Combating fake Amazon book reviews with new $50 minimum spend
Amazon book reviews over the years have attracted more scams than can possibly be imagined. 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, many articles written about problems associated with Amazon customer reviews in relation to 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 has always taken a dim view of paid book reviews which are still a problem.
Bring out the Amazon heavy hammer
It must be said that Amazon has tried to resolve these problems in a number of ways over the years since the advent of Kindle in particular.
Some measures seemed draconian at the time; especially a few years ago when Amazon started deleting masses of existing book reviews.
It was never fully explained, however, the deleted reviews were often classed as being posted by someone with a close connection to the author.
While Amazon was less than clear about what a close connection or relationship meant, many authors believed that it was not only reviews posted by family and friends, or in some case business associates, but also reviews posted by social media connections.
In any event, what was correctly assumed or not, Amazon deleted a lot of reviews at the time and while successfully eradicating many fake reviews, some honest reviews were deleted as well.
It is unfortunate that when Amazon has acted on scams and fake reviews in the past, a lot of innocent authors have been caught up in the fix.
But at last, Amazon takes a sensible solution to fake book reviews.
Unless you are an avid reader of Amazon’s terms and conditions and community guidelines, it is impossible to know what changes are made.
Amazon never dates the changes that it makes, so it is next to impossible to know when a change is made.
However, one change is really worth knowing about.
As it is updated, I can’t precisely say when it changed, but by my reckoning, it must have been made 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.
This is a very positive change in regard to book reviews because it will greatly reduce the ability of click farms.
By adding a $50 minimum spend to Amazon book reviews, the 1,000s of Amazon accounts that have been used to manipulate reviews and free ebook downloads will now be unable to contribute customer reviews.
What can authors do about free ebook promotions and book reviews now?
The new $50 condition should mean that any Amazon book reviews posted from now on will be from real Amazon customers.
This is really 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 so as to avoid seeming like you are offering inducements to review your book.
All authors want book reviews. This is a given fact.
However, the most worthwhile reviews are gained organically, which 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 can be slow going to attract a good number of reviews for a new book.
Amazon has made it clear over the years, and now with its change to add a $50 minimum spend, that it is serious about trying to maintain at least some degree of integrity in Amazon book reviews.
Its aim is clear. Amazon wants customer reviews that are posted by customers, and not by click farms, or gained by 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 5 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. Please add your comment if you have been affected recently by deleted reviews on Amazon.
Further reading: Why Did My Amazon Reviews Get Deleted From My Book?