Amazon book review guidelines over the years have attracted more scams than you can imagine. Most revolve around click farms and amassing lots of Amazon accounts.
By creating hundreds, if not thousands of Amazon accounts, scammers could boost free Kindle ebook downloads, add customer reviews, or manipulate book sales ranking.
There have been many articles about problems associated with Amazon customer reviews concerning ebook reviews in particular.
There has also been manipulation of Kindle ebooks, as Let’s Get Digital explains how Scammers Broke the Kindle Store. On top of these scammed and fake reviews, Amazon takes a dim view of paid book reviews, which are still a problem.
Bring out the Amazon heavy hammer
I have to say that Amazon has tried to resolve problems with book reviews in several ways over the years.
It seems more so since the advent of Kindle ebooks and Kindle Unlimited in particular.
Some measures seemed draconian at the time, especially a few years ago when Amazon started deleting masses of existing book reviews.
Amazon never fully explained. However, the deleted reviews were often classed as being posted by someone with a close connection to the author.
Amazon was less than clear about what a close connection or relationship meant.
But many authors believed that it was not only reviews posted by family and friends, or in some cases, business associates. It was also reviews posted by social media connections.
In any event, correctly assumed or not, Amazon deleted a lot of reviews at the time.
While successfully eradicating many fake reviews, Amazon removed many honest reviews as well.
It is unfortunate how Amazon acted on scams and fake reviews in the past. It affected many innocent authors in the fix, and they were at a loss to understand what they might have done wrong.
But at last, Amazon takes a sensible solution to fake book reviews.
Unless you are an avid reader of Amazon’s book review guidelines, terms and conditions, and community guidelines, it is impossible to know what changes Amazon makes.
Amazon never dates the changes that it makes, so it is next to impossible to know when it makes a change.
However, one change is really worth knowing about.
As it is an update, I can’t precisely say when it changed. But by my reckoning, it must have been in the last few weeks or couple of months.
The important change is this one sentence:
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.
You can view the full page here.
Those reviewers who do not meet the $50 threshold will receive a message similar to this when trying to post a review.
We apologize but this account has not met the minimum eligibility requirements to write a review. If you would like to learn more about our eligibility requirements, please see our community guidelines.
It is a very positive change regarding book reviews because it will significantly reduce the ability of click farms.
By adding a $50 minimum spend to Amazon book review guidelines, the 1,000s of Amazon accounts used to manipulate reviews and free ebook downloads cannot now add customer reviews.
The $50 condition should mean that any Amazon book reviews posted from now on will be from real Amazon customers.
It is a very positive move.
However, authors should still be aware that asking for reviews can lead to problems.
Here is what Amazon stipulates:
You may provide free or discounted copies of your books to readers. However, you may not demand a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.
Offering anything other than a free or discounted copy of the book—including gift cards—will invalidate a review, and we’ll have to remove it.
Read the full text here.
In other words, you can and should continue to use free Kindle ebook promotions if you are eligible under KDP Select.
However, be careful about how you promote your free ebook offer on social media to avoid seeming like you are offering inducements to review your book.
All authors want book reviews. It is a fact.
However, the most worthwhile reviews are gained organically. It means it is up to readers to decide when and if they will post a book review.
Many readers do not choose to do this. So it is tough to attract a good number of reviews for a new book.
With the change to add a $50 minimum spend, it is a little more difficult. But Amazon is serious about trying to maintain a degree of integrity in Amazon book reviews.
Its aim is clear. Amazon wants customer reviews from customers, and not from click farms, inducement, or illegitimate means.
Trying to garner the review system now can only lead to problems.
The best way for authors to get book reviews is the old-fashioned way.
Sell more copies of your books, and the book reviews will come.
Update: Amazon UK has applied the same measure for customer reviews. However, at a higher entry of £40.00, which is about US$56.00.
Details can be found here on Amazon UK under the heading, Who can write a review?
On the same page link above, there is also mention of non-verified reviews.
It states that customers can submit five non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews each week.
This would seem to confirm that readers can add book reviews to a book without buying or receiving it for free.
Logically, however, their account must have spent £40.00 to be able to do so.
While unconfirmed, I have had messages from a few UK authors saying that some or all of their earlier book reviews have been deleted. This is not good news.