Category: Amazon


HWA’s Letter to Jeff Bezos

We were just alerted to the Horror Writer’s Association’s official letter to Jeff Bezos regarding the bullying and trolling happening on Amazon:

HWA

Well said, HWA!  It’s not about ensuring positive reviews.  It’s never been about that.  It’s always been about protecting authors, and publishers, from bullying and abuse.

Jeff, if you’re listening, please do something about these bullies.  It’s long overdue!

Well, well.  It appears as though the bullies are growing tired of being called out for their behavior.  What is interesting, though, is how they describe their feelings on the issue.  We were just recently tipped off to this post written by Barks & Bites on BookLikes:

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In today’s post, we’re not going to talk about why their bullying-fatigue is a good thing.  We all know why it is.  What we are going to talk about is the keen insight into the bully mentality the article provides — the erroneous assumptions the bullies make and the myths that they create with their propaganda.  We’ll start by dissecting the text bit by bit.

 

“I think I have reached my limit. I am tired of the hypocritical thin skinned authors and their hysterics. I am tired of their ridiculous and uninformed kiss ass supporters. I am tired of reading shitty books. I am tired of it all and I don’t see any of this going away any time soon.”

Erroneous assumption #1:  All authors are hypocritical and thin-skinned who write shitty books and who fly into hysterics at the slightest criticism.

Our response:  Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

“New authors and ancient authors alike refuse to accept that their writing is a PRODUCT the moment they charge me for it. It’s not an effing baby.”

Erroneous assumption #2:  All authors view their books as babies and all the bully attacks on these authors are the result of these authors complaining about legitimate book reviews criticizing their babies.

Our response:  This assumption is one that the bullies continue to make and promote over and over  In fact, 99.9% of the attacks that we’ve seen have had nothing to do with reviews (i.e. legit critical reviews).  As one of our blog readers commented here:

All together now, and once more: THIS IS NOT ENTIRELY ABOUT THE REVIEWS. And you seem to be trying to make this all about self-published authors.

Anne Rice is not self-published. I’m sure many of the authors on the Horror Writers Assoc. Facebook page who support this petition are not-self published. But it’s easier to think of things in black-and-white, isn’t it?  i.e. “Self-published authors write shitty books that are unreadable, they can’t take criticism, therefore they are the ones having the tantrums and causing the problems.  The end.”

This type of thinking paints every self-published author with the same brush–which is patently unfair. And It’s so much more complex than that. You did touch on this issue being the fault of both sides, and I commend you for that.

I cringe inside when I see any author going off the rails in a tantrum about anything.  It’s unprofessional and gives us all a bad name. It never helps the situation.  It usually results in their blacklisting, which may or may not be appropriate. Maybe they aren’t mature enough to handle the criticism that comes with publishing and should retire until they grow a spine. I don’t know and won’t speak to that. I don’t think there’s anything that can be done about it.  I only know that when my children were small, ignoring the tantrums was the best course of action.

And yes, many self-published books are crap.  I downloaded two yesterday, read a page or two, and deleted them.  But here’s the new reality: You might as well settle in and get comfortable or stop reading altogether.  Self-publishing is not going away.

Just this past week, Kristy [redacted] was bullied off of her own Facebook page before the release of her third book, [redacted]. It wasn’t about a bad review. It appears to be a vendetta about something personal from her past. The book bloggers over there were outraged and passed around graphics and headers that said “I hate bullies. I support K. Bromberg” and somesuch. Ironically, the brouhaha may have gotten her so much attention, she hit the New York Times bestseller’s list (though maybe she would’ve hit it anyway). Go, Kristy!  You deserve it. I support you fully.

Elle [redacted] attempted to have a dialogue about bullying on her own Goodreads blog this month. Again, this wasn’t about a review.  She was swarmed, shouted down, and one-starred as a result. She made some beautiful points ( i believe she said she was a lawyer, and I could tell), but in the end, it didn’t matter. The thread is still there, though closed.  They twisted her words and drove her off HER OWN SPACE. You may or may not have agreed with what she said, but do you at least agree that she has a right to HER OWN OPINION and she has a right to talk about that opinion on her own blog without being bashed for it?  It was a fabulous opportunity for dialogue, but some of these people don’t want dialogue.  They want uniform consent. And they want to fight.

