The sun is now setting on a rather mixed harvest of mine over the last couple of weeks, with some strange fruit being collected. From Amazon’s Big Brother review strategies and policies causing problems for authors, to my confronting the past in old photographs, to being reacquainted with a song I know from the 80s which has reconnected to my present through someone I was with this week as part of my volunteering. Yes, I know, a very mixed harvest, but somehow I gained a clearer and more free perspective from this jumble of experiences.
I’ll start with the Amazon problem which I want to share with you, as it can, or may, affect any one of us both as writers, and readers of other writers’ work we admire. As writers we get to know and connect with each other through our websites, blogs, facebook pages and other social media accounts. This is a perfectly natural process which we all know, understand, and welcome. We post writing tips, marketing advice, strategies for self care, and so much more, regardless of whether we are traditionally published or independently published. And we need to do this participating in a online writing community because writing is a lonely business if we don’t. Before you know it, these connections have become important to us, especially if we haven’t got a local writing group to engage with. And in the course of this, we see who’s just published a book, and if we like the blurb and themes therein, or find the author interesting as a person through their posts, and therefore suspect they might well be writing stories which we would find interesting, then we will probably buy their book and give it a read. The next natural progression is – if we like or indeed love the book, we may want to post a review on Amazon because who knows better than other writers how important those reviews are? And again, a natural progression is that two writers may easily end up reviewing each others books. So what’s the problem?
Well, Amazon’s data detection systems don’t like it if they find two authors reviewing each others books. It seems to be the case that if they find any social media links between authors, then they make erroneous assumptions about the relationships concerned, to the point where they delete reviews. One of my reviews for my novel was removed and a handful of reviews I did for other authors (and it was only a handful) were removed, which was particulaly upsetting. So I wanted to understand what was going on. It seems to be a case of strict, but highly generalised guidelines pertaining to any ‘product’ backfiring onto book reviews. The response I got was not specific to my query, no corrective actions were taken, so I went into acceptance mode. But while I was waiting for a reply, I was feeling this awful ripple effect of what it would mean if writers can’t review each others books or feel as if they’ve done something immoral if they do, and then be penalised for it. In the end I decided that we shouldn’t have to disconnect or withdraw from each other and should carry on doing what feels right. That said, I gleaned some tips from an indie authors facebook group which may help to minimise these data effects while maintaining writers’ connections with each other. It seems ridiculous to go to these lengths, and somehow petty to list them, but I decided to share them anyway…
1.On Goodreads, it may be best to ‘follow’ other authors, rather than ‘friend’ them. This is easy to change and not in any way hurtful.
2.On Facebook, you can set your personal page to private, as I have from the start for other reasons, but you can also edit the settings on your personal page’s list of friends, so that only you can see who your friends are, no-one else can. Again, not hurting anyone.
3.If you can follow other authors’ pages on facebook, rather than their personal pages, then you are still in touch with what they are doing, but avoiding the friend linking.
4.We all have an Amazon customer profile – I didn’t realist this, but I found it. It’s best to have a different name here than your author name, and not to have any of the social media links filled in here (mine were already empty when I checked). Sometimes these seem to be auto-filled in by apps etc.
5.If you can separate your Amazon customer email address from your writer’s email address, then that might help and actually feels quite sensible. But it may well be something you have to be aware of when you set up a KDP account in the first place –too late for me personally now – but hey, ho!
And that’s it, sun well and truly below the horizon on this now!
Amazon author/author problem NEW UPDATE TO ABOVE – possible solution
After sending a number of emails to Amazon over the last few weeks to try to solve the reviewing problem described here, Amazon finally filtered my enquiries through to the review moderation team, who proved intractable, despite my efforts to explain. There was nothing personalised about the replies I got, they were standardised to fit any kind of product reviews and didn’t take writers and authors situations into account at all, that being the totally natural process of authors reviewing other authors’ books. But in the links they sent me in the very last email they did address writers and authors, and it was made clear that author to author reviews are prohibited as far as Amazon is concerned.
However one of the links they sent me included some information I’d never seen before, which includes a useful section on ‘other promotional material’ and this backed up what a fellow writer had discovered in the mean time and alerted me to (thank you, Galya) – see below. Well, for the sake of good karma I decided to apologise for inadvertently breaking the rules, and then lo and behold my reviewing rights were returned to me and most importantly the reviews I did for other authors were reinstated, which I’m very happy about. BUT I’ve decided it’s more prudent from now on not to do book reviews for other authors as customer reviews, but to offer them as a editorial review instead, for the writer to do as they wish with – not because I consider myself some kind of reviewing professional, but simply because it is a solution and actually may be more appropriate. Why? Because writers concentrate on the language and style of a book and try to give a more considered appraisal without too biased an opinion. From what I’ve seen they spend some of their valuable time on them, and do a considered and more comprehensive job, with a good deal of care.
