The New Rules for Book Reviews on Amazon

by Genevieve Fosa

At first blush, Amazon’s new rules for posting reviews on books sold on their website do not appear to be quite as awful as some people thought they might be. They may be putting some of the book review companies out of business, but that is simply my thought, after analyzing what I have seen on their website, concerning product reviews, and what I learned when I spoke with one of their representatives over the phone.

There are officially two ways to post reviews on Amazon’s website. One is directly to the website through your computer, and the other is through Spark, which is an app for your cell phone. In order to post product reviews on Amazon through your computer, you must have spent at least $50 through Amazon within the last twelve months. In order to post product reviews through Spark, you must have an active Prime account, which you have paid for.
The paragraph in their instructions for product reviewers that we need to take seriously reads as follows:

... Any attempt to manipulate Community content or features, including by contributing false, misleading, or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited. If you violate our guidelines, we may restrict your ability to use Community features, remove content, delist related products, or suspend or terminate your account. If we determine that an Amazon account has been used to engage in any form of misconduct, remittances and payments may be withheld or permanently forfeited. Misconduct may also violate state and federal laws, including the Federal Trade Commission Act, and can lead to legal action and civil and criminal penalties.

Book reviews are essentially the reader’s opinion – did he or did he not like the book, and why does he feel that way about it. In any event, Amazon will crack down on book reviews that appear to be bogus, or to be coming from a source that does not comply with their rules.

Customer reviews of any product sold on Amazon, including books, must be posted by people who have spent at least $50 or more on products bought through Amazon within the last twelve months. This means that those websites that offer book reviews to post on Amazon will be scrambling to make sure that their book reviewers have all spent a minimum of $50 on Amazon products. This will be a hardship for those writers who have counted on those websites for some of their book reviews. There are many people who would happily write book reviews, but who categorically do not like to spend their money online.

Further, when writing a review, or approving a review someone has written for you, it must be what we have all come to know as Politically Correct. The PC Police have been whittling away at what we have known and loved as free speech to the point of absurdity. Now Amazon has installed its set of PC Police. Here is the paragraph that describes what they do not want:

Don’t post content that is libelous, defamatory, harassing, threatening, or inflammatory. For example, don’t use obscenities or profanity, and don’t express hatred or intolerance for people on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender or gender identity, religion, social orientation, age, or disability, including by promoting organizations with such views.

Such rules are always open to interpretation, and this could present some sticky problems, depending on the book that is being reviewed.

Customers in the same household may not post multiple reviews of the same product. That rule prevents people working from offices posting reviews on books. Or, for instance, if a few friends write book reviews for you, and you post them yourself, you are limited to only posting one such review, as Amazon does keep track of the IP addresses.
On most products sold on Amazon, you are limited to posting only 5 reviews a week for products you did not buy through that company. For instance, if you receive products to review, or someone gives you something as a gift, you may only post five such reviews a week.

However, you may post unlimited reviews on Amazon of digital and physical books, videos and music. At least Amazon does recognize that books may be bought through other sources and borrowed from libraries and friends, as well as received specifically to review. So, this does potentially open the door to people who would like to make a business of writing book reviews to post on Amazon. You are good to go, as long as you have purchased the requisite $50.00 of merchandise within the last twelve months, and even better, if you have a Prime account with that company.

In the long run, it would appear that while some avenues for obtaining reviews for your books may have been closed, others may have been opened.

I wish to thank Jerrica Barbiera, an Amazon representative who spent a great deal of time with me on the phone, helping me to locate and interpret this information.

Genevieve Fosa

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4 thoughts on “The New Rules for Book Reviews on Amazon”

  1. Authors who buy reviews are effectively marketing product – perfectly legitimate, but paid reviews should be shown as such, a ‘sponsored content’ style flag seems fair. This does tend to apply elsewhere. Potential readers glance at the overall star rating and the one stars, so they would be unlikely to care much. It would flag up the ringers, though. And if I had the money to support reviewers I am sure this is one route I would explore.

    1. I hear you, Mo. I’m just wondering if a paid review is truly objective. I’m a professional reviewer–I have a blog and I review books for publishing houses such as Baker Publishing/Bethany House, Thomas Nelson, Barbour, David Cook, etc. I’d love to be paid for the time and effort I exert, but I figured out early on when I got cozy with authors (interviews, events, and such), my objectivity took a nose dive.

      That’s one of the main reasons that I never review books that I’ve edited. (I do think that is a rule somewhere, and I can see all its merits.)

      One of the differences in this new policy of Amazon’s is that you can’t say, “I received this book from so and so in exchange for my honest review.” Because I got a free book, I used to feel obligated to review. Now, with this rule, when an author gives away an ARC or a published book, the reviewers no longer feel obligated. ACK! So now, how does one get a objective review???

  2. Stupendously helpful article; thank you Genevieve. You’ve made the rules clear and concise and accessible – amidst a morass of on-line content on this subject. Mochas Gracias!!

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