To My Indie Authors…

I’m the latest in the line of reviewers that have received the email from Amazon stating that they will be removing ‘incentivized reviews’.

Update: This has been crazy. I’ve honestly considering taking this down, but I’m not the only one to freak out over this random email from Amazon that makes it look like they’re yanking your reviews.

Incentivized Reviews

What is an ‘incentivized review’? An incentivized review is when you receive a free or discounted product, etc, in return for the review. Now, the Amazon policy does say that this does not hold to books . This seems to be a mass email that was sent out (I’d love to know the parameters on it – did everyone get it? was it if you’ve review more than x amount of products? The reason I’m curious because I’ve reviewed a handful of NON-book products (that were verified amazon purchases),  but a couple hundred books) as an update on policy.

Here is the email I received from Amazon:

Hello,

Based on a policy change to our Community Guidelines, some of your reviews will be removed. (Notice it doesn’t say some of your reviews may be removed – but some of your reviews WILL be removed) We recently updated this policy to prohibit incentivized reviews, which includes those posted in exchange for free or discounted products. Incentivized reviews posted prior to this policy change are being retroactively removed if they are excessive or do not comply with the previous policy.

Your reviewing privileges will not be affected by this action, but you will not be able to resubmit the reviews that were removed.

To learn about our review policies, please see our Customer Review Creation Guidelines (http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines).

Here’s the backup from their website:

  • Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.

However, it wasn’t exactly worded with finesse so a lot of people (like me!) were like “Gack! But I’ve been following FTC guideliness and stuff!”

 

Update: I went through and changed the disclaimer on all my reviews after reading up on FTC guidelines to either “I received an ARC from “x” for review consideration” or “I received a free copy from “x” for review consideration.” Changing the language should prevent any problems. There’s some stuff in the TOS about how they don’t want this to apply to books because they welcome reviews of ARCs or whatnot. So, we shall see. I’ll keep you guys updated on how things play out.

So, just to be clear guys, play it safe when it comes to Amazon. Don’t send out copies of your books to reviewers with the automatic assumption that a book given = a review given. You’re sending your book out for review consideration. Which means it may get reviewed, it may not. I’d nix the ‘free in exchange for an honest review’ language too. 

Update 2 (10/10/16): There’s been additional commentary (you can see it in the comments below, so I’m not going to paste it here) about ARCs, and having ARC reviews placed in the editorial section. Most of the book reviewers I’ve interacted with have kept some sort of tally sheet letting them know when the book has gone live on Amazon so that they can place their customer review appropriately.  Once something goes on sale, it’s no longer an ARC, so I can see the point to removing the mention on an ARC from your review.

I’m definitely no longer freaking out, but I don’t think things are exactly clear cut, either. Again, I’m definitely not the only one confused. (Just the various discussions I’ve seen happening on Goodreads and whatnot.)

We shall see.

Also: As of this point (which I don’t know if this is attributed to me changing the wording on my disclaimers or not), all my reviews (except 2 that -I- yanked for specific reasons) are still up. 

I’ll keep you guys updated. 

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20 Responses to To My Indie Authors…

  1. Laurie says:

    Have you reviewed products other than books on Amazon? Their new TOS makes an exclusion for ARC ‘s. Just put up a disclaimer that says “I received this ARC from Netgalley.” and you should be all set.

  2. This is their policy. https://www.amazon.com/p/feature/abpto3jt7fhb5oc
    It clearly states that it does not refer to books, although it does mention ARC. My thought is (and that’s what I read as a suggestion) that you can say you got the book free, but not ‘in exchange for an honest review’. I guess people who send us the book hope we’ll review it, but after all is not a contract and they can’t sue us if we don’t review. As far as they aware from now on…
    The other issue might be using affiliate links (I read somewhere that as that implies that you benefits from the review, it’s a breach of the conditions). I haven’t received the e-mailyet, but yes, I have many where I’ve used that or similar wording, although I won’t from now on. I will say I got a free ARC and see…

    • One of the major issues with Amazon (that I’ve seen from boards and stuff in the past) is that none of the departments actually seem to work together with each other. Like the affiliate link thing… Its our reviews that sell a product . if you want us to drive sales for you, it has to be through products we can personally recommend. Otherwise you’re basically setting up an Amazon store and THATS against the rules too.

      I’ve never reviewed a non-book item I received for free on Amazon, so we will have to see how it plays out.

      I started wording some of them last night with “I received an ARC of this book for review CONSIDERATION. I don’t know how far we can bend the wording without ticking off the FTC.

    • Cate Baum says:

      I think you should not mention it’s an ARC because if the book is on sale, it’s not an ARC, and also it’s a friendly live Amazon product needing reviews! So avoid the word ARC, and yes, saying “in exchange for a review” makes it look like you were in fact breaking Amazon’s new rule “cannot expect a review in exchange for a free book” – best to just say “I got this book free from the author and decided I’d like to review it. *Review goes here* – sounds weird, but otherwise it looks like you have to give a review, and that’s not allowed anymore.

  3. Donna says:

    I did not know about this. I checked the link from Olga and it does say it doesn’t affect books. I don’t have that many reviews on Amazon yet, but I hope they don’t try and change the rules completely.

  4. This kind of makes me happy that I don’t post my reviews on Amazon. I put a ton of time and effort into my reviews. I’d be irritated if they got removed.

    • I just spent over an hour going through and changing the wording on my disclaimer on my reviews to make it clear I was given the books free for review consideration, but not in EXCHANGE for an honest review. I mean, yeah, if I accepted the copy of your book, there’s a 99.99% chance I’ll review it, but apparently that .01% matters.

  5. Pingback: Amazon’s Review Policy Changes and What it Means for Authors – Angeline Trevena

  6. Cate Baum says:

    Hi, Cate here from SPR. This article is wrong and confused. Books can be reviewed as long as they are either bought by a customer or have been given away as a free product to review, or are reviewed in the Editorial Review section as a paid review. In fact, Amazon clearly states this new rule does not apply to books. It does apply to ARCs, because they are not bought on Amazon, and clash with Vine’s program. Simple: review live books that are on sale. No problem. Advanced copies should be reviewed as Editorial Reviews and placed in the Amazon section made for those on Author Central. You have never been allowed to do swapsies with other authors or friends for reviews. That has always been against guidelines. Any questions, let me know. I’d be the first to know if anything as radical as this article suggests was happening. AMA.

    • Hi Cate, thanks for chiming in with your opinion. This has definitely been a bit confusing. For example, the talk that I’ve heard in other places is TO specifically state that it’s an ARC. To post the reviews for ARCs received from Netgalley as soon as they go live. I know that in some cases the ARC reviews do get placed in editorial, but most of the book bloggers/reviewers that I know have simply kept a list of the books they’ve received ARCs of (especially from Netgalley), and submitted the book when it finally goes on sale on Amazon.

      Again, thanks for communicating. You’ll notice that I’ve made corrections to this as new information comes in.

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