I’ve been hit with the dreaded review removal.

I was really shocked to discover Amazon had pulled a review for Come Back to Me.  It’s not like I have nine thousand positive reviews for the book.  I had exactly five.  Now I have four.

I find this very disturbing.  I upload books to Amazon, or my publishers upload books to Amazon, and while I don’t ignore the books, I don’t solicit reviews.  I don’t have sock puppet accounts.  I don’t post reviews under an alias nor do I ask friends and strangers to review my books.  If another author happens to review one of my books it’s because he or she bought it, read it, and chose to post a review – definitely not at my behest.  Besides, I’m pretty sure the review Amazon removed was not written by an author.

Come Back to Me is one of my older works and the review removed was old.  I sent out very few copies for review.  Because the story is so dark, brooding,  and difficult I think I sent, at most, three copies to reviewers.  I’m not sure how many copies my publisher sent out for review.  I only know of a single identifiable reviewer who posted a review on Amazon.  And her review was not the review removed.

The really irritating part is this:  Come Back to Me had five Five-Star reviews, none of which I had anything to do with.  It has Five-Star reviews because it’s a damn good book.  Apparently the few readers who chose to review the book appreciated that.  Now it has four Five-Star reviews.

Seriously folks, what did Amazon think?  Oh heck, Mr. Bezos, did you notice this book has only five-star reviews?  At least one of ‘em has got to be a sock puppet review, so let’s pull one.  Which one should we pull?  Oh, I don’t know, just pull any of ‘em.  Who cares?

I won’t confront Amazon about this issue because other authors have said when they’ve questioned Amazon about the removal of reviews, they’ve been threatened – told their book would be pulled from Amazon altogether.

So yeah, I’m all for getting rid of sock puppet reviews – see my earlier post – but I am not in favor of removing legitimate reviews.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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37 Responses to I’ve been hit with the dreaded review removal.

  1. Yeah, Tim. The new eliminate phony review algorithm. Seems to need some tweaking.

  2. Katalina Leon says:

    Allow me to hand one of those well earned 5 star review back!
    I read Come Back To Me two December’s ago and was blow away by the clarity of it. It was a beautifully written book that drew deep and made me cry a lot, but it was a cathartic cry. In the end the story stuck with me and rang of truth. I am so glad I gave this book a chance and took the ride.
    XXOO Kat

  3. Amber Skyze says:

    Seriously? This is unacceptable.

  4. Penelope says:

    Do they offer an explanation? Proof that the review is false? How does this work? Did you get a notification/threat? Or did they just do it without telling you?

    There is a number to call in the Amazon Author Program with questions/concerns.

  5. Barbara says:

    So in a panic, I had to go look. :/ Cripes, I heard about this random review removal the other day and just assumed it was, you know, for those authors who really were using socks. I’ve also seen what you get when you contact anyone at customer service, no matter how high you think you’ve gone.

    The review was removed because it was found to have been fraudulent.
    The review was removed because the reviewer asked for it to have been deleted.
    The review was removed because it violated the TOS.

    If you want to know more, you have to actually be the person whose review was removed. It’s ridiculous. I’m sorry, Julia. :(

  6. Diana Stevan says:

    Julia, so sorry to hear about this hassle. Even though you’ve heard of someone else being threatened with removal, I would think some explanation is in order. Perhaps this person who contacted Amazon–about their review being removed–was belligerent, or threatening themselves either through words or tone. When a company like Amazon has such a big hold on the marketplace, it is intimidating for the author to approach them. But if it was me, I’d still like to know, because it just isn’t fair.

  7. Delilah Hunt says:

    That’s crazy. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that I felt needed to be removed, some of them seemed so fake it was just laughable, but it’s something else now when Amazon is starting to get at legitimate reviews. Sorry this happened to you, Julia. At least it won’t impede you in writing, so as they say, just brush it off and keep on doing your thing.

  8. hmmm, I wonder (as a book blog reviewer) how I could tell if any of my reviews were taken down? I only have the one account. I read a book, I review it. Simple. But it makes me wonder if any of the hundreds of books I have reviewed have been taken down. I would bet I would not get an email notice.

  9. Thanks for stopping by, Michelle. From what I’ve read it seems no one is notified. You may notice a review missing or an author notices a review missing, but it’s hard to identify which review. I simply noticed the number of reviews for this book had decreased from 5 to 4 and I doubt, after two years, a reviewer would suddenly ask to have his or her review removed. I don’t keep close track so I have no idea who the reviewer was.
    I suspect you would not get an email notice.

  10. Delilah – ICAM. I am very aware of fake reviews. And a whole lot of those fake reviews are still on Amazon. I bet the algorithm says – if every review is a 5-star review at least one is a sock puppet review.

  11. Hi Diana. Amazon won’t explain anything to me. I’m not the author of the review. If he or she notices Amazon may explain to the author why they removed the review. Yeah, not fair.

  12. Right, Barbara. They did leave yours up. Yes so they pulled a review that was not a sock puppet review.

  13. The last thing I’m gonna do is call them, Penny. I’ve heard if you call them they get all huffy. Won’t give me any answers anyway except the answers Barbara mentions.

