Amazon Book Review Policy Demystified for Authors

ABOUT THIS ARTICLE

  • Free books: okay to giveaway
  • Paid reviews: okay to pay
  • $50 Amazon spend eligibility requirement
  • How to disclose a relationship

Amazon Book Review Policy Demystified for Authors

Amazon Book Review Policy Demystified for Authors

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.

What’s permitted

  1. 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.”
  2. Reviewers can remove or edit a review after it is posted.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 community-help@amazon.com.

When you want to get a review taken down or modified

If you feel a review violates guidelines, you can click the “Report abuse” link or email community-help@amazon.com.

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.

  1. In the subject line: I received an ARC for an objective review.
  2. I received a copy of this book via [name of source, i.e., NetGalley, Edelweiss, the publisher, author] and I’m reviewing it voluntarily.
  3. I wrote this review based on an advance reading copy that the publisher sent me.
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Amazon has guides devoted to Promotional Content and its relationship to reviews; find them here.
  4. 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.
  5. Email Amazon to report problems or issues with reviews: community-help@amazon.com.

20 thoughts on “Amazon Book Review Policy Demystified for Authors”

  1. Thanks for sharing this quick primer on Amazon’s book review policies.

    Allow me to show my ignorance. How do you set up an advanced review copy? How do you send it to potential reviewers? Do you pay for each ebook sent? Do you offer some code in a newsletter or during a conference presentation? (So far, I have the best method of getting book reviews is giving away exam copies to fellow English teachers at teacher conferences or professional development workshops.) Giving away free ebooks sounds far less expensive. Or can you set up ARC for hard copies too? How do get the attention of potential book reviewers? Is there a service you recommend? Why?

    Another question: can you use or set up an ARC for a book published last year? Or is that verboten?

    I do offer free sample chapters on my website, and I encourage readers to share their positive experiences with the book online. So I do some things to generate reviews.
    Thanks!

  2. Very helpful info, David. Unfortunately, Amazon is often totally unresponsive to questions about why they removed reviews. I’ve posted reviews since 2009, more than 100 of them, and about three months ago Amazon deleted EVERY SINGLE ONE of them. They will not tell me why, except to refer me to the guidelines. Yeah, many of the reviews I posted were for advance reader copies authors gave me to review, but many were verified Kindle purchases. All of the reviews were honest, very few of them 5-stars, and I always included a sentence saying I received a copy of the book without obligation to post a review. Now, Amazon will not let me post any new reviews. Go figure.

  3. This article is FANTASTIC–thank you so much for researching and writing it!

    I did note, on the Prohibited Seller Activities page (the “find them in a different place” link in #4 above), about 40% down the page, it read, “Additionally, you may not provide compensation (including free or discounted products) for a review.” Hopefully, this admonition is rendered null and void for books, based on your Amazon quote early in the article, “[These] changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.”

  4. Eric, you can learn more about the how question by reading my post here: https://www.authorimprints.com/advance-reader-copy-arc-books-ingramspark/.
    As to some of your other points, I have a short email course about pre-release marketing here (it’s free): https://www.davidwogahn.com/book-pre-launch-course/

    The A in ARC stands for advance, so it wouldn’t be an ARC after the book is published. Nevertheless, you should always be looking for people to review the book and many won’t review ebooks. The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages is the best place to start to get connected to potential reviewers. https://bookrevieweryellowpages.com/

  5. That’s right, books are excluded. The crackdown last year was on all sorts of “review clubs.” Links to those sites are now dead, or have been sold for their traffic. (Yeah!)

  6. Amazon Reviews can make or break a book. I am a veteran Indie author and tried various marketing techniques, but nothing beats a reviews. For authentic book reviews, I use: http://www.usabookreviewers.com
    I get a few reviews and also exposure for my book.

