Amazon Book Review Policies Are Killing Self-Publishers

was your amazon book review rejectedAn Amazon book review cannot be posted for free ebooks?

Correct. In case, you missed this very quiet, yet extremely nasty change of policy by Amazon, and are still giving away free Kindle ebooks in the hope of gaining new reviews, then forget it. Stop at once!

If you take a little look at Amazon’s Customer Review Creation Guidelines below, you will see why you are wasting your time giving away free Kindle ebooks.

Notice also that this page has no date, or date of change, so knowing when this change was made is impossible. This is typical of Amazon, who as always, fail miserably on transparency.

WHO MAY WRITE A REVIEW?

To write a Customer Review, you must have used your account to purchase any item or service on Amazon (free digital content doesn’t qualify toward this requirement.)

Yes, all those free ebooks you gave away with the goal of attraction an Amazon book review, was for absolutely nothing.

This new policy comes on top of their other change of policy regarding Amazon book reviews, which in essence banned reviews from not only family and friends but also from authors or social media contacts.

Many articles were written about this draconian attitude, including this in The International Business Times, which covers the topic in detail.

One can only come to the conclusion that Amazon has had their fill of self-publishing, and are now taking dramatic measures to limit the chances of success for self-publishing authors.

I can say that from my experience over the last twelve months that I have been contacted by many people on social media, who have tried to post an Amazon book review for my books, and were rejected. Why?

Because Amazon deemed that we had a ‘personal’ connection. What? After exchanging a few messages on Twitter or Linkedin, we have a personal relationship? Really?

Also, over the past few months, my new reviews have reduced to a trickle, because of the ban on free Kindle ebook recipients. Therefore, they are not able to post an Amazon book reviews.

Ever since I have been publishing ebooks, free ebooks have been my main source of reviews, especially from book bloggers.

KDP SelectSo where are self-publishers at now with Amazon?

Clearly the benefits of giving exclusivity to Amazon by joining KDP Select is now not a great deal at all.

With Amazon’s new draconian attitude towards book reviews, on top of the reduction in royalties due to Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP)

Read, the only benefit left is to be able to pay for Amazon Ads.

Personally, I can only say that Amazon has been truly wonderful over the years in developing and supporting self-publishing.

Sadly though however, it seems that all their goodwill has dried up, and self-publishers are now being set adrift by Amazon.

Self-publishing was always used as a loss leader by Amazon, so it probably should come as no surprise that it has used (abused?) self-publishing for its own marketing needs for long enough, and now believe that they do not need to support self-published authors any longer.

Taking away the ability of free Kindle ebook readers to post an Amazon book review is clearly the latest signal from Amazon that they are dramatically reducing their support for self-publishers.

Update Note: Another killer to free Kindle ebook reviews. Amazon announced a new $50 criteria to be eligible to add a customer review. 

To contribute to Customer Reviews or Customer Answers, Spark, or to follow other contributors, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card.

Link to the Updated Amazon Community Guidelines Page

Read our new article regarding Amazon’s $50.00 minimum spend to be able to review.

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

26 thoughts on “Amazon Book Review Policies Are Killing Self-Publishers

  • With respect, you misunderstood their text. They are simply saying that to leave a review of ANY product you must have bought ANY product on that account. That’s why it says “any item or service”. It doesn’t mean purchasing the actual item you want to review.

    Did you test it out before giving out your advice? I’ve seen reviews on free books as recent as today to prove the point.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • True, it is written very vaguely, Graeme, so your entitled to your understanding of it. But “free digital content doesn’t qualify toward this requirement” says to me that free ebooks do not qualify to add reviews. Also, “you must have used your account to purchase any item” says that you must have ‘bought’ the goods, not obtained it for free.

      It would have been much more transparent if Amazon had been clearer, and simply stated that beneficiaries of free Kindle ebooks do, or do not have the right to post reviews.

      Reply
      • It seems vague because it’s extremely broad.

        The purpose of that statement is to severely limit “review mills”. There are “services” out there that will, typically for a fee, dump a few hundred positive reviews on a product to raise it’s ranking using multiple accounts.

        That clause makes those accounts cost money, which means that each account created for the purpose of generating reviews has to have purchased something. If those accounts get flagged and taken down for junk reviews (which happens eventually as people or algorithms report them), that creates a financial cost to restoring the account.

        Typically those accounts would be used once and discarded, because they’re free and they’re less likely to get flagged on a single review. However, now those accounts cost as little as a dollar a piece, requiring separate payment information for each one which makes it dramatically more difficult to generate even as little as 100 false reviews without getting flagged, which in itself would require about $100 total from around 100 different payment sources.

