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Amazon Has Banned ARC Reviews, and Forgot to Tell Anyone

An Amazon bot, hunting for fake reviews (date unknown)

Companies like Amazon often have two sets of policies. The first type are the official policies that can be found on the T&C pages (such as the $50 minimum purchase before you can post reviews), but Amazon also has other non-official policies that have not been spelled out or announced and instead have to be discovered and complied with in a process akin to navigating a minefield (and just as stressful).

Amazon’s new policy on advanced reader copies (ARC) books definitely falls into the latter category.

Update: This problem has reportedly been fixed. Amazon hasn’t responded to my queries, but a couple sources have told me that these reviews are no longer being blocked.

You won’t find this policy mentioned on Amazon’s site, but numerous authors are reporting on KBoards, Facebook, and elsewhere that Amazon is no longer letting people post un-verified book reviews before a book launches.

Edit: I misunderstood the reports; this is after a book launches, not before.

If you buy the book from Amazon, you can post the review, but if you get a free copy from the author, publisher, or NetGalley (like many reviewers do) you will instead see this message when you try to post the review:

Sorry, we are unable to accept your review of this product.

This product currently has limitations on submitting reviews. This may be because we detected unusual reviewing behavior on this product, or to maintain the best possible shopping experience. For more information, see the Customer Review Guidelines.

I have seen dozens of reports from authors who say that this message has appeared on traditionally published books and independently published books alike.

While free review copies is still allowed under Amazon’s official policies, clearly they have been banned under some unofficial policy that Amazon has not told anyone about.

The most likely reason for the non-announcement is that Amazon has let its bots decide which early reviews are legit. These are the same bots that cannot tell the difference between a paid review and a legit review.  These bots are also responsible for punishing innocent authors for supposedly fraudulent activity in Kindle Unlimited.

As in those earlier cases, Amazon customer service has not been able to adequately explain why the policy has changed. This is because the Amazon employees talking to customers and authors are not the same employees running the bots.

How could they be, when no one is actually running the bots?

Update: This problem has reportedly been fixed. Amazon hasn’t responded to my queries, but a couple sources have told me that these reviews are no longer being blocked.

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jim heskett May 24, 2018 um 6:38 pm

Yep, happened to me with my release last week. They let in 19 reviews and have stopped all new ones. I sent an email to amazon support asking for clarification.

In the end, this is a frustrating experience for amazon shoppers (not just authors), so it makes me think amazon might actually do something about it.

Guenevere May 25, 2018 um 4:40 am

Who do we write a complaint to?

Nate Hoffelder May 25, 2018 um 7:05 am

Jeff Bezos

Pam Stanton May 25, 2018 um 3:06 pm

His email is [email protected]. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get true answers. He doesn’t respond personally but you get a response, with actual answers, within 24 to 48 hours.

Dale L. Roberts May 25, 2018 um 7:46 am

Thanks for the post. I wasn’t aware of the situation and hope that it doesn’t get out of control. It’s amazing that Amazon builds systems and put policies into place without so much a warning. Their communication is extremely poor on policy changes.

John Wilker May 25, 2018 um 11:16 am

Somehow Amazon has the best and worst bots. I subscribe to KU and went to review a book I’d finished that’s been out for some time now and got that message. Mine would be a verified review.

They can predict what I’ll want to buy next, but can’t keep from punishing authors at every turn while the scammers happily run amok.

A.J. Flowers May 25, 2018 um 1:07 pm

Unfortunately KU readers don’t count as verified reviews. Hopefully Amazon changes this with the new unspoken policy else they’re shooting themselves in the foot for KU books…

John Wilker May 25, 2018 um 3:12 pm

Oh wow! I hadn’t looked, I just assumed. So weird, but not that surprising with Amazon :/

Mike D May 25, 2018 um 11:26 am

Don’t forget that Baen have pay-for eARCs, usually 3 months before publication

Are reviews of these hit?

Cheri Lasota May 25, 2018 um 12:07 pm

Email [email protected] with your complaints. His email is public, he wants disgruntled customers to contact him, and it will get transferred to his Executive Customer Relations Team for further communications.

Cindy May 25, 2018 um 12:42 pm

1: you must have spent $50 on Amazon in any capacity for the past 12 months.

2: You can only leave 5 non-verified reviews a week.

