There’s a controversy going on right now on Amazon. (Isn’t there always.) There’ve been numerous controversies in the past of course, but the one I’m talking about today is the recent bar Amazon have put on authors reviewing other authors books on Amazon. Some writers have seen dozens or hundreds of reviews vanish from their profiles. Amazon’s position is that it doesn’t allow a review on a product from the maker of a rival product.
Who’s right and who’s wrong?
I do believe there’s a logic to Amazon’s position. They can’t let someone working for Apple come on the site and diss products by Samsung for example. There’s an obvious conflict of interest. But is Amazon right to treat authors like the manufacturer of a product? Or are writers special? Or are other words for special in this case “privileged” and “entitled”? What about favourable reviews? Is there a conflict of interest if the writer is reviewing a friend’s book, or someone in their own genre, or someone who’s with the same publisher. I know I’d feel a bit inhibited about publishing a negative review of a book from my own publisher. And does what applies to writers apply to other creative people whose work is sold through Amazon, like musicians?
Are writers actually in competition with each other in the same way as two manufacturers of the same product? Does it depend on how close they are in terms of genre? Two people writing m/m romance can obviously be seen as directly competing for the money of the buying public. But what about a writer of m/m romance and a writer of YA? Or a writer of non-fiction? They’re all books, but are they in competition with each other any more than a desktop printer is in competition with a TV rather than only with other desktop printers?
How close do the books have to be in content before they are considered competition? What’s the competition for a romance novel? All books? All fiction books? All romance books? Or only books in the same romance sub-genre? But many readers don’t stick purely to one sub-genre, so a m/f sci-fi romance and a m/m historical romance could indeed by competing for my finite book budget money!
Amazon’s owners can do what they like with their site of course, but Amazon is so important in the book business that it’s natural people are going to get wound up about what they do. The stakes are very high. And even if they are right in principle that doesn’t mean they’ve handled the issue well. Personally I’ve stepped back from doing any more reviews in the m/m romance genre, and am cautious about others if I’ve got a connection to the writer or if they are also published by Loose Id. Reviewing is a total minefield right now, on Amazon and elsewhere and this is only one of the controversies. I’m waiting until the dust settled before I dip my toe back in those waters.