Giving Reviews

In the last six months three writer friends have given me their new books to read. Since writers are always looking for reviews, I read the books with the idea of giving each a review. I wondered, however, what I should do if I didn’t like a book. Did I really want to give a friend a poor review? Also, I’d heard that Amazon was watching social media and wouldn’t publish a review if “all-seeing” Amazon noted the writer of the review and the writer of the book were friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

In one case, I did run into a problem. I didn’t hate the book, but I also felt it only deserved three stars. (My opinion only since others have given the book four and five stars.) I decided not to write a review because I didn’t want to hurt my friend’s sales. With the second book, I did write a review. I liked that book much better than I thought I would. I gave it four stars, and, I think, a complimentary review. I uploaded that review to Amazon and then wondered if it would be posted since the writer and I are friends. Within a day, the review was up. Nevertheless, when the third writer friend gave me her new book to read, I decided (after reading the free copy and liking the story) to purchase it as an e-book from Amazon. I hoped that would make my review legit. And, within a day, the review was posted.

Since writing that last review, I’ve given a closer look at Amazon’s rules regarding reviews.

  1. 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 using a valid credit or debit card. Prime subscriptions and promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the $50 minimum. You do not need to meet this requirement to post Customer Questions, create or modify Profile pages, Lists, or Registries, or to read content posted by other customers.

No problem there. Amazon gets more than $50 from me over a year’s time, and they have my credit card on file. I do understand the reason for the $50 and the credit card requirement. This is to eliminate fake names and stop people who get family and friends to post multiple positive reviews.

Amazon is still against reviews posted by solicitation.

In order to preserve the integrity of Community content, content and activities consisting of advertising, promotion, or solicitation (whether direct or indirect) is not allowed, including:

  • Creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else.
  • Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.

I think what this is saying is contests that offer a free book for a review are no-nos. I’ve also heard if I ask someone to purchase a book to give me a review and I then send that person an Amazon gift card to cover the cost of that book, I’m violating the rules.


Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.

They do not want writers abusing the review process, so have added:

Customers in the same household may not post multiple reviews of the same product.

Other no-nos…

  • A customer posts a review in exchange for entry into a contest or sweepstakes or membership in a program 
  • A relative, close friend, business associate, or employee of the product creator posts a review to help boost sales 
  • A seller posts negative reviews about a competitor’s product 
  • An author posts a positive review about a peer’s book in exchange for receiving a positive review from the peer

The following reviews are generally allowed, provided they comply with the above guidelines:

  • A customer writes a review of a product purchased using a discount generally available to all Amazon customers, such as a Lightning Deal.
  • A customer writes a review of a product received for free at a trade show, convention, or other similar venue where the provider does not monitor whether the customer writes a review or condition any benefits on writing a review or the content of the review.

Okay, I think what Amazon is saying is: You can’t offer a book, either as a prize or free, if you tie receiving that book to the promise of a good review. You can’t get all of your friends and family to write good reviews just to drum up interest in your book. You can’t write negative reviews (or have friends and family write negative reviews) to hurt a competitor’s book. And, you can’t trade good reviews.

If you’re interested, check out all of Amazon’s rules.  Also at


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22 Responses to Giving Reviews

  1. Thanks for posting the rules, Maris. I’m not sure they make sense or are internally consistent (or that Amazon even cares if they’re talking in circles), but they are reasonably good guidelines. Goodreads giveaways appear to be covered, for example. I often post reviews of books colleagues/other writers have given me for review, and I don’t worry about getting a negative or neutral review for any of my books. That’s part of the business of being a writer. In making its rankings I think Amazon is more interested in the total number of reviews than the number of reviews rating the book 4 or 5. I’ve looked at some of the reviews for major best sellers and they seem to have as many 1, 2, and 3 ratings as 4 and 5 ratings.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks for your comment, Susan. I’m always amazed by how some reviews can be so totally opposite from how I viewed the book. In some cases I wonder how the reader could think so poorly about the book; in other cases, I wonder how they could have such a high opinion of the story. I do need to be more active on Goodreads.

  2. Ann Bennett says:

    If only they could eliminate trolls who give unread books lousy reviews.
    There is no perfect world. I have faced that hurdle of reviewing a book I did not think was too good. I have not written a review like you. A few were people I know. So I did write what was positive about the books. If I ever get so well known that my reviews are considered a buying point, I’ll take them down. Even if I don’t, everyone’s opinion is different. That is the risk we all take when using a review.