So a positive solution to the author/author reviewing problem could be in the use of editorial reviews, where the author can publish an extract of an editorial style review that they receive from another author and enter it onto their book’s selling page via their author central page. Galya sent me this link Fix Amazon Reviews – Problems and a Workaround.
***Word of warning though – this is currently only possible to do through your author page with amazon.com and NOT amazon.uk…
Now if you are anything like me you might have assumed this was a no go area due to the fact that you haven’t had any suitable ‘worthies’ reading your book, unless perhaps it was a self-development style book, or other specialist subject non-fiction book. Therefore you may have dismissed the whole idea of editorial reviews. But after looking at a few articles about these kinds of reviews, I’m now thinking differently about this, and there may be a way forward. When we writers want to support other writers by giving genuine constructive and positive feedback, editorial reviews may well have their place. So see what you think!
This is what amazon sent me ‘About Promotional Content’– and the editorial review option is in the paragraph ‘Other Promotional Content’
And here are some other useful articles I found:
End of update
So with this discord and frustration going on, thank goodness I took it into my head this week to scan some old photo album pictures , taken the old way with a reel of film, and pop them into me and my hubbies digital photo files. Too long have these albums languished unseen for years. Too long have I been un-reminded of days gone by, to track journeys of a life – not just my own but some of those in my family too. And rather than it being a chore, it began to feel a cathartic experience. I found myself reconnecting with my former self and seeing the progressions of others. The cheerful child to the pensive teenage and young adult me, the me before my life in art and before my degree, and the me afterwards, and then the changes these wrought all to the good, and finally realising yet again that worldly success means nothing if you haven’t done what you had inside you to bring forth. And as creatives, this is so important and something we may well be highly instinctive about needing to do, but can’t always name. I also saw how gentle my father was being with his first grandson as he helped him hold a toy guitar, how my sister grew from a trendy teenager with lacy stockings and permed hair for a night out, to a loving mother, and how our own mother was always there for us, and how my husband was, when a little boy lovingly holding the family cat, to how he is now, doing exactly the same thing with out cat, Sasha. And feeling all this, the Amazon stuff receded and became so utterly trivial and ludicrous to be caring about – thereby rendering me a more appropriate and healthy perspective.
One of the things I wanted to do in the past was to be able to dress up in period costume, the real deal, like you see actors wearing in period dramas. Well I never have fulfilled this fancy, although I got close once. At the risk of freaking you out, here is a photo I found which me and my hubby had taken over 20 years ago at a living lifestyle museum called Beamish. The Edwardian-style costumes were fronted costumes only, meaning they were one-sided and we tied them on with bows at the back, not having to change into them as such. We had to keep very straight faces in keeping with the times, and this was the result. Well, you only live once! ;>)
So onto the last gleaning – in the form of a song called The Mountains of Mourne, with the lyrics written by Irishman, Percy French, and sung so beautifully by Don Mclean.
Here’s wiki on what it’s about. The song is a whimsical look at the styles, attitudes and fashions of late nineteenth-century London as seen from the point of view of an emigrant labourer from a village near the Mountains of Mourne. It is written as a message to the narrator’s true love at home. The “sweep down to the sea” refrain was inspired by the view of the mountains from Skerries in north County Dublin. It contrasts the artificial attractions of the city with the more natural beauty of his homeland.
I first heard this song in the 80s within a LP collection of Don Mclean songs. I loved the melody and the lyrics at the time and the plaintive tone and I learned the words and sang along. I only recently engaged with it again after choosing to listen to a CD of Don Mclean favourites in the car while driving along the country roads here in the Borders. Then a couple of weeks later, I found myself sitting having coffee with a lovely elderly Irish lady as part of my volunteering activities, who lived in the house that the writer of the song boarded in for a time. She knew the very window that the writer had stared out of at the view of the mountains which had inspired the lyrics. And there we were, chanting the lyrics to the song together, which was a special moment, and which also fostered a lovely perspective on what’s really important in life and that is on finding ways to meaningfully connect with others. And what better way to do it than through music?
Cheers for now!
(top pic pixabay)