3: More for authors, but you should be aware the rule now says I or any author may not manipulate the Amazon Verified Purchase badge, such as by offering special pricing to reviewers or reimbursing reviewers.

4: We may restrict the ability to submit a review when we detect unusual reviewing behavior, or to maintain the best possible shopping experience which means reviews can no longer be asked for in one day.

LH May 26, 2018 um 9:13 am

The 5 non-verified does NOT include digital or physical books, videos or other digital media (it’s in the same TOS bullet point as the 5 non-verified reviews.

Jeanne Felfe May 25, 2018 um 2:16 pm

The article says "elsewhere that Amazon is no longer letting people post un-verified book reviews before a book launches." – but one of the commentors said it happened to him on a book that had been out a while.

And with Jim Heskett’s comment, I’m wondering if there’s a counter that stops having a lot of reviews posted quickly together?

Natalie May 25, 2018 um 4:10 pm

It’s also happening to legit sales too. A couple of authors have verified that on their Facebook page.

jeannie zelos May 26, 2018 um 3:29 am

I had all my com and uk reviews removed for the second time in six months a couple of weeks back( just over £K of them). As before I appealed and explained I DON’T break the rules, don’t do paid for reviews, do read a lot and most reviews are ARCs – allowed under their T&C. I got an auto reply after a couple of days saying sorry, mistake, all’s been put right now….No explanation of what I supposedly did wrong. I know this has happened to many book reviewers.
Actually, this is the message I got back

We have reviewed this situation and have restored your reviewing privileges and reviews to our site. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

Review Moderator"

The first time it was an author that let me know, review of her book gone and she wondered why, second time i went to post as usual and found I was banned, everything fine the day before but then all was taken away without the courtesy of an email to let me know. Amazon want reviews, but then they don’t. Meanwhile I am bombarded daily ( 12-20 each day) by people wanting me to review stuff for free – I buy, they refund by paypal when i add a five star review. Some even offer a payment, so clearly there are willing takers even though that’s explicitly against amazon T&C.

Allen F May 30, 2018 um 4:41 pm

"… I buy, they refund by paypal when i add a five star review. Some even offer a payment, so clearly there are willing takers even though that’s explicitly against amazon T&C."

And that is what Amazon is trying to kill – the 'paid' five star review. Which actually makes it surprising they put them back …

jeannie zelos May 31, 2018 um 3:10 am

Sorry, you’ve misunderstood me, I clearly didn’t explain that but very well. I didn’t mean I actually buy – I know that’s against amazon T&C,and I don’t do it. That’s why they put my reviews back on checking, they can see I stick by T&C.
I was using the figure "I" in a hypothetical situation. I was just using it as an example that sadly this fraudulent reviewing is still going on as I can see that others do respond, when they reply to seller but hit Reply to all.

Bonnie Dale Keck May 31, 2018 um 5:20 am

There was one female 'writer' who sent out arcs, then later explained oh it’s not all the book, to read the rest have to buy the book, supposedly get refunded whatever way, and yes she still expected a 4 or 5 star review, blasted her about it on goodreads and amazon, can’t remember the name and looking at 1 star reviews {the book was total crap btw} on goodreads never could make the site list them all for me

Tonya Allen May 26, 2018 um 8:23 am

I was able to post 3 ARC reviews this morning that I haven’t been able to all week. I was getting that comment all week. Never had any issues before.

Melissa Henderson May 26, 2018 um 12:30 pm

All of my reviews were taken off of Amazon a while back. First they apologized, and put them back. Then, within a few days, I received a message telling me they were taking them down again and not to contact them again. Very upsetting. I spend the correct amount of money each month, I use the correct wording. Still, my reviews are gone. I read a ton of books and always give an honest review. OH, well…. I still post reviews on other sites like Goodreads, BarnesandNoble, Bookbub and other sites.

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Hidden Gems Books May 26, 2018 um 2:51 pm

This issue was a temporary glitch and was resolved this morning. Reviews are all being logged without issue again today. Their policy continues to allow reviews of books given out for free, as stated in their community guidelines page.

Nate Hoffelder May 26, 2018 um 9:46 pm

I’m still waiting for confirmation from another source.

van October 7, 2020 um 4:27 pm

I am not allowed to review books that I have purchased now nor ARC copies.

jeannie zelos October 8, 2020 um 3:27 am

appeal if its wrong. I’ve had to do that twice now when they removed all my reviews, and banned me. I never got a reason but on appealing everying was put back, all reviews online again and ban lifted. I’m pretty sure this address got me to the right person. Finding email addresses on amazon isnt easy 😉 O’ve added spaces btw, just to keep it from bots, so you need to remove them. community-help @ amazon. co. uk

Dylan Cross May 27, 2018 um 1:39 am

Feel free to contact the Erotic Authors Guild if you continue to have issues with Amazon!

Nate Hoffelder May 27, 2018 um 7:40 am

Heh, you might want to change the name slightly. I think you want to be known as a group of authors who write erotica, not ones who are erotic by nature.

Linda May 27, 2018 um 4:52 am

Amazon took all my reviews down over a year ago because most of my books were ARC’s. I tried to post on Amazon UK and got declined because they said they don’t accept reviews for free books.

Bonnie Dale Keck May 27, 2018 um 6:12 pm

I have ku, and I review ARCs as well as other books, would say hadn’t noticed any that didn’t post but there were at least 3 that I know already reviewed and posted but didn’t show up, had to have been week or even weeks ago posted those.

KU is not verified review, even though to be able to post I had to have spent at least $50 {have spent, not counting ku, around 250 for about 4 or 5 years running, electronics etc}, and they verify my credit card each time for my ku and the purchases. I wrote to Bezos a while back and got automated type reply, but nothing else, and no follow up, in regard to 'cockygate' and the fact that if readers, primarily reviewers, stop reviewing then that means less traffic to their site, less ads seen, etc, so it is snowball effect, and currently have prime, kindle unlimited, etc, and how much money they stand to lose by ticking off reviewers, especially the most active ones.

As far as goodreads, I have had issues with them as well, just not to the same degree; they were bought out quite a bit back by amazon.

Their TOS states that reviewews can be taken down for a number of reasons, the last one which states {no, not kidding} no reason at all, and that they don’t respond to questions as to why etc. They also state that a reviewer can not say 'received this book in exchange' so wording must be something to point of got the book free in hopes of review or something such as that, but also that of course if it’s a bought book {even on freebie day} or ku then I ignore the fact it was an arc {if even remember, do a lot of books} and just put down got on freebie day or read on ku, which is true {gives the writer 'pennies' for the read}. There have been a couple or so that were non-amazon freebie books {bookbub and freebooksy are usually amazon type} such as instafreebie, which don’t come up the same way, so I’ll state that {if not on ku for me to run through}. Amazon wants the traffic, wants the ad revenue, wants the reviews, but they don’t want to 'act right' is the problem; the 50 was supposed to stop scammers from doing review mill type actions, but then amazon is basically saying that everyone is still guilty until proven innocent, no matter what.

Sabetha Danes May 27, 2018 um 7:37 pm

While I do a ton of ARC reviews, I am also an avid shopper and reviewer on Amazon in general. I haven’t noticed any of mine removed as of yet. But I also don’t write blog post length reviews nor do I write how I received the book I am reviewing. I keep it short and to the point, did I enjoy it? did it insight any emotions? how was the writing? Did it lag at all? The end.

If they get rid of the option to review non purchases I think it will level the playing field for indie and traditional published authors, so as an author I’m not broken up about that. Amazon is a retail store, and all retail stores should pride themselves in honest verified reviews. Since the bots that promote your book take into account the review number it entices people to cheat. I can also see why they don’t count KU as verified since they are having the reading bot issue.

I do think that this is a reminder not to keep our eggs all in one basket.

Bonnie Dale Keck May 28, 2018 um 2:21 am

Sabetha Danes // 27 May, 2018 at 7:37 pm // Reply

If they get rid of the option to review non purchases I think it will level the playing field for indie and traditional published authors, so as an author I’m not broken up about that. Amazon is a retail store, and all retail stores should pride themselves in honest verified reviews. Since the bots that promote your book take into account the review number it entices people to cheat. I can also see why they don’t count KU as verified since they are having the reading bot issue.