        More relevant is the “Promotional Reviews” section under “Promotional Content”. It’s important to note that family and close friends are prohibited from reviewing your work. This is simply because of the inherent bias of those relationships.

        Reply
        • Yes, the terms are indeed very broad, Christopher, and therefore difficult to understand with precision.

          I know there was an ‘Amazon book review industry’ developing on Fiverr a couple of years ago, which Amazon seemed to have contained. However, I notice now that Fiverr ebook reviewers are back in business again. A quick search of Twitter will find a lot of new paid ebook reviewers as well. So clearly, Amazon are not doing well on this front.

          In the end, it is how Amazon apply their review terms, which is not always easy to understand.

          Reply
      • Also, just noticed that they clarified that point specifically under “Paid Reviews” in the second paragraph.

        “The sole exception to this rule is when a free or discounted copy of a physical product is provided to a customer up front. In this case, if you offer a free or discounted product in exchange for a review, you must clearly state that you welcome both positive and negative feedback. If you receive a free or discounted product in exchange for your review, you must clearly and conspicuously disclose that fact.”

        They do need to explicitly state that they received their copy for free in exchange for a review, otherwise free copies are okay. In fact Amazon even does this itself for it’s Vine members (a program where free products are given for review, available only to the highest rated reviewers).

        Reply
    • Absolutely correct! Over the past few weeks I have had numerous reviews written on several of my free ebooks.

      Reply
  • Sorry, Derek. Graeme is right.

    What amazon is trying to do is make sure that all accounts are legitimate, and every customer only has one account. They do this by making sure that there is a name, address, and prior purchase on the account. That way one person doesn’t start ten different accounts, get ten free e-books, and leave ten different five-star reviews.

    However, once you have purchased a paid book (or any paid product), you can review as many free e-books or products as you like.

    This is not open to interpretation. That is what the policy is, and that is what amazon enforces.

    You are encouraging authors not to post free kindle content and that is a mistake. You should take this article down.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Aeon. I read with interest your understanding of these terms.

      “However, once you have purchased a paid book (or any paid product), you can review as many free e-books or products as you like.”

      This is the problem though, as it is your understanding. This is not to say that it is right or wrong. The wording Amazon use is extremely vague, and open to interpretation, and also subject to change without notice.

      I much prefer Amazon Associates, who unlike KDP, email notifications of changes in terms and conditions.

      However, I think it is healthy to debate this vexing issue of Amazon reviews, and inform self publisher’s, who may be unaware of these review rules, to this issue.

      Reply
  • I review books.. If you are trying to distribute books to reviewers, why go the way of the ARC?

    Reply
  • I second Derek on this one. As far as I know that’s always been the requirement to leave a review on anything on Amazon, or at least the wording doesn’t appear to have changed since I’ve first seen it. I think it’s more to do with verifying that you are a person with a credit card that’s held at a billing address more than an attempt to circumvent reviews. It means Amazon has a reasonable certainty that it’s a genuine account instead of a sock puppet.

    Reply
  • The terms you quote as being vague, are actually very clear. If all you’ve ever “purchased” on Amazon is free ebooks, THEN you don’t get to leave reviews. But most people with Kindles do the bulk of their shopping on Amazon, so it’s not an issue.

    This has been Amazon’s general review policy for over a decade, the free ebooks clause was probably added when they introduced KDP.

    Graeme and Aeon are 100% correct in their explanations. Like I said, the terms aren’t vague at all.

    Reply
  • I’m pretty sure that means that unless you’ve made any purchase on Amazon, the “post a review” function isn’t enabled in your account. You have to be an Amazon customer to be able to review any product.

    I contacted Amazon on a review question a couple of weeks ago about the chatter that Amazon discounts all reviews that aren’t made on verified purchases, and they said that wasn’t true. In fact, they don’t care where/how you got the product you’re reviewing — they just want it to be honest. That reinforces my view that you’ve misinterpreted this — and it’s in keeping with this week’s brouhaha about fake Fiverr reviews.

    Sandra Beckwith
    BuildBookBuzz.com

    Reply
    • Misinterpretation is the operative word, Sandra. Most of the comments on this post refer to a personal interpretation of:

      “To write a Customer Review, you must have used your account to purchase any item or service on Amazon (free digital content doesn’t qualify toward this requirement.)”

      This is not written in plain English at all, so is of course open to interpretation. That’s the problem.

      Reply
      • I agree it that the way it’s written leads to a couple of interpretations!

