Sock Puppet Reviews Prompt Action at Amazon

Sock Puppet Reviews Prompt Action at Amazon

In the last few months there have been a number of revelations that successful authors have been paying for positive reviews of their books, particularly on Amazon. Now referred to as “sock puppet reviews”, it sparked a letter of complaint from a number of established authors as well as some investigation from people like author Steve Weddle over at Do Some Damage. It was also reported on by LitReactor's Rob W. Hart and Cath Murphy.

Surprisingly, it seems Amazon’s listened - well, to the complaining, at any rate. They’ve now instituted a policy against authors reviewing other author’s books. This is an actual response Weddle received from Amazon:

We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. As a result, we've removed your reviews for this title. Any further violations of our posted Guidelines may result in the removal of this item from our website.

Weddle’s rightly perturbed, but not as much as best-ebook-seller J A Konrath who seems pretty annoyed - both with Amazon and what he dubs the “No Sock Puppets Here Please” authors, whom he thanks for all their help!

Konrath is, however, realistic, in that he doesn’t expect the reviews to magically disappear (nor do I), but I have to agree that it does appear Amazon has gone too far trying to eradicate some of the bad reviews.  It’s good they’re doing something - it’s just a shame about all the collateral damage. Do you think Amazon is doing the right thing?

You can read one of the articles in full at Techdirt.

Dean Fetzer

News by Dean Fetzer

Dean Fetzer is originally from a small town in eastern Colorado, but has lived in London, England, for the past 21 years. After a career in graphic design, he started a pub review website in the late 90’s; He left that in 2011 to concentrate on his thriller writing, as well as offering publishing services for authors, poets and artists. When not writing - or in the pub - he can be found in the theatre, live music venues and travelling.

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Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break November 5, 2012 - 11:32am

If you want an author to review your book or lend some kind words--get a fucking blurb! Have them endorse it BEFORE it even comes out so you can use it as a selling point.



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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 5, 2012 - 11:33am

This is just silly. Writers read. People who read titles should be allowed to review them. I would be more in favor of them not allowing reviews on books not purchased through Amazon (though i have reservations about that, for a few reasons) but to say that no author selling their books an Amazon is allowed to review the books they've read is just...counterproductive.

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Renee Miller from Tweed, Ontario is reading The Wolf Gift November 5, 2012 - 11:59am

I'm with Brandon on this one. If you want to get an author review, then get a blurb and use it as a marketing tool. Don't rely on Amazon reviews to sell your book. I'm always a little suspicious of authors reviewing other authors anyway, whether the reviews are bad or good. Strangely, I agree with Konrath's take on it too (which is so rare I might check into a hospital to make sure everything's working right). Amazon answered the demand to do something about these sock puppet reviews, and of course it's overkill, but they did answer. Anyone who thought valid reviews wouldn't get caught in the crossfire of any action taken is naive.

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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 5, 2012 - 12:38pm

It's not about what the author of the book wants. It's about what users of Amazon want, yes? So the moment that someone becomes a published author--they are barred from participating on Amazon in the same manner they have always participated? Seems silly.

And while authors shouldn't rely on Amazon reviews to sell their books, it's no secret that people read the reviews and often make purchasing decisions based on those reviews--if that wasn't a fact there wouldn't be a reason for Amazon to care about this issue in the first place.


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Renee Miller from Tweed, Ontario is reading The Wolf Gift November 5, 2012 - 1:50pm

Some people base their purchasing decisions on reviews. I don't unless that review comes from a friend or a trusted reviewer. I don't put any stock in Amazon reviews, and I know a lot of others who don't either. Yes, authors need reviews, but reviews on bookselling sites shouldn't be the foundation of your marketing plan. There are other ways to promote your book.

Also, there are many reviews by published authors on Amazon that weren't touched, so it seems they aren't using that as the main criteria for removal. It'll take time to iron out the kinks, but I give Amazon credit for trying to answer the very loud demands about fake/paid reviews. True, they screwed it up, but they didn't ignore their customers either, which they've done often enough in the past. In this situation Amazon is damned if they do and damned if they don't. If nothing had been done, then people would still be screaming about the paid/fake reviews being on the site. They do what they think is right (although it is wrong, I agree) and they're yelled at for removing the wrong reviews along with the fake reviews. I don't see any way for legitimate reviews to be unscathed by the process. And I don't see how they could possibly catch every fake review on there.

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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 5, 2012 - 4:09pm

When I said "people" I meant, "enough people that authors were willing to go through all this bullshit in the first place, and Amazon felt they had to do something about it". I thought it was obvious that I didn't mean "all people".

And I don't really get praising them for overreacting. There were a lot of other things they could have done that wouldn't have affected so many users. It was suggested very early on that they would only allow reviews on books/products purchased by users THROUGH Amazon. I personally thought that would suck because that leaves anyone who got an ARC out, but an argument could be made that if you got an ARC, you have some connection to the author. That would have been fairly easy to enforce, and not taken a large number of readers out of the equation because of their profession.