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Why does Amazon have "unhelpful" votes for reviews?

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Showing 1-25 of 45 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 16, 2012 8:03:13 AM PST
I've been reading a lot of books recently - especially by independently published authors. I've discovered some great books by independent authors (the Spiral Tattoo and Psion Beta being two recent ones). However, I read through a bunch of bad stuff as well. I leave very detailed reviews explaining what I do/do not like (without giving any spoilers). I feel that since I rely on reviews, I should write them.

Even though my review clearly explains why I don't care for the book, I'm getting slammed with "unhelpful" votes. For example, I recently read a book I really disliked and explained in my review that there was way too much exposition and not enough "showing me". I was immediately given several unhelpful votes.

Many of these are for books with 10 or so reviews (and many of those reviewers have only reviewed only that one book). So it clearly seems that the author has friends or groupies that are posting glowing reviews and slamming anyone with a difference of opinion.

That said, why does Amazon have the "unhelpful" vote for reviews? It appears that it just encourages people to play games with bad reviews? I'm starting to feel like it's just not worth writing reviews anymore.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 8:07:45 AM PST
First of all, your postive rating is at 78%. That's not bad!

If you review mainly independent authors (I do too), you will tend to get a lot of negatives from the author and people associated with the author.

The reason why the "unhelpful" exists is that some reviews are, genuinely, unhelpful. They may contain incorrect information or too little detail. Unfortunately, it often winds up being used as a "weapon" against those of us who write critical reviews of indie books (and probably, though I don't have firsthand experience, movies and music).\

If you find writing reviews enjoyable, you should keep doing it and just ignore the negatives. That's what I do.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 8:08:09 AM PST
Because an overwhelming percentage of people don't really mean that it's unhelpful. They mean, "I disagree."

The voting here on these forums is pretty much the same thing. Almost no one actually answers the question. Instead it's used to agree or disagree with the posts.

In general, it's best to just ignore the voting on Amazon.

Posted on Jan 16, 2012 8:10:40 AM PST
GoBlue! says:
I would take the votes with a grain of salt. Instead of being an indication of the "value" of your review to others what you get is an indication of how many people read your review and liked/agreed with what you had to say. No, it's probably not what Amazon intended, but it's what it's turned into. If you are posting reviews in hopes of seeing helpful votes on your views, you may wish to reconsider why you write your reviews. Remember, the votes given to your review are just a small fraction of who has actually read them and is never going to be a true reflection of the value of your review.

Posted on Jan 16, 2012 8:14:52 AM PST
Jrzin says:
I think the explosion of independent authors is quite new and I agree the problem you see is a problem. I still like the helpful/unhelpful votes, though, because when there are a lot of reviews it helps sort out the "It was so great, I loved it , it was awesome" - end of review - and "It was so bad, I hated it, it was aweful" - end of review - from the actually helpful reviews.

I read the reviews on almost all the books I download (when there are any, I do mostly free and very inexpensive so often there are not) and I hope you keep reviewing. I think it is pretty obvious what the author/family/friends are doing and therefore I just discount it.

Posted on Jan 16, 2012 8:20:16 AM PST
It's hard to know which reviews are real and which ones are cooked up. In the end you are going up against the popularity of the author.

Posted on Jan 16, 2012 8:21:52 AM PST
mine says:
I'm not so sure that votes for good or bad make much difference. I think the review itself carries more weight. I know some people like to follow other peoples reviews and choose books based off that. I wouldn't let it bother you too much. Heck I usually give thumbs up to all my reviews bad or good just because I'm glad they gave me a chance and read the book. That to me is most important.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 8:47:14 AM PST
PF says:
When I see a reasonable, well-argued negative or neutral review of an independent author's book get unhelpful votes, I learn that the author and friends are probably an untrustworthy lot of review tamperers. It's very helpful, really, since it helps me weed out disreputable indies. There were at least 2.9 million indie books published in 2011, so it's not like I'm going to lack choice if I weed out those who feel the need to manage their publicity in ways that violate their terms of service here.

So don't worry if people who cannot do business ethically vote you down. It really is helpful for the readers to know which authors to avoid.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 8:59:54 AM PST
S. Prewitt says:
When book reviews appear to be bogus, perhaps written by the author using false names, I give them a 'No' vote.

When book reviews are written primarily to promote the reviewer's own religious or political beliefs, or to publicize the reviewer's (usually self-published) book, I give them a 'No' vote.

