Several months ago, I started hearing about other indie authors losing reviews on Amazon. One day their book would have 50 reviews, the next day it would have 30. Some people were unable to leave reviews or had lost their accounts all together. Rumors swirled, theories ranging from faulty bot algorithms to deletion due to social media connection. The only thing that’s for certain is reviews must abide by Amazon policy, and those policies are pretty strict. They have to be, because a lot of people try to game the system.
One of the things that’s forbidden by Amazon is review trading. In other words, “If you review my book, I’ll review yours.” That makes sense because it’s sketchy as eff-all, but unfortunately, Amazon can’t tell the difference between traded reviews and two authors who just happened to read each other’s books. This is a huge problem because it’s not uncommon for writers to read each other’s books, not because they agreed to, but because they were genuinely interested. Often times, you may not even know a fellow author has read and reviewed your book, so if you happen to read and review their book, too, you could appear to be review trading without even knowing it. But it doesn’t matter whether you knew or not, because if Amazon sees you’ve reviewed each other’s books, you could both lose your Amazon account.
That said, I’ve decided to stop reviewing books on Amazon from this point on. It already feels risky enough, and with what is and isn’t allowed constantly changing, it’s much too easy to run afoul of the rules. Instead, I’m going to start reviewing books here on my blog, which I’ll cross-post to social media. And then I’ll continue to post reviews on Goodreads.
Hopefully Amazon will eventually find a more precise way to cut down on scammers, but until that time, better safe than sorry.