Yesterday, I received a deluge of emails from worried friends. The reason? This update on Amazon reviews, posted on Amazon’s blog by Chee Chew, VP of Customer Experience. It announced how so-called ‘incentivized reviews‘ – i.e. reviews in exchange for free stuff – are now prohibited:
“Our community guidelines have always prohibited compensation for reviews, with an exception – reviewers could post a review in exchange for a free or discounted product as long as they disclosed that fact. These so-called ‘incentivized reviews’ make up only a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of reviews on Amazon, and when done carefully, they can be helpful to customers by providing a foundation of reviews for new or less well-known products.
Today, we updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program.
Mercifully, it turns out that my worried friends had missed the crucial last paragraph in the post:
“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.”
How does this affect you?
Well, it doesn’t – not directly, anyway. However, given Amazon’s constant tinkering with reviews, and its aversion to paid ones, it’s best if you avoid the standard phrasing “I received a free copy in exchange for a review” when writing your review. My suggestion is that you use instead something like:
“I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book”
“I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes”
Basically, make sure it’s clear that no exchange (monetary or otherwise) took place, and that your review is honest and voluntary. Which, I hope, is always the case anyway.
Also, be careful in the wording when sending out notices to your ARC lists, making sure that it doesn’t sound that you’re “requiring” a review but rather that you’re “hoping” for one.