Amazon has lots of rules and guidelines, especially around product reviews. This is due to ongoing challenges with fake reviews, largely happening on non-book products. But the policies apply to books just the same and it’s important to understand what can and cannot be done on the site.
Recognize Verified Book Reviews
The good news is that anyone can write a book review, whether they purchase the book on Amazon or not, provided they have an Amazon account and have spent $50 on the site in the past year. However, keep in mind it’s best to acquire more verified reviews than non-verified.
A verified tag appears next to a review when the reader purchased the book on Amazon in any format—print, Kindle or audiobook. Verified reviews show readers that the feedback is theoretically legitimate and shows Amazon that your book is earning reviews from sales generated on the site.
Avoid Paid and Fake Book Reviews
Of course, the verified reviews system can also be gamed on Amazon. Some unscrupulous product sellers pay reviewers to buy their products and write reviews. This is a major violation of Amazon’s policies.
This paid review practice was highlighted in the publishing community several years ago when an author named John Locke paid for over 300 reviews of his novel. He subsequently wrote an ebook about how he sold one million books, though he failed to mention the fake review practices he was using. This controversy was ultimately beneficial to the author community because it put a spotlight on these practices and prevented authors from making the same mistake, knowingly or unknowingly.
Let me also clarify that paid reviews on Amazon are entirely different from paid editorial reviews from services like Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. It is perfectly acceptable to invest in editorial reviews since these are professional assessments of a book and are often published in magazines and on publishing industry websites. You can also feature editorial reviews directly on your Amazon book page. (Do this through your Author Central account.)
Understand Amazon’s Policy on Incentives
One important Amazon guideline indicates that you cannot offer incentive for book reviews. This means that you should never offer readers a bonus chapter, book, coupon, report, or compensation of any kind in exchange for a review. Many authors are unaware of this policy and inadvertently make this mistake, ultimately learning the hard way when their book is banned from the site entirely or Amazon removes the ability to leave reviews on the book.
This is a practice that Amazon claims to police heavily, but as an Amazon shopper, I have received all kinds of coupon and discount offers from product sellers in exchange for a review. I find this incredibly frustrating since authors seem to be penalized for these issues more than the product sellers, but it’s the hard reality. Do yourself a favor and avoid offering incentives of any kind.
Solicit Reviews without Ending Up in the Amazon Doghouse
Amazon’s policies don’t prevent authors from asking for reviews, just offering incentive for them, so there is nothing wrong with asking readers to write a review. In fact, you should get in the habit of asking readers for reviews.
With that said, several authors have shared with me a variety of issues they have experienced when many people attempt to write a review on a book on the same day. One author sent out an email to his list of 500+ subscribers asking his readers to write a review for his book. It’s hard to say how many people responded exactly, perhaps a dozen or more, but it triggered Amazon to quickly disable the ability for anyone to post a review on the book. The author ended up communicating back and forth with Amazon support for several days before they relented and turned back on the review function.
This is frustrating because those of us who maintain an email subscriber list and have done the work to build a rapport with our readers, run the risk of running into this issue as well. Asking for reviews isn’t a violation of any Amazon policy, so you aren’t doing anything wrong when you invite readers to participate. But something in Amazon’s algorithms triggers the review function to be disabled.
Get Legitimate Verified Reviews
Since verified reviews are the primary goal for all of us as authors, it’s important to establish a plan for getting more reviews on Amazon. Some authors incentivize reviewers by selling the Kindle edition of their book for a low price—typically $.99 to $.2.99—for a short period or over the long term. This is a popular strategy during a book launch as well, since it can inspire sales that might not happen at a higher price point.
The goal here is to make it easy to purchase your book while also asking for, and getting, verified book reviews.
Contact Amazon Support for Assistance
If the review functionality on your book is ever disabled, contact Amazon support right away. I find support through Author Central can be faster and easier than KDP support, but either should be able to assist. And if you don’t get the help you need, start over and contact them again. Often a different support agent will take action that a previous agent refused to do.
Keep Generating Reviews
Like it or not, book reviews are essential on Amazon. They show perspective readers a book is worth their investment in money and time, and they show Amazon your book is popular. As authors, we should all have an ongoing goal to grow the number of reviews on our books. For additional tips, download our free report: 50 Ways to Generate Book Reviews.
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