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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Amazon censorship & the saga of entitlement - a rant

There were no posts last week because in my usual effect on tech, blogger wouldn't let me log on. No idea why, it just decided it hated me. *sigh*

Be warned, since what follows is going to develop into a bit of rant. There will be Strong Language, because this whole unnecessary situation, plus a certain author, has frankly pissed on my battery.

There's a very unsatisfied rumbling amongst indie authors right now - because Amazon is removing reviews posted against other authors books. Check out Joe Konrath's blog here for a run-down on it. There's even a petition being started.

There has been mudslinging from some the authors behind the NSPH story (some of whom are now bewildered as to why they've lost reviews), and I can say that a glimpse of certain twitter feeds makes certain authors come across as self-entitled brats, with a side-order of issue. The folks concerned seem to have developed a hysterical loathing of indie authors, which would be funny if it wasn't so sad.   It's like the publishing equivalent of Burn the Witch. More on that later.

My issue with Amazon removing reviews is slightly different. One of the reasons given to authors who've queried why their reviews was removed is that you cannot review a product you are competing with, as a published author. I have a couple of problems with this.

First of all, I don't consider other authors as competition.  I'm a very small fish is a very big pond. There's plenty of room in this pond for authors - viewing someone as the enemy and developing a "Kill!Kill!" mentality is just plain silly. Other authors sales do not hurt me. In fact, I think other authors sales probably help me, especially if my books are listed under the "other customers who bought this also bought..." list.
(Sure, there are people out there who view anyone else who writes in their genre as foes worthy of hidden land-mines and nuclear reviews. These are probably the same folks who scream at reviewers who don't give them five stars and have their mothers write fifty slavering praise-ladden reviews on their work. Not my problem. Their sales have no correlation to mine. They also quite possibly wear their underpants on their heads. Again, really not my problem. It's pretty hard to start an internet war with someone who simply couldn't be bothered with that level of silliness.)

I actually keep hoping I'll get a few low star reviews on Amazon, because a large amount of the buying public now views books with only 4 or 5 star reviews with great suspicion. I'm definitely not complaining about the high starred reviews; because I'm not a moron, but I do wonder why they are all high. There has to be a few readers out there who read my stuff and thought 'meh.' They just don't seem to be posting reviews. The point is, low star reviews are part of doing business. You don't take them personally, the same way you can't let your ego bloat of high star reviews.

Secondly - as a reader, I've posted a LOT of book reviews on Amazon. A lot. These range from traditionally published authors to indies. Some of them I know, through social media or other places, the majority I don't. I've reviewed everyone from Tess Gerritsen (who I'm pretty sure doesn't know I'm on the planet) to Joe Garraty (who does) and both of whom write the kind of stuff I dream of achieving.

I'm not just an author, I'm a consumer, and a pretty avid one. I have a monthly book budget, for crying out loud, because without reading I would probably go utterly nuts on the daily commute and strangle the moron next to me with the soul-excrutiating techno version of Metallica pumping out of his ipod so loudly my teeth rattle.

So removing my reviews, which I've been posting since well before I became a self-published author on the kindle store, insults me as a loyal customer. I take time over these reviews. I try to make them coherent, and point out why I either liked or didn't like parts of the book, and if this new rule means I lose that ability, that's a pretty sharp slap in the face. You are telling me that I do not have the right to my opinion on goods I bought and paid for - and where I haven't bought them, I state so. Whether I bought them or not, my opinion is still valid.

On a cautionary note, I have no idea whether Amazon has removed any of my written reviews or not. I know they've removed some reviews on my books, which is ironic because it's made my star average increase, and I didn't know who the folks were that published those reviews. So in this case, Amazon have removed genuine reviews, written by people I do not know and have never met. I'm not sure how their programme decided those were unacceptable reviews, and to be totally honest, I don't really care.

What I do care about is that this seems to be an arbitrary form of censorship, brought on because of a vocal minority whose publishers actually have, and continue to, buy reviews, and the media that happily climbed on the bandwagon and turned a fifteen minute wonder into competition for Everest.
I care because your demands to police free-speech, dear NSPH authors,  have resulted in my right to said free-speech being compromised, to my being treated like my personal opinions as a reader are the equivalent of typhoid, and you are now whining because this has impacted you as well.

Right now, my personal feeling is that you ought to shut up and take your medicine with the rest of us. You asked for it, you got it, and I have zero patience for you right now.  What the hell did you think was going to happen?

As to the comments made by a certain author on twitter about being "pissed off because we can't pimp each others books any more, and there  still being plenty of places to pimp each other to hell" -  whether you aimed those comments at particular indie authors or not, you've got a history of utter disdain for this section of the writing community - who the blue fuck do you think you are? **

You've just compared a couple of authors to a section of industry that has zero relation to writing. (On a side note, that particular industry makes a lot more money than any of us.) Why? What right do you have to look down your pontificating, self-righteous little nose at anyone? Especially considering the published blurbs on Amazon from other best-selling authors for your books. This not only makes you arrogant, this makes you hypocrite, and shows you as having all the integrity and moral ethics of a hopped-up weasel. Well done. Your publisher and agent must be so proud.

Oh, wait - those blurbs were obtained by your publisher? Obviously that pulls you out of the pimping category, since you don't sell yourself. Someone else sells you instead. Well done on that. We couldn't accuse you of being a pimp. Not at all.

Get over yourself, dude. Seriously.

**Yes, I'm well aware that the authors concerned do not need my being defensive on their behalf. I'm not actually being defensive at all, what I am is annoyed, and not on their behalf.  I'm annoyed by the fact that a jacked-up, self-righteous hypocrite thinks it's fine to snark any other writer in this way on social media, because they are not published with the big 6. Irony here is that the authors concerned probably outsell this jack-ass on a regular basis, and used to have traditional contracts. They dropped their publishers to make more money.