is still a contentious issue on Amazon and elsewhere

21 April 2017

From TeleRead:

We’ve had a lot to say on the subject of one-star reviews over the last few years. Consumers have used them to protest practices they didn’t like, be they windowing the publication of an ebook, applying unfriendly DRM to video games, or even double-dipping on Lord of the Rings DVD releases.

Beyond that, organized rating or voting campaigns have become a favorite tool for online activists, be they Gamergaters who want to smear the works of feminists whom they loathe (or feminist movies like the Paul Feig Ghostbusters remake), Sad or Rabid Puppies who want to influence or trash the Hugo Awards respectively, Greenpeace downrating Amazon’s Fire phone, or even the wags who tried to force a British government agency to name its newest research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.”

The Hollywood Reporter has the story of the latest such incident to make the news. The Promise, a movie about the controversial Armenian genocide during World War I, has seen its Internet Movie Database listing receive 100,000 1-star votes as the result of a campaign by those who would deny there was a genocide at all. IMDB has said that there’s not a lot they can do, and even with the filmmakers organizing their own campaign to vote the movie back up, it’s still only ranked at 5 stars on IMDB (4.2 when the article was written).

. . . .

Given how much has already been said about the added difficulty of discovering new works online, activists gaming the ratings for ideological reasons is not going to make it any easier. In the end, it’s going to be up to sites that allow review rankings to figure out their own way of dealing with this issue.

 

Link to the rest at TeleRead

A question occurred to PG while he was reading the OP.

Has any author who is the target of organized negative review campaigns ever inserted an explanation of what’s happening with his/her reviews in the book’s description? Something like, “A group calling itself Friends of Dogs has organized a protest against my books because they portray cats in a positive manner. Many of the one-star reviews of my books are part of that protest.”

On the one hand, it might help potential readers understand that some of the reviews are not really about the book’s content. On the other hand, it might spur protesters to even more extreme actions.

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Star Reviews

7 April 2017

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Confessions of a paid Amazon review writer

20 March 2017

From Digiday:

Many marketing jobs are far from glamorous. Take those toiling in the black market for positive reviews on Amazon.

Merchants have historically offered writers on Amazon free products or services in exchange for positive online write-ups. The practice became so rampant that Amazon updated its community guidelines last October to remove incentivized reviews. But still, many retailers are trying to get around the new policy, according to one top-ranked Amazon reviewer.

. . . .

How does one become an influential Amazon reviewer in the first place?
I have been reviewing on Amazon for a few years, sporadically, but only in the past year have I been doing it seriously. That is because I suddenly broke into the top 10,000 reviewers and then began quickly climbing up. At that point, I decided to see how far up I could get. [She made it to top 50.] Once I got into the top 10,000, vendors started to send me requests to review their products. At that time, it was acceptable for a vendor to send you their product for free in exchange for a review so long as you made it clear in the review that you had received the product in exchange for the review.

What is the most expensive item you have received for free in exchange for reviews?
I would say a Bluetooth speaker that is worth $50 or so.

. . . .

Did anything change after Amazon’s crackdown last October?
Prior to the crackdown, vendors could provide you with an item for free so that you could review it for them. Since that policy change, vendors are not allowed to do that [other than for books], and reviewers are not allowed to accept items for free in exchange for a review. So, if one was reviewing in order to get free items to review, it affects them a great deal. I know that a top reviewer was removed by Amazon recently all of a sudden, for no reason.

. . . .

Are brands trying to get around Amazon’s crackdown?
Some still ask me to go around it. I get dozens of requests to review products every week, some from vendors who do not seem to be aware of the policy change, and others from vendors who are clearly aware of the policy change and are asking me to do something underhanded to violate Amazon’s policy, so that they can get their product into my hands so that I will review it.

What do you mean by “something underhanded?”
Here is an example that I received recently. The seller is telling me to buy the product on Amazon, and it will reimburse me through PayPal, “so it will be a verified purchase review.” Or a seller suggests I order the product through Amazon, then request to return it and receive the refund but keep the product: “After you receive the product, then you apply for a refund but do not need to return product. We will refund your full payment. So you do not have to spend any fees for this product and will enjoy the rapid distribution of Amazon.” This is the most ridiculous, and dishonest, thing that a vendor has asked me to do. In addition, I have had vendors who track me down and message me on Facebook.