  14. Totally, Amber. And we authors have no recourse.

  15. Thanks, Kat. Means a lot.

  16. I read this book several months ago and it still is in the back of my mind. It seems they are taking the easy way out and can say they are on top of the sock puppet fiasco. I’m so sorry they did this to a great book.

  17. One of the reviews for my book was removed, too. I have no idea who wrote the review. I only had 12 reviews, now I have 11. Not all of the reviews were 5 stars. A couple were 4 stars, so there goes that theory. In addition, two reviews that I wrote got pulled from other people’s books. I don’t write a lot of reviews and most of them are 3-4 stars. So they pulled two of my four or five 5-star reviews. They are not using any algorithm based on logic, that’s for sure.

  18. Katalina Leon says:

    I hope they give that review back.

  19. It’s very disappointing, Stephanie. I’m sure it takes too much work to actually ferret out the real sock puppets.

  20. I agree, Marie. No logic whatsoever. Authors are readers too.

  21. Don’t worry, Kat, they won’t.

  22. Marina Bridges says:

    I had a review removed, too. There seems to have been a sweep, lately.

  23. Marina, it’s kind of like rounding up the ‘usual suspects’ except we aren’t!


  25. It is horrible they have started to do it. I have been hearing authors talk about this the last few months and it is picking up speed that they are removing more and more of them. How sad…

  26. Like I said, Savannah, they are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Those of us who are savvy can spot a phony review in a heartbeat. I doubt a computer program can.

  27. Tom Stronach says:

    I realise that the moron’s out there behind this sock puppet attack on other authors are being complete tits but Amazon seemed until now to be quite clever and forward thinking in their approach to self publishing and marketing and of course reviews are marketing tools.

    Every time you submit a review to them they send a thank you email saying that this is one of the wonderful ways that their millions of customers can judge a book or item….. To then take the unilateral and bullying action that they take with a few reviews with seemingly no logical justification is just nonsensical!

  28. Helen Boswell says:

    Hi Julia! I’d like to echo what everyone has said above and that I’m sorry this happened to you. It’s as you said – let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. If Amazon is doing random sweeps and removals, they need to at the VERY LEAST establish accountability for their actions and be able to offer a explanation to the author and/or publisher — not some blanket statement that holds no meaning. I differ from you in the respects that I’m an indie author and that I did send out a handful of review copies to reviewers who I didn’t know but found on book blog sites within my genre. Almost all of them warned me in advance that they were tough reviewers, which made them more appealing to me because I wanted legit reviews, not just the (unsolicited) one that my mother-in-law was for some reason compelled to write. I agree that the review process by the general public is flawed (don’t even get me started on some of the shananigans that goes on at Goodreads) but heavy policing without justification is not the answer. Your book sounds great, by the way! :)

  29. Yes, Tom, Amazon is always asking me to review books I’ve purchased and I don’t because I am an author – I’m cautious about that stuff. As my mother would say, it’s meshuggah!

  30. Hi Helen, thanks for stopping by. I agree the stuff going on everywhere is a little insane. I’m not a fan of sock puppet reviews, but to randomly pull 5-star reviews because you assume they must be phony? Hello? Not smart. But then Amazon is a huge company and I doubt they care all that much. It does, however, give me pause about continuing to make my books exclusive to KDP Select.

  31. Tracy says:

    I’m sorry this happened to you Julia. I know you’re extremely conscientious about your own habits and it’s always a shame when you’re negatively impacted and feel too restricted to make inquiries or complaints.

    Maybe I’m naive, because I can’t imagine Amazon’s computers being programmed to troll around dropping random reviews from random books, and it would be a pretty monstrous job for it to be done by hand without a complaint about a particular review or the reviewer’s account had been suspended. And any other reason beyond that would be a travesty. I work hard on my reviews and while I don’t expect everyone to like them, nor read them if they’re not into that, I’d be a little miffed to have one disappear if it didn’t violate Amazon’s terms of reviewing.

  32. Hi Tracy. Back at ya! I know how hard you work at your reviews. You are one of my go-to sites for honest book reviews. I’m not quite sure what sort of algorithm Amazon has come up with in regards to this particular search and destroy mission. Even if I asked I would be told the matter is between Amazon and the person who wrote the review. As I said, it was an old review, from back when the book was first released. I can’t remember the name associated with the review, if I ever paid attention in the first place. There’s actually more to the story – I know other authors who have had this happen, mostly books with very few reviews, but the reviews were good. I’ve read some of the books and if I wrote reviews I would have recommended the books as well.
    The thing that bugs me the most is I actually know authors with dozens of sock puppet reviews and I have yet to see a review removed from their book pages.

  33. Tim Dittmer says:

    I’m reading through all the comments here, as I’m such a noob that I’m trying to learn this whole thing on the fly.

    Did you really say/write meshuggah? I’ll have to ask my son-in-law what that means.

  34. Why yes I did, Tim. Let me know what your son-in-law says!

  35. I no longer post reviews on Amazon. They do not let me say I am a blogger and post as my blog representative or name my blog. I just say that I will post a review there if asked directly, but not otherwise. Now I have heard they are removing reviews which are not verified purchases. You have armed me with another reason not to post there.

    Take that, Amazon!

    Amazon, sits back in its chair, smoking a stinky cigar and says, “What, did you hear something? Nah.”

  36. I totally agree with you, Steph. And you’re right. They don’t care.