For years, we authors have been hearing how important Amazon Reviews in India are for our books. In fact, getting reviews for a book has become a business.
Reviews are important for book sales. The number of Amazon reviews in India for a book shows how popular it is. It also impacts the overall ranking of a book. Not to forget, the much-chased after ‘Amazon Bestseller Tag’ too. Read Amazon sales rank: What the heck does it mean? to know all about it.
Today we’ll tell you the story of Deepti Menon, a published author and a seasoned book reviewer who is currently on a crusade against Amazon India over some of her reviews. But before that, we would like to get behind the whole business of getting Amazon reviews and writing Amazon reviews in India to understand it a bit better.
Behind the Amazon Reviews in India
Not too many years ago, images like these were being shared widely across social media platforms, in authors’ forums (and they still do!) encouraging authors to seek reviews for their books. At a glance, there is nothing wrong with it. After all, word of mouth is the best tool of marketing ever. And reviews do exactly that.
Book Reviews are an important part of any marketing plan for an author. We talk about it at length in our blog post Importance of Book Reviews to sell books in India. However, it is extremely important for the reviews to be honest and helpful. Even if one doesn’t like the book, the review can always talk about what did not work for the reader. It can be constructive feedback for the writer which is helpful for them.
In the last few years, book reviewing has become a business in India. An author can now buy bulk reviews for as low as INR 50 rupees per review. Many times, these bulk reviews are similar in language and tone. The average rating of 4 stars is maintained across all such reviews and absolutely none of them has anything negative to say about the book.
We are not against paying a reviewer for the time invested in a book and the effort put behind reviewing it. It is fair to do so. But this whole business of ensuring only the good reviews are made public to maintain a certain image of the book is unfair to all the authors.
The policy of Amazon Reviews in India
Did you know – Amazon has a review policy? This means it has certain guidelines for reviewing products on its website. Any review posted on Amazon does not go live immediately. It is made live on the website only after certain quality checks are done at their end.
One quick search on Google and you will find hundreds of posts and threads talking about the mysterious policy of Amazon for reviews. We called the policy mysterious because it is unclear and ambiguous.
The review policy does not mention many other parameters Amazon considers before making a review live. Sharing some of the parameters known to us:
- The reviewer should have made a purchase of at least INR 1500 rupees from Amazon before choosing to post a review. (This is as of November 2021. The amount may or may not have increased after that.)
- The language has to be neutral. It should not contain any offensive or abusive words.
- If you follow the author on social media platforms, you are considered to be known to the author and hence your review can be disallowed (as mentioned in point no. 2 above in the original Amazon Review policy).
There must be many others we are unaware of.
To know the story behind the above screenshot, read the whole thread with comments on Quora.
So, how do authors get Amazon Reviews in India?
Simple. By approaching genuine book reviewers and seeking reviews for their titles. Authors can also request friends and family to read and write about their books.
These days there are many organizations also who help you in getting book reviews by approaching book reviewers on your behalf.
By now, you must have concluded the reviewing cycle to be something like this:
Unfortunately, it isn’t. The review being made live on the website is only one of the many possible outcomes of this whole exercise. The other possible outcomes include:
- The review could never go live.
- The review could go live and then be removed after weeks
- All your reviews could one day be removed without any reason
- Your Amazon account could be removed
- You could be banned from reviewing certain products.
All of the above (and much more can happen) without any proper reason or explanation being provided by Amazon. To all your queries on this, the Amazon team will keep directing you back to the Review Policy. What exactly went wrong is pure guesswork on our part.
Deepti’s story of Amazon Reviews in India
A few weeks ago, we came across Deepti Menon’s story and her ongoing battle with Amazon India.
Deepti Menon is a published author whose books have been published by Rupa Publications and Readomania. She is also a seasoned book reviewer who regularly reads and posts her reviews on her blog apart from Amazon and other social media platforms.
One fine morning she woke up to discover all her reviews were missing from Amazon. Since then, she has been contacting Amazon, hoping for a resolution but to no avail.
Sharing below an open letter from Deepti to Jeff Bezos (with permission):
Dear Mr. Jeff Bezos,
At the age of 60, I assumed that I would relax and do all the things I love – read and review books and run a school. I am a published author and a seasoned reviewer over years. I have submitted myriad reviews to Amazon which have been accepted as well. Last week, when I went into my account to submit a review, I found a brusque message from AmazonIN informing me that they had removed all my reviews because I had not followed their guidelines and that they had noticed some unusual reviewing activity on my site. After that, a blanket silence, except for two vague messages on Twitter. I sent them two emails which they ignored completely.
