Photo of businessman tied upI have been reading blog posts about Amazon removing positive book reviews. I have even seen the exact Amazon wording connected to people having a financial interest in a book doing well, such as a publisher.

From Amazon’s Customer Review Guidelines of what is NOT allowed (boldface mine):

“Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product).”

I have also read posts suggesting that authors are being prevented from writing POSITIVE reviews about books in the same genre as that in which they write. (Catch 22: Most authors write books in the genres they like to read. Does this mean authors can no longer write reviews on Amazon?)

But now I know for certain that the definition of who benefits from a book has been expanded to include non-financial interests.

Here is a true saga:

My brand-new cozy mystery CAST THE FIRST STONE had no reviews and I was really hoping for reviews before the ebook’s KDP Select free day of December 4th. (I purposely chose December 4th because Hanukkah this year starts on December 8th and CAST THE FIRST STONE has a Jewish subplot.)

I thought of a fiction author who would probably enjoy the book, and I provided a review copy.

The author did like the book and wrote a very nice insightful review — several paragraphs long — on the book’s Amazon page. The review went live.

Hours later the review was removed.

Then this author wrote a very nice email to Amazon asking why the review had been removed. Here is the reply and note the change from the previous boldface wording (boldface is again mine):

“We removed your review from “Cast the First Stone: A Rebecca Stone Mystery.” Customer reviews are meant to give customers genuine product feedback from fellow shoppers. When we perceive that a reviewer has financial interest in a book or a close personal relationship with the author, we remove the review to protect the authenticity of our customer reviews.

“If we removed your review and you’d still like to leave feedback about the book, we encourage you to participate in our Customer Discussion Forums. You can post comments and engage with other readers of “Cast the First Stone: A Rebecca Stone Mystery.”

“If you have additional questions, please feel free to review our posted Customer Review Guidelines:

http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines/

“If, after reviewing our guidelines, you believe your review was incorrectly removed, please reply to this email with additional detail and we will take another look.

“I hope this helps.”

Now here is the kicker: At the very beginning of the author’s review of CAST THE FIRST STONE the author revealed having gotten a review copy. The author certainly wasn’t trying to sail under the radar.

And yet Amazon decided that this author and I have “a close personal relationship” and took down the review.

This huge BIG BROTHER step on Amazon’s part is probably only the beginning of authors being squeezed out of writing reviews on Amazon. But when everyone is an author thanks to ebooks, who will be left to write reviews?

If you have any opinions on this, please add them in the comments below.

P.S. If you do write a review for anyone on Amazon — whether or not you are an author — write the review in a Word doc that you save and then transfer the review to Amazon. This way, if Amazon removes the review, you can post it on some other review site and your effort will not be wasted.