Reviews

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

Reader Reviews

9 September 2016

From Slate:

It’s been a while since a reporter has called to ask if I’m worried that Amazon reader reviews spell the death of my own livelihood as a critic. That used to happen all the time. Over the past 20 years that I’ve been at this job, professional book reviewers have turned out to be an endangered species, but for reasons having little to do with opinion-dispensing customers on Amazon or Goodreads. (Blame the economics of newspaper publishing!) So I’ve had few occasions of late to trot out my handful of stock quotes about the very different purposes served by professional and amateur reviews.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to dislike Amazon reviews. Every author has a war story about absurd one-star reviews written by dolts complaining that the shipping package was torn or ranting that the Kindle version ought to be priced lower. Even when these grousers stay on point, customer reviews sometimes seethe with inexplicable contempt.

. . . .

But here’s my semi-shameful secret: I like reader reviews. I often make a point of seeking them out. When reporters used to interview me on the subject, I’d feel obliged to note that you can find reviews on Amazon and (even more commonly) on Goodreads that are as considered, thorough, and well-written as anything that used to appear in your local newspaper. But actually I don’t care much about those reviews. I already know how people like me, people who read books professionally and with a particular set of aesthetic values, respond to a text. I go to reader reviews to see how the other half reads.

. . . .

But if you’re willing to escape your bubble, the internet can teach you the infinite variety of ways that a person can experience a book. The novel I regard as brilliant never quite wins the audience I feel it deserves, while the one I wave away as mawkishly overwritten strikes the reading public as wonderful. This happened before the internet, of course, but now, thanks to reader reviews, I stand a better chance of finding out why.

. . . .

Crucially, the internet has made it simply impossible for me to kid myself that there’s a widely shared agreement on what constitutes good writing or a good book. This, I realize, will be viewed as the violation of a sacred trust by some of my fellow critics, who see our role as that of knights defending the citadel of Literature from barbarian hordes waving Fifty Shades of Grey. But I can’t help it: Not only do I think the citadel can take care of itself, but I always want to know what the barbarians are so worked up about. Besides, some of them are not actually barbarians at all, just tired, overworked women who have finally found a bit of recreational reading that hits the spot. I want to know why: why people devoured The Da Vinci Code by the millions, what they saw in The Help, why they fell for Twilight over hundreds of other vampire romances. True, I seldom end up loving the best-sellers myself, but I always learn something from them. And more often than not, with the help of reader reviews, I’m able to ferret out the source of their appeal.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Curtis Sittenfeld on Book Reviews

29 August 2016

From The New York Times:

I only recently became a book critic. In 2014, when my own book came out, I remember living in deathly fear of the person I now am. How many jobs involve submitting your work to the scrutiny of a paid corps of strangers? It seemed, at the time, like someone’s idea of a cruel joke. And I instantly understood why Nathan Zuckerman fantasized about quitting the novel-writing business and becoming an obstetrician in Philip Roth’s “The Anatomy Lesson”: “He catches what comes out and everyone loves him. When the baby appears they don’t start shouting, ‘You call that a baby?’”

. . . .

Now, as a person who writes reviews for a living, I am curious to know: How do professional authors handle unsparing criticism, written in just a few days or weeks, of something they’ve toiled over for years? I decided to ask Curtis Sittenfeld, author of “Prep,” “American Wife” and most recently, “Eligible,” a modern retelling of “Pride and Prejudice.”

. . . .

O.K., the obvious questions first: Do you read all your reviews?

No. I read more of the early ones and more of the ones from publications I respect. I think of reviews being mapped on a graph with four quadrants, and I’ll read the ones that are smart and positive, smart and negative, or dumb and positive (hey, all our egos need a little sustenance!). But there’s no point in reading a dumb, negative review.

You’ve now written five books. Your feelings toward reviews must have evolved over the years, yes?

I take criticism less personally, and I recognize that sometimes fate smiles on you and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m aware more than I was before I had books published that any review is a bit arbitrary — it’s not really, say, The New York Times that’s authoritatively weighing in on the quality of a book, though it seems this way to the public. It’s actually one reviewer weighing in (maybe a daily reviewer like you, but maybe a random novelist like me who reviews one or two books a year), and all of us as individuals have quirky, subjective taste.

When my first book, “Prep,” was published, I also realized I had to accept that many reviews would contain factual errors, and some would misunderstand the book. Unless you receive a rave, especially in The Times, it’s tempting to write a letter to set the record straight, but I literally don’t think I’ve ever read a letter from a writer complaining about his or her negative review that made the writer look good. You’re better off just biting your tongue.

