June 2018 Update: We’ve shared updated information about Amazon reviews disappearing since this original post published — click here to learn more.
February 2018 update: We’ve just updated what’s going on with Amazon pulling reviews, click here to find out more!
As we all know, as an author, you work hard to get reviews. You spend hours contacting bloggers, social media followers, friends, even neighbors, asking them to review your book. You also know how frustrating it is to pull up Amazon and see your reviews have been yanked.
Has this happened to you? After hearing several author complaints about yanked reviews, I decided to find out how did this happens. And what you can do about it.
When a review, or several, is yanked, I know it’s tempting to accuse Amazon of a nefarious plot to sabotage your hard work. As an author, I can sympathize with these sentiments, but I was also pretty sure this wasn’t the case. So what to do? I called Amazon Author Central to investigate. And you know what? Their customer service representative was really helpful! We walked through AAC’s guidelines, which helped me understand why they pull certain reviews. I think Amazon’s guidance, plus my insights from years in this business, will help you, too.
My reviews have disappeared from Amazon – why?
Friends and family: Amazon wants authentic, unbiased reviews, and so do we – the readers. And according to Amazon, family and friends write biased reviews. Keep this in mind when asking friends to review your book: if Amazon can connect them to you, they’ll pull the review. Well-intentioned friends and family might post glowing five-star reviews that merely say: “I loved this book!” While their goals are noble (supporting you!), vague reviews don’t help consumers deciding whether to buy your book. As authors, we don’t like getting 2-star reviews, but remember that readers will likely regard a book page with all 5-star reviews as suspicious. There’s nothing wrong with asking friends and family to review your book, but keep in mind that Amazon may pull it.
IP Addresses: Pay careful attention to the IP address your friends use when reviewing your book. For example, if several different reviews are all entered from the same IP address Amazon will likely pull all of them. I know an author who lost forty reviews, because they were all submitted from the same IP address. As with family and friends, it’s fine to encourage colleagues to review the book, but I don’t recommend pressuring them to review the book on company time (nor would your employer), or from the same IP address.
Vague Reviews: Vague or non-specific reviews will always draw attention. Amazon often questions reviews lacking detail and is more likely to pull these reviews than well thought-out, detailed reviews.
Technical Errors: We all know that Amazon frequently—and unpredictably—changes their algorithms. As a result, reviews might mysteriously disappear for a period of time, only to return later. If you discover missing reviews, I recommend waiting a few days before calling Amazon.
Gift Cards: Keep in mind that this is not the same as gifting an eBook. I do this all the time for folks who want to review my books on Kindle. While Amazon did not confirm this point, I’ve noticed if you issue an e-gift card to someone who then buys your book and reviews it, Amazon might pull the review. Why? I suspect it’s because Amazon might view a gift card as a bribe, especially if the gift card exceeds the cost of the book.
Amazon pulled my reviews – now what?
First, call AAC and ask them for assistance. Be polite—not frantic—when explaining your reviews are missing. When I’m monitoring books with missing reviews, I take screenshots of the reviews every few days to keep a record and monitor review progress. Reviews often move around the page if readers rank them as “helpful,” so keep that in mind before panicking.
Remember: if Amazon pulls your reviews it does not necessarily mean the review is gone forever. It is also not a part of an Amazon attack, merely the result of a red flag. And at times, the issue can be easily resolved. Have a good understanding of Amazon’s review guidelines is important to ensure that you don’t lose reviews you worked so hard to get. In the event Amazon won’t reinstate the missing review, be sure to find out why so you can prevent it from happening again. Having your book on Amazon means adhering to their terms of service; to make sure that you are making the most of your reviews, it’s important to make sure they will conform to Amazon’s review guidelines.