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Old 07-19-2012, 11:48 AM   #31
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[...]Combine the two, and I stand by my original (and hardly earth-shattering) opinion: I'm suspicious of that author's claims.
You're right, anyone willing to self-title as "Master Wordsmith" should hold themselves to a higher standard, but I didn't see much about the article itself that made me anything more than curious. The author was unsatisfied with the responses received from Amazon and is soliciting feedback from others, a common enough use of a blog these days (it's also a neat way of getting audience participation which makes your blog more popular, which is good marketing). Do I believe things are exactly as the author stated? No, not necessarily, this is the Internet after all, but I was no more suspicious of this blog than most others. If there are concerns it seemed (to me) to be a valid enough way to try and discuss them and look for possible reasons. And, if you're looking for possible reasons beyond what Amazon says publicly (as this article obviously was), then the verified purchase flag seems worth at least a mention.
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Old 07-19-2012, 11:51 AM   #32
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but I was no more suspicious of this blog than most others.

Fair enough. If I read any other blog posts, I'd probably be equally suspicious of them.
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Old 07-19-2012, 11:53 AM   #33
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Fair enough. If I read any other blog posts, I'd probably be equally suspicious of them.
It's the only way to surf.
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Old 07-19-2012, 02:53 PM   #34
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No, I see no indication of that.
It is ok, really, I do get it. You are a suspicious person. Every community has suspicious persons - they warn you about them in the Neighbourhood Watch brochures.

Seriously, you might be right, I have no way of knowing, I just don't find anything suspicious in what she has written. She might be just imagining things. I have seen some very suspect reviews (see - I can be suspicious too) but I have yet to see any of them removed. I doubt that Amazon would remove reviews simply because they were strongly worded; they would lose all credibility if they did so.
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Old 07-19-2012, 03:28 PM   #35
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It is ok, really, I do get it. You are a suspicious person. Every community has suspicious persons - they warn you about them in the Neighbourhood Watch brochures.
Hmm. I never thought of it that way.

And your karma is now a palindrome.

Last edited by ApK; 07-19-2012 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:28 AM   #36
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I had a review removed that was written by Readers Favorite. I didn't pay for it -- I submitted my novel for review and they worked up a review. It was kind of weird. I ended up using a quote from the review in my book description.
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Old 07-20-2012, 02:48 PM   #37
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I had a review removed that was written by Readers Favorite. I didn't pay for it -- I submitted my novel for review and they worked up a review. It was kind of weird. I ended up using a quote from the review in my book description.
Did you contact Amazon to ask why?
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Old 07-20-2012, 05:12 PM   #38
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There are too many variables and too few facts in the OP to be able to come to a reasonable conclusion. But...one thing we can count on is that amazon acts in its self interest. If they are in a wholesale review removal mode, then the reason for it has to be to help them maintain or increase book sales and thus profits. Ultimately that should help us too in a generalized way - or at least I would give it a 90% probability that it will.

As for gaming the reviews, there is one fairly credible tell that you can look for. There is a normal distribution of reviews that is called the "J" curve. Plot the reviews on a graph and generally (unless the book just sucks or is truly outstanding) you will see the J curve. Most of the reviews will be 5 star, the high end of the J. Then a tailing off of 4, 3and 2 stars, then an up tick in the 1 stars.

One theory for this distribution is that the people who are most likely to go to the trouble of leaving a review either love the book, or hate it. The people in between those extremes tend to fall off in numbers from apathy about the book. The folks who think the book is mediocre are the least likely to make the effort of leaving a review.

So look for a pattern similar to this - 20/5 star, 12/4 star, 8/3 star, 4/2 star, 12/1 star.

It is not dispositive of course, but it is a good early indicator that a distribution that isn't in a J pattern may be gamed, one way or another. Watch the distribution as you surf books and you will see the J curve more often than any other distribution.
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:51 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Lloyd Tackitt View Post
There are too many variables and too few facts in the OP to be able to come to a reasonable conclusion. But...one thing we can count on is that amazon acts in its self interest. If they are in a wholesale review removal mode, then the reason for it has to be to help them maintain or increase book sales and thus profits. Ultimately that should help us too in a generalized way - or at least I would give it a 90% probability that it will
I can't see how removing poor reviews from another writer's book will help anyone other than that other writer - and Amazon.

If you both have a book in the same genre, and the other writer has a similar number of positive reviews as you, but also has some very negative reviews, then the scales tip in your favour. Remove those bad reviews and you are on a par. It would only help writers who are less than popular, and at the expense of better writers.
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Old 07-21-2012, 12:01 AM   #40
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And in regard to Vine Reviewers, it has to be remembered that we choose what we are going to review from the choices offered to us. I usually choose books from a genre that appeals to me or that's about a topic that intrigues me. So I'm predisposed to look at that book favorably right from the start because I'm interested in it. That doesn't mean I'm going to give it an automatic high rating, because I'm also comparing it to all the other books/authors in that genre that I've read, but I'm more likely to "get into" the book much quicker than if it was about something that I don't normally read - like books about divorced, middle-aged men or about Persian poetry.
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Old 07-21-2012, 05:15 AM   #41
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My experience is mainly on Amazon co uk - but a lot of indie books (or rather - the subset of indie books from authors who still try to self promote on forums), have very suspicious reviews.