. . . .

Do you have a nightmare reviewer? You do not have to name this person, just curious if you do.

The nightmare reviewer is the reviewer who has some sort of agenda that precludes him or her responding sincerely to the book. Often that agenda is seeming clever and/or taking someone who has received more than her fair share of attention down a notch. But again, there are people who are just on a different wavelength from you, and it’s not that they misunderstand your book — it’s that they really in their heart of hearts don’t like it. That’s actually fair.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Tom for the tip.

Why I Review Everything I Read

21 August 2016

From BookRiot:

A little more than eight years ago, I started blogging about the books I was reading. Over the course of those eight years, I’ve written a post on almost every single book I’ve read. (The only exceptions that I can think of are books I read for a class, books I quit reading, and books I reread.) Writing these reviews has become part of the reading experience for me, and my reading no longer feels complete if I haven’t written a review.

You see, I read a lot of books, and without a blog, most of them would go into a black hole, leaving nothing but a faint memory and a vague feeling of pleasure or annoyance. Character names and major plot points often fall out of my brain.

Reviews are a great memory aid, and I use them that way often, going back to read old reviews to refresh my mind. However, the process of writing reviews often keeps me from even needing to consult them later. Writing seals in the knowledge, making every book just a little less forgettable. It’s not foolproof, but it helps.

 

Writing reviews also slows me down and forces me to reflect on my reading. I’m greedy for books, wolfing down one right after the other, not always taking the time to appreciate each one. Pausing to write a review helps me to digest my books better.

In my years of review writing, I’ve found a lot of truth in the quote often attributed to Flannery O’Connor, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” I write reviews to figure out what I think and why I think it.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Pamela Paul to Oversee Daily and Sunday Book Coverage

19 August 2016

From The New York Times PR department:

Dean Baquet, in a note sent to staff, writes that Pamela Paul will now oversee The Times’s daily and Sunday book coverage, including coverage of book news and the publishing industry:

“Colleagues,

For generations The New York Times’s criticism and coverage of books have been a vibrant part of America’s cultural life. We are the last daily newspaper in America with a free-standing books section, an essential journal of literary discussion and debate. And to a remarkable degree our daily book critics help set the literary agenda for the country.

In order to continue and enhance our influence in a digital age we have decided to place all books coverage — daily and Sunday — in the hands of Pamela Paul, the current editor of the Sunday Book Review and one of our biggest stars. It will be Pamela’s job to think about how our coverage should change and, of course, how it should not change. (We will, for instance, maintain our Sunday Book Review. It is hard to imagine the paper without it.) Above all, we believe we have a significant opportunity to expand the audience for our books coverage.

This may seem like simple tinkering in the flow chart. But it is large in the life of The Times and in American publishing. Currently, the line between Sunday and daily reviews — a line established when the paper was divided according to print constructs — means that the great critics Michiko Kakutani, Dwight Garner and Jennifer Senior do not write for the cover of the Review. It means that we don’t often coordinate in deciding which books are so important they deserve both a daily and a Sunday review.

We also hope this change will create a structure that will allow our critics more breathing room to do other kinds of writing — including essays that marry the world of books and the larger world. Pamela will also oversee coverage of books news, including the work of Alexandra Alter, who covers the publishing industry.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

PG predicts that Pamela receives even more invitations to lunch at expensive Manhattan restaurants.

While the Times continues to lose print circulation, it does have one of the few reasonably successful digital subscriber programs for access behind a paywall – about one million digital subscribers in the most recent information PG could find.

In the US, the Wall Street Journal has much larger print and total circulation than the Times, but the Times has the largest US digital newspaper circulation. Unfortunately for the Times, print advertising continues to decline and the paper still loses money every quarter.

Will the Times ever pay any attention to indie authors? PG has his doubts. The book world as perceived by the Times staff and the world of legacy publishing are essentially identical. Plus the Times book sections receive most of their advertising from large publishers.

Reading Reviews: It’s Complicated

11 August 2016

From author Laura Benedict via Kill Zone:

There are as many approaches to dealing with reviews as there are writers, ranging from the diehards who don’t read their reviews, ever, to the snowflakes among us who turn into sad, quivering puddles at the sight of the dreaded single star. (As a former snowflake, I resemble that remark.)

Book reviews fall into several categories:

–Good (Loved it!!!! Five Stars!!!)

–Bad (“Horrible!! wish I hadn’t read it.”)

