Still Learning...and Changing
Yesterday I woke up and as I normally do went through my morning routine of Facebook, Twitter, Sales Report and To Love Twice's review page on Amazon. Imagine my surprise when I saw three reviews missing. At first I thought my most recent reviews had been deleted - reviews from people I didn't even know. I sent a scathing email to Amazon, posted my woes on Facebook and as people replied, offered their opinions and as I reviewed forum posts from others who've had this happen to them, I found a disturbing trend.
Many had found that Amazon was cracking down on reviews that had been posted on IP Addresses that matched an author's IP Address - at any time. So bear with me as I explain this, because it still boggles my mind. So say you have a friend who has read your book. They like it, love it or hate it - either way they post a review on Amazon. Then you visit them, open your laptop and connect to their network. Now Amazon has your account showing up on that IP Address. And now they think you, the author, has posted that review yourself. Ludicrous, right? Shouldn't they be able to see that you are normally connected to another IP Address?
And here's my question: What if I'm writing at Panera's, or Starbucks, or McDonald's. They each have free wifi and anyone can connect. So what happens if at the moment I'm connected to Panera's wifi another person connects and just happens to post a review for one of my books on Amazon? Is Amazon going to delete that review as well, because I've been on that wifi? How do they differentiate? And how fair is that?
After reading suggestions from other authors, I went through each of my remaining 97 reviews. I took a screenshot of each one and saved them on my computer -- something I now plan to do with each review I receive. As I was going through those reviews, I realized it wasn't the newest reviews that had been removed/deleted. It was reviews from three people I know. My sister, my best friend and my mother-in-law. And in each case, I've used my laptop at their houses and connected to their networks.
Apparently that was my mistake. Who knew that connecting to a friend or family member's network was going to wreak such havoc on my reviews? And sure you can say that those reviews probably don't matter. Sure they were 5-stars, but they were from people I know - how sincere and honest could they be? Well maybe you're right...but I tend to think that my family and friends would be honest with me and especially with future readers of my novel.
I realize that a few bad apples have spoiled the lot. Amazon has to crack down on reviews because a few zealous people paid for reviews, glowing reviews at that. What galls me though, is that it leaves the honest people in the lurch - fighting tooth and nail for each review they receive. I've never paid for a review. I've politely asked readers I don't know and gently cajoled people I do know to write them.
If you've read my blog before or know anything about me, you know that I'm an Indie published author. What does that mean? It means that I publish it myself, through Amazon, through Createspace and for a brief time, through Nook. I write the novels, I format them for eBook and paperback, I do all the marketing and so much more. I don't have an agent. I don't have a big publishing house behind me. I don't have a marketing team.
What I do have though are an amazing group of family and friends who support me, an amazing group of author friends who support me and offer great advice, and an amazing group of readers and fans who love my debut novel -- and are waiting with bated breath for my next novel. Everywhere I look, I read how important reviews are to sales and rankings. I'm not sure if that's true or not. But what I realized over night was that really, those reviews only matter to me. They show me that so many people love my work and can't wait for more.
And as long as I remember that, and remember I have a group of family and friends behind me, then Amazon can do as they wish. I'll have a record of all my reviews from now on and Amazon can go stuff it with their algorithms and wishy-washy rules enforcement. Amazon has done a lot for Indie authors - they've opened up doors and windows that can't even be fathomed. I'll always be grateful for that - I wouldn't be where I am now without it.
So, here's to rolling with the punches and changing my behavior and my outlook.