There are a lot of self reviews - sometimes the author is silly enough to use their own name, sometimes thinly veiled, often they are silly enough to use a different name, but post 'read my book ...'

After those - it is the friends and family - these are mainly obvious by the weird claims, the review date pretty much within a few days of book publication date, and being the only review (or often there is a cluster of reviews just around that one). The weird reviews are often - 'I don't normally read <insert genre> but I found this one and...'

There seem to be very suspicious author review groupings - maybe these authors did all come from the same writing group or creative writing course or something - but they must be a bit silly to think that reviewing each others books constantly, and consistently high, isn't going to look suspicious.

And the people who give 5* to disparate things in a short period, which look like paid for reviews.

I assume Amazon's removals are pretty tightly controlled - when I have notified them of dodgy reviews they have only ever done anything if there is substantial proof. Even very strong circumstantial evidence tends to get ignored...

And ultimately - I'm guessing they make a fair bit off indies, and think they can probably make more if they could have mechanisms to actually help identify good books (especially as they get in to publishing...)

There have been a number of articles over the past two years about them investing in fake review investigation software and techniques. Presumably they have started using them. Bravo is what I say.
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Old 07-21-2012, 06:58 AM   #42
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I can't see how removing poor reviews from another writer's book will help anyone other than that other writer - and Amazon.

If you both have a book in the same genre, and the other writer has a similar number of positive reviews as you, but also has some very negative reviews, then the scales tip in your favour. Remove those bad reviews and you are on a par. It would only help writers who are less than popular, and at the expense of better writers.
I didn't see where enough people could specify whether a removed review was good or bad to show a trend.

What I can generalize is that amazon's prime directive is to make a profit. With around a million books (can't imagine the number of listings they have if you include everything with a review) and with multiple reviews on each listing, It is hard to conceive that they are checking the reviews manually. I would have to believe they are running an algorthim of some kind.

Any algorithm would have to comply with the prime directive. If the algorithim does improve their profits they will continue it. If it doesn't they will discontinue it as it would increase their overhead and eat into their profits. Exactly how it improves profits will remain a mystery because amazon holds their cards close to their chest, not giving their competition any clues on how to improve their profits.

Speculating though - one possible reason is that they have an algorithim that identifies reviewers that do not meet amazon's review policy for some reason, so they remove them to keep the review process "clean" so to speak. If they allow the review process to become contaminated and untrustworthy then their overall sales are likely to start dropping. I base this solely on my own buying habits on amazon. The number one reason I shop there is because of the review process, giving me an excellent idea of the product's quality, based on actual user's experiences. Take that away and I wouldn't buy much of anything from them.

I guess what I am saying is that amazon is an intelligently run operation, as can be seen by their huge success, and they won't be doing anything that shoots themselves in the foot, at least not for long. If they are improving overall sales that gives us an opportunity, if our books are good enough, to share in the overall sales improvement.

But that is all speculation, the fact is I haven't seen where anyone has been able to determine why they are removing reviews. Speculation based on simple logic. I doubt they are removing reviews to decrease some specific authors sales in order to help someone else improve theirs. That doesn't make sense at any level to me.

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Old 07-21-2012, 10:39 AM   #43
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Lloyd Tackitt: I agree that it would make no sense for Amazon to pick on individuals just to decrease their sales. As you say, if they have an algorithm it will be weighted in the direction of increasing Amazon profits. However just because they are not intentionally picking on individuals for some sinister purpose, does not automatically mean that their algorithm is fair.
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Old 07-21-2012, 12:07 PM   #44
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Lloyd Tackitt: I agree that it would make no sense for Amazon to pick on individuals just to decrease their sales. As you say, if they have an algorithm it will be weighted in the direction of increasing Amazon profits. However just because they are not intentionally picking on individuals for some sinister purpose, does not automatically mean that their algorithm is fair.
Even if it is fair, it will not be perfect, even if it was perfect, it would not perceived as fair by all. So those that feel they got a bad deal will be the vast majority of these that speak up, and that skews all perceptions.
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Old 07-21-2012, 12:16 PM   #45
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Even if it is fair, it will not be perfect, even if it was perfect, it would not perceived as fair by all. So those that feel they got a bad deal will be the vast majority of these that speak up, and that skews all perceptions.
Excellent point - it would probably be an inverse J curve distribution.
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