–Meh (or what I like to call damned by faint praise)

–Irrelevant Content

–All About the Reviewer

–Actionable

The Good Review

Everyone loves a good review (except your enemies). It feeds the ego of the little kid inside of us who trudged home from school clutching a hand-loomed potholder, desperate to hear that it was the BEST POTHOLDER IN THE WORLD! We’re adults now, of course. We are mature professionals who understand that a job well done is still just a job, and while we humbly tell ourselves that there are probablydefinitelycertainly things we could have done better, somebody thinks it’s the BEST POTHOLDER BOOK IN THE WORLD!

. . . .

The All About the Reviewer Review

All About the Reviewer reviews can be a lot of fun. These reviews are for…other reviewers! Back in the day (and now occasionally in the New York Review of Books) there were many actual book critics who spent their time explaining books by connecting their cultural context and literary significance. Good critics were well versed in their specialties and liked to show it. The wittiest ones were often cheerfully savage and careers were made or hearts were broken. Now, the standard All About the Reviewer review is an extensive book report written for the reviewer’s memory of their favorite high school English teacher. I may seem to be poking fun, but these are the most useful reviews to people who are trying to decide whether to buy/read a book. They’re often thoughtful, complete, and nearly always earnest.

. . . .

Whenever I’m tempted to read reviews of my work, I keep in mind what my very first writing teacher told me: “You don’t get to look over your reader’s shoulder and explain your work. It is what it is.” That’s it. It’s out on paper or online (or shared with your workshop or writing group or significant other) and it must stand on its own. Sometimes it’s going to wobble, and sometimes someone is going to point out where you screwed up. That’s the way of sending work out into the world. The sending out has to be its own reward because there are no guarantees once it’s done.

If you’re not one of the stalwart writers who can confidently take anything a reviewer throws at you, pause a moment before you sit down to read your reviews at Goodreads or Amazon or anywhere else and ask yourself a few questions:

Am I looking for approbation? If so, then go ask your mom or spouse or bff what they think of your work, because while you might find some solace in reviews, you’re going to find a lot of other things that are nothing like approbation.

Am I being tempted to look at reviews by my overbearing inner critic? This is your own resistance trying to keep you from your work. Your inner critic will skim over all the nice things it reads and zero in on the negative comments. These are the ones that will stay with you when you sit down to write.

Link to the rest at Kill Zone and thanks to V.S. for the tip.

Here’s a link to Laura Benedict’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

If you doubted there was gender bias in literature, this study proves you wrong

14 June 2016

From The Guardian:

A new study has confirmed what many already suspected: the careers of Australia’s female authors are suffering due to gender bias within the literature industry. That female writers are still consistently being overlooked in the 21st century is not only unacceptable; it is embarrassing.

The study, conducted jointly by Dr Julieanne Lamond from the Australian National University and Dr Melinda Harvey of Monash University, looks at reviewing patterns in leading Australian publications from 1985 to 2013.

Male authors were found to be more likely than their female counterparts to have their work featured in published reviews. Despite the fact that two-thirds of published authors in Australia are women, two-thirds of the books being reviewed are by men – a ratio that has remained largely the same for 30 years.

. . . .

Australia’s statistics are part of a global trend; the international body Vida also releases annual stats that year on year have shown disparities between how writing by women and writing by men is received in Britain and the US.

The reviewing pages are just the beginning. Male authors are also more likely to win awards and are significantly more likely to be included on course syllabuses at both high school and tertiary levels. In short, writing by men is considered more culturally important.

The under-representation of women in our literary culture is an embarrassment to an industry that prides itself on being intellectual and progressive. It’s also puzzling when considered in the economic context of the publishing industry.

. . . .

This all underlines a vast chasm between people who are consuming literature, who are mostly women, and those who are being lauded and rewarded for their work, who are mostly men.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Nate for the tip.

 

Attention, Readers: ‘Rotten Tomatoes For Books’ Is Here

8 June 2016

From The Huffington Post:

A scene: You’ve just read (and re-read) the final paragraph of a novel you’ve been savoring, and you’re almost mad at the author for wrapping the story up so neatly, so poetically. How dare she refuse to imply the possibility of a sequel? What are you supposed to read now?

It’s tempting to peruse Amazon, your cursor hovering over what Customers Also Bought. You find a big, 800-page tome — a Pulitzer winner that should hold you over for a while — but wait, what’s this? A 3.5-star rating? You don’t want to be dissuaded — the book sounds smart, fast-paced and full of heart! But, alas, you decide look elsewhere, hoping for something in the four-to-five-star range.

It’s something so many of us readers are guilty of: allowing aggregated user reviews to influence which books we pick up. But while these star systems featured on Amazon and Goodreads serve a purpose, they loom too largely over reader activity. Which makes sense; they’re the only quantitative assessments we have of books’ worth.

