Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

What to do with an Amazon review containing spoilers

I set out the other day to start a blog post on an entirely different subject when I noticed this review out on Amazon for The Five Elements:


No one likes getting 1 star reviews, though I'm finding so many are of the "dump and run" type that it's easy to ignore them. Given that this person chose to give me a 1 star review solely because he didn't like the novel's ending further discredits the review, IMO. Also, this review is so short, indicating the reviewer gave very little consideration to it, and written with maybe the grammar level of a 1st grader (am I insulting 1st graders with that snipe?), that it would have been easy to put it out of my mind if the person didn't also GIVE AWAY A HUGE PART OF THE ENDING IN THE REVIEW.

As you can see, I blocked out the spoiler. If you really want to see it, jump out to Amazon and check it out. My immediate reaction was to contact Amazon about either removing the review or, at the very least, editing it to remove the spoiler. Long story short, after a brief exchange over email, I heard from an Amazon "senior" customer service rep who basically told me the review was not in violation of their guidelines and that they therefore would not do anything about the situation.

Funny thing is, including spoilers in a review without indicating that the review contains spoilers is a violation of their guidelines. But only if you look at the right set of guidelines.

Turns out Amazon has two sets:

General Review-Creation Guidelines

General Review Creation Guidelines

Those listed under "General Review-Creation Guidelines" look like this:


The ones under "General Review Creation Guidelines" look like this:


There's a subtle but oh-so-important difference: the second set of guidelines points out as its very first bullet point under "Inappropriate content":

Inappropriate content:
Crucial plot elements (unless you offer a clear "spoiler alert")

Seems pretty clear to me. I presented this information to Amazon and they basically ignored it. So much for that. The review—and the spoiler—remain. My options are limited. I suppose I could unpublish the eBook and maybe re-publish under a different name/ASIN. I'm not ready for that extreme of a step, though. Not to mention, what's to stop someone else from just doing the same thing? Amazon clearly takes a very hands-off approach inasmuch as customer reviews are concerned, going so far as to ignore their own guidelines.

It's nice to know, however, that I wasn't the only one put off by this person's lapse in judgment. Numerous people posted comments against the person's review saying hey, no spoilers. Unfortunately, I doubt the reviewer will ever see those comments or bother to take action because of them. Also, the review has been so slammed by people marking it as 'unhelpful' that it's been pushed to the bottom of the 11 reviews out there right now. I can only hope people do not walk away knowing too much because of it.

So, basically I'm left with a bad review (which I can handle) that contains a major spoiler (which I remain annoyed about). It's a disservice to me and to potential readers which apparently is going to remain unresolved. I've posted my own comments out there as well, pointing out to the reviewer the error of his ways. Again, I doubt he has enough sense to take action and correct his lapse in judgment.

Sadly, I've spoken with other authors who have had similar reviews and similar inaction taken on Amazon's part.

I'll continue to stew a bit, but life will go on. I'll keep writing, too.

Comments (5) -

  • Daniel R. Marvello

    4/22/2012 6:30:40 AM | Reply

    Wow, that really sucks. Perhaps Amazon didn't think it was enough of a spoiler to count. I know it wouldn't stop me from reading the book, although I'm annoyed with the reviewer for giving that particular point away.

    This is one reason why I rarely read reviews. I generally choose a book by its cover, title, blurb, and excerpt (in that order).

    The review you quoted is pretty much useless and deserved to be marked "unhelpful." A review is supposed to help potential readers decide whether or not they should read a book, and "aalleexx212" did little in that regard.

  • Scott Marlowe

    4/23/2012 4:45:32 PM | Reply

    Yeah, you'd think the person could have at least left some criticism--really anything would have been better than "didn't like the ending". And then to throw in a spoiler on top of it. The true definition of an unprofessional and useless review.

  • dalya

    4/23/2012 7:49:58 PM | Reply

    I have some of these too. I haven't bothered to contact Amazon, as I'm sure they'd just ignore my pitiful wails.

    I just hope people have forgotten the content of the reviews if/when they start reading the book.

  • A. M. Hudson

    4/25/2012 6:54:01 AM | Reply

    OMG! I found this post because I have the same problem. Although mine was a 4 star review, they gave a major plot twist away and I am livid with fury!

    Amazon should have more respect. There should be more care and consideration for the works of authors. Perhaps if enough authors rally together on this we can have a better moderation system going.

  • Ritesh Kala

    5/6/2012 8:21:15 AM | Reply

    Hi Scott, I have this problem every time I start writing a review, especially if it is a 5-star. It can be quite difficult to keep spoilers out. Even though I re-read my reviews a lot of times, some spoilers still may creep in, mainly because I think it may not be a big part of the story and I let some of it slide.
    But, then again, I am getting better at keeping my reviews spoiler-free.