        Sandra Beckwith
        BuildBookBuzz.com

        Reply
  • I am grateful I looked at the comments following this article. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have walked away with the complete story. I agree that there is room for misunderstanding the written policy on reviews; however, the thoughtful comments others have added seem to convincingly refute the premise of this alarming article.

    Have you considered taking this article down or updating it with a statement from Amazon that will put an end to the questions?

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment, John. Yes, I have considered editing this article, but as you say, the wording of Amazon’s definition of who can write a review is very badly written, and totally open to interpretation. I can only say that I attempted to submit a review for a free ebook I read, and my review was rejected. But should Amazon change or clarify the wording of this clause, I will certainly add an amendment to this post.

      However, the main thrust of the article remains, in that self publishing authors are severely disadvantaged by Amazon’s book review rules. By Amazon basically banning reviews from other KDP authors, who have no personal connection whatsoever with an author, this limits the opportunities for self published authors to gain legitimate reviews from verified book buyers.

      Amazon are also taking a broad brush approach to how they define ‘family members or close friends of the person’, by using social media contact as a reason to reject book reviews. I know this from my own experience, as I have had a number of reviews for my own books rejected because the reviews were submitted by readers who are in contact with me via social media, but with whom I have no personal relationship.

      When Amazon initiated these new rules, it was in reaction to paid reviews and the whole John Locke saga. But a lot of self publishing authors lost honest and legitimate book reviews in the cull through no fault of their own.

      So as I said, the main point of my article is to raise the issue that Amazon are treating self published authors unfairly when it comes to book reviews, so for this reason I believe the article is valid.

      Reply
  • No, folks, you are wrong!

    I have had a registered account with Amazon for years.
    I reviewed a couple of Dereks’ books on Goodreads, and on Amazon as well.
    Later we became friends on Twitter and even later on FB.
    Now my reviews on Amazon have all disapeared!

    Period!

    Derek is absolutely right!

    Reply
    • Yes Natalie,, I had obviously noticed that your kind reviews had been deleted. And for anyone reading these comments, I can assure you that Natalie and I have never met, apart from the occasional Facebook exchange on my Facebook page. Now whether Natalie obtained my ebooks for free or paid is irrelevant. I do not know. What is important though, is that her reviews have been deleted by Amazon. All I can ask is, why?

      Reply
  • Thank you very much for writing this post – and for not deleting it light of comments you’ve received.

    Whatever the actual deal is with Amazon and reviews on free books, which could change as soon as I send this to you, I appreciate your bringing our attention to the issue.

    And I hope any reviews I write on your books don’t get deleted by Amazon because of our ‘connection’ now that I’ve written this!

    Reply
  • I meant ‘not deleting it in light of comments’!

    Reply
  • This post is misleading and not helpful.

    I’ve been an Amazon reviewer for years. As long as, at some time, you’ve purchased something (anything) from Amazon, you are able to leave a review for anything else, regardless of where you bought it, or if it was free.

    Regarding the reviews left by family / friends etc; you need to ensure that your Amazon account is not connected to your social media accounts.

    I regularly leave reviews for authors who I am connected to via Facebbok and/or Twitter, with no problems

    Reply
  • So if someone has bought anything from amazon they can review a book they purchased elsewhere as long as amazon sell it?
    I had the impression that you could not review a book on amazon UNLESS you had bought it from them.
    What about second hand books that are advertised on amazon?
    Julie.

    Reply
  • Thank you for this article and the threads.
    Personal experience: After a whole year of being a published author, it dawned on me that I had not followed up on reviews. So I sent out a bulk mail to friends and customers that had given verbal feedback through the year. I was on a rampage for reviews! It’s part of the trade – if we’re honest. By the end of the day, four people had posted a review on Amazon. Some had purchased from bookstores. So of course if they didn’t have an Amazon account they couldn’t comment – fair enough – that’s policy.
    However, one of the posts was by my sister-in-law. If I hadn’t check in, on the day, I would never have known she’d written a review. Checked to see if more reviews had come in, the next day. Lo and behold! Sis-in-law’s review was no longer there! Reading this string has helped be understand Amazon and it’s scrutiny approach.
    Too many ‘big brothers’ I’d say!

    Reply
  • This is kinda bull, really.
    If you are so anti-Amazon why do you have sixteen (16) books on there?
    Why not just remove them all and use Smashwords instead?
    I won’t be following your advice, having just had my best month ever – after making all four books in one series free for a day, and reducing the first in another series to 99c for a week.
    In fact, I will be reducing books again next month AND paying promotion sites to tell people about it, because as far as getting the word out about my books, NOTHING has come close to the power of Amazon. (my ONLY gripe, I wish they would pay their fair share of tax)

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Derek Haines Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *