Recently, I’ve heard that certain reviews being posted on Amazon are being pulled. Curious as to why, I looked around a bit and found a whole discussion on it there in the Amazon forums. It detailed that it seemed as though certain Amazon reviews were being pulled because they were coming from readers who received ARC and RAR copies (which means Advanced Reader Copy and Read and Review copy). In other words, people who received free books in exchange for reviews. Namely, HONEST reviews. Like, you get the book and you leave a review, regardless of your opinion of the book, the publisher (or author or whoever gave you the book) wants the review. The real one.
At least, that’s the gist of it.
Here, apparently, is Amazon’s concern: books in exchange for reviews is the equivalent of paying for a review. Which, okay, I think that’s sort of a stretch, but fine. You’re giving someone an incentive for leaving a review. That incentive is, theoretically, something you (the reader/reviewer) wants, right? And that translates to some form of payment, right? That’s, like, giving money for a review!
(Did you know there are paid reviewers out there? Literally, it is their job to read a book, watch a movie, try out a restaurant – all of it gratis – and then proceed to post a review and get paid for it. No joke.)
Now, I understand where Amazon’s concern might lie.
Oh, what if being paid (in money, books, or free pizza…) might sway the opinion of the reviewer? And, oh, what if this means there will be NOTHING BUT FIVE STAR REVIEWS FOR TERRIBLE BOOKS?
Oh, wait, that already happens… Seriously, it makes me angry, and I’ll just tell you, those reviews weren’t the result of free copies. Nope. Just uninvolved, easily amused readers who will gobble up any cotton-brain-candy out there… Okay, and a *little* bit of a difference of opinion via genre and whatever else, but that’s like 2% of a star discrepancy.
But my mini-rant aside, I understand that you might be worried that these “paid” reviewers aren’t being fully honest. I mean, I like getting free books, don’t I? Why, of course I do! I love to read and I’m going to write a review anyway… Why not get a free book out of the deal? And I’ll be honest, I was really concerned when I first started asking for ARCs and RARs. I thought, “If I leave a bad review… will no one give me a free book again?”
But here’s the thing. I still get free books and I tend to leave poor reviews more often than not. Why? Because I’m not going to let a free book sway my opinion. And that’s for three reasons.
I have some friggin’ integrity, thank you very much. My reputation is valuable to me, but more importantly, my own opinion of myself is important. I wouldn’t feel right giving a high review to someone that didn’t deserve it because it invalidates and cheapens all the high reviews I gave for people that honestly deserved them! And I’m just not okay with that. Better to get an angry author, publisher, or even fan, than to feel as though I’m offering a fake smile to the world while simultaneously spitting on those that deserve true, honest recognition.
Why would I want to encourage more bad boosk?!?! Seriously, leaving a good review for a bad book is just poor planning. Because it means the author is going to write another book, just like the first, not bothering to change anything because all the reviews said IT WAS SO AWESOMESAUCE! So now we have a Craptastic Book Two! And when we have to review that book the same way we reviewed the first one, now we have a whole Craptastic, The Series!
Why would I want to encourage more bad writing? From both a writer’s and a reader’s standpoint, this seems counterproductive to my end goal: To find more books to fall in love with.
Why would I want another bad book from an author I didn’t enjoy? Why would I want another free book if I just feel as though every free book I read I must lie about in order to get another free book? That I will ultimately hate?
So ultimately I’m left with the feeling that leaving anything other than an honest review is just… not right.
And I have to believe that I’m not the only person who feels this way. Don’t readers and reviewers take pride in themselves? Yes, they must. I believe that they must! And they want quality, too, right? Yes, of course they do. They have to!
I will make one more point: I get not wanting to hurt someone’s feelers about it. Authors are sensitive. Trust me, I totally know. My least favorite thing is having someone come in, read what I’ve written, then hand it back to me and tell me how I’ve just “gotten it all wrong”. Pfft. Like they could do it better. But at the same time, if I let myself step back for a minute and really look at the criticism constructively, sometimes the negative reviews teach us the most. And that means I can grow as an author.
And, yes, it still hurts.
I guess my point is not telling it like it is just to spare someone’s feelings isn’t doing anyone any good. I’m not saying you have to be a jerk or be mean or just rip their life’s work to shreds, but you should be honest and you should make an effort to lay out why you didn’t enjoy something. It could go so far as to make them better authors in the end, so that maybe you actually will enjoy the next book.
Really, just don’t leave a five and four star review for something that you hated. That’s just silly and doesn’t help you, the author, or other readers.
Which brings me back around to Amazon removing reviews.
The idea that saying “I got an ARC” means “I’m lying through my teeth about the quality of this book!” is utterly stupid. Yes, there will be some less than honest people out there, but they are not the majority. Instead, I think we should give the reviewer the benefit of the doubt and say that they are honest. Even if we don’t agree with their opinion – or even if they’ve left a good review for a bad book. Because sometimes, people just do that. I think that has to do with a little on the personal taste side and a lot of “I wasn’t really paying attention to this while I was reading” side.
It happens. That’s fine.
I just think that Amazon is being fairly ridiculous about this whole concept of ARCs and RARs. These are the things that can help break-out authors (and especially self-publishers) get their works out there. People might never even look at their books, not because they’re bad, but because they don’t get the same kind of publicity. And because Amazon gives more advertising, featuring, etc. for books with more reviews and more purchases – which go hand in hand. Which means that the more books that have been reviewed, the more they’ll be purchased, the more featuring they’ll get, the more reviews they’ll get…
But how do you break into that cycle if NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT YOUR BOOK? Yes, you have to advertise, but part of that is getting your book into the hands of people that might otherwise not read it – usually because they don’t have the money for it.
So I say that Amazon is being silly and the ARCs and RARs should continue.
What’s your opinion on this crazy Amazon policy? Do you agree with me that reviewers are mostly honest?
P.S. – The main reason I decided to do a post on this (and why it mostly focused on the honesty of ARC/RAR reviews) is that in the forum, there was a poster who didn’t trust “free book” reviews. Why? Because she felt they were all basically liars who were giving higher ratings because they were essentially “paid” for their services. And I was offended. Especially since she then proceeded to say that she automatically went to 3 star reviews – which mine are usually that or below – because she felt they were more “honest”. So, what, my review doesn’t count EVEN THOUGH I RATE LOWER THAN MOST DESPITE FREE COPIES, just because I put in the effort to get a free book? Wow, that makes that person a real jerk, a little judgy, and seriously misinformed.