Updated: September, 2021
Book reviews are important for all books, but they're especially so for self-published books, because most of their sales are online. And when it comes to selling books online, Amazon customer reviews can make or break shopper interest in a book.
Let's begin by defining the difference between customer reviews and editorial reviews, and by debunking myths.
- Customer Reviews: Written by a reader—ideally by someone who bought the book—who also assigns a number of stars (1-5). Most authors are referring to customer reviews when they reference “Amazon reviews.”
- Editorial Reviews: An editorial review is a formal evaluation of a book, usually written by a professional reviewer or expert within a genre. These are also often called blurbs, endorsements, and testimonials.
Editorial reviews are added by the author via Author Central. See our guide: Create and Manage the Perfect Amazon US and UK Author Central Page.
Myth 1: You cannot pay someone to write a review.
False. Amazon permits payment for editorial reviews.
Myth 2: You cannot give people your book and ask them to review it.
False. You can, as long as you are clear that you welcome all feedback, both positive and negative.
Before Amazon became the dominant book retailer—in fact, before the internet—publishers would haul cartons of advance reading copies of their forthcoming books to book-industry tradeshows. These would sit in piles, free for the taking, with no requirements that someone write a review, much less provide their contact information to receive a copy.
The $50 spending requirement
Sometime in 2017 (they do not date their policy changes), Amazon inserted a new requirement into their Community Guidelines under the heading Eligibility:
To contribute to Customer features (for example, Customer Reviews, Customer Answers, Idea Lists) or to follow other contributors, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card in the past 12 months. Promotional discounts don't qualify towards the $50 minimum.
Some have complained that this is overreach and another way for Amazon to force people to buy from them. We don't see it this way. In fact, we consider it a positive.
Many shoppers rely on customer reviews to guide our consideration of a product. How can we make an informed choice if those reviews are polluted by paid reviewers who never bought the product? And that's what was going on. Anyone could write a review; in fact, reviews were being posted by fake accounts.
Here’s a look at what’s permitted, what can get reviews removed, and how reviewers should disclose their relationship to the author.
- Amazon says this: “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.”
- Reviewers can remove or edit a review after it is posted.
- Amazon says that just because a review is written by a friend or a social media connection doesn’t necessarily result in that review being taken down.
- A reviewer can link to another product—such as their own—if it is relevant and available on Amazon.
Friends & family
A common question we hear is whether friends and family can review a book. Amazon says this:
We don't allow individuals who share a household with the author or close friends to write Customer Reviews for that author’s book.
It used to be that Amazon encouraged authors to have their friends use the customer discussions feature to promote their book. That feature has been discontinued, and readers are being referred to Goodreads Groups (requires login).
TIP: One way Amazon can monitor who your close friends are is by comparing the reviewer's contact information with the contact information in your account's address book. For example, if you've used Amazon for Christmas shopping, you probably don't want to bother asking any of those people to write a review.
When reviews are removed, or Amazon never posts it
- Never invite (or allow) a family member or someone you have a close personal relationship with to review your book.
- If a reader says they wrote a review, but the review was taken down or they say it was never posted, tell them to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you want to get a review taken down or modified
Examples of guideline abuse may include use of obscenities, a privacy violation, impersonating others, and the usual libelous, defamatory, harassing, threatening, or inflammatory statements.
NOTE: If someone makes a negative comment about your book, and you fix what they are referring to, neither they nor Amazon are required to change the review to reflect your correction. You may, however, consider replying to the comment with a thanks to the commenter and a note that the issue has been fixed.
How to disclose your relationship
If you give your book away for the purpose of getting a review, you must instruct your prospective reviewer to disclose how they received your book.
There are many ways for the reviewer to do this; it just must be conspicuous. They can put it at the end of the review (most common), the beginning, or in the subject line.
Here are some sample phrases you can suggest if asking others to write a review for your book.
- In the subject line: I received an ARC for an objective review.
- I received a copy of this book via [name of source, i.e., NetGalley, Edelweiss, the publisher, author] and I’m reviewing it voluntarily.
- I wrote this review based on an advance reading copy that the publisher sent me.
- This review was based on a complimentary pre-release copy.
Knowing that someone reading an “author-encouraged review” might discount its value, some people will add an additional comment (if true), such as one of these:
- I've since bought two more copies; one Kindle for myself and a paperback for [my mom/dad/friend]
- That said, I liked it so much that I bought . . .
Amazon resources for more details or help
NOTE: You might need to be logged in or have an account to see some of these pages.
- Community guidelines. There are several pages with this title, but with different URLs. From what we see, it’s the same content: find the guidelines here.
- KDP has a good resource in their help section. Login to KDP, in the top menu click Help. On the left, click Promote Your Book, then click Customer Reviews. There you will find several FAQs and answers.
- Amazon has guides devoted to Promotional Content and its relationship to reviews; find them here.
- Most of us sell books on Amazon using one of their book-specific selling tools: KDP, Advantage, or a third-party such as an IngramSpark. You can also sell books via Amazon Seller Central’s Marketplace, which has its own policies. Turns out, these policies are the same for books. Look at this link for information.
- Email Amazon to report problems or issues with reviews: email@example.com.
- The 2021 Guide to Amazon Fees and Royalties for Kindle eBooks and KDP Print
- Kindle Pre-Order Basics: 3 Important Things to Understand to Maximize the Benefits
- Kindle eBook Royalties: 70% vs. 35% and 6 Essential Things You Need to Know
- How Much to Charge When Pricing a Self-Published Book to Sell on Amazon
- Advertising Kindle eBooks On Amazon