What’s really amusing is that it’s the same hardcore bully names every time.  Every single time.  There are maybe 20? 30? When I see their names next to a one-star rating, I automatically discount it, because I know it’s more than likely a revenge rating. They have zero credibility. They don’t appear to read much.  They wield the one star like a weapon because it’s the only power these pathetic little people have.

And eeally, fellow authors: It’s just a star. One little star. And they may say something mean, but you can always have a primal scream in your closet.  Not everything needs to come to the internetz.  If your book is good, you’ll bounce back.  I promise.

It’s true that the worst of the worst have been thrown off of Goodreads and are now marginalized on a forum in an obscure book catalogue website. But last summer I watched these a-holes go after authors with torches and pitchforks, howling for blood, and it wasn’t always about an author tantrum over a review. Sometimes the authors were  baited to respond.  The thrill of the hunt. I don’t know, maybe it makes them feel relevant or something.  And the delicious irony about all of this is that the bully ringleader is a self-published author.

Then there was poor Lauren [redacted], who simply asked “How can someone one-star a book that isn’t even released yet?” She was hounded off of Goodreads, then CHASED her to her Twitter page, where she had the most vile of things said to her.  To be fair, at that point, Lauren should’ve just shut up. I kept thinking “God Lauren, close your page and go away for a couple of days!” You can’t reason with this mob and you can’t talk to them. She tried to do both, and failed miserably, giving them ammunition to fire back in the process.  In the end, they made it entirely her fault, but I was there from the beginning and saw what happened.  It started with an innocent, perfectly reasonable question, not a review.

The bullies will deny that anyone ever physically threatened an author, but I saw a post for Veronica R.’s last book where the reviewer threatened to throat-punch her if they ever saw her. I don’t know- maybe that isn’t a threat of physical violence in their book. It is in mine. Veronica tried to soothe the animals, but was shouted down. All this over an ending they didn’t like. Same thing with Laurel H..

There are just some psychotic, nasty, ugly little people out there who hide behind the anonymity of the internet, but I don’t think requiring real names on Amazon is going to help very much.  The only thing that’s going to help is when some of these people start getting prosecuted for the things they do–both reviewers AND authors if appropriate– and I think we can see that starting to happen.  I have hope.

 

“And it might even be ugly as hell and not at all ready for public consumption. I’m not here to coddle and promote. I’m not here to worry about an authors debt, their sick family or their tender feelings.”

Erroneous assumption #3:  All authors expect reviewers to coddle them because their lives are so hard.

Our response:  Again, nothing could be further from the truth.

 

“We all have shit to deal with but most of us have to deal with careers that dole out criticism when we do what they perceive as a crappy job and we take it because that’s how the world works.”

Erroneous assumption #4:  Everyone in the world has a crappy job where they are verbally abused by their bosses and just have to take it because that’s life.

Our response:  If you have a job like this, QUIT!  This is not the way the world works and life is WAY too short to deal with crap like this.  Quit this job and find another one.

 

“I want to go back to the days when we could share our thoughts about books with each other any way we damn well pleased. But now that can only happen face to face. Thank the gods for my local reading group.”

Erroneous assumption #5:  The bullies only ever shared their thoughts about books and nothing else.

Our response:  This makes us laugh every time they say it.  How many times did they say this when GR announced their anti-bullying policy stating that the bullies could no longer talk about author behavior?  Also, we have shown more than enough evidence that the bullies were never interested in talking about books.  Their main agenda was to search out, hunt down, and destroy the people they labeled BBA.  It was (and still is for some) their crusade to perpetuate this BBA myth and root out all those who are evil in their eyes.

 

“I just wasted too much time reading the Amazon Authors Who Do Not Want Anonymous Reviews thread and I am still in disbelief over some of the things I read there. I then did something I’ve never been infuriated enough to do. I deleted three five star reviews for books by [redacted] who seems to forget that she’s written under an alias. One of those books, [redacted], only had three reviews which included mine.”

Our response:  This is EXACTLY what we are talking about.  B&B just got done whining about how this is all about book reviews and then punishes an author for signing a petition, which has nothing to do with the author whining about one of her reviews.

 

“This made me sad and angry.  I loved those effing books and recommended them to friends often but those days are done. I can no longer separate the person from the work. I can no longer be a part of this petty bullshit.”

Erroneous assumption #5 & #6:  The bullies at one point could separate the author from the book.  The bullies at one point were never part of petty bullshit.

Our response:  This whole thing started on Amazon and Goodreads BECAUSE the bullies could never separate the author from the book.  They are the ones who started the petty bullshit to begin with.

