February 2018 Update: We’ve just updated what’s going on with Amazon pulling reviews, click here to find out more!
You may have read recently that Amazon is cracking down on reviews – not so much getting them but how you get them. A while ago I wrote about Amazon’s policy for pulling reviews and when and how they might do that, you can see that post here.
When I spoke with Amazon recently (I interviewed them via email) they shared with me some of their specific do’s and don’ts. It’s a bit confusing because there are a few loopholes as I’ll point out that could get you into some trouble.
Reviews in general are posted by either readers or professional reviewers. In some cases, like Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly and others, reviewers are paid for their time. You could also consider a reviewer from The New York Times to be paid as well since they are on payroll. This was Amazon’s reply:
Thank you for your continued interest in this topic.
Reviews from professional reviewers are not allowed in Customer Reviews. Authors can, however, include them in the Editorial Reviews section of their book’s Product Detail Page. You can learn more information about this here: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help?topicID=200649600
We don’t allow compensation for Amazon reviews, but we have no control over bloggers writing on their own sites. Bloggers who’ve received compensation from an author wouldn’t be permitted to post Amazon reviews for that author’s books.”
If you’re logged into your Amazon account, that link should pull up through Author Central.
He also indicated that payment of any kind, to encourage reviews on Amazon is not permitted however this is where it starts to get a little sketchy. Because sometimes it’s hard to prevent a review from a blogger – who maybe was gifted a Starbucks card or gift basket for her time and trouble, from posting a review on Amazon. To some degree, all you can do is ask the marketing firm what their internal guidelines are for their reviewers.
If you get caught, who does this affect? Well it’ll affect the review for sure but it will also affect the blogger because they could get dinged for doing this. You may wonder how Amazon would know if you gave someone a Starbucks gift card for their time, right? Well the truth is they may not know but what Amazon is trying to prevent are reviews that are skewed in favor of the book & author. I get this, we want Amazon to be a place that features honest assessments, not five star paid reviews that aren’t even close to describing the truth about the book or product. We’ve seen Amazon challenge firms that promise endless five star reviews on Amazon and with good reason: this is flat out unethical.
I expect that Amazon will continue to update their review guidelines and when they do, I’ll be sure to post something about it. For now consider who you might be using for your reviews and ask them what their individual guidelines are. That’s really the only thing you can do to protect yourself and your book.
So what happens when you get a review from a paid source, like the NY Times, Kirkus or Publisher’s Weekly? Well you can post them (per the note below) on your Amazon book page which does help with the page exposure, but it won’t add to the number of reviews you have on the book.
I’ll agree that there’s a lot of grey area here. A lot of review sources, very ethical sources like the few I mentioned here, are paid for their time. These firms are all very clear that the reviewer isn’t paid for a good or bad review, just a review.
There was a time when bloggers were asking for a small fee to review the book – mostly this was to make sure the author was serious. I actually agree with that. In a world where we have 4,500 books published each day, as a (sometimes) reviewer myself I want to know that if I’m selecting a book that has an author behind it who is serious and not just a praise junkie. I don’t have a review blog and I don’t do this as a profession (reviewing books) but if I did I might consider doing something to make sure the author was serious.
For some bloggers, however, this means putting the author through the paces via their terms of review on their website.
For now, keep in mind that they are policing this and, as I mentioned, the policy is always changing as publishing evolves. Were your Amazon reviews removed? Check out my post on how to (maybe) get it back.