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The World Horror Association's direct letter to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

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Good news for all authors and publishers who have been stung by anonymous bully reviewers on Amazon.

On March 29, 2014 the World Horror Association released the content of their public letter to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. The letter, a call for transparency and author/publisher protection against bullying, harassment, and inappropriate customer reviews on the site’s massive book selling platform, has been re-printed here in its entirety:

A Public Letter to:
Jeff Bezos, CEO,
Amazon.com

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) (www.horror.org) is a nonprofit organization of more than 1100 writers and publishing professionals around the world, dedicated to promoting horror literature and the interests of those who write it.

We are writing to bring to your attention the fact that Amazon’s customer review policy does not go far enough to protect authors and publishers from bullying, harassment and inappropriate reviews. Currently, the Amazon policy protects authors and publishers from “profanity or spiteful remarks,” though it’s not clear what would be considered “spiteful,” and this rule appears not to be strictly enforced. In our view, beyond profanity and spitefulness, an inappropriate review would be one that:

• indicates the customer has not read the book, but only a small portion of it, such as a free electronic sample;
• includes spoilers which, once revealed, could significantly reduce interest in the work;
• includes negative personal remarks about the author; and/or
• is focused on the work’s price rather than its content.

In other words, a review should be about the content of the work, which was read by the customer, and not ruin the experience for other readers.

When authors complain about remarks that cross the line, they are often told by Amazon to engage the customer directly. The author never wins these confrontations; instead, engaging with anonymous people who are exhibiting trolling behavior only hurts the author him/herself. The end result is they can do nothing.

We recommend that Amazon strengthen its customer review policy to address the above issues and also require customers reveal their actual identity, which removes the cover of anonymity that enables trolling and the ability to simple re-enter the system under a new identity once banned.

To be clear, we are not asking for a policy that ensures only positive reviews. We are asking for a policy that focuses reviews on content and helps to eliminate public harassment of Amazon’s partners.

Enacting a stronger policy to ensure greater fairness in customer views would deliver significant benefits to Amazon. Publishers and authors will be more supportive of Amazon. Amazon’s customers will appreciate more useful reviews. Amazon itself will convey a more positive shopping experience and public image. By protecting its suppliers against those few who have exploited its reviewer policies and anonymity to engage in and bullying behavior, Amazon will be protecting its
customers and itself.

Thank you for allowing us to bring this important issue to your attention. We value what Amazon has done for the publishing industry. Our members value their partnership with you. We hope you will take our requests seriously and consider them in the best interests of the entire supply chain, from
the author to the customer.

Sincerely
Rocky Wood, President
Horror Writers Association
www.horror.org
25 March 2014

***

THE HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION (HWA) is a nonprofit organization of writers and publishing professionals around the world, dedicated to promoting dark literature and the interests of those who write it. HWA was formed in the late 1980′s with the help of many of the field’s greats, including Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, and Joe Lansdale. Today, with over 600 members around the globe, it is the oldest and most respected professional organization for the much-loved writers who have brought you the most enjoyable sleepless nights of your life.

One of HWA’s missions is to encourage public interest in and foster an appreciation of good Horror and Dark Fantasy literature. To that end, we offer the public areas of this web site, we sponsor or take part in occasional public readings and lectures, we publish a newsletter for booksellers and librarians, we facilitate readings and signings by horror writers, and we maintain an official presence at the major fan-based horror and fantasy conventions, such as the World Fantasy Convention and the World Horror Convention.

Also to that end, we sponsor the annual Bram Stoker Awards for superior achievement in horror literature. Named in honor of the author of the seminal horror novel Dracula, the Stokers are presented for superior writing in eight categories including traditional fiction of various lengths, poetry, and non-fiction. In addition, HWA presents an annual Lifetime Achievement Award to a living person who has made significant contributions to the writing of Horror and Dark Fantasy over the course of a lifetime.

More information, including a detailed history of the organization, can be found at our website – www.horror.org

***

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