• Losing Reviews ...

    "Losing Reviews ..."

    Yeah, I know, it sounds like a title for some romantic comedy being released in the spring with Meg Ryan, as a Lit-Fic author falling in love her aging editor, Harrison Ford, who has a terminal illness, or some such nonsense, but thankfully, it's not.

    It's actually a debacle taking place with one of Amazon's algorithms deleting suspicious reviews across the board that somehow find themselves caught in this invisible and undefinable trap. Some others have written about it here.

    Some people have even petitioned Amazon and received back the following response, which is interesting to say the least:

    Reviews written by friends and family may be considered as promotional content.
    Please take a look at our review guidelines under 'General Review-Creation
    Guidelines' for Promotional content at the following URL:


    I'm sorry I cannot be more specific. Our system uses filters to evaluate each
    review to see if there is any relationships.

    I hope this information has been helpful.

    So, that's where Amazon stands. Okay. Got it. 

    This morning I woke up to find one of my beloved reviews, my little happy children that congregate together and play nicely on my Amazon page -- missing. I wanted to call out an Amber Alert, pick up the phone, fly into a panic ... but I knew better. I had to let it go. But I was saddened and hurt by this, not only for the loss, but for not knowing which one. I had no way to contact the person and alert them or even find out what happened.

    For the record, none of my friends or family have ever written a review for me, as I actually forbid it. It violates my own ethical workings, and I'm not the kind of person who self-promotes, or begs for reviews. I barely tell people in my day-to-day life that I'm a writer, doing so online is even harder. My wife doesn't even read my books, so that should tell you that I don't lose sleep over stuff like that.

    I want to say something here, something meaningful, at least to me. 

    I really cherish my reviews. They've honestly paid a lot of my bills, sent me and my family on holiday, brought guitars to my house via UPS, put clothes on my sons back, set the minds of other readers, cautious about buying my book, at ease, made people laugh, made me laugh when they were dead wrong or flat-out silly, and likely propelled it to the book it is now, where it's offered in public schools alongside Catcher in The Rye. Yes. All true.

    I'm incredibly thankful for my reviews and always saddened a little to see one slip away, to quote one of my heroes, David Bowie. I find it a bit unfair to the reader who has taken the time and energy after reading the book to sit down and compose their thoughts and leave something behind worthwhile. Some people think little about reviews, but I have a lot of really nice ones that are very well written, even the ones that didn't like my book -- thus, yes, I am protective of my reviews.

    To highlight this, one of the people who reviewed Greyhound, was an incredibly nice lady that I had never met before, Ellen Mizell. She had read Greyhound and was absolutely floored by it, fell in love, then said so in her Amazon Vine review. We had contact over email, as she had reached out to me and I, later, responded. We communicated back and forth, mostly about my memories from 1981, riding the Greyhound bus as a kid and her own stories. She was a really wonderful person to get to know, lived a wonderful life, and was cherished by her whole family. She was a writer herself, and was in the process of seeking a publisher. Thankfully, her review is still up and can be read. It's very touching. She recently passed away and I still think of her often and go back to her review every few months to hear her voice.

    It's my opinion, that her review set the tone of the reviews to follow, as it's seen and read by most of the other people who will review the book or buy it. I found her positive review of my book to be worth its weight in gold, and literally moreso. Amazon Reviews are important. Damn important.

    Losing one is troubling. Some people have lost a lot of them. I wish it wasn't so, but it is.


    Steffan Piper is the author of several novels including GreyhoundYellow Fever and Fugue State. He was once kicked out of Nome, Alaska due to a minor misunderstanding. He has a blog, a Facebook page, a favorite film and lives in Palm Desert, CA.


    1. Hello. Well, I just finished GREYHOUND and I was very moved by your story. First, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to put it out there for us. I related to your story in many ways.
      We are around the same age and went through very similar childhoods. What touched me most was your guardian angel, Marcus, as I had one too.
      I was a 13 year old white southern girl whose life was saved by a homosexual black man in much the same way yours was. Through down to earth, no BS conversations and advice, I was able to see reality for what it was instead of the F'ed up world of denial all around me.
      Anyway, you are one strong soul and I have no doubt that God carried you through with Marcus. It's strange how things work.
      I am glad that you made it through and I hope that you have found peace in yourself. Being a victim of abuse brands us to the core, but the hope is that we can use it for good in some way. I think that you have done that with your story. Thank you.
      PS. I think it's funny: You named your son Fox, I named mine Wolfe. Must be that wild child side of us = )