Link to the rest at Digiday and thanks to E.M. for the tip.

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It will soon be illegal to punish customers who criticize businesses online

1 December 2016

From Ars Technica:

Congress has passed a law protecting the right of US consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies.

. . . .

The Commerce Committee held a hearing on gag clauses a year ago and said it heard “testimony from Ms. Jen Palmer, a plaintiff in Palmer v. KlearGear, where a company demanded the removal of a negative online review or payment of $3,500 in fines because the online merchant’s terms of service included a non-disparagement clause. When the review was not taken down, the company reported the unpaid $3,500 to a credit reporting agency as an outstanding debt, which negatively impacted the Palmers’ credit.”

Palmer beat Kleargear in court, but only after a years-long ordeal. In other cases, a supplements maker, called Ubervita, threatened legal action against customers leaving negative reviews on Amazon, and a jewelry store sued a customer who left a one-star review on Yelp.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act—full text available here—voids any provision in a form contract that prohibits or restricts customers from posting reviews about the goods, services, or conduct of the company providing the product or service. It also voids provisions that impose penalties or fees on customers for posting online reviews as well as those that require customers to give up the intellectual property rights related to such reviews. The legislation empowers the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the new law and impose penalties when necessary.

Link to the rest at Ars Technica

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Amazon is taking big steps to reduce crummy reviews

27 November 2016

From Digital Trends:

In the middle of its busy season — Cyber Monday is just hours away — Amazon has been busy on internal fronts as well. After dumping incentivized reviews, the retail giant is going to start capping the number of product reviews any customer can submit in a given week. According to The Digital Reader, an email went out to Amazon’s more enthusiastic reviewers telling them of this change.

Basically, you can review any product at any time if you bought it from Amazon. However, if it’s a non-Amazon Verified Purchase, there’s a limit. In GeekWire, an Amazon rep confirmed the changes.

“Customers can now only submit a limited number of non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews a week. The limit is five and the count is calculated from Sunday at 12:00 a.m. UTC through Saturday 11:59 p.m. UTC. Customers’ ability to submit Amazon Verified Purchase reviews will not be impacted. This policy also does not apply to Vine reviews or reviews on digital and physical books, music, and video.”

 

Link to the rest at Digital Trends and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

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I found out about reviews

1 November 2016

I found out about reviews early on. They’re mostly written by sad men on bad afternoons. That’s probably why I’m less angry than some writers, who are so narcissistic they consider every line of every review, even a thoughtful one, as major treason.

Barry Hannah

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Why Most Amazon Reader Reviews are Worthless

1 November 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

I’ve been an agent for 40 years. Publishers may not like what I’m about to say, but my observation is that most Amazon and Barnes & Noble reader reviews are either fraudulent or, at best, useless in assessing the true merit of any given title. Debut authors are largely being shut out of a fair shake, and without them, publishing will follow the network-media misstep of avoiding/shunning the fresh voices that attract new audiences (which is why HBO, Netflix, Showtime, and, yes, Amazon Prime have surpassed the major networks in original content).

Two decades ago, I knew editors and publishers who, determined to see their authors climb the New York Times bestseller list, got the tacit okay from the major publishing houses to enlist their friends and colleagues to go to all of the 10 retail outlets that the Times secretly used to gauge reader interest—no Nielsen numbers, just 10 stores (most of us back then knew which stores those were)—and buy a copy of their books. Ten friends carrying out this directive could result in a second printing because the book would appear at #20 or better on the Times list. Some editors I knew had a whole campaign mapped out: five friends the first week, 10 the next, and 10 again the third. The result? You were bound to get a Times mention and the book was likely to be a winner. This was cheaper than co-op advertising.

The Amazon reader reviews are today’s equivalent of manipulating the numbers. How is the book a success? You would think blurbs or actual media and viral reviews would be the most important criteria for Amazon’s algorithm assessing positioning and promotion. Nope, those have no mathematical number to plug into a formula. So is it the public reviewers’ average rating? Not alone. What Amazon does is akin to the cheap tailor’s quip over the cost of a suit fabric: “Never mind the quality, feel the width!” One hundred reviews at three stars becomes more valuable commercially than 10 at five stars. Crudely speaking, 300 of anything is more valuable than 50.

