Amazon reviews (pt2); spam filters

I’ve come across a possible reason why Amazon won’t publish some of your reviews of The fastest way to write your book: they think I’m writing the reviews myself.

That’s what it says in the latest issue of Writers’ News (April 2007): Amazon are clamping down on writers who submit fake reviews of their own books under false names.

OK, that’s fair enough, writers shouldn’t be doing that anyway.

But hang on a minute…

Don’t you need an Amazon account in order to submit a review? So they know your name, email address and postal address. So surely they can tell at a glance whether a review is genuine or not. And therefore they shouldn’t be rejecting any of the ones for my book – because I can guarantee that none of them were written by me.

I’m fairly sure you do need an Amazon account to submit a review, but if you don’t then they should fix it immediately so that you do. Then this problem should no longer exist. If you do need an account and they’re still having a problem telling real reviews from fake ones then they’re complete Muppets.

This reminds me of another thing that drives me mad: spam filters that can’t tell real messages from junk ones.

I have no objection to a properly configured spam filter. The problem is that most of them aren’t. Many spam filters will block any message containing the word “free”, for example. So if I just happen to announce in my newsletter that you can get free UK delivery on my book this month (which you can, by the way), then quite a few of those newsletters won’t get delivered. People who subscribed to the newsletter and would be interested in an offer like that, miss out on it – and all the other information in the newsletter too.

Some of the better spam filters do at least go to the trouble of emailing the sender and letting you know that the message was blocked. I might not agree with their reason for blocking it, but at least I can send another email to that subscriber pointing them to the online edition instead. But how many spam filters don’t email the sender, but just block it? Most of them, I suspect. How many of my newsletters never arrive in a subscriber’s Inbox? We will never know. And I think that’s appalling.

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