Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mostly for Authors and Fellow Reviewers: Amazon Rankings and Nasty Cowards

I'm at a bit of a turning point with my writing.
As things exist right now, I write two things: product reviews (mostly books), which are published on Amazon, and; blog posts like this one, in which I talk about pretty much what's on  my mind.

I started the blog first, following the  suggestions made by friends at church; however, that was fitful, at best. Then, three years ago tomorrow, I wrote my first book review.

That lead to joining the Kindle Unlimited program, and to date, I've written 434 Amazon reviews, almost all of them book reviews. It was good; I had fun with it. It also gave me a more productive role in the science fiction/fantasy writing community.

It also provided me with a way to stay loyal to my commitment to write. My reviews tend to be lengthy, and I was given the suggestion to condense my reviews, and expand my story-telling about my personal reaction to the book in my blog.

I did that for a while; but for whatever reason, I stopped; eventually, I went back to blogging about personal stuff, and writing reviews exclusively on Amazon.

But, Amazon got hinky.

The first thing I discovered was that Amazon had a rating system for reviewers.At the time of my first review, my rating was 14,000,000. I investigated to see they arrived at that number. Here's what Amazon said:
1. Review ranking is based on how FRESH your reviews are, and how HELPFUL the reviews are. A review written this week will have more of an impact than a review written a year ago. In addition, a review which is marked 'Helpful' by many members of the community will have a greater impact on your reviewer rating than a review which few or no members of the community mark 'Helpful'.

But, there is ABSOLUTELY no value to being one of the highest ranked reviewers, TO THE REVIEWER. No money, no prizes; your name goes on a list, if that's important.

On the OTHER hand, there IS a value associated with the review ranking for the AUTHOR (and that's all I'm concerning myself with here, since I really don't review much other than books). When the author puts a book on Amazon, they are assigned a ranking. One of the factors that go into determining the rating is REVIEWS, and reviews by a top ranked reviewer are more important that those of a low ranked reviewer.

Now, a few months ago, Amazon added an extra facet: reviews were filtered by whether or not they were Verified Purchases. When a customer viewed product reviews, ONLY 'Verified Purchases' were visible; to see ALL reviews, they had to make that selection in a click-box.

When asked, Amazon preserved silence on the matter.

I would have been just FINE with that, EXCEPT that almost all of my reviews were of books obtained through the Kindle Unlimited program, and KU books don't count as Verified Purchases. Literally, that is true; they are not purchases; on the other hand, I PAID Amazon for the privilege of reading those books, and many authors have stated that money from the KU program forms a sizeable fraction of their income.

And Amazon preserves silence on the matter.

And on other matters as well. Earlier statements from Amazon promised that review rankings would be re-computed every two or three days. However, beginning on or about May 5, the review rankings were frozen. Eventually, on or about June 5, the rankings went live again.

And Amazon preserves silence on this matter as well.

There exists a 'Top Reviewers Discussion Forum' on Amazon. It's harder to find than it used to be, but it's there. I spent a good bit of time, researching previous posts, to see if there was a secret being circulated there that would explain what's going on.


And then, naively, I posted a comment expressing my frustration at the events and asking others what they had done to handle the aggravation. I got back two or three (maybe four) very nice, appropriate responses, and an attack by a lurking forum coward.

It seems that there are persons who use the forum posts to identify reviewers, and then down-vote their reviews. They are recognizable by the pattern: they are only permitted to make three votes per day on any one person's reviews.

If I had hundreds of people following my reviews, I wouldn't notice a single downvote. But I don't. Most of my posts get one vote. Sometimes two; rarely more than that.  So, when the vote tallies for my most recent 10 reviews are all : 1 of 1 person liked this, 2 of 2 persons liked this...; and the the FOUR most recent reviews are : 1 of 2, 1 of 2. 2 of 3, and 2 of 4? Yeah, that's a different series. Maybe one of those votes is bona-fide. However, it's suspicious.

Bottom line: I don't want to get jerked around by Amazon stone-walling me, and I certainly don't won't put myself in the path of the nasty coward who runs out from beneath the bridge and flings a rotten egg at me.

I'm in indecision. I read works by SO MANY authors that deserve a much wider audience. It makes me want to spit when I see some of the works posted on Amazon, and there are less than 10 reviews written! Mostly, what I read is absolutely first class; in fact, I just quickly surveyed my last 50 books reviewed (since April 21, 2017) and there were exactly TWO stinkers. I feel it's my duty to the public to point out the stinkers, but it's also my duty to proclaim how great most of these books are.

So, DESPITE my disaffection with Amazon, I won't stop reviewing. I just need to figure out how to reach more people with these blog posts.

Peace be on your household.


  1. I for one will start sharing your review posts. I've had so little time to read, much less review, recently. And there's another thing I'll look into.

  2. Might also consider echoing your reviews on Goodreads.

  3. I'll be delighted to share your review posts, and use your reviews of my books on my website and back covers, too!