 

“I can no longer support an author who thinks so little of her readers that she’d expose them to potential danger by forcing them to review using their real name in some misguided attempt to further her career and to keep herself safe from “threats and bullies”.  If you can make  sense out of this line of reasoning please let me know because I can’t seem to wrap my head around it.”

Erroneous assumption #7 & #8:  Reviewers will be in danger if they have to review under their real names.  Removing anonymity won’t keep authors from being bullied.

Our response to #7:  We’ve published posts covering attacks on reviewers, but they were very mild.  We have never seen an attack on a reviewer to the degree and severity of attacks we’ve seen on authors.  Not even close.  One of our blog readers said it better than we ever could:

“Another salient point in this blog was the assumption that authors who want the reviewer to reveal her true name want her to be the victim of harm. The assumption being apparently that authors harm people who review under their real names which of course is totally false — a myth perpetrated by the bullies, that authors are “bad” people who must be policed by anonymous gangs. There were ridiculous assumptions like that throughout the blog and the responses. These people have created the myth of “the badly behaved author” to justify their unwholesome hobby and their absurd and relentless bullying. No one signing the petition has shown disrespect for anonymous reviewers. We all know that thousands of authentic reviews have been posted on Amazon by anonymous customers. This is about the ABUSE of anonymity in recent years by obsessive hobbyists with a low opinion of authors and a need to abuse authors, to bully them.”

Our response to #8:  Then why are the bullies so against it?  There’s a reason they don’t want to review under their real names and it’s not because they fear being in danger.  What they fear is being held accountable for their actions.

 

“They may think they’re winning but if most of us stop sharing our thoughts, our 1 star as well as our five star reviews, who the hell will be left to review besides their family and their sycophants? And none of us are dumb enough to fall for that shit more than once.  Who will get the word out about their books?”

Erroneous assumption #9:  The bullies are the only reviewers in the world and if they stop reviewing, there won’t be anyone else who will be able get the word out about authors’ books.

Our response:  I don’t think we even need to respond to this.  It would be an insult to our readers’ intelligence.

 

“Honestly at this point I don’t even care.”

Our response:  Right.  She cares so little about it that she wrote an entire blog rant on the subject.

 

“I feel really lame for wasting so much energy on this reviewing hobby and might just start focusing my energy on something else. Another hobby that won’t shit all over me.”

Erroneous assumption #10:  The bullies aren’t the problem.  The problem is all these whiny authors who can’t just sit there and take all of the bullies’ personal attacks and abuse.  If the bullies start another hobby, then the problem will go away and they won’t ever experience anything like this again.

Our response:  Again, no need to comment.

 

“I realize some authors are cool, [redacted] you get it and there are many others, but it seems as if every time I open my email another author is spewing their crazy ass shit all over the internet. Right now It all seems like such a complete waste of my time.”

Our response:  Then it’s probably a good idea to pack up and move on.  Once you start experiencing the backlash from your actions in other areas of your life, you will begin to understand that the problem is not the world.  The problem is you.

 

Now, if you have the time (and the patience) to read some of the comments on B&B’s post, the bullies seem to be complaining about the “poison in the water” these days, but what they don’t understand is that they are the ones who put the poison there in the first place.  There are, however, a couple of them like Grim who’ve realized that by letting go of the whole BBA crusade, their lives are much happier (a fact we’ve been trying to get across to them ever since we started our blog):

Grim

But the rest are growing more unhappy and appear to be blaming Anne Rice and Todd’s petition:

AnneRiceBlownUp

For the record, this didn’t start with Anne or Todd.  This whole online bully vs. the world conflict was a time bomb waiting to go off.  In the past few years, much to the dismay of the bullies, it has gotten a lot of media attention and if the bullies keep it up, it will continue to get more.  In fact, just this week, we checked Todd’s petition and it’s still going strong.  It is now up to 7,522 signatures:

7522

This alone makes a very strong statement about how deep-rooted this problem is.  Lets hope Amazon listens and puts an end to it.

Much to the horror (pun intended) of the Amazon trolls, the Horror Writer’s Association has backed Todd Barselow’s petition to remove anonymity from Amazon:

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Thanks to everyone spreading the word, the petition has reached 6,958 signatures:

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Keep up the good work!