I have been writing and reviewing for decades. Never ever have I had to prove my mettle as a writer. This statement from Amazon derails my credibility as a reviewer and author, something which I am not prepared to take lying down. Irony abounds in the fact that Amazon tries to ascertain whether one is a robot. We humans have to constantly prove that we are not robots.
The funny bit is that we humans are obviously dealing with AI on the other side, taking over and making decisions for their human counterparts, in an alarming fashion – no emotions, just ticks, and crosses, with zero idea of what is right or wrong, and with no perceptions, only algorithms that may or may not work.
A robot has no idea about what goes into the reviewing of a book, what a labour of love it is for the reviewer to put forth his or her own views without wearing blinkers. Guidelines are out there to be followed, but when someone does a review with earnestness and diligence without impinging on the given guidelines, arbitrary blocking by Amazon comes as a rude shock.
Amazon is like Goliath, a giant organization that strives to crush anything that its AI cannot fathom. One reason that disallows people from writing reviews is that goods worth Rs.1500 must be bought before a review can be offered. Is that the reason why my reviews have been blocked? To clarify, my husband is one of their most loyal customers. Even a broom comes from Amazon.
Or is the reason different? As far as I know, my reviews are not racy, vulgar, discriminatory, or defamatory. I abhor spoilers, being a thriller writer myself. Have I been blocked because the stars I give are consistent? The reviewer gives stars to rate the book he or she has read. Does a robot decide to hold that prerogative as well? Then you might as well have the AI doing the reviews as well… minus one for emotions, minus one for expansiveness, and what the heck, minus one more for no reason at all!
Is Amazon even aware of how difficult it is to get reviews from readers in the first place? Almost as painful as pulling teeth out! Being a writer, I know how agonizing the process is. Readers are aplenty, reviewers only a precious handful. And then, Amazon has the temerity to block those few because they are, unwittingly, up against the stone wall that is Amazon!
Paid reviewers are all around. I have myself received requests galore at regular intervals. However, I have never asked any author for a single penny for any of my reviews. So, what I put down is my honest opinion about the book, and nothing more.
Why am I writing this letter to you, Mr. Bezos? Over the past four days since my reviews have been blocked, I have heard several accounts/ cases/ complaints of reviews being chewed up by the Amazon that I have dubbed Goliath. There are authors who have lost almost 70 reviews. Most books do not even have as many to lose. All this because some emotionless bot acts as a puppeteer, pulling AI strings, ruining the careers of writers and the reputations of reviewers.
Adding insult to injury, I have written two emails to Amazon, using the mail ID they have provided, asking for an explanation for the unusual reviewing activity they have noticed. Is it paranormal activity or little green men running wild, doing reviews? To my mails, there have been no responses. The silence is maddening!
It is time for you to get more professional, Amazon. It is not enough to be a Goliath in appearance. To have a giant heart is as important, but who is to explain that to a robot? A David might just come your way with his humble slingshot to sway public opinion, if not today, maybe someday in the future when frustration and helplessness come to the brim.
So, dear Mr. Bezos, if you do ever get to see this letter, of which I have not much hope, please come down from your ivory tower if only to prove that robots do not rule in your hallowed space – Amazon!
With deep disappointment,
Censoring Amazon Reviews in India
One would like to believe, that Amazon is not censoring reviews in India. Moreover, one glance at Deepti’s reviews and we would know, that her reviews have not breached any of the above-mentioned review guidelines. (Image attached below)
Then, what is the reason Amazon removed all her reviews? We do not know and have been unable to get any answer to this question from Amazon India either.
This happened in April 2022. Since then, Deepti has been painstakingly reposting the reviews for the authors’ benefit on other platforms including her blog and social media. Along with this, she is also following up constantly with Amazon India by sending regular reminders.
To date, there has been no response from their end.
(We will keep updating this post to share the status of Deepti’s story).
What is the story behind Amazon Reviews in India?
Sadly, nobody knows the real story.
It has been happening across the globe for a decade. Reviews keep disappearing. Accounts are deleted. And Amazon continues to stay mum on any question asked about it. We recommend you consider reading Disappearing Amazon Reviews: The Facts Behind Amazon’s Review Purges also to understand how it works globally. While the reasons behind it explained in this post may not be the exact reason for Deepti’s reviews going missing, they are still justified reasons.
Recently, Amazon has come down seriously on all the reviews businesses. We understand fake reviews need to be clamped and the platform to be made trustworthy. But definitely not at the cost of removing sane voices.
We do not know what plans Amazon India has in store for the platform in the future. What we know is that we deserve answers. Transparency. And most importantly, a reliable source of books and bestsellers.