Amazon.com reviews


Caleb Carr has been gathering press attention recently for posting his reviews for his own novels and new non-fiction book on Amazon.com. The online book retailer has gone snooty and pulled them all, claiming protocol. What nonsense. Their whole system is ripe for abuse. Caleb Carr should be applauded for putting his own name to the pieces, and Amazon.com should have been thrilled to have such a writer engage with their process.

Their system used to be so much more open to writers. Pages linked from their home page gave directions of ways to publicize one's own books on their site, and a formatted webpage encouraged you to write and post your own author interview. Now the new democracy that is Amazon.com allows a concerted attack on a writer's reputation with very little chance of a rejoinder.

I knew my most recent book I Was Carlos Castaneda would attract some hostile response. A figure as compelling as Castaneda was bound to develop a cult around his teachings. A fair reflection of that hostility is reflected in the forum on this website (all responses stand there, none have been removed). My own email correspondence with readers has shown an overwhelmingly positive response to the book. Yet Amazon.com reviews come in as a steady stream of bitter, one star attacks (God bless the beautiful exceptions!). The policy of rotating reviews to the head of the list means that a prospective purchaser is often faced with a barrage of negative impressions - an astonishing sales technique from a book retailer.

I wrote to challenge this at one point. It was clear from the vitriol and spelling and grammar slips that at least one person was submitting messages under different names. Amazon.com checked this out and assured me that the messages had come from different accounts.

It was time to pull in the big guns to my support. Edward Lear kindly supplied a review for the book in the form of a limerick, giving it five stars and thus boosting my aggregate ranking. He wrote in from a fictional account, something like elear@earthlink.net. Queen Victoria wrote in a splendid piece on my behalf as well, another five starred review, but this failed to get by the censors. Maybe it's time she tried again, using her maiden name of Victoria Windsor on her aol account.

So keep going, Mr Carr. I would very much like to hear how your characters review the very novels they are in.

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