ISSUES with that blanket statement: 1 it means, still, that kindle unlimited reviews still do not count AND they won’t even be allowed 2 books not bought or gotten from freebie day {bookbub and freebooksy} will count, IF gotten on freebie day, BUT NOT instafreebie

So what you are suggesting means that books I haven’t 'bought' in any way won’t even be allowed to be reviewed by me, even though reviews is what drives amazon’s money horse, again costing them revenue in several different ways — not going to happen, not the answer/solution, and amazon prides themselves on making money and you are suggesting they chop out their KU subscriptions {I for one would bother using ku at all if didn’t review}, cheaters will always find a way to cheat {know of one writer who tells her supposed readers to ALWAYS put the book on ku because it does certain things to their algorythms AND even if the person never reads the book for the 'pennies' and her readers are told to buy the book after so that’s no ku money for the read, BUT it still put the book higher by around 100000 in stats and notice, on TOP of amazon 'pushing' and promoting ku books automatically} so again, not the answer, just another problem

Nancy Ryan May 28, 2018 um 6:00 am

Yes, they can currently be posted. But come Tuesday, the day books typically drop, and it’s going to happen again. They are blocking ARC reviews on the first day or two of release. Once they’ve basically screwed authors out of all those ARC reviews to help boost sales, they drop the restrictions. Just wait and see.

Nate Hoffelder May 28, 2018 um 10:08 am

I would not be surprised if you were right.

Bonnie Dale Keck May 29, 2018 um 1:03 am

doesn’t matter on mine, more than likely because if a book is able to be bought, bought freebie day, or on ku {though won’t be 'verified'} according to their own TOS I can simply put kindle unlimited then write whatever was going to write, there have only been a couple that I had as arcs that were not {really don’t pay attention to which are, versus 'regular' books, and always been bad at names and titles anyway}, but had no problem with getting the review through, though that MIGHT have had something to do with the fact that is only a couple out of a possible dozen or whatever that were arcs but on ku, I have MUCH more issue, in general, just trying to get their site to post ANY review at ANY time…though a bought and/or freebie day bought book seems to go through a bit faster, but still taking them 'forever' to post the reveiws…that is the only reason prefer goodreads, because leaves me a copy of the review that is easy to find then copy/paste over if the amazon review poofed or whatever, and that is also the reason I noticed it was taking so long to post reveiws, because would copy the goodreads to paste over, click on review, and it would be there, just invisible because didn’t complelely post

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Brian Porter June 1, 2018 um 10:15 am

I write a lot of reviews, all for books I have genuinely read, and up until recently was able to copy my reviews to and other Amazon sites, (I live in the UK). Suddenly I am not allowed to do that. This is quite unfair on authors as Amazon use the US site for calculating how many reviews a book has received. If I can only post on the UK site, those authors, many of them American, are being denied legitimate reviews.

Bonnie Dale Keck June 1, 2018 um 12:22 pm

I noticed a bit about that type thing, they are supposed to {should type SUPPOSED to} show US reviews on UK amazon site, sometimes it cross posts and sometimes not, so had got in to habit of checking so that if it didn’t post itself over, I would, but last 2 times tried that it said I had not spent 50 {on UK side, have on US} so couldn’t post a review, and wouldn’t have major issue with that IF THEY cross posted them ALL the time, and haven’t checked {can’t really figure out way to check} if reviews from Brits are posting over to US side, in the way that they should.

Can post them on goodreads, which got bought out by amazon, plus if need to check that review is there or use it to paste over to my amazon then it’s lot easier to find versus amazon US, well any amazon. Do remember checking for Brit and Aussie and once for someone based in Japan {.jp I THINK} and same as the Brit ones checked, sometimes they cross post and sometimes they don’t.

While I understand the $50 {ever} requirement to stop review mills and other fake reviews, they are biting the hands of the reviewers that post by not fixing the issues they created or don’t have a hold on, because reviews also not only generate awareness of amazon books but also show adverts and all sorts of other things intertwined. Other book sites may never have the percentage of reviews etc that Amazon has, but they are losing ground, because they don’t do any one thing well enough, and as someone who pays out every month for KU, and even with the 50 KU is NOT verified, and reviews as much as I do, it’s starting to more than tick a bunch of reveiwers off, from the time it takes for any review to show posted, to the extra time it’s taking ku books to post, to them deleting legitimate reviews posted on Tuesday’s because that’s the day ARCs come out, to having to watch how even say that it’s an ARC {can’t say 'in exhange for' etc}, it’s beyond ridiculous, and totally incompetent way to run a business.

