Why Amazon is deleting book reviews: understanding Amazon’s new review policy and how to get back deleted reviews

Amazon has been deleting reviews for a long time. Making sure reviews are honest and trustworthy is important for their business; so they delete reviews from friends, family members and anyone they think has a personal relationship with you.

However a few days ago they made a big announcement: people will no longer be able to give a free or discounted product in exchange for reviews. Many reviewers have been getting messages like this one.

 

Amazon said this will not apply to books.

The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books. (Source)

However in practice, many authors are having reviews disappear.

And these seem to be the ones that say “I got this book free in exchange for an honest review.” Even though that’s basically the wording that Amazon has encouraged authors and reviewers to use over the past few years.

A friend of mine, Lena Mae Hill, got a response back from Amazon and was told: “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.”

So it’s fine to give copies of books or ARCs away as long as you don’t require a review in exchange. Jennetta Penner recommends language like “I received an ARC at no cost from the author” – so you might want to ask your readers to stop using the word “exchange” in book reviews.

However if you’re not giving books away in exchange or expectation of book reviews, I don’t think you need to tell your readers to comment on how much they paid for the book (giving away ARC or free books for reviews used to be a special circumstance – no free books are pretty common and it isn’t unusual). I have 4 permafree books that get 500+ downloads a day. I’m not giving them away for reviews – I’m giving them away to reach readers. If readers like the book enough, they’ll leave a review, but I didn’t ask them for it and it’s not why I gave it to them for free, so there is no secret clandestine transaction that needs to be publicly disclosed.

You *can* ask Amazon to restore your reviews; you can also ask you reviewers to edit their reviews if they still can (unless they’re just deleted/missing). Or if you have a following, you can tell them what’s going on and ask them to check and see if their reviews were deleted and ask them to post a new one, without using the any of the keywords Amazon seems to be targeting (in exchange for… etc).

In the future it might be a good idea to copy and paste all the reviews you get, just in case they get deleted, so you’ll have a backup.

Amazon will always do what’s best for its own business and survival, and authors need to be flexible and adaptable if we want to keep taking advantage of its platform. Although this sucks for authors, and the reviewers who spent time writing the reviews, it’s a reminder that authors need to take control of and be responsible for their own author platform, and develop reader relationships to handle crises like this one.

Other tips

When you share your book, make sure you use the direct link, that ends after the ASIN number – otherwise it will include a lot of tracking info so Amazon knows you shared the link with them.

You can set up a link to your book on your blog or website, then email your list or post on Facebook for them to go to that page, then Amazon, rather than sharing links to Amazon directly on Facebook.

About Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a book designer with a Ph.D. in Literature. He’s been featured on CNN and spoken at dozens of writing conferences around the world. These days he mostly writes young adult fantasy and science fiction, while helping authors build profitable publishing platforms. Find me

  • Very helpful to know! Thank you for the information.

  • Steve Day

    a ‘review’ is no different from a ‘celebrity testimonial’- except they got paid in hard cold cash.

  • Gaele Hi

    I have been using a standard “disclaimer” that does not include in exchange, free, given, or discounted. to date – I’ve not had reviews deleted. However, with many who are finding themselves deleted there is that frequent occurrence (not all – MANY) of reviewers/authors with large street teams with reviewers who tend to rate all of the books HIGHLY and then go through and ‘up vote’ reviews that are ‘positive”… all in an effort to boost said authors standings. Other repeated issues I find are “OMG I Loved this book” stretched out to a 25 word minimum and saying nothing, essentially the same review copy/pasted through all of a particular reviewer’s account, reviewers ONLY reviewing books for a particular group of authors (you never once read something by someone else?) and consistent 5 star reviews with no variations. It’s far more complex an issue than many care to investigate… but in many of the cases I’ve seen – people are causing many of their own issues.

    The other piece that amazon is now requiring is a minimum of $50 spent on orders – thus helping to restrict if not eliminate the multiple ‘spammy’ accounts out there.

    And Steve- I wish that writing book reviews actually did bring cold hard cash. I work far harder to provide an honest review than I ever did in a basic day job. and all of the ‘supporting’ pieces I have – blog, social media, prizes, giveaways – are all out of my own pocket…. reviewing books, unless you are a NYT or Kirkus reviewer is not a paying gig. Please be sure your facts are right before you tar every reviewer with your brush.

  • Fran Friel

    Thanks so much for the info, Derek. It’s quite a gauntlet!

  • Julie Stafford

    Very interesting article. I’ve seen many people on FB say their reviews were deleted by Amazon, plus Amazon’s new policy. You did an excellent job of explaining it. Thank you.

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  • Cheryl Wright

    Great article. Explains a lot for me, and gave me info I didn’t know.

    Thanks so much.

  • Rick Carufel

    Amazon has been messing with reviews since they started. To my knowledge they have never restored a single review after they’ve removed it. Here’s an example of how Amazon works. In 2013 Amazon removed thousands of book reviews. When the authors asked about their missing reviews Amazon told them they could only discuss it with the reviewers. When the reviewers asked they were told Amazon could only discuss it with the authors. They basically lied to everyone and never gave a reason why they did it and they never restored a single review they deleted. So any hope of getting reviews restored by Amazon is delusional.

    • Suella Tucker

      I agree. I lost two thirds of my reviews and NEVER wrote I reviewed a book in exchange for an ARC or free copy. “I received an arc/free copy of this book; I freely choose to review. This is my honest review.”

  • Samuel Stokes

    How do you see them if they have been deleted? I can see the total count dropping but if I have 100+ reviews how can I identify what has been deleted?

    • You can’t really see them easily unless you notice they’re missing. That’s why I try to get 100+reviews on my books… I won’t care if a dozen goes missing. But if you only have a dozen reviews and they all disappear, that’s tragic.

  • Christina Fender

    Yeah, but what about all of the ebooks I’ve purchased since the beginning of amazon until now that are totally gone? Amazon has removed ever review I’ve ever written verified purchase or not. I keep asking them why and keep getting told they’ll have to look into it and get back to me. Amazon has gotten too big for their britches and is now making it up as they go along.

  • Tina Hammond

    I usually preface my ARC reviews: I received [book name] as a free copy from the author/publisher. The gifting did not determine the review/rating, which reflects my honest opinion. For my own books, I’ve seen 3 drop off in the past couple weeks, although, unsurprising, a book review accidentally posted against my book –referring to a different title and plot– still remains after two requests to delete it. Amazon needs the Wizard to give it a fresh brain.

  • Julie Garlington

    I’m a book blogger who purchases the books I review so my reviews say “verified purchase”. Amazon still removed all my reviews. I started calling and talking to Amazon agents and now my account is suspiciously banned from leaving reviews on ANY product. No reason given. I have not broken any policies. This has happened to many fellow bloggers.

    • that sucks! They did it to me also, I can’t review anything. I tried getting in touch with support but they are firm and won’t budge. Maybe open a new Amazon account with a different email? I may have to do that, I read so many books, and I want to support authors when I find something I like.

    • Tammy Payne

      This just happened to me also and I am a book blogger. 4 years worth of reviews gone, I can’t post anymore they even removed product reviews. And I buy or grab the free books or use Kindle Unlimited for anything I reviewed 🙁

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