Amazon Book Review Policies Are Bad For Self Publishing Authors

Amazon Review Policies

An Amazon book review cannot be posted for free ebooks?

Correct.

You might have missed this very quiet yet extremely nasty change to Amazon book review policies.

If you are still giving away free Kindle ebooks in the hope of gaining new reviews, then you might want to reconsider.

The new Amazon review rules

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

Notice also that this page has no date or date of the change. So it’s impossible to know when Amazon made this change.

It is typical of Amazon, which, as always, fails badly 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 intending to attract an Amazon book review was for absolutely nothing.

This new policy comes on top of another change of policy regarding Amazon book reviews.

In essence, it banned reviews from not only family and friends but also fellow authors or social media contacts.

 

Authors’ frustration

One comment I received tells how frustrating it is now for honest new authors.

“I self-published a book on Amazon. During the first week I released it, one day, I had six 5-star reviews.

The next day I had three. Amazon basically took the liberty to erase the reviews, which obviously affects the algorithm that makes the book more visible.”

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

One can only conclude that Amazon has had its fill of self-publishing.

It’s now taking dramatic measures to limit the chances of success for self-publishing authors.

Either honest reviews are deleted, or honest reviewers cannot leave a review.

From my experience over the last twelve months, I can say 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 seemingly 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 Amazon book reviews.

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

So, 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.

What do you get? A better royalty rate in Brazil, Japan, India, and Mexico on sales of Kindle books.

You can enroll in Kindle Unlimited and have your book royalty reduced. You can give away your book for free five days every three months.

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), that doesn’t sound very enticing to me.

If you want to publish independently, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is still a must, of course.

But without granting exclusivity might be the best option.

 

Summary

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

Sadly though, however, it seems that the goodwill days are over. Is Amazon now setting self-publishers adrift?.

Self-publishing was always a loss leader for 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 it is dramatically reducing its support for self-publishers.

 

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

 

Note: Another blow 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

 

Related reading: Authors Guild Blames Amazon For Author Earnings Crash 

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

50 thoughts on “Amazon Book Review Policies Are Bad For Self Publishing Authors

  • Avatar for Jennifer
    July 3, 2019 at 9:37 pm
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    Per the link you provided… Amazon’s policy states this: Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.

    Reply
  • Avatar for Steven J. Clark
    March 1, 2019 at 8:50 pm
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    The only thing worse is trying to go the traditional agent query way. It’s a nearly impossible maze. The time agents take to respond, if they respond at all, is unconscionable. They let thousands of very good, highly publishable works slip through their fingers or leave authors dangling until they rot and drop off the vine. So what’s the alternative? Amazon may not be perfect, but at least it’s there. I do believe this review policy needs to be revisited and seen through the eye of the author. Many of my book sales have been to friends and family, but that does not mean they post dishonest reviews. I have many of them banging on my door asking “when’s the next of coming out?” They are honest fans whose reviews should count just as much as a stranger’s.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Ron Bagliere
      October 10, 2020 at 10:11 pm
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      I’m pretty sure Traditional publishers are lobbying Amazon to put these rules in place. As a businessman, if you saw your profits getting chipped away, you’re going to fight back, and seeing how you have more sway because you are a bigger fish, you’re probably going to win out. It’s all about the money. Self pubbing will always be around, but it’s popularity will probably sag and no longer be the growing cottage industry with individual self pubbed or Publish on Demand outfits unless something turns that metric around. Just saying.

      Reply
      • Avatar for Forest Wells
        November 15, 2020 at 3:58 am
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        I disagree. More and more titles are doing better going self than traditional. Goodreads is providing a place to find reviews away from Amazon. If anyone is in danger it’s the big publishers. They’re fighting so hard to stop the tide they themselves are causing to grow stronger.

        Reply
  • Avatar for Gerry Ward
    February 7, 2019 at 6:28 pm
    Permalink

    This blog is very helpful and I agree totally that you cannot leave a review for a book if you have not already purchased 50 dollars of products from Amazon.
    I have the email from Amazon confirming this.

    Maybe back in the day, they were good but now, No!
    As a new writer I am very disappointed at all levels.

