An open (tipsy) letter to Amazon

Dear Amazon,

I am a self-published author. I’m sure you’ve never heard of me, but I’ve been publishing through your site for a little over three years now. Overall, I love as a consumer. You’re my go-to site for any online purchase, and I appreciate the great deals and service you provide.

This isn’t about me, the consumer.

This is about me, the author.

I’m a nobody… at least I started out that way. In March of 2011, I decided to self-publish my first novel. I’d wanted to go the traditional route, but I couldn’t find an agent to take a chance on my atypical romance with (apparently) far too many words. So after getting my friends and family to edit (for months) and going through many storyline variations, Emi Lost & Found was born. I was proud… but I was a nobody.

At the time, I was very active in the Twilight community. I followed a hilarious blog called Twitarded, and one of the women who ran the blog read my first book and promoted it through their site. I didn’t get much interest, but I did strike a chord with one reader in South Africa. Her name is Nikki.

Nikki went on a job interview… it wasn’t great, apparently, but she had discovered my book through Twitarded, and it apparently helped her through the hellacious experience. And after that, she contacted me.

She became my first fan. My first fan of many that I would encounter along my journey as a self-published author.

I don’t know if you know how it works, Amazon, but being an Indie author means you have to have people interested in your story sharing it with others. Indie authors do not have the budget to advertise. Most of us don’t have publishers and publicists to help us reach our market. We rely on our readers.

And yes, those readers very often become friends. It’s unavoidable.

So, yes. I will shout it from the rooftops right now: NIKKI IS MY FRIEND, AND I AM NOT ASHAMED.

Why am I telling you, Amazon, and the rest of the world this? Because I just released a new book called Olivia. It’s a tough sell–the second book in a mature YA series that is well-rated but not well-known.  (Please refer to “I’m an Indie.”) Anyway. For the first time in my life, after releasing five other books, I decided to follow the trend of other authors and release ARCs. (That’s Advanced Reader Copies, for those of you who are wondering.) I literally gave my book to 40 people. That’s income lost. Some of them were strangers, and some of them were readers that had struck up a conversation with me after my other books had personally affected them. My request was for them to give me an honest review.

I’m not one of those authors who wants an honest review as long as it’s over 3-stars. I want honesty. Period. What am I going to learn from a bunch of people lying to me? Nothing. I wanted a feel for the reaction of the general populace… and the early reviews of this book were good. No, I’m lying. They were incredible.

This book is special. If you read it, Amazon, you’d know, but you won’t. I’m not traditionally published and I’m not a best seller, so I’m not even on your radar.

But that’s not the point.

The point is, as an Indie author, it is inevitable that readers will become friends, associates and confidants, and there’s nothing you nor I can do about it.

[I think the sangria swirl margaritas are making me more verbose than usual. Back to the point of this blog post.]

Within 48 hours of the launch of my most recent book, I had 16 reviews on Amazon. Yes, they were reviews by readers who’d received advanced copies. It’s an accepted practice among all authors to offer those up. There are established services that even do that for authors.

Yes, these people were gifted copies. But yes, they read the books and formulated the opinions all by themselves. I am not an intimidating person. I’m reasonable, rational, and grounded. I’m accessible to my readers. That’s why some of us have become close.

After 72 hours, 25% of my reviews had been removed. I can’t say for certain why they were in some cases, but let’s get back to Nikki. Let’s get back to this woman who lives more than 9,000 miles away from me. This woman I’ve never met and never even talked to on the phone. Have we emailed? Yes. Have we text-messaged? Yes. Have I sent her birthday cards? Yes.

This was Nikki’s review of Olivia:

Which is my favourite book by Lori Otto? It’s the Lori Otto book I’m reading at the time.

Olivia continues the story of Livvy Holland, begun in the first book of the Choisie Series, Contessa. Ms Otto deftly shows the growth of Livvy into a mature and responsible adult, the growth in Livvy’s relationship with her parents, her dad in particular, and the growth in Livvy and Jon’s relationship.

Not everything is smooth sailing though. Livvy has to come to terms with a type of loss she’s never had to face before and in the process she loses a part of herself. This crisis in Livvy’s life, and her dealing-by-not-dealing is woven throughout the book, so that it’s always there even if it’s not obvious. Which is exactly how Livvy is experiencing it as well. Once again Lori Otto pulls the reader into the life of her characters so that you feel as if you are the one experiencing all the good, bad, happy, sad, silly, stupid and unforeseen things that happen in the story. And there are plenty of each and more.

Lori Otto writes people as they are. Real people. There is perhaps no huge drama or mystery or angsty romance, but it’s life. The relatively small personal dramas and mysteries and romances feel as life altering as if they were happening to you. Lori writes people stories, not crime or fantasy or erotica. Just the lives of everyday people who you come to feel are people you know. You become invested in these characters and the choices they make. You feel happy and sad with them. You feel proud of and cross with them. And at the end of each book you want to know where the next stage of their lives will take them.

Olivia is no different. You will finish this book wanting to know where the next book will take Livvy. I can’t wait!

It’s a great review, yes? I thought so, too… but Nikki has always been a straight shooter with me. Always. Why would she lie? Yeah, she’s not that type of person. Anyway.

When I posted to my Facebook page that reviews were missing, Nikki checked on hers. It was gone. She actually received a polite (and vague) notification from Amazon, telling her it had been removed:

Dear Nix,

Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:

We encourage you to revise your review and submit it again. A few common issues to keep in mind:

  1. Written reviews must be at least 20 words long. The ideal length is 75 to 500 words.
  2. Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it. Feedback on the seller or your shipment experience should be provided at
  3. We do not allow profane or obscene content. This applies to adult products too.
  4. Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively are considered spam.
  5. Please do not include URLs external to Amazon or personally identifiable content in your review.

We welcome your honest opinion about products – positive or negative. We do not remove reviews because they are critical. We believe all helpful information can inform our customers’ buying decisions. If you have questions about the product or opinions that do not fit the review format, please feel free to use the Customer Discussions feature on the product page.

Having seen my Facebook post (oh, the HORRORS! She’s my Facebook friend!!), she contacted me and let me know the status of her now-deleted review. She also told me she’d tried to change it, but it still wouldn’t post. She sent this response to Amazon:

I keep getting this email about my review of Olivia by Lori L. Otto.  I have tried to change the review and repost it, but it keeps getting removed.  To be honest, I cannot see how this review is not in line with the guidelines. Please let me know what is wrong with it so that I can post an acceptable review for this book, or alternatively allow the review I have been trying to post as I simply cannot see what is wrong with it.

Thank you,


To which they responded:

We cannot post your Customer Review for “Olivia (Choisie Book 2)” to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author.

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. Because our goal is to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or misleading will not be posted.

To learn more about this policy, please review our Customer Review Guidelines ( and FAQs (

We encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature. To find Customer Discussions, go to the book’s product detail page, scroll down past Customer Reviews, and click on the Start a Discussion button. To have your Editorial Review posted to the detail page, e-mail it directly to the author so they can add it for you.

If you believe you’re eligible to write a Customer Review for this book, send additional details to

Thank you,

Review Moderator

And of course, she appealed. That’s the kind of person – and, yes, FRIEND – that she is:


Thank you for the reply.  I would like to know exactly how my account activity indicates that I know the author?  While I am an avid fan of the author’s works, and we do communicate about her works, I have never even met her.

I am disappointed that my honest review was taken down, but if there is nothing else for it, I will email the author via her website, explain the circumstances and ask if she would like to post my review as an “Editorial Review”.


“Regards.” She’s so polite. 🙂 Anyway, this is what they said:


Due to the proprietary nature of our business, we do not provide detailed information on how we determine that accounts are related.

Thank you for your understanding.

Review Moderator

Well, hell! Now I want to know how our accounts are linked! I have sent her a package directly from Is that it? I may have even gifted her a book through, because she’s bought pretty much every iteration and she shouldn’t be deprived of a version with a new pretty cover! The woman has paid her dues, and then some. The thing about Nikki is that she has connected with the characters so well that she knows them as if they are people. I discuss things with her while I write.

Yes, we are friends… but she still tells me when things aren’t right. She is still honest with me… as was her review.

As were the other reviews that were deleted.

As an Indie author, I can’t NOT become friends with many of these readers. Through these friendships, I reach more people… not because I ask them to share my books, but because they genuinely want to share them! It’s an organic process that isn’t motivated by greed or by threats or by anything negative.

These people are readers who love books and feel connected to characters. Period. But you know what? They make up a good majority of my readership. I never knew these before I published a book.

Not. A. One.

But I rely on their enthusiasm to help me with sales. The fact that they send me private messages on Facebook doesn’t make their reviews any less valid. They are readers with opinions and taste all their own. Some of the lower reviews I’ve received are from people I know… you don’t delete THOSE!!

Why are you picking on me, Amazon? I make you money. Some months, I make you a LOT of money! I always direct people to your site… rarely do I post links to Nook or iBooks… you know that you’re the go-to store for ebooks. Can’t you understand that the way Indie authors work is very different from traditional authors? Can’t you see that – especially when a book is just released – we rely on the reviews of people we know to help us make a place for our books. We are Indie. Independent. Most of us have other jobs that pay our bills. We have to be able to somehow compete with books that publishing houses have taken a chance on, even though many of them can’t even begin to compete with our books. You haven’t read our books, Amazon. You don’t know.

So many of us write quality books these days, and we CHOOSE to be independent. Do not punish us for this.

Do not punish us because we’re easy targets. Don’t sort through my 16 reviews because it’s easier than sorting through thousands of reviews that Veronica Roth or John Green receive. You think their friends don’t review books? You’re wrong. I’m sure. But you’re not going to waste your time on them.

I had sixteen measly reviews after 48 hours, Amazon. Who was that hurting? And if they were all one-star, would you care? I don’t think you would. I think you saw my perfect little score and decided to investigate. Surely this nobody is cheating the system.