Audrey Kalman June 4, 2018 um 12:54 am

Glad I stumbled on this. I recently had all my reviews except one two-star (most were four and five) taken down for a book that has been on Amazon for 7 years. I recently started doing more marketing of it, so I thought this might have triggered something, but apparently I just got caught up in the general algorithmic sweep. So frustrating! I called KDP immediately and the next day got an automated email from "customer relations," but by that time the reviews had been restored. Of course, without any explanation or followup.

Susan Deonier June 6, 2018 um 8:10 pm

My beta reader’s new ARC review was deleted by Amazon today, probably because she used the words "in exchange for an honest review." Apparently "in exchange for" now triggers a deletion. Amazon also removed her earlier reviews that did not mention an ARC.

kim hansen August 4, 2018 um 7:01 pm

I post on goodreads and bookbub and then when the book is released on amazon. Amazon is a pain in the ass.

Susan January 2, 2019 um 10:20 pm

Has anyone had their review privileges revoked? A couple of months ago Amazon declined a review I wrote for a book I received from NetGalley. I was new to the advanced reader community and didn’t realize I shouldn’t include “I received this for an honest review..”

Long story short, I now get an error message that says I violated community standards and can no longer post. I read some other Reddit chains and a few people have been accused of taking bribes and had their accounts closed. I submitted a ticket to the Community Review Dept. but am now worried they will simply close my account. I’m addicted to my Kindle. Anyone have something similar happen?

jeannie zelos January 3, 2019 um 5:11 am

I found the one i used last summer, i’m uk so its a uk one, i guess swap the for whatever country you’re in I wrote to [email protected] I just basically said I review books, have done for years, and never breech T&C, could they please take a look again and tell me what I’m doing wrong if I’m inadvertently breaking rules, as I value my review status. Good luck.

Jeannie January 3, 2019 um 5:05 am

yes, loads of people. I had mine revoked dec 2017, and after appealing it was reinstated, then again last summer. no communication, just a ban and all data removed. when they reinstate all your past reviews are back. I always used to write arc received for review etc, now i just add arc received via netgalley/author/publisher depending on where its from. Its also been suggested having author friends on social media tips them you may be breaking their unwritten terms so i removed all those from FB. I’d never met most, simply communicated via FB occasionally and I’d look for when they had new books out…..I love reading, and value getting arcs as I couldn’t afford to buy as much as I read. I use reviews when i do buy, and hope to give that back by my own reviews. when amazon come along with the big stick its hard, finding an address that will get a response isn’t easy, and the one i finally tracked down in dec 17 didn’t work when i needed it last summer, so i guess that changes frequently too. I take my review status seriously, and value getting arcs. If i lose my amazon ranting I’m guessing it would affect how publishers decide to allocate books? Though I am lucky in that over the years I’m now an auto reviewer for many netgalley authors and publishers. I just don’t want the stain on my reputation.
If you don’t get anywhere with first email for reinstatement look for another address, I’ll look and see if i can find the last one i used.
Its so annoying when you stick to rules religiously and yet get ban, but see others who are clearly breaching T&C and yet get nothing. I must received around 10-15 min requests for product reviews daily, offering to repay me when i purchase, or even to actually pay into of purchase price, as a way of getting round amazon T&C, so all they’ve done is put off many genuine reviewers but allowed the ones who do it for profit to continue. I used to report all offers to amazon, but have given up now. I just dump in spam box.

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Jill Minor October 26, 2019 um 7:57 am

I may have found a way around this. I get my prepub galleys sent to my Kindle from Netgalley. You can’t tell me Amazon doesn’t scoop up that data. Then in my review, my disclaimer is “I received a Kindle galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.” The two I have posted that way were approved in 5 minutes.

jeannie zelos October 26, 2019 um 8:43 am

The majority of my reviews come that way via netgalley. I have a few from books I’ve bought, and just a tiny percent direct from authors and publishers, but even those I get sent to kindle via my Amazon Kindle address. Sadly that didn’t stop Amazon removing all reviews twice within six months. Over 3000. I’m in the top 500 lists as I do lots of book reviews, and my contact information on Amazon says clearly I will not do anything to breach Amazon t and c. I won’t do any reviews other than books, apart from things I have purchased ( and I rarely review those now just in case). Both times I appealed and reviews were reinstated. I still don’t know why they were removed though.

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