There have been some alarming reports lately that Amazon reviews of indie authors’ book are being deleted, quite randomly it appears. I first read about it a few weeks ago, and it has since happened to me – a reader contacted me to say they had placed a review of A Life Unpredicted three times, only to see it either removed instantly or not appear at all.

What is going on here? It seems that this is Amazon’s response to the recent ‘sockpuppet’ scandal, where authors were accused of creating false accounts to place 5 star reviews of their own titles, and 1 star reviews for their rivals’ books. Interestingly, so far the only reported removals have been of 4 and 5 star reviews on indie titles only – not reviews of traditionally published books, or suspect 1 star reviews. Amazon’s response when readers have complained has also been quite alarming – reviewers are told that if they complain again more reviews, or even the book itself, may be removed.

Well, Amazon can do what they like, of course – there’s nothing we can do about it here. And some of these 4 and 5 star reviews may indeed have been by friends and family of the authors in question. (Many were not, however, and the removal seems completely arbitrary.)  But fair or not, this is damaging rankings for indie authors, and this in turn damages visibility and sales. So, here is my advice for anyone who wants to review a book by their favourite author and reduce the risk of that review being removed:

  1. First of all, it’s important to build up a range of reviews on your Amazon reviewer profile. If you only review books by one author, Amazon will assume you are that author’s sister/brother/mother etc and delete them. Remember, you don’t have to have bought a book via Amazon to review it, so use this loophole to review lots of previously read titles and build up your credibility.
  2. Don’t refer to the author by their first name. If you are reviewing one of my books, say for example: ‘Phillips writes with glittering insight’. 😉 Don’t call me Joanne!
  3. Don’t give every review you write 5 stars. There is this ridiculous situation on Amazon now where books with too many 5 star reviews are being treated with suspicion (!), so sometimes it’s fine, even if you want to support an author, to give 4 stars. And if you find fault with a book for whatever reason, say why and give it 3 stars! Reviews that are honest and varied will stand less chance of being deleted.
  4. Lastly, spread your reviews. It doesn’t take long to post the same review on Amazon UK, Amazon US & Goodreads. If one is deleted, the others will stand, and your efforts have not been in vain.
  5. Don’t complain! At the moment, Amazon seem to be highly sensitive to criticism of this policy, and even if you think you are sticking up for the author in question, you might be doing more harm than good.