I have recently published an ebook where I discussed the process of marketing and promoting your self-published book, and the things you need to do to make more sales and rank higher on charts. One of the things discussed there was how to get more reviews on your book.
And, as a continuation of that topic, I felt it is important to highlight some of the mistakes that authors and reviewers do which can result in Amazon deleting those hard-earned reviews.
In this post, I summed up the 6 most common mistakes that you should avoid in order to keep your book reviews (or any reviews on Amazon, for that matter).
Amazon Reviews: Everything you need to know as an author and a reviewer
- But first, why are reviews important?
- The 6 Mistakes that authors and reviewers do
- What happens if you violate Amazon’s review policy?
- How to keep ALL the reviews
But first, why are reviews important?
The more reviews you have on your book, the bigger your chances to appear on top of search results on Amazon for the relevant keywords to your book, especially if they are mostly positive reviews.
And this actually goes for most other book publishing platforms. If a book has a lot of positive reviews, it is more than likely to show on top of the list of suggestions because it is an indication that customers have agreed it is of good value.
Also, once you have 10 reviews or more, your book will start showing up on “Books You May Like” list that shows on pages of similar books to yours on Amazon.
All this will give your book a lot more exposure and, in turn, increase your book sales.
Besides, most people feel more confident buying something that has a lot of reviews on it than something that doesn’t have any or has very few of them. It creates more credibility and boosts your brand image.
If you are still in the process of creating your book, then make sure you don’t miss this 5-Step Guide To Create, Publish, And Promote Your eBook FOR FREE
The 6 Mistakes that will cost you your reviews
Mistake #1: Not eligible to leave a review
There is an eligibility condition for all Amazon customers and it states that in order to contribute to customer features such as leaving a review, they must have spent at least an amount of $50 on products on Amazon using a valid card within the last 12 months.
Mistake #2: Biased reviews
Because Amazon is very cautious about the credibility of the reviews on their products, they have set some rules as to who is allowed to leave a review on an author’s book or a seller’s product.
Here is a list of the people who are not allowed to leave a review on your book and whose reviews will be removed if Amazon found out about them.
Reviewer is a family member
Reviews of family members such as your parents, your partner, or your children are considered biased reviews.
If the person reviewing your book shares, or has ever shared, the same shipping address as yours, the same bank account, or ever used the same credit card to purchase something off Amazon, they are considered a family member, and their reviews will be removed.
Reviewer is a friend
Another biased review would be if you are asking your friends to write you a review.
If the reviewer is using a friendly tone, or if they indicate in any way that they know you personally, their review will not be considered authentic and will be removed.
You can still ask your friends to write you reviews, however make sure to make it clear that you welcome both positive and negative reviews. And it would be a good idea if you also advice them to use a more formal tone in their review.
We don’t allow individuals who share a household with the author or close friends to write Customer Reviews for that author’s book.Amazon
Reviewer is mentioned in the book
If you mentioned someone in your book whether it is in the dedication page, mentioned them as a reference, or they were in any way, shape, or form involved in the process of creating this book, then they shouldn’t leave you a review because, according to Amazon’s policy, their review is still considered a biased review.
Reviewer is a competitor author
This one is a little bit unclear because they don’t exactly explain who your competitors are. However, I would assume they are ones who write in the same category/niche of your book, with a book topic that is almost similar to yours.
The reason behind this is that someone can purposefully leave negative reviews for authors who are their competitors to hurt their book sales.
Reviewer is you
This might seem too obvious, but still had to mention that you can’t actually review your own book, say, from a different account.
Mistake #3: Incentivized reviews
Any review that is posted in exchange for any type of compensation is considered a policy violation. Below are some examples.
promising A Refund
One of the things that some authors or sellers may do is ask someone to buy their book and leave a review, and after they leave their review, they would refund them the price of the book/product. This is a clear violation of the review policy
Paying for a review
Paying someone to leave you a 5-star review is prohibited. Contacting a review agency that receives money to read and review books and have them post that review on Amazon under “customer reviews” is also not allowed. (However, there is more on this later.)
Offering a bonus
Some authors may ask people to leave reviews and in exchange they would provide them with some gifts or bonuses, that is not allowed either.
As an author, you can provide your readers or those who buy your book with bonuses; however, these bonuses should not be conditioned by leaving a review.
While we encourage reviewers to share their enthusiasm and experience, there can be a fine line between that and the use of customer reviews as product promotion. We don’t allow anyone to write customer reviews as a form of promotion and if we find evidence that a customer was paid for a review, we’ll remove it.Amazon
The only exception to this is providing an advanced review copy of your book to some readers, so they can read it and write a review before book publication.
The keyword here is “advanced.” It must be provided upfront. So, you can’t ask someone to leave a review and then you would send them a free copy. That would still be a violation.
Additionally, you, the author, should make it clear that you welcome both positive and negative reviews; the reviewer should not be conditioned to leave any certain type of review just because they received a free copy.
Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.Amazon
Mistake #4: Review swaps
There are groups where authors exchange book links and read and review each other’s books. This has apparently been an acceptable form of reviewing at some point; it was a genuine way for authors to support each other.
However, it is now frowned upon by Amazon as it seems that some authors were abusing this and it resulted in fake or unauthentic reviews.
So, if Amazon’s algorithm detected a pattern and somehow found that someone seems to be swapping reviews with other authors, they will remove all those reviews. They don’t exactly state how they find out.
