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The Review Amazon US Doesn’t Want You to See

The ExperiencersAs most indie authors do, I struggle with marketing and getting the word on my novels out. To paraphrase Bones from Star Trek, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a writer not a marketer.”

So, when someone graciously reviews one of my novels, I do a happy dance, which is what I did when John Hennessey posted a review on Amazon about The Experiencers.

Mr. Hennessey and I crossed Facebook profile paths on Indie Author Support & Discussion, a FB group for writers. Since groups are one way to pimp your work, I belong to many, but IASD has a special place in my heart, and I spend a lot of time there interacting with other members. It was through this interaction that Mr. Hennessey picked up a copy of The Experiencers, read it, and enjoyed it enough to post a review.

At some point along the way, he also sent me a friend request, which I accepted. But we’ve never met, and without asking him directly or investigating via the Internet, I can’t tell you much about John Hennessey’s personal life other than that he’s a fellow indie author.

But Amazon has decided that his review of my novel should not be seen by Amazon customers, and they pulled it. When I read John’s review (hell, yeah, we’re on a first name basis–the man was censured after reading my novel–should we ever actually speak, we’re Val and John to each other even outside of FB), I couldn’t figure out what part of it Amazon would have issue with. His tone conveys his enjoyment of the reading experience. It doesn’t come across like something written by a sock puppet.

If you’d like to decide for yourself, here is a copy of the banned review:

A great debut from an exciting new author, Aug. 13 2015
John Hennessy
This review is from: The Experiencers (The Valiant Chronicles Book 1) (Kindle Edition)

The Experiencers is a uniquely engaging read that has an extremely interesting protagonist in Michael Valiant, the aforementioned Black Ops operative in the synopsis. If you look at the story from his point of view, you will read the story in one particular way.

We are introduced to Michael early on, so readers can tell his role will be a pivotal one. An educated guess says that he is the one on the pretty excellent cover.

Later chapters introduce us to Shelly, who is having an affair with a man, whilst considering breaking it off out of some well placed loyalty to her husband.

The early part of the book reads like bottle episodes where the link with the later episodes seemed initially unclear, but that was just my perception. Actually, if you look at the book as a whole, a rather intricate storyline emerges. This is what I think makes The Experiencers a true gem. It’s like one of those Russian Dolls. You believe you understand it, you believe you know the characters and their motivations.

But this is book one in the series, and if you read between the lines, you’ll begin to be amazed at the attention Val Tobin has given to her characters.

Each are well drawn and developed. Carolyn was on a par with Michael for me, as I have a spiritual side and the way she explores her talent is pretty amazing.

Then…there’s the aliens. Quite honestly, there is so much going on with this story it demands at least a second reading, which is what I chose to do.

If anything, the second reading is much more enriching. I felt empathy for characters that really didn’t touch me on reading one; I imagine as the author constructed her edits for the book, she may have felt the same.

For a debut, this is an extremely well written tale that I imagine will be perfected in book two. I would definitely recommend this book and would give it a very strong 4.5 stars. (So 5 on Amazon, 4 on GoodReads).

Nothing evil in there, right?

For the record, it does still exist outside of Amazon US. But who knows how long that will last? Based on the way the review was written, John is clearly not a sock puppet. He read the novel not once but twice. He picked up the nuances and discussed the novel with a depth many reviews lack.

Yet Amazon sees it as a “fake” review? They feel we’re friends because we have an FB connection? I’m speculating, because they haven’t told John exactly why it was pulled. And mine isn’t the only one. John is unable to post reviews on Amazon US now. Amazon is blocking them.

Clara's Song by John Hennessy

Clara’s Song by John Hennessy

Yes, John is an author. But as most authors are–have to be–John is also a reader. When he reads a book he likes, he reviews it, understanding more than the person who is just a reader how important these reviews are.

Posting a thoughtful, considered review consumes time and energy. Amazon should encourage such reviews. Yet they hamstring the very people who can provide the most insight into a read.

I can understand removing fake reviews. Amazon should address the situation described in the post Amazon fake reviews bought for £3. But I didn’t buy a review from John or coerce him to post a review for my novel. At this time, I haven’t even read one of his novels yet though they are climbing their way up my TBR list. We have a social media connection that came about as we did what we’re supposed to do to promote our novels: we networked.

Amazon needs to take a closer look at their review process. The solution to the paid review, sock puppet issue isn’t to yank the hard-earned legitimate reviews. When a book has only a few reviews, removing a legitimate review burns.

Update on October 15, 2015: Amazon has reinstated the review.