Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rooting for Amazon's Better Instincts

It appears that the review issue with Amazon has been resolved. At least according to the author whose reviews were summarily removed from that site a few weeks ago on grounds that they were advertising/mentioning her own books.

I know that because she took the time to tell me in a comment on this blog (see the blog and comments below).

I am glad that she got her problem resolved satisfactorily. That she pursued it with with Amazon. That she made waves with her letter to John Kremer.

That many--like me--picked up on it probably didn't hurt her case. And that this came on the heels of Amazon's recent "glitch" snafu that was covered by about every newspaper in the nation probably helped as well. (BTW, that disaster was also fixed--but only after it made headlines.)

Having said that, the removal of my Listmanias was not handled well. They were removed and never replaced, some 87 of them (if my memory serves). Listmanias I had spent many, many hours on. Listmanias that I had used to recommend lists of books to my classes at UCLA. Listmanias that were complete with mini reviews. Listmanias that I had taken pains to show the reader which books I listed were mine and even which were books of colleagues They were disclaimers of sorts--but without apology.

I hope that Amazon has learned its lesson about treatment of its authors who are also readers and therefore also its customers; authors (customers) not only deserve respect but their credibility can be used to give Amazon's reviews (and other features) more cache, rather than less.

It is probably too late for my Listmanias. That event occurred more than two years ago. The "glitch" incident (and the review incident) only a few weeks ago. Yay! The review case is resolved! But I still advise authors to use caution before investing a lot of time in Amazon's features. It has been risky in the past and it is any one's guess whether it will continue to be risky. I will probably not recommend using it in my next edition of The Frugal Book Promoter, or rather I will warn authors about spending too much time supporting Amazon's interactive features.

That Cheryl took the time to fight back on behalf of herself and other authors is admirable. I hope that she continues to do so.

Her fighting attitude will be needed! It appears that Amazon does not have a clear policy on what is commercial and what isn't (they themselves are commercial and criticism of others who practice good, solid capitalism like theirs should not be punished.) Nor do they appear to be clear on how to define opinion (which they invite). Until their policies are clearly considered and disseminated among their forces, these kinds of things will continue to happen.

Amazon is a big organization with a history that will be hard for them to purge with a couple of apologies. I am wishing them well. I hope they go at it with the same vengeance they seem to have misguidedly used in the past to protect what they saw as their interests.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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