Amazon Book Review Policies Are Bad For Self Publishing Authors

Amazon Review Policies

An Amazon book review cannot be posted for free ebooks?


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.


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.



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 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 Vernon J. Yarker
    December 13, 2020 at 1:45 am

    Amazon are pretty hopeless for promoting a new book . Recently I looked at their top 100 to find George Orwell’s 1984 up there . These are not new books but often libraries and schools restocking . Meantime my books sunk to nearly minus two million on the best sellers list and and very few people have the time to drill that far down. However, on the occasions that one of the book sells the title the book is catapulted from say 1,900,000 down the list to around about 60,000 a jump of 1,840,000 on the sale of a single book . Which goes to show that 1,840,000 have not even sold a single copy, and they are no likely too either ! Of course Amazon and Goodreads are keen to get people to offer free books they are making money out of it and the author is in the position of buying his/her own book to give away. . Indeed any organisation which advises the author to give away their books is probably on some sort of scam and able to make money if it sells or does not sell .

  • Avatar for Forest Wells
    November 15, 2020 at 3:54 am

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

    Uh, no it’s not. Especially now, there are plenty of other options. I use IngramSpark for print and Draft2Digital for e-book. My book is still sold on Amazon, but it’s also on a lot of other websites. Thus far, I want to say 20-40% of my digital sales have been NOT Amazon. Meanwhile, I keep hearing about severe problems with Amazon’s customer service for authors. IngramSpark is no saint, but they are better, while Draft2Digital IS a saint (and they’re working on doing paperbacks too). Barnes and Noble has a publishing arm, and I’ve heard some good things out of Lulu recently (though I haven’t heard much).

    KDP is not the only viable option. Still gotta do the leg work no matter what you do. Might as well go through a company that treats you at least a little better. Though I’m glad I didn’t bother with the Kindle Select. Would have been the wrong choice.

    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      November 15, 2020 at 9:55 am

      I suppose it depends on how you look at it, Forest. If you use Draft2Digital for example, it publishes your ebook via KDP. The same goes for others like Blurb and Lulu. So even though you don’t publish directly with KDP, it is as I said, a must if you want your ebook to be available on Amazon.

  • Avatar for Tracie Podger
    November 11, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    This isn’t new. Anyone who wants to leave a review on Amazon must have an Amazon account and have met their minimum spend requirements. Authors know that.

    • Avatar for Byron G. Sabol
      January 19, 2021 at 8:27 pm

      My wife has an Amazon account and spends more than the referenced $50. Am I correct that my wife cannot post a review of my pending book on Amazon?

      • Avatar for Derek Haines
        January 19, 2021 at 8:37 pm

        Well, she can certainly post reviews because she has spent more than $50.00 on Amazon in the last 12 months. But as for posting a review for your book, because she is your spouse, it might not be accepted by Amazon. Reviews from the same household and IP address are usually not permitted.

  • Avatar for shimon
    September 11, 2020 at 9:34 am

    It is interesting that reviews are deleted for following you on social media, I have seen reviews that appear to be written by the author themselves about their own books.

  • Avatar for TB Riggs
    September 9, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    Wow! Am I glad I discovered these new rules! I had no idea this was happening on Amazon. I started to write Historical Novels last year, and so far I have written 16 books with a ‘three book’ series in progress. At one time, I had plenty of great reviews, but they were all deleted and I was horrified! Deleted, I assume, because I used an Editor from Fiverr back then. Even though a few, “not so good reviews remain to this day.” One lady wrote about, one of my novels… “If this story is clean, I would hate to read dirty?” What? There is nothing in that book considered dirty. It is as clean as any Romance Book can get! (She must have been high on drugs or drunk.) lol. Because she commented on the wrong author and book. Another lady wrote about the same book… “Good Afternoon Read, bla-bla-bla- except there is no Miss. Charlotte and no Clint in my story, lol. Miss Charlotte, and Clint live in another of my novels. Too bad I can’t remove those reviews.

    My Books are downloaded frequently for Free on Kindle. Last month one of my books was downloaded 224 times, However, I have yet to see a feedback from any reader that downloads for Free through Kindle unlimited. Despite that, I do sell a few books on Amazon, but for some reason it is hard to get a review, or five stars. I myself am guilty of doing that with a product. I belong to my Community Center where I live, and women will come up to me and say, TB, I loved your book, I left you a review… or I tried to leave you a review. And when I take a look, it’s not there. Now I know why. I did not know about the 50 dollar rule. Thanks for the info.

  • Avatar for Jack Eason
    August 11, 2020 at 1:25 am

    ‘Amazon wants your voice to be heard!’ Liar, liar, pants on fire Amazon. Those of us who have been with Amazon for years – decades, know that anything they say is a pack of lies…


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