I’ve just deleted every Amazon review I’ve ever written, from 2006 to the present.
They’ve changed the language in their policies against review manipulation, and frankly, I just didn’t want to worry about it.
Here’s a quote:
Customers trust that they can shop with confidence on Amazon. Reviews provide a forum for sharing authentic feedback about products and services — positive or negative. Any attempt to manipulate reviews, including by directly or indirectly contributing false, misleading or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited.
We take the integrity of our reviews platform very seriously. If we determine that you have attempted to manipulate reviews or violated our guidelines in any other manner, we may immediately suspend or terminate your Amazon privileges, remove reviews, and delist related products. In addition, if we determine that an Amazon account has been used to engage in review manipulation, remittances and payments may be withheld or forfeited. Misconduct can also lead to legal action and civil and criminal penalties.
We encourage anyone who suspects that review manipulation is taking place or that our guidelines are being violated in any other manner to notify us. We will investigate the concern thoroughly and take any appropriate actions.
And some of the examples they give of violations:
A product manufacturer posts a review of their own product, posing as an unbiased shopper
A shopper, unhappy with her purchase, posts multiple negative reviews for the same product
A customer posts a review in exchange for $5
A customer posts a review of a game, in exchange for bonus in-game credits
A family member of the product creator posts a five-star customer review to help boost sales
A shopper posts a review of the product, after being promised a refund in exchange
A seller posts negative reviews on his competitor’s product
An artist posts a positive review on a peer’s album in exchange for receiving a positive review from them
You see a lot of concerning phrases there, and if you go on to read everything they have to say on the subject, you’ll find even more. Some of the things that have been called into question are authors reviewing the work of other authors, reviewing anything that could be construed as your competition, and reviewing the work of anyone you have a “close personal relationship” with. (As defined by who? It used to just say anybody in your immediate family or household, which is a lot more cut and dried.)
I’m sure this isn’t their intent, but the way it’s written, it essentially says they could ban you from publishing with them ever again if you’re an author and you’ve reviewed books. Or if you have a book that’s been reviewed by an author.
I’m very comfortable that I have never done anything unethical where reviews are concerned, either giving or receiving, at all. Like most indies, I’m friendly with some of the authors whose work I’ve enjoyed and reviewed. I’d say that’s all but inevitable, since one of the reasons you’re friendly with a person might be that you share similar tastes and sensibilities. But there’s nothing wrong with that so long as no arrangement was made to exchange positive reviews.
Also, this is a clear strike against people who pay for reviews. (And that’s obviously a good thing.) That’s what it’s about, largely. It’s not about me or my handful of reviews, I’m super small fry, and it’s silly to think anyone is looking at me.
So why be so paranoid?
That’s some scary-ass language, is why. You run afoul of it, and your career as an indie is over. Given the consequences and the potential for broad interpretation, it seems to me that strict adherence to the letter of the law–even the unclear imaginary letters–is in order.
As for my own reviews, I decided to define “close personal relationship” quite broadly, as anyone who is either related to me, or has had a meal or a drink with me. Because, duh, food. That applied to one of the people who reviewed Ghost in the Canteen–the only reviewer I’ve ever met in person–so I asked her to remove it. Nobody but me stands to benefit financially from my sales, and I’ve never offered another author a review in exchange for their writing one for me. So. I should be good.
But, there are some of my blog readers who have reviewed my work. If you’re also an indie and you’re the least bit uncomfortable with that, I’d encourage you to remove your review. I’d rather have fewer reviews and know everybody is sleeping well at night.