That’s why Literary Hub, a site dedicated to book news, essays and excerpts, has launched Book Marks, which they call a “Rotten Tomatoes for books,” aggregating professional critics’ takes on new literary novels and assigning them a letter grade.

Andy Hunter, publisher of Lit Hub, told HuffPost how the endeavor will work. The site currently has a stable of 70 outlets with professional book reviews, ranging from The New York Times to blogs like The Millions and including HuffPost’s weekly book review, The Bottom Line. Once three of the 70 have covered a title, it gets added to Book Marks.

. . . .

Because book reviewers aren’t prone to slapping a rating on their takes, Lit Hub editors — many of whom have worked as professional critics themselves — assign the reviews letter grades. But, Hunter notes, the site welcomes reviewers to submit letter grades of their own, to avoid any miscommunication. “We want this to be an open, collaborative thing that book reviewers are happy about,” he said.

“I think books are an extremely important part of our culture, and I think professional critics are people who devote their lives to engaging with books in a substantive way,” Hunter said, explaining why Lit Hub embarked on the project. “A book reviewer has a responsibility to talk about a book’s worth within the context of its peers and the history of its genre and the works of other authors that are tackling similar subjects.”

. . . .

It’s an altruistic move on Lit Hub’s part to offer a solution to the multifaceted, hotly debated problem of professional book reviewing.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

PG notes that Bookmarks and Lit Hub are co-sponsored by Grove Atlantic, a traditional publisher.

Amazon sues sellers for buying fake reviews

3 June 2016

From TechCrunch:

Seller beware — if you buy reviews for your products on Amazon, the company might sue you.

As part of its effort to combat fake reviews on its platform, Amazon sued three of its sellers today for using sock puppet accounts to post fake reviews about their products. Amazon has been aggressively pursuing reviewers it does not consider genuine over the last year, often using lawsuits to discourage the buying and selling of reviews, but this is the first time it has sued the sellers themselves.

Today’s suits are against sellers who Amazon claims used fake accounts to leave positive reviews on their own products. The fake reviews spanned from 30 to 45 percent of the sellers’ total reviews. The defendants are Michael Abbara of California, Kurt Bauer of Pennsylvania, and a Chinese company called CCBetter Direct.

Amazon is asking for the defendants to be banned from selling products on any of its sites or accessing its services. The suits also ask for the profits the sellers made on Amazon, attorneys’ fees, and damages exceeding $25,000.

Amazon says that, since early 2015, it has sued over 1,000 people who posted fake reviews for cash. Now, the company is going after the retailers themselves. Amazon said that it intends to eliminate incentives for sellers to buy fake reviews for their products.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Annie for the tip.

Amazon Continues Its War Against Fake Reviewers

26 April 2016

From Business Finance Review:

Just a year after its first official act against fake reviewers, Amazon is pursuing its third case against falsified reviews on its website

Reliability and authenticity are paramount for the success and long-term feasibility of the company-client relationships. In the age of information, reviews play a pivotal role in the sale of any good or service, it thus comes as no surprise that companies put in significant effort into ensuring the legitimacy and accuracy of reviews. As part of its ongoing complain to root out false reviews on its platform, Amazon.com, Inc. is suing five more websites that are providing fake product reviews.According to a company spokeswoman: “We will continue to pursue legal action against the root cause of reviews abuse — the sellers and manufacturers who create the demand for fraudulent reviews, as well as the ecosystem of individuals and organizations who supply fraudulent reviews.”

. . . .

The online retail giant started its war against fake reviewers in April 2015 by filing a lawsuit against them. The act, the company’s first, stood as a testament to Amazon’s commitment towards ensuring the reliability and authenticity of its 5-star review system. Following the filing in April, the online retailer continued to take a stand against deceptive users and services, filing another lawsuit in October, targeting over 1,000 users registered as sellers on the website, Fieverr — a site that allows people to sell odd services and jobs for at least $5.

In the latest case, the online retail giant filed charges against New York resident Chris Embry, CEO (alleged) of AmazonVerifiedReviews.com, and California resident Jane John-Nwankwo, who allegedly owns and operates PaidBookReviews.org. Amazon has also filed charges against the operators of ReviewConnections.com, BuyAmazonReviews.info, and AmazonReviewStar.com. The company, however, was unable to identify the websites’ owners.

. . . .

The online retailing titan is suing for trademark infringement amongst other claims, demanding that the aforementioned website not only cease using the company’s trademark, but also offering reviews to items and services.

Link to the rest at Business Finance Review

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