In the past couple of years, we've face ongoing changes requiring authors to remain abreast and ahead of the changes. So today, I'm going to write a brief post concerning the CURRENT state of affairs. (Of course, given the landscape does change with regularity, this information is as current as I can find as of 11 August 2016!)
Later, after I reposted the link, someone called out in a repost that it was hysterical scaremongering (or words to that effect). It left me thinking, if so many of us are confused about how to stay within the guidelines (and I mean those of us with years of experience under our belt) then how the living freak can someone new to the industry possibly wade through the mess?
So, I've gone and hunted down as much of the CURRENT info as I can find. I will cut and paste but will have links so you can check it out for yourself.
Amazon Customer Review Guidelines
Yes, they do have them. You can see them here but here they are - I'm going to highlight the section about paid reviews
WHO MAY WRITE A REVIEW?To post a review, customers must spend at least $5.00 using a valid credit or debit card. Prime subscriptions and promotional discounts don't qualify towards the $5.00 minimum. Customers in the same household cannot submit a review for the same product.
WHY WAS MY REVIEW REJECTED OR REMOVED? If your review does not comply with these guidelines, it may be rejected or removed.
We are unable to accept the following feedback:
Reviews that are not about the product
- Seller & Shipping Experience – Feedback about the seller, your shipment experience, or packaging is not a product review and should be shared at www.amazon.com/feedback or www.amazon.com/packaging.
- Product Availability & Feedback – Comments about product availability or alternate ordering options are not about the product and should be shared by contacting us.
- Inappropriate Content – Reviews may not contain obscenities, profanity, phone numbers, mailing addresses, non-Amazon URLs, videos with watermarks , foreign language content (unless there is a clear connection to the product), or other people’s material (including excessive quoting).
- Hate Speech & Offensive Content – We don't allow reviews that express intolerance for people belonging to identity groups including race, gender, religion, sexual preference, or nationality. Customers are allowed to comment on products and question the expertise of authors, sellers, or other customers as long as it is in a non-threatening manner.
- Promotion of Illegal Conduct – Reviews may not encourage or support behavior that is illegal, including violence, illegal drug use, underage drinking, and child or animal abuse.
- Promotional Reviews – In order to preserve the integrity of Customer Reviews, we do not permit artists, authors, developers, manufacturers, publishers, sellers or vendors to write Customer Reviews for their own products or services, to post negative reviews on competing products or services, or to vote on the helpfulness of reviews. For the same reason, family members or close friends of the person, group, or company selling on Amazon may not write Customer Reviews for those particular items.
- Paid Reviews – We do not permit reviews or votes on the helpfulness of reviews that are posted in exchange for compensation of any kind, including payment (whether in the form of money or gift certificates), bonus content, entry to a contest or sweepstakes, discounts on future purchases, extra product, or other gifts. The sole exception to this rule is when a free or discounted copy of a physical product is provided to a customer up front. In this case, if you offer a free or discounted product in exchange for a review, you must clearly state that you welcome both positive and negative feedback. If you receive a free or discounted product in exchange for your review, you must clearly and conspicuously disclose that fact. Reviews from the Amazon Vine program are already labeled, so additional disclosure is not necessary. Read more about promotional content
2. Are authors allowed to review other authors’ books?
Yes. Authors are welcome to submit Customer Reviews, unless the reviewing author has a personal relationship with the author of the book being reviewed, or was involved in the book’s creation process (i.e. as a co-author, editor, illustrator, etc.). If so, that author isn't eligible to write a Customer Review for that book. Please review our Customer Review Guidelines for more information.
Chris Meadows, writing for TeleRead Amazon Rep: We Won't Reject Your Review Just Because You Follow An Author asked the question about what constitutes close friends.
“Following an Author does not indicate a ‘close personal relationship’ and does not violate our review guidelines.”
However, even though he asked for clarification, and we understand that means follow, no ruling was made on "friending" and "interaction."
It might be that following is insufficient by itself, but engaging in conversation while following could lead to such a determination, especially if the tone of the conversation is sufficiently fannish. Imy Santiago, the blogger who ran into this issue back in July, did say in a comment here, “I reached out to the author after reading the first book in the series, and ‘fan-girled’ over the author’s work. I started following them on social media. That does not mean I know the author personally.” Maybe the mere following wasn’t enough, but the “fan-girling” was? Maybe Amazon’s software can’t distinguish “fan-girling” from actual friendship and errs on the side of caution?
However, PG suggests one motivated and honest reviewer provides benefits to Amazon that outweigh the damage done by several scam reviewers. PG thinks most scam reviews aren’t difficult for customers to identify.
The scam detection algorithm needs to be modified. And a non-algorithmic review process needs to be established. Yes, you will deal with some scammers in such a review process. Yes, you may not be able to outsource the review process to low-cost Indian call centers.
However, a quality reviewer is almost always a quality Amazon customer who communicates thoughts about products (and Amazon) in venues other than Amazon reviews and is a serious contributor to Amazon sales in one or more product categories.
If Amazon wants an outsourced means of identifying scam reviews, it should identify quality reviewers and give them a private email address or portal to report scam reviews. The real reviewers will do a better job than social media stalking bots at identifying phonies.
So here's my takeaways:
* Reviews are hard to get and harder to keep, but paying for them is never acceptable.
* Be prepared if you interact with someone on a regular basis and they leave reviews for your books, then they could disappear.
* Don't rely on just book bloggers for your reviews.
* Look for alternative venues for reviews. Goodreads etc.,
* Above all, don't sweat reviews. It's just one aspect of the marketing machine.