But you don’t know me. I’m not a cheater. You can ask ANY SINGLE ONE OF THE EARLY REVIEWERS if I coached them on anything. If I bribed them. If I pleaded with them to say one thing, or not say another.

I only asked for honesty. I only ask for people to have integrity with me.

And that goes for you, Amazon. Let’s be fair here, okay? Stop picking on the little people. Let my readers review my book! They are not liars! Not Nikki, not anyone! They’re readers who frequent your site and give you their hard-earned money. At this point, they choose to… but you do know they have other choices, right?

Keep penalizing their favorite authors, and you’ll only hurt yourself.

I earned these by pouring 2.5 years of my life into this story. These readers gave me their valued time and formulated their own opinion. They shouldn’t have to apologize if they’re good reviews… and have you seen the reviews on my other books? I have some haters… and they’ll get around to reading this one too, trust me. They always do.

Let’s work this out, okay? Give me back my reviews.

Thank you,


Turn the Page Book Blog reviews my books!

Wow. I just got an email from fellow author Megan McCooey, and she told me she reviewed my books. I knew she had read Not Today, But Someday, and I knew she liked it, but I didn’t know if she’d finish reading the series. She did… and she loved them! She said I was BRAVE! Awesome. I am, damn it! 😉

I’ve had some book-related disappointments this week, but this makes up for them all. She reviewed all three books separately, so know that SPOILERS are revealed as you read through these reviews. If you haven’t finished the series yet, know you may stumble on something you don’t want to read quite yet.

Thank you so much, Megan, for taking your precious time (as a fellow writer, I know how precious it is) and reading about Nate, Emi, Jack and their crazy families and friends. It truly means the world to me.

Oh! and she also nominated my blog for an award, so that’ll be a separate post tonight. 🙂

Harry Potter kills Hermione Granger!

This entry is about spoilers… and if you haven’t read Harry Potter yet, then I’ll let you keep reading that series to find out if my headline is a true spoiler or not. But surely the entire world has already read it, right? 😉


There is a strange trend in book reviews that is literally driving me BATTY. People are posting spoilers in their reviews, with no warning to people who might read those reviews! Who does this? Who ruins books for people who may want to discover the ending on their own?

Who reads reviews anyway? LOTS of people do. I do. I read the good ones and the bad ones before I buy any book that wasn’t recommended to me by a trusted friend. I do not–I repeat, I DO NOT–want to discover the ending of a book in a 200 word rant from someone who didn’t like the book, nor do I want to read it in a 1,000 word essay from someone who loved the book. I am a reader who likes journeys. I don’t want someone taking the pleasure of a good book (or the agony of a bad book) away from me. In a review, I like to hear about character development, believable plots, whether or not the author bothered to edit the novel. Other readers might want to hear about other things, but I think most people will agree with me about spoilers.

So stop posting them in reviews, please!

I’ve had multiple people decide to not read “the book” because they found out the ending before they even started. It breaks my heart. And a few of the people that pushed on and read “the book” anyway are reading it with their guard up. They’re unable to enjoy the journey fully, and that makes me sad.

I could understand if the vast majority of the world felt the same way these people who reveal spoilers do… but I can tell you right now, the majority of the world does not feel that way. It seems most of the reviews I’ve seen that blatantly spoil the ending are left by people who did not like “the book” and/or were unhappy with the ending. Well, I’m here to tell you that “the book” has a 4+ star rating on the major book review/bookseller sites. In addition, the second and third books have even higher ratings. That means most people like the story.

I receive plenty of ‘hate’ mail (or just weepy, ‘pay for my therapy’ messages) every week. That’s awesome. Keep it up. Dish it to me in private, but don’t ruin the story for everyone else. It’s really just… not nice. Please let people make their own discoveries and judgments. I would appreciate it, and I’m sure thousands of other authors would, too.

Now go read something. 🙂

Thank you for the downloads, mentions, and reviews!

I just wanted to thank everyone who took advantage of the free ebooks on yesterday.  I think it was a smashing success– provided some of you read the books.  (I hear there is a whole underground world of ebook hoarders… I’m waiting for that reality show.)

Quite a few of my friends and twitter followers were nice enough to share the information with their friends and followers, and I really appreciate their support.  It’s really hard to get the word out there, but every little bit helps, so thank you.

There was also one lovely person that I don’t know (at least by their name) that left reviews on all three of the ebooks yesterday.  When I woke up and saw this, I literally teared up.  So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, the top of it, and everywhere in between.  You have no idea what reviews mean for Indie authors.  (Or maybe you do… I’m not sure.)

For those of you new to Emi’s world, I truly hope you enjoy her journey to happiness.  I promise you, it’s all worth it.

(And if you’re still not sure you want to venture into this series, check out the reviews.)

Y’all have a good week!

PS I forgot to mention that this is the first time anyone has downloaded my books from the Germany and Spain sites!  Pretty cool!

Danke & gracias!