Believe it or not, Anna Karenina, Gangster Bully Leprechaun (as she now calls herself), believed at one point in time (May of 2012) that she and Anne Rice would be BFF.  Check out this screenshot of Anna directing Anne to the Meet Our Authors forum on Amazon, which eventually led to the now famous discussion Anne had with the Amazon Fora Trolls we featured in Anne Rice Owns the Bullies:

AnnaKGangsterBully

We hope you notice the irony of the picture.  Below is part of the MOA conversation Anne had with Anna a few months ago.  It was only after this convo that Anna changed her Amazon profile name to Anna Karenina, Gangster Bully Leprechaun since Gangster Bully was the name Anne used to describe a group of *cough cough* certain people she met in the forum, Anna K. being one of them.

AToAWhyRUHere

AVsA

AnneVsAnna

Anna

AnneToAnna

AuthorsAreAdults

So, it was Anna’s “total lack of sensitivity and understanding” that led her to have no cred with Anne.  And that makes perfect sense given that Anna, despite all the evidence to the contrary, still doesn’t see herself as a bully and that she once believed she and Anne could actually be friends.  We could have told her that would never happen.  In fact, most people saw Anna K.’s meltdown coming from a mile away.

Sigh.  The bullies will never learn.

In any case, we want to end this post on a positive note.  Todd’s petition has now reached 6,521 signatures!

6521

Good job, everyone!

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An Addendum

We thought Chuck’s response to Anna K.’s ridiculous “Open Letter” was rather interesting:

Chuck

Well said, Chuck.

We want to thank everyone who reported this troll review we featured in The Proof Is in the Pudding:

Review

The review is now gone:

ReviewGone

Good job, everyone!

Advice From an Attorney

In our previous post, The Proof Is in the Pudding, we showed you yet another Amazon review that had nothing to do with the book and was purely a personal attack on the author.  We’ve also given plenty examples either on Amazon or GR of reviews/ratings that are either false or written by people who have never read the book.  We wanted to remind our readers of some advice from an attorney on Anne R. Allen’s Laws of the Amazon Jungle:

This just in. Some of the info I have here is wrong. We DON’T have to live with misleading reviews. Here’s an enlightening addition from a practicing attorney with a sub-speciality in intellectual property law.

Just because a multi-national corporation willfully breaks the law does not mean it is legal!
SELLERS HAVE AN AFFIRMATIVE DUTY TO ENSURE ANY CUSTOMER TESTIMONIAL THEY USE TO SELL PRODUCTS IS TRUEI will list links to the relevant legal statutes, government agencies, and news sources so your readers know they DO have recourse.1. Online customer reviews are a form of ‘endorsement’ or ‘customer testimonial.’

REF: Federal Trade Commission overview video -http://www.business.ftc.gov/multimedia/videos/ftc-endorsement-guides

(Note: due to the government shutdown you can’t access this video until the trolls in congress stop bickering … but it’s excellent).

2. This doesn’t just apply to online bloggers, but ANY distributor (seller) or other website that makes their money selling third-party review data to create sales. The operative word is ‘commerce.’ It has to somehow involve money.

REF: Federal Trade Commission Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (this link is not effected by the gov’t shutdown):

http://ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf

3. Attorney generals nationwide are beginning to crack down on fraudulent third-party review sites such as YELP who rates hotels and restaurants much the way Goodreads reviews books:

REF: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/ny-attorney-general-cracks-down-fake-online-reviews-4B11235875

4. If you believe a review is false, you can file a complaint with these Federal Agencies (note: due to the shutdown you may need to wait until congress finishes bickering):

a. The Federal Trade Commission: www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov

b. The Better Business Bureau: https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started

c. Your local state attorney general’s office:
Google: YOUR STATE + ATTORNEY GENERAL CONSUMER AFFAIRS DIVISION + FILE COMPLAINT

There are also ways to track the IP address of people who post a comment on a blog and then drag them into court to personally sue them, but right now the government is beginning to get interested in how big multinational internet sellers such as Amazon and big multinational internet rating sites such as Goodreads are gaming the system, so I recommend you file a complaint with THEM. It takes HUNDREDS of complaints to get the government to stick their nose into something, but as you can see from the New York AG/YELP scandal, eventually they usually do.

To tie it up … do as Anne recommends … avoid troll havens … never comment on a review … quietly report the troll-dung and walk away … but PLEASE take the next step and also file complaints with the appropriate government agencies, not just the media. The media is not always sympathetic to authors. 

