A Tale of Two Rejected Amazon Book Reviews

After years of living with, then writing, and then rewriting my new book, A SIMPLE REBELLION, I waited nervously to see what the world would think of this latest labor of love.

I had struggled with how to tell a fast-moving thriller-type tale set in a dystopian future uncomfortably close to our own that could express my concerns about the long term effects of American divisiveness in an entertaining way.

In these divided times, I knew the subject matter was a risk, but I love my country and believed I had to speak out.

Once I did, I nervously worried whether it would be accepted,, like a parent on the child’s first day of school.

And it was:

Great review, right?

I was thrilled, until Amazon pulled it for reasons that are still cloudy to me. The explanation was either Steph Shaw couldn’t be unbiased because we work together, or that two reviews cannot come from the same household (more on that later) or that Amazon suspected it might be a paid for review.

With respect to Amazon, I disagree with any of these reasons. Steph borrowed my book from our school’s library and read it without my knowledge (I saw it in her desk when she was well into it). She also wrote and posted the review without my knowledge.

Cool move, right?

Amazon seems to disagree. And they seem pretty vigilant.

Steph’s husband, Tom Terzano, grew curious about the book as Steph was reading, purchased his own copy from Kindle, and, again without my knowledge, submitted his very different review (Steph and Tom think differently in wonderful ways).

Here is Tom’s review:

In a politically charged and governmentally oppressive future a super-rich celebrity finds himself in a sequence of dilemmas. He has withdrawn from public life and keeps his thoughts to himself when it comes to his political leanings. But conflict soon finds him as his past popularity pushes him back into the public forum. Should he share his thoughts on the government publicly, knowing that his ideas could put a bulls-eye on his back and on those whom he loves? Should he duck and cover even as the people around him are drawn into danger?

This book’s narrative addresses the dangerous practice of keeping one’s views private and silent even when the social circumstance demands action. This book explores social media and the effects of viral media culture. This book’s narrative drives the reader to question the impact that staying inside one’s own personal political bubble has on society itself. This book critiques the currently polarizing and divisive media outlets and those who consume their branded and often controversial constructed narratives.

And if you place all of that heavy stuff aside, what you end up with is a quickly paced and fairly action packed tale with heart. Family matters. Friends matter. Community (both online and actual, like, on your main street) matters. And America, with all of it’s awesomeness and flaws, matters.

Put it in a Michael Bay blender for action, add a little dystopia for the sci-fi set, a little mad-max for terror, keep the language PG so teenagers and adults can read it together without blushing, and you’ve got a quick and enjoyable read that doesn’t seek to provide answers or place blame as much as it tries to answer three questions that are at the core of all of our social anxieties: What went wrong? What’s happening? What will happen next? The effect connects each of us to the story.

And, if we ask ourselves to honestly answer those three questions, we’d each have our own unique take on this tale to tell.

And I think that’s what’s at work in this story. The urge or need in all of us to participate in something positive together. (or else…

Again, great, thought-provoking review, right?

Amazon wouldn’t publish it for one or more of the reasons mentioned above.

While I respect and cooperate with Amazon guidelines, I politely argued on the reviews’ behalf — and Amazon politely shot me down.

I have to say, as an indie author, getting well-intentioned, fair reviews pulled really hurts. Yes, I promote my books on social media, and yes, I promote the concept that Amazon and GoodReads reviews help tremendously, but I play by the rules. No paid for ads. No reviews in exchange for copies or whatever else is forbidden. I just market the books’ availability and encourage readers to express their opinions via review.

I believe this is the right and honorable way to proceed, and to have reviews pulled despite my fair play forces me to ask … what more can a writer do?