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.

My main strategy is to get LOTS of book reviews, so I don’t mind if a few go missing. Here’s a video on how I got my first 1000.

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

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