 
The government, on the other hand, is very interested in how powerful Amazon and its sub-rating sites have become. Tie it to MONEY (lost sales), not fairness, and eventually the government will get off it’s backside and bite back the trolls FOR you.

Also, please see our post GR Review Fraud for information on how Goodreads is committing the crime of deception, violating FTC policies, by allowing corrupt data (fake ratings and reviews) to pass through their API to millions of users across the world.

Well another one bites the dust.  We’ve just been informed that Three R’s has gone the same way as Moonlight Reader and has given up her shenanigans on Amazon.

ThreeRs

And on Amazon:

3RsAmazon

Right.  As if it was ever about the product.  For all those who’ve been terrorized by her in the past, you can now breathe a sigh of relief.

We haven’t seen an official policy change statement by Amazon, but we know for certain that something is happening on the site.  Apart from the AFT deleting their accounts, we do know that Amazon is removing reviews again and possibly the accounts with them.  More on this to come.

We were just tipped off to this review (written by an anonymous reviewer of course) of a book by Anne Rice, proving the necessity of Todd Barselow’s petition:

Review

Comment1

Comment2

Comment2

For all authors who are signing the petition, we want to warn you. The trolls are targeting any author whose name they find on the petition.  STGRB is reporting this Amazon discussion thread for abuse. We invite others to do the same.  Attacking people because they signed a Change.org petition is despicable.  We already know of one author who was targeted by the GR exiles because she posted a link to the petition in her Facebook group.  So be careful when signing or even when sharing the link with friends.  It’s probably best to share it in private if you don’t want to be targeted by these nasty people.

On a positive note, the petition is now up to 6,203 signatures!

6203

Good job, everyone!

Fox News report on Todd Barselow’s petition.

FNSR

And now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine…

Call of the Wild

Comment and review sections online are often rough and uncivil places.

Now some people are calling for an important change unmasking the anonymous contributors.

A petition on Change.org is calling for Amazon to make people attach their names to comments and reviews.

The cause is gathering support, with nearly 5,000 signatures, including New York Times best-selling author Anne Rice, who took to Facebook to call out the anti-author gangster bullies.

A recent study at the University of Houston supports the link between anonymity and hateful language online.

The research looked at thousands of comments on news sites and found that anonymous commenters were almost twice as likely to use vulgar language.

We applaud Anne for bringing so much attention to this issue.  Thank you, Anne!

As we said in our previous post, we are very late in posting this.  For those who haven’t heard about the Guardian’s article that talks about Anne Rice signing Todd Barselow’s petition, which now has well over 4,000 signatures:

4621Signatures

Here it is:

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We’ve heard about this kind of thing before, in particular the threats.  Case in point: Lauren P.  We also mentioned it in our post on Charlotte Dawson and we covered the abusive reviews and threats that were directed toward Veronica Roth in Jane Litte Defends Violent Reviewers.  Sadly, the online abuse that Anne is talking about has been allowed to continue for too long.  Fortunately, some of the commenters on the article agree:

Jane

Alexx

LewRolls

Goodreads

But it didn’t take long for the trolls to migrate over and begin slamming Anne and everyone else who agrees with her.  As you will see in their comments, they’re still trying to pretend that the issue of author abuse is all about reviews:

Debbie

Heathe2

The Debbie to which Heather is referring is Debbie S. of BookLikes who seems to think that threatening an author in a review shouldn’t be considered bullying:

DebbieThreateningReviews

And here are a few more of them voicing their very self-important opinions:

Trolls1

Trolls2

Trolls3

The troll mentioned above is Rick G. who was a member of Angela H.’s Asshat group before AH was banned from Goodreads for abusing others.  Pathetically, Rick has started his own Change.org petition which calls upon Bezos to protect members’ anonymity.  We agree with Heather that it’s very telling these people want to protect their anonymity:

Heathe

The fact that they want to hide their real names says a lot about their intentions.  If they can’t say something about authors while using their real names, then maybe they shouldn’t say it?  Or maybe they’re people who choose to create fake accounts just to troll authors they don’t like.  This happens quite often.

To end this post, we’ll give you a perfect example of this.  It’s why Todd Barselow and Anne Rice are right and that Amazon will do well to remove the anonymity of its members.  Here is a perfect example of a review created by a sock.  You will notice Mahala (another well known Amazon and GR troll) harassing a commenter who points out that the reviewer is a sock.  Then Mahala accuses the commenter of being the author:

MahalaHarassingPoster

This is the kind of crap that needs to stop.

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