Amazon’s Heavy handed review Policy and What it Means

Amazon has gotten heavy handed with book reviews in a process that hurts a lot of Indie authors, and damages the very fabric of the initial book marketing push debut authors use.

It is said that the average indie published book only sells 100-150 copies in its lifetime. The reasons for this are many, probably most commonly low quality covers and editing and a lack of marketing. But how does a debut author market their book if they don’t already have an online presence and platform?


The first step is to tell their friends and family, ask them for reviews, and ask them to help spread the word about their books. Because there isn’t a single Indie author on the planet who can make a living by selling books. They can only make a living if others sell their books as well.

There are a lot of arguments about how good Amazon is for Indie authors and books in general, but as the largest book retailer on the planet, at least at the moment, they and their policies can hardly be ignored by any business savvy author.

So what is the purpose of Amazon’s new policy? As a company, doesn’t it do them some good to have indie authors, with well reviewed books on their site? And how do they know who your friends are anyway? Here’s what is going on, and what you can do about it?

What’s going on? The policy, for those who don’t know, is eliminating reviews from people who “know” each other, in an effort to eliminate review swaps and “fake” reviews from biased friends and family in order to promote a more unbiased system. In other words, they know the review process is broken, and they’re trying to fix it/ But how do they know who knows you?

Goodreads Connection Amazon purchased Goodreads a few years back, and when they did not only did they gain access to cross posted reviews, but they also gained access to a lot more big data, including what people were reading, who their Facebook friends and connections were, and what they were reading, and so in a not so indirect way, who knew who, and what review swaps were going on.

Search-for-talentSome authors have suggested one way to prevent this is to disconnect your Goodreads profile from your Facebook account. This keeps the all powerful Amazon from having access to your friends list and Facebook activity.

Verified Purchase One thing that does seem to help, or at least cut down the number of reviews removed, is for the review to be an Amazon verified purchase. This metric shows Amazon and others that the reviewer purchased the product, in this case a book, from Amazon. While the retail giant is not as strict about this regarding other products, in the book category it is one way they are cracking down.

What can you do about this? Well, a few things. First, if your friends are going to review your books, let them buy them. If they really want to support your career, a few dollars won’t hurt, and keeps their reviews intact. If they won’t, or are just unable to purchase your books, you can give them one as a gift via email, and it will show up as a verified purchase, because you are buying it rather than them.

This also helps your rankings, which helps discoverability on Amazon. Not only does this make money for Amazon and for you, but it also increases how often and how Amazon suggests your book to others.

Change your marketing focus. How do you get others to share about your books? Once you have done your part, with a good cover and good editing, things work the same as any other product. Get people to try your work, and if they like it, get them to share it with their friends. This can be done by guest posting on blogs (you are the world’s leading expert on your book, and probably other subjects too), using social media, and sharing about your book wherever you go. (Business cards, bookmarks, flyers, and simple conversations).

Amazon is big, and there’s not much you can do to change their policies, although you can sign petitions like this one, and email them about your experiences. But along with fighting what is clearly a broken system, you can choose to operate inside the guidelines and make the most of the way things are now.

The one thing we know about Amazon and the digital publishing world is that change is constant. Once we adapt to this challenge, another is sure to be close behind.