Authors are asking for and receiving advice from other authors about how to get reader reviews.
Much of the advice is excellent. Some of the most helpful information comes from the “here’s how I did it” stories that many are willing to share in online discussions and in person.
Not all of the advice rings true, though. That’s understandable, because it seems like the “facts” do change regularly. Still, repeating information without verifying it first sometimes adds to the confusion.
On the other hand, some of it is hard to verify. For example, there’s a lot of discussion around reader reviews being removed from Amazon. People speculate that it happens when Amazon identifies social media connections between a reviewer and the book’s author, but I have yet to see Amazon verify that, even though it seems likely to be true.
Other specifics can be confirmed or refuted, though. Here are three Amazon review “myths” and what you need to know about them.
Myth 1: Because of recent changes to Amazon’s review policy, you can no longer give a reader a complimentary copy of your book in exchange for an honest reader review.
While it’s true that Amazon changed its policy for product reviews on October 3, 2016, the changes don’t apply to books. Amazon no longer allows product sellers to give free products in exchange for reviews, but books are exempt from that rule.
Many people, particularly authors, have overlooked the last paragraph of the Amazon announcement with this information. It reads:
“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.”
Myth 2: Anyone can review a book on Amazon.
According to the retailer’s community guidelines, “To post Customer Reviews or Customer Answers, post on Customer Discussion Forums, or submit content to followers, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card.”
That’s not $50 the day you want to write a review. It’s $50 over the lifetime of your Amazon customer account.
Myth 3: You can’t review a book unless you bought it on Amazon. (Another variation: You must have an “Amazon verified purchase” to write a review.)
I asked Amazon about this while writing an article for this site, “The Amazon review brouhaha and you.”
Here’s what an Amazon representative told me: “Anyone registered as an Amazon.com customer is entitled to write a product review. It doesn’t matter whether they bought the product from our website or not. Also, we encourage reviews on Amazon.com website, both positive and negative, verified or non verified as long as they adhere to our posted guidelines. Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or misleading will not be posted.”
How to get reader reviews
Many reader reviews happen organically — meaning, someone reads your book and writes a review on Amazon, Goodreads. BN.com, and other book retail sites. You don’t play a role in the process.
Sometimes, though, you need to help things along by giving books to your target audience to review. You provide the book in exchange for an honest review. (Note that key word honest.)
One way to find people in your target audience who might review your book is to search Amazon for the names of readers who have reviewed books like yours. You can do that manually, or let the Reviewer Grabber Tool to do it for you.
There are a number of other ways to find appropriate reviewers, too. You can use your email list, review blogs, review clubs, a street team, and many other options outlined in the Build Book Buzz audio training program, “How to Get Honest Book Reviews in 3 Easy Steps.”
The best approach is a combination of letting things happen on their own and nudging them along. Knowing the rules can help with that. Anne Allen’s article, “Amazon’s New Review Rules: Should Authors Be Worried?” digs into what is and isn’t allowed on Amazon, and you might find it helpful, especially if you’re new to this topic.
Can you de-bunk other reader review myths? Please tell us about them in a comment.