  7. People bought my book through Amazon. I offered no deals. Only thing I asked was the review to be honest. Reviews were done and Amazon would not post them because they were friends of mine on my Facebook link. I got the reviews on my FB wall however– other people never saw them. So the reviews are not there. The positive nor the negative. All were positive on the actual book– the kindle version was really bad. I saw it was and took it down myself. Friends felt bad for me but it is what it is. A good book –I believe with all my heart will make it regardless of circumstances. It is being redone and it is a very good read.

  8. I published Garage Band Theory 4 years ago, it’s a music education book has been doing OK on Amazon and elsewhere since day 1.

    Currently I have 57 Amazon reviews, am trying to push to the 100 mark.

    I played professionally for 30 years, met a lot of people and a big % of the people on my FaceBook friends list are musicians – most are what you’d call ‘casual acquaintances’ – played some gigs with some, met lots at a job, mine or theirs – more than a few are teachers, and I thought it was time to reach out to them, offer a free digital copy if they’d consider leaving a review, be sure to tell them to include “My remarks are based on complimentary copy of this book that I received from the author. ”

    I have endorsements from a few well known ‘stars’ and a few of my good friends and family did leave comments early in the process – but none of the people I plan to contact are going to leave a positive remark unless they feel it’s deserved.

    I recently had heard that Amazon was not allowing any FaceBook friends to review – I did a search, found this post, and suddenly it seems that it could be a very bad idea to go through with the plan.

    Is this gonna do more harm than good if a few were to leave positive comments?

    Thanks.

    DS

  9. Hi Duke, good to to hear from you. This is a really tricky area with lots of variables. My advice is to try a sample size group and see how it goes. Execute your plan in stages or phases.

  10. Alice Von Kannon

    Thanks so much for the explanation – I think Amazon scares all of us who’ve self-published. I just found out that I can’t buy any advertising with AMS. It is only for people who published with them, on Kindle Direct, and my company, Mill City Press, will disown me if I try to go Kindle Unlimited, the only way I can buy a sponsored ad. Mill City said they’d never done an Amazon ad, which just chilled me. These are the pros in advising self-published authors?

    But there is one thing you haven’t addressed, and that’s the ghetto reviews can find themselves in if they are not Verified Purchase. No one will answer this question. Apparently, no one really understands, and Amazon won’t take questions. A review may appear, or it may not. So, when you’re madly giving away expensive copies of your novel on Facebook, in the glimmer of a hope of a review, you need to be aware of this.

  11. There are no easy answers. You just have to try and know some won’t make it through. I’ve heard some crazy stories about reviews blocked or taken down. I’ve been blocked, too. That’s very interesting about Mill City, surprising in fact.

  12. José Manuel Albarracín

    Regarding the requirement to “have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card in the past 12 months.”
    I see this as a discriminatory policy if you bought a book at AMAZON. In my case I want to post a review and am not permitted due to I didn’t spent $50.

  13. Unfortunately, there were businesses that specialized in writing bogus reviews of products they never bought and this policy helps to stop or limit that activity. It has as much to do with toothpaste as it does books.

  14. I would like to “advertise” my book on Amazon but I did not have it published by Amazon. When you look up a book, at the bottom it will say, “If you like this you might also like…..” and it lists other books or it might even say “Customers who review this might also like….” or other types of advertising for books with comparable content. How do I go about getting my book in these space?

  15. I’m new to KDP, and my question doesn’t specifically apply to reviews, but can’t seem to find an answer explicitly stated on Amazon’s policy info. I’m doing low content books, journals, coloring books, kids activity books… I wanted to get a couple for my nephew and ordered through my Prime account because paying full shipping cost for author copies was twice as much as the books! Is ordering a couple coloring books from my account an issue? I guess it adds to my sales rank, but how big a deal is something like that? I think my mom ordered some journals as well.

  16. Those places you reference are decided by Amazon based on what people are buying. It works like any retail store–the retailer decides these things.

  17. Can an author, as of August 4, 2021, register with any of the book reviewing companies found on the internet and pay as much as $500 and have them provide book reviews and then post them on Amazon?

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