    Reply
  • Avatar for gerry
    February 7, 2019 at 6:17 pm
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    I have people who enjoyed my book but can´t review it because they have never purchased 50 dollars worth of products from Amazon

    Reply
  • Avatar for MARILYN MORNINGSTAR
    February 5, 2019 at 5:11 am
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    Feb 2019
    My story is too long to tell but Amazon is definitely throwing my reviews into the toilet without any logical rules or regulations. I published 6 weeks anti. I have 5000 friends on Facebook and few relatives. Of the 18 reviews sent in, 6 are posted. Each had its own story. Bought paperback or ebook, I bought a bunch of 99 cent ebooks to give out. My cousin bought 50, my son bought ten paperbacks for friends, the rest were not related in any way, unless add political contacts on one of my Facebook pages. I have paid advertising on Amazon. They are arbitrarily refusing reviews at their whim. Every single reviewer read legit. In fact my book will be on show at Book Expo and Book Con in NYC in May/June. So it’s a book with merit, submitted to several literary book contests. I am a marketing expert by trade. This article is spot on, except for a the worst of the worst, which is THEY REFUSE TO RESPOND TO AUTHORS OVER REJECTED REVIEWERS AT ALL OTHER THAN COPY AND PASTE FROM THEIR SITE, which means very many questions unanswered. THEY REFUSE TO ANSWER THOSE SPECIFIC QUESTIONS. I have contacted them 10 times by phone and more by email, ZERO response or a cut and paste. THIS MAY BE NEW POLICY SINCE 2019 which means my luck stinks to high heaven, but literally the are no solid rules. Is likely bots. And it surely does feel like they do not give a flipping concern about authors over customers, which is the exact opposite from my opinion a month ago before killing myself to self publish my masterpiece. And the folks at KDP publishing, one you got past India call centers, were totally fantastic find helpful when I was struggling to switch from their old system right in the middle of publishing using their quite weak templates. Still, Samantha and others were patient and cared and made you feel that they wanted your experience to be a good one. After publishing, the review removals and refusals have left me so cold, I just wrote to them a minute ago and told them I was starting a blog to report all this if they did not respond with human logic and answer my very specific questions. Even my son was livid as hell and wrote them a scathing email. It eased next answered. I barely know him but after he raff my book he went 90 degrees flip out and left that review they refused. He’s still so livid he could eat nails. They have purchased 100 books plus thousands in products just this year, but Amazon doesn’t seem to care about customer satisfaction at all now. Well, we’re all know why. MONEY DOES MANY THINGS TO THE ULTRA RICH BRAIN.. Meanwhile, if this policy is not lifted by all the complaints, mine alone, forget publishing on Amazon. You give them advertising dollars and they take that money and then cancel your legitimate reviews when every product is sold or passed over from reviews. So they don’t even care if THEY MAKE MONEY FROM YOUR BOOK SALES. THEY MAKE IT FROM YOUR ADVERTISING AND BASICALLY F YOU OVER.

    I amonly online writing this because I planned to start a blog and dump all my dozens of emails and phone notations so other authors don’t get the idea that Amazon publishing is the way to go. They care less. Maybe they did care before. Like I said, I am the queen of bad luck and this is truly beyond bad luck that I waited, stalling, made so anti self publishing by the publishing industry. Then decide to give Amazon s try since they became one of the top three publishers. Do many authors with great ratings. Lots of ratings. Yeah. I was literally in love with Amazon before this experience. DO NOT REMOVE THIS BLOG. PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW WHAT AMAZON IS CURRENTLY DOING TO ITS NEW AND PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED AUTHORS AS WELL

    Reply
  • Avatar for Brian Porter
    October 1, 2018 at 12:32 am
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    I have a #1 fan, a reader who loves my books and who had reviewed every one of my 24 books on Amazon. Coincidentally this lady is 8nvolved in dog rescue, as I am and we began to interact on dog rescue sites about…dogs. However, when she tried to leave a review of my latest novel, it was rejected, with Amazon accusing her of being related to the author, (we are not related and have never met). They also deleted all her reviews of my books and all the reviews she’s written over the years of other books AND other products. This lady, a Prime and KU subscriber, argued long and hard with Amazon who refused to give her a satisfactory explanation. She contacted me and told me that she’d cancelled both her Prime and KU subscriptions AND her Amazon account which she surprised me by telling me she and her husband spent an average amount of £3,000 a year on. I wonder how many more disgruntled customers will do something similar in the context of being unfairly treated by Amazon. These readers are after all, CUSTOMERS, and should be treated with faitmrness and respect by Amazon. This is not good publicity or public relations for Amazon who are in danger of destroying their own reputation and of losing a heck of a lot of genuine customers who can just as easily buy elsewhere.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Denise Grover Swank
      September 28, 2019 at 3:30 pm
      Permalink

      Reviewers CAN contact Amazon and challenge their claim. I have had members of my review team have their reviews denied, but nearly all of them got back their Amazon reviewer status for my books.

      Reply

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