Should we all be paying for reviewers? There are services that do so for serious fees. Google “buy Amazon reviews” and they will turn up. If Amazon finds out that reviews were purchased, it will sue, but are those who purchase reviews frauds or are they fighting an already-corrupt system?

Now, publishers know this reality. We all know this. Every major publishing house we deal with, every editor, asks our authors to have all their friends and colleagues preorder their books and write reviews immediately on pub date, and preferably buy copies the week of release to drive the profile. Does anyone really believe that a branded author’s reviews, queued up for the morning after release, are all suddenly written by quick readers? Oh, come on. It’s the Times 10-store whip around in an Internet-age version. It’s fighting fire with fire.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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Amazon says goodbye to ‘incentivized’ customer reviews

30 October 2016

From DealNews:

User reviews are tricky to navigate. You assume you’re getting the unvarnished opinions of your fellow shoppers, who’ve paid their hard-earned money for a product. But what if you’re not getting that? How could you tell?

This conundrum is what Amazon is trying to combat with its new customer review policies.

. . . .

Customers had previously been allowed to publish “incentivized” product reviews (the item in question provided for free in exchange for a nominally objective review), so long as that transaction was disclosed. As of October 3, all such reviews go through the invite-only Amazon Vine program.

. . . .

This means Amazon will be responsible for identifying trusted reviewers and providing them with products to review, which removes all contact between the seller and the customer. (Books are the only category exempted from this restriction.) This should lessen the likelihood of biased reviews. Amazon Vine reviews will, of course, be clearly marked.

Link to the rest at DealNews

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Why was My Review Rejected or Removed?

24 September 2016

From Amazon Customer Review Creation Guidelines:

If your review does not comply with these guidelines, it may be rejected or removed.

We are unable to accept the following feedback:

Reviews that are not about the product

Seller & Shipping Experience

– Feedback about the seller, your shipment experience, or packaging is not a product review and should be shared at www.amazon.com/feedback orwww.amazon.com/packaging.
Product Availability & Feedback – Comments about product availability or alternate ordering options are not about the product and should be shared by contacting us.

Reviews that contain inappropriate or offensive content

Inappropriate Content – Reviews may not contain obscenities, profanity, phone numbers, mailing addresses, non-Amazon URLs, videos with watermarks, foreign language content (unless there is a clear connection to the product), or other people’s material (including excessive quoting).

Hate Speech & Offensive Content – We don’t allow reviews that express intolerance for people belonging to identity groups including race, gender, religion, sexual preference, or nationality. Customers are allowed to comment on products and question the expertise of authors, sellers, or other customers as long as it is in a non-threatening manner.

Promotion of Illegal Conduct – Reviews may not encourage or support behavior that is illegal, including violence, illegal drug use, underage drinking, and child or animal abuse.

Promotional content

Promotional Reviews – In order to preserve the integrity of Customer Reviews, we do not permit artists, authors, developers, manufacturers, publishers, sellers or vendors to write Customer Reviews for their own products or services, to post negative reviews on competing products or services, or to vote on the helpfulness of reviews. For the same reason, family members or close friends of the person, group, or company selling on Amazon may not write Customer Reviews for those particular items.

Paid Reviews – We do not permit reviews or votes on the helpfulness of reviews that are posted in exchange for compensation of any kind, including payment (whether in the form of money or gift certificates), bonus content, entry to a contest or sweepstakes, discounts on future purchases, extra product, or other gifts.The sole exception to this rule is when a free or discounted copy of a physical product is provided to a customer up front. In this case, if you offer a free or discounted product in exchange for a review, you must clearly state that you welcome both positive and negative feedback. If you receive a free or discounted product in exchange for your review, you must clearly and conspicuously disclose that fact. Reviews from the Amazon Vine program are already labeled, so additional disclosure is not necessary. Read more about promotional content.

Link to the rest at Amazon Customer Review Creation Guidelines

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