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All You Need to Know about Reviewing Online

Reviewing 101 | All You Need to Know about Reviewing Online

All authors want book sales. They also want book reviews (especially Amazon reviews), because readers use reviews in making their purchase decisions, and because advertisers like BookBub look at reviews and ratings before deciding whether to accept an advertisement.

I’ve been actively reviewing books online since 2011, and I now have over 1,000 published reviews (I think. I don’t keep count). During that time, I’ve met a lot of other book reviewers online (and I’ve even met some in real life). I’ve learned a lot about reviewers, reviewing, and I’ve also written a lot of blog posts on the topic.

I’ve also seen (and responded to) dozens if not hundreds of questions about reviewing. Today I’m collating the most common questions I’ve heard about online reviewing into a single resource post.

First, what makes a good book review?

There is no one answer—I’ve found most reviewers try to write the kind of reviews we like to read.

Should Authors Review?

Maybe. Authors should read, but I don’t think they should necessarily review every book they read. However, I do believe that when authors review, their reviews should always be honest. After all, potential readers might be reading your reviews. This can leave author-reviewers with a dilemma: to review, or not to review?

Authors also want to know how to get reviews.

The answer is both simple and not simple: ask. I go into more detail in these posts:

Many authors ask book bloggers (like me) for book reviews. I share my top tips in How to Ask Bloggers for Book Reviews. Some authors ask their street team or influencer team for reviews. That’s fine, but authors (and reviewers) need to know the difference between Reviewing, Endorsing, and Influencing: Understanding the Difference.

Most authors want reviews on Amazon, because Amazon reviews can help sales and promotion in general.

But many authors find their influencers or street team can’t review on Amazon—or that their reviews are deleted.

Why Can’t I Review on Amazon?

The most common reason for not being able to review at Amazon is that a reviewer doesn’t meet Amazon’s minimum purchase requirement (currently USD 50 per annum at Amazon.com, and a similar amount at other stores). A (Not So) Short History of Fake Reviews on Amazon details the history behind the purchase requirement.

Another reason Amazon declines (or deletes) reviews is because they have determined that the review either doesn’t meet their reviewing guidelines aka community guidelines, or because they have decided the review is promotional content (which is prohibited).

The final reason Amazon sometimes declines reviews (or delays posting the reviews) is because Amazon favours Amazon Verified Purchase reviews (i.e. reviews of products purchased on Amazon), and sometimes restrict the number of non-AVP reviews. This favouritism shouldn’t come as a surprise—Amazon is a sales site, not a review site. In Amazon’s words:

We may restrict the ability to submit a review when we detect unusual reviewing behavior, or to maintain the best possible shopping experience.

So if your street team can’t review and they have spent more than $50 on Amazon in the last year, it could be because Amazon has decided their review is promotional, or it could be because there aren’t enough AVP reviews.

I’ve also noticed that Amazon take longer to approve reviews with images than straight text reviews, but they’ve approved reviews with images which include my blog address. This is curious, because reviewers can’t include non-Amazon links in their text reviews.

For more information, check out:

Here are the highlights:

  • Only Amazon customers can review on Amazon, and most Amazon sites have a minimum annual spending requirement.
  • Amazon do not permit paid reviews. Payment includes refunds, discounts, or entry into a contest or sweepstakes.
  • Amazon does not providing a free book “in exchange” for a review—that’s payment. Instead, authors can provide a free book and ask for reviews.
  • Reviewers who received a free book must disclose the fact as per both Amazon and Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

Common Author Questions About Reviewing

Is there anything else you’d like to know about reviews and online reviewing that I haven’t covered or linked to above?