Amazon Is Magic! They Can Make Your Reviews Disappear!

As an indie author, when you have your shiny new book ready to go, who are usually the first people you give it to and say “Tell me what you think?” It is without a doubt your family and friends. I know it was for me. They are going to be the people who encourage you to keep going. they will be the ones to shout “Yes! We love it!” However, you may want to think twice about asking them to post a review on Amazon.

Let me just say this. Amazon has rules. Confusing, weird, ass-backwards rules. But they are rules none the less, and this policy isn’t anything new. They allow people to leave a one star review that says things like “This book is shitty and should be set on fire.” (not one of my reviews but it’s almost word-for-word what I’ve read on someone else’s review page) but my dear old granny cant leave me a review saying how much she loves said pile of flaming shit because she “Knows the Author”. Really? Okay Amazon.The reason people are a bit worked up is because only recently has Amazon decided to regularly enforce said rule. I don’t know why it is that Amazon enforces some rules but not others.

Right now amazon is the biggest, most widely recognized platform for indie-authors and they seem hell bent on making us scrape and claw our way out of their bottomless pit. It’s already hard enough to be seen among the millions of titles on Amazon, now the one thing that seems to really matter, positive reviews, are going to be moderated in such a way that is detrimental to us. I’m not famous. Most indie authors aren’t. We just want our work to be seen.

Amazon’s censoring process isn’t limited to family members either. If you happen to have linked a Goodreads profile to your Amazon author page, you may see that reviews from people in your friends list may start disappearing. In the indie author community we often review each other’s work honestly and fairly because we would want someone to do the same for us. We’re not all conspiring to send a shitty book to the top of the charts although Amazon has no problem allowing such a thing to happen for a more prolific/popular/ author ***cough***EL James***cough.

Is it a war on self-published authors? I don’t know. Amazon has reaped the benefits of self publishing more heartily than any other. You’d think they would be trying to help. Maybe they are tired of seeing titles like “Bear-Shifters Screwing in the Moonlight” get 5  star reviews. I don’t know.

It might help if Amazon were a little more transparent in their decision making process, but of course in true Amazon fashion, details on their renewed interest in granny-reviews is sparse.

So what can we do about it? Not much. amazon dominates the market on eBooks and that doesn’t look like its going to change anytime soon.

EL James…the name on everyone’s lips, yet again.

EL James…the name on everyone’s lips, yet again.

Firstly, I have to say that I have read 50 Shades of Grey. I will try to keep my opinions to myself because this post is about the recent #AskELJames fiasco than anything else. I read the entire series because there was so much hype about it and when I finished, I understood why.

Moving on. The Twitter debacle started as a Q&A with one of the most famous/successful authors in recent decades and I thought it would be great to see what people would ask. However, in the back of my mind I knew what this would turn out to be. A Twitter troll-fest. And it was. It truly was. I cannot sit here and say that I was a bit surprised. Now that the dust has settled a bit the serious question is was EL James unfairly targeted? Bullied? Where is the line between criticism and bullying and was it crossed in the Q&A? Let’s explore shall we?

1. Was EL James “bullied” during her Twitter Q&A?

My opinion is that yes, she was subjected to some unacceptable and morally corrupt language. “Please kill yourself.” Really? This is a human being we are talking about here. No one deserves to be treated that way. At the same time, Twitter doesn’t mess around with this kind of stuff and people who make threats get banned and in some cases, arrested. Threats of bodily harm and violence of any kind should not be tolerated. There is a flip side to this though.

Most of the comments I read were snarky and condescending but they were not what I would consider bullying. When someone doesn’t like your work (And MANY people do not like her work) they have a right to express their opinions. Look at any reputable critic. They make their living judging other people’s work, usually in the creative sphere making the job of a critic even more repugnant in my view. But hey, opinions are just that, opinions. People can be assholes, and when you write something controversial, there will be people who feel the need to confront you. Thick skin is a necessity.

2. Were there any legitimate questions in all of that drivel?

I think there was a huge missed opportunity here. James had the chance to answer some very sincere questions about her work. Allot of the actual questions being asked came from other women authors and many sexual assault survivors. They questioned James about the undercurrent of domestic violence, abuse, and control in her books. I believe these brave people wanted and deserved answers. Imagine this. You are a survivor of rape, molestation or sexual battery, and then you see that one of the most popular and profitable books ever, is about sexual violence. You see the protagonist of the story portrayed as, for lack of a better word, a dummy. A sex toy to be used and abused as Mr. Grey sees fit. Survivors of these types of horrific and inexcusable crimes have questions and I think they deserved an answer.  (I’m not addressing the other part of the equation here which is that EL James attempted to write a book about the BDSM community and by all accounts from, failed. I think members of that community have been appalled by some of things portrayed in her books and don’t see it as an accurate or fair representation of a dom/sub relationship.)

3. Is EL James showing young women that is okay to be in an abusive relationship?

First off, why is EL James your child’s reference point for what is acceptable and what is not? I have children. I have 3 girls and I strive to be their moral compass. They aren’t looking to Ana Steele, Kim Kardashian or anyone else to determine how they should be treated by a man. They look to me. If Anastasia Steel is your kid’s role model, you’ve got bigger problems on your hands.

EL James’s Twitter Q&A was a disappointment not because she was trolled mercilessly (Welcome to Twitter), but because she could have set the record straight about a number of things and didn’t because she probably spent most of her time hitting the “block” button.