    • Maris Soule says:

      My weakness, Ann, is I often find my view of life is the opposite of the majority. Also, I think I’m lazy. It takes too much time and energy to argue why I think a book is lacking when most people like it just fine the way it’s written.

  3. Melissa Keir says:

    I find the review process confusing. At one point, I was able to leave a review and then it ended up missing with no discussion or email as to why. Then I was able to leave reviews for the other books by the same author. Sometimes I think it depends on what Amazon is looking at.

    • Maris Soule says:

      What you’re saying, Melissa, is why I’ve been so hesitant about giving reviews to books by people I know. It’s also why I decided to look up and read their guidelines. That said, I’m still not sure Amazon won’t take down one of my reviews, or, if they do, why.

  4. Diane Burton says:

    I keep posting reviews and hope for the best. I won’t review a book I don’t care for. Why crush someone’s baby? When other people like book I don’t, I figure it’s personal preference. What appeals to someone may not appeal to me. One of the things I’ve learned is don’t connect FB or Twitter to your Amzn account (author page). Otherwise, how would Amzn know who your friends are?

  5. I agree with Dianne. I don’t post negative reviews. If I like a book I give it a positive review. If I don’t like it, I don’t review it. Amazon posts my reviews. So I don’t have problems with them. But it’s interesting to read their rules.

    • Maris Soule says:

      I’m with both you and Diane, Jacqueline. I found the rules reasonable. They don’t want writers using family and friends (who may or may not have read the book) to stack the reviews, and they don’t want family or friends giving negative reviews to competing books. They don’t want the receipt of a book requiring a positive review in return.

  6. Terry Odell says:

    The wrinkles start with Amazon’s perception of “friend” which some say can be as distant as being connected on social media. Or being an author. Also, I saw an interpretation that reviews the come from paid blog tours won’t count even if it’s not the blogger, but the organizer, getting paid.

    They’re also showing ‘verified purchases’ as having more weight and readers have to drill down to find all reviews.

    RWA is supposed to be getting clarifications, and when RWA gets involved, it’s a big thing.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks, Terry, that information regarding paid blog tours is interesting. RWA certainly has the clout to get answers. In my opinion, all writers organizations (MWA, AG, etc) should ask for clarification.

  7. Thanks for clarifying Amazon’s policy on reviews, Maris. It often seems a little murky, but you’ve laid it out very clearly. Like you, if I don’t like a book, I simply don’t review it. I’m a “rule follower” so I like to know what the rules are.

  8. I read a lot of books, but I tend to review only those I can give four or five stars on amazon and Goodreads. I see the review as recommending the books I like, and my mini-reviews tell what I enjoyed about the book. Usually when I don’t care for a book it’s for subjective reasons so it seems unfair to give three or fewer stars to a book that someone else may love.

    • Maris Soule says:

      I feel the same way, Patricia. I, generally, will give a review of 3 or lower only if I find a lot of spelling or grammar errors. More often, it is simply personal taste that determines if I enjoy a book or not.

  9. True story, my husband thought he could review my book. Three stars. Granted, Amazon took it down, though I believe it was one of he most well-thought reviews I’d received. He just didn’t care for my second book that much at all!
    Thanks for the synopsis of the review rules!

  10. Chanta Rand says:

    Thanks for posting the rules. Some of this is common sense (or should I say a matter of ethics). You should not have a bunch of friends and relatives write fake reviews just to boost sales. I do find it ironic that Amazon has such stringent rules on things like this, but they have an extremely generous return policy (when it comes to eBooks) that is very unfair to authors. I guess when you’re the big boy on the block you can make all the rules, no matter how they affect folks. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy your blog.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thank you, Chanta. I’m always pleased to learn others enjoy the blog. Often I’m the one learning as I write my blog. And I agree with you regarding the “rules.” Most are common sense or good behavior. It’s such a shame we have to have rules like these. My rule is do unto others as you would have done unto you.

  11. I only leave reviews that I feel are solid four or five stars. I’ve noticed that people read the four star reviews more than the five – they want to see what little thing tweaked you. Usually for me it’s a personal preference I make clear. But I think my mom gave the best review for a book she despised but was written by her boss’s son: “I can’t recommend it too highly.”

    • Maris Soule says:

      Marina, I love your mother’s review. Perfect. And you’re so right about personal preference influencing a person’s review. I constantly see that: I love a book, a friend hates it. I hate a book, a friend loves it.