Mistake #5: Two reviews, one house
This is sometimes overlooked by both authors and reviewers, but if two people share the same address, they can’t leave two different reviews on the same product.
So, either one or both of their reviews will be removed.
Mistake #6: A bad URL
This is a tricky mistake that some authors may already be doing without actually realizing it is costing them reviews.
When sharing a link to your book, the type of link will differ based on how you got that link.
For example, if you go to Amazon, type your book title in the search bar, click on the book from the results page, and copy that link and share it with every one to leave a review, this is going to be a bad url and can cause all the reviews that were posted through this one URL to be removed by Amazon.
Here is why..
Amazon tracks all the search queries that take place on their site, to be able to categorize the top searched items, the keywords they have been found under, and to know when an item is being searched for.
So the URL that shows up when you click on a product from the search results page will have all these details;
- a timestamp that specifies the exact moment this item was searched for and clicked;
- the ranking of the book at that specific moment;
- and the keyword that this book was ranked for at that place at the time.
Here is an example of a good URL vs a bad URL:
This is a good URL that only has the product link. Nothing else is identified in that URL.
This is a bad URL that has a bunch of other details that tracks this link back to when and where it was created.
Now when you pass that URL on to many other people, by the time they click the link, the exact timestamp, that is calculated by seconds, will have passed, obviously. And the ranking will have most likely changed as well.
So, it will be like they are clicking a link from the past.
If they go ahead and leave a review using this old link with an old timestamp and an old ranking that doesn’t match the current time and ranking of when the review was actually posted, this will be read as a suspicious activity by Amazon, and it will result in removing this review.
The best way to share a link for your book is directly from your Bookshelf. Or you can manually edit it so that the URL only has your product’s link (ending right after the ASIN) and remove all the other extra details, as shown in the example above.
You can learn more about Amazon’s link anatomy here.
What happens if you violate Amazon’s review policy?
Amazon has an anti-manipulation policy for customer reviews; they clearly take this matter very seriously.
So, it is important to understand their policy and the consequences that someone may face if it was proven that they deliberately tried to violate any of the review guidelines.
Here are the 6 possible actions that Amazon can take against authors or sellers and reviewers violating their policy.
1. Remove reviews.
This is the most common action that is taken against reviewers that have violated the guidelines. In most cases, this is an automated action that takes place when Amazon’s algorithms detect any kind of violation or fraudulent signs.
2. Suspend or ban account privileges.
This is banning them from being able to leave any more reviews or revoke their ability to list any more items for sale.
As per this update, Amazon banned more than 6,220 of its top reviewers so far, in the last 3 years only.
3. Delist the products.
If an author or seller has been involved in an activity such as paying for reviews, Amazon can remove, not just the violating review, but the listed product itself from the website.
4. Suspend or terminate the account.
In case the author or the reviewer have been involved in incidents that alerted the system for being fraudulent or violating their policies, Amazon can terminate the account. In that case, this person will not be able to use Amazon services ever again.
5. Suspend payments.
If there were any payments due that the author/seller hasn’t received yet, Amazon has the right, as per their policy, to withhold or forfeit those payments.
6. Pursue a lawsuit.
Amazon can go as far as taking legal action and suing the author or seller as well as the reviewer for manipulating reviews, which is considered an attempt to deceive their customers.
This is something that would go beyond just a family or friend leaving a review though; this would most likely be directed at those who deliberately engage in fraudulent activities such as paying people to leave 5-star reviews or reviewers who receive refunds in exchange for their reviews, etc.
This behaviour can be seen as a direct violation of federal laws, including the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) and, therefore, can lead to legal action and civil and criminal penalties. (And that would apply, regardless of the person’s country of residence.)
We pursue lawsuits for reviews manipulation against dishonest sellers and manufacturers who attempt to purchase fraudulent reviews and the parties who provide and post those reviews.Amazon
However, in most of the above-mentioned actions, Amazon doesn’t clearly state which type of violation would lead to which type of penalty.
For example, something like delisting a product or banning a user, would that take place if it was a repeated violation of any type or if they did a specific action? Not clear.
So, it is better if you just be on the safe side and make sure to follow their guidelines.
You can always email them (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you think a review did not violate any of the policies and was removed in error; it happens. Their customer service is really helpful as well, and they (surprisingly!) are very quick to reply to emails.
How to keep some of the violating reviews
Don’t worry, I am not going to have you break any rules, certainly not after writing that list above.
Though some of the reviews that are not allowed to be posted under “customer reviews” for violating review terms, can still be added to your book’s page on Amazon.
The reviews you can still add are those from family members, close friends, authors who collaborated with you, and those who were paid to leave a review. Here’s where and how you can add them.
Amazon editorial reviews
These are reviews written by professional reviewers that get paid in order to read and review a book. This is the only type of paid review that Amazon approves of.
There is a section in your book’s Product Detail Page that is specifically dedicated for this type of review.
In the editorial reviews section, you may also add reviews written by family members, close friends, or authors who are not eligible to leave a “customer review” for your book.
Here are the steps to add an editorial review to your book page.
Customer discussions feature
This is an area for customers to leave comments or ask questions about the book/product. It can be found right after the “customer reviews” section on the product page.
The customer discussions area is where your family and friends are allowed to write a review and share their opinion of your book or product.
They will just click on “start a discussion” and leave their feedback there; however, they must clearly state the connection they have with you.
And that is all I have to share about Amazon reviews for today.
Did you know about all these policies and mistakes? Is there anything else I may have missed mentioning? Let me know in the comments below!
Till next week, happy days!