When book reviewers do not "First seek to understand (the book), THEN to be understood," I give them a 'No' vote.

Posted on Jan 16, 2012 9:00:05 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 16, 2012 9:24:12 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:02:01 AM PST
"When book reviews are written primarily to promote the reviewer's own religious or political beliefs.... I give them a 'No' vote."

See? This is exactly what I'm talking about. It's used to "agree" or "disagree", not as it was truly intended.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:06:24 AM PST
It's a tricky subject. It might be to protect the author from spiteful reviews, but of course it can also lead to an attack on an innocent reviewer who left a review in good faith.

It has been said, correctly, on these forums, that reviews are for readers not the author.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:06:52 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 16, 2012 9:08:21 AM PST
S. Prewitt says:
Your comment doesn't make any sense. Perhaps you should reread mine before commenting on it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:14:23 AM PST

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:23:10 AM PST

Reviews help both groups.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:26:12 AM PST
There are a number of things that amazon could do to help "real" reviews float to the top. The most important of those is to bury empty-profile-single-review-reviews at the bottom of the pile. This is true whether the review is 5 star or 1 star (and they are always one or the other).

The 5-star reviews are almost always shill friends/family/sockpuppet reviews. You can tell this by the fact that when you look @ the review, 7 months later, the "person" still hasn't reviewed anything else. The 1-star reviews are usually vicious, unhelpful, and are probably also from, either someone who really hates the author IRL, or from some other unscrupulous author who somehow thinks that giving a bad review to a competitor makes it more likely that people will buy his book.

Amazon does, periodically, do sweeps & remove unhelpful votes if the algorithms suggest that you are being "stalked" by authors/fangirls. Which actually does happen, believe it or not. Some people have way to much time on their hands & if you really p!ss them off, they will go to all of your reviews & downvote them.

Anyway, keep reviewing because your reviews are helpful whether they are voted that way or not. Consider yourself a voice of truth in an increasingly fraudulent world of reviews. :)

Also, if you would like, join some of us over on the kindle books forum -- we have a reviewing thread over there & you'd be a great addition to it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:27:12 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 16, 2012 9:27:31 AM PST
HJ Leonard says:
Most reviews are posted with the intention of aiding other readers, not authors. I believe that's what Joanna means.

Authors may take some helpful points away from reviews, but they are definitely not the intended audience.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:36:04 AM PST
While the review is a warning for the potential reader...if the author is smart he or she will pay attention.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:38:53 AM PST
~nospin says:
But not comment.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:44:08 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 16, 2012 9:48:06 AM PST
You're going to get fanbois and goils, friends, the author themselves, etc. Sometimes you can anger someone in the forums and suddenly get a bunch of negs on reviews. But, some reviews are just stupid and deserve unhelpful, like giving an item one star because the shipper didn't get it to the reviewer, that sort of thing. Nothing will get people going like books though. Review because you enjoy it, otherwise you'll drive yourself crazy.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:45:18 AM PST

I agree with you. However, I couldn't help myself once. I left a reply to the reviewer. The reply was a good reply.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:47:26 AM PST
I have had a couple of authors comment on my reviews, and had no issues, but I have lost total respect for authors I see attack reviewers who didn't like their books. I love Maberry, but he went after a reviewer, not only on one of his books, but then followed her to another author's book to blast her. I was shocked, this isn't some indie or newbie who didn't know any better. Author's don't realize they will lose readership because of leaving nasty comments and other poor behavior.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 9:50:19 AM PST

I agree with you.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 10:01:19 AM PST
Really? I have an empty profile and no reviews on file.
Does this mean that if I leave a review it is not trustworthy? No.

I deleted my profile and all of my reviews year before last when I got two K2's in a LD on Black Friday, and had my reviews trashed and recieved death threats.

Your assesment of whether a reviewer is "real" or not is prejudiced and untrue, not to mention the fact that everyone here had to start with a first review of something.

Posted on Jan 16, 2012 10:14:01 AM PST

I don't think anyone is saying that everyone that leaves a review with a clean profile is a fake. I think the person is talking about profiles that show up to give a review today, and eight months from now the profile is unchanged. I have only reviewed one thing on this profile. I forgot my user name and password to my profile from five years ago. On that profile I had reviewed a lot more. In reality all you have to do is look at the date that the person became a member.
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Discussion in:  Kindle forum
Participants:  22
Total posts:  45
Initial post:  Jan 16, 2012
Latest post:  Mar 4, 2012

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