At 11:30PM, I have done neither.
Reading Facebook at lunchtime, a particular post stood out – for the wrong reasons. It was Public (as opposed to Friends-Locked), and it was on the author’s official Page (not her personal profile). I don’t know if the author manages her account, or if an assistant does it, but what I came across was something rather unprofessional.
I often complain about authors posting passive-aggressive requests for readers to review and “promote” (translated: “spam”) their books, because “it really helps us get more visibility/publicity”. What I saw today was worse than that.
The author is no stranger to traditional publishing, formerly with HarperCollins and now with Simon & Schuster. I have 19 of her books on my wishlist, including 2 upcoming releases, but excluding the 2 I’ve already read.
Publicly, she linked to a 5-star review, and suggested that if enough people “agreed” with it, it’d be popular enough to get a 1-star review out of the “spotlight”. Reviews listed on Amazon come with vote buttons for potential customers. “Was this review helpful?” The options are “Yes” and “No”. This is often referred to among reader communities as “upvoting” and “downvoting”, when it comes to groups of people (e.g. fans of the book/author) deciding to “upvote” 5-star reviews and “downvote” 1-star reviews. (Or the opposite can happen: all the 1-star reviews are “upvoted” and the 5-star reviews “downvoted”, if a group decides they don’t like the book/author.)
Ethically, I knew this wasn’t right, but I wasn’t actually sure if it was against Amazon’s Terms Of Service. I checked their site to find the Anti-Manipulation Policy on Customer Reviews (see my screenshot), and to me that’s exactly what the author suggested: to “manipulate” the review rankings. (NOTE: By default, reviews are shown by “Top” – i.e. most helpful – and there’s a non-default option to display reviews from “Most Recent”. Last time I checked today, the earliest a 1-star review appeared sorted by “Top” was on Page 4. Whether it was on Page 4 before or after the author’s Facebook post, I don’t know.)
Had I not enjoyed the author’s works, with others on my wishlist, I would’ve shrugged and moved on. But it strikes way more when it’s an author you admired…or at least respected. Is that respect lost? Yes. Will I read all her books I’ve bought but haven’t read yet? Maybe, but considering I own 381 unread books, I’m not in a hurry. Will I buy/borrow her books that I don’t own but are on my wishlist? Maybe, but I only buy the least expensive items on my wishlist, and only when I have store credit (which isn’t this month, unfortunately).
I lost respect for that author today. When I mentioned Amazon’s policy, she defended her position to get that 1-star review out of the spotlight because, “I got sick of looking at it.” She couldn’t have just exited the Amazon page so she wouldn’t have to look at it?
Instead, she tried to manipulate the review rankings. And that’s what’s most disappointing of all.