Amazon Book Reviews: Kindle Newsletter Gives Us New Insight

By Lori Culwell
Photo credit:  Dmitry Lobanov/ BigStockPhoto

Photo credit: Dmitry Lobanov/ BigStockPhoto

Last week, Amazon sent out their Kindle Direct Publishing newsletter, and the self-publishing community has been abuzz ever since, mainly because of an article clarifying Amazon’s review policy.

My co-contributor Katherine has written in-depth about Amazon’s seemingly variable review policy, and Amazon has a whole “Q & A Resource” section on reviews this month.   Here is my personal favorite Q/A:

Q. Are authors allowed to review another author’s book?

A. Yes. We very much welcome Customer Reviews from authors. However, if the author reviewing the book has a personal relationship with the author of the book they are reviewing, or was involved in the book’s creation process (i.e. as a co-author, editor, illustrator, etc.), that author is not eligible to write a Customer Review for that book.

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The main question here (in my mind, anyway) is– what does Amazon consider a “personal relationship”?   Aren’t personal relationships how we find out about one another’s books?   How is this even a helpful rule?   I’m pretty sure the words “personal relationship” can be expanded (by Amazon) to include almost anyone for any reason, and that they will invoke the “personal relationship” clause any time they want to remove a review.

Since this seems to be yet another in Amazon’s list of completely arbitrary rules regarding reviews, I’m going to suggest that continue to review the books you want to review (even if those books are by another author with whom you might have a “personal relationship.”)  One way for Amazon to figure out that you have this relationship is if you say, in your review “I know this author personally,” so definitely do not say anything like that.    I also would recommend that you not review ALL the books written by your author friends, since that might be part of the “Amazon Review Removal” algorithm.

Here’s another interesting Q/A:

Q. A Customer Review is missing from my book’s detail page. What happened?

A. Reviews are removed from Amazon for one of three reasons:

  1. The review did not meet our posted Customer Review Guidelines.
  2. The customer who wrote the review removed it.
  3. We discovered that multiple items were linked together on our website incorrectly. Reviews that were posted on those pages were removed when the items were separated on the site.

We can only discuss specific Customer Review removals with the person who originally posted the review.

Getting Customer Reviews for your book can be a keycomponent to your success. Take the time to understandAmazon’s customer review guidelines and author tools to assure you are maximizing the opportunity. You can find the full FAQ on Customer Reviews Guidelines here.

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I actually have had this experience– Amazon removed reviews on some of my books that were completely valid/ not by anyone I knew, so it seems like they are taking this policy a little too far (especially # 1, which again, could  be expanded to mean or include anything).    J A Konrath has a good article on his blog about how this same thing happened to him.   Again, the only possible advice I can give on this subject is for you to be careful if you’re going to review the books of people you know.  Avoid language like “This person is my friend,” or “I’m so proud of (author name),” or “I’ve been following (author name’s) work for years, and focus only on the subject matter of the book itself.   It’s sad that you have to watch yourself like this when you are just trying to review your friends’ books, but if you want them to stick, I would suggest you err on the side of generality so as not to trip Amazon’s “Friends and Family” alarm.

Oh, and if you feel like you want to review any of my books, please do!   Just don’t say you know me, or Amazon will probably delete them.

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