The magic number of Amazon book reviews — and the rules of the road

I almost always read customer reviews before I buy something on Amazon.

Of course, I’m well aware that you shouldn’t always trust these reviews. I’m well aware that authors often review their own books anonymously and that a few nefarious folks go out and buy positive reviews.

But by and large I find that if there are enough customer reviews, you can get a pretty good idea if a book or product is worth it. And sometimes even the bad reviews are highly entertaining. Consider, for example, the many one-star reviews of Moby-Dick.

The key however, is having “enough” reviews. I believe 20 reviews is the magic minimum threshold that every author should aim for. Getting to this number can be challenging. It may require asking anyone who tells you they loved your book to get online and provide a review. Trust me, I hate asking people, but more often than not people are happy to do it.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post — the rules of the road when it comes to Amazon book reviews.

Here is a handy Q&A from Amazon on what is and isn’t allowed on book reviews.

Q. Are authors allowed to review another author’s book?
A. Yes. We very much welcome Customer Reviews from authors. However, if the author reviewing the book has a personal relationship with the author of the book they are reviewing, or was involved in the book’s creation process (i.e. as a co-author, editor, illustrator, etc.), that author is not eligible to write a Customer Review for that book.

Q. Can I write a Customer Review of my own book?
A. No. You are not eligible to review your own book, but there are other ways to communicate with your readers on Amazon such as Author Central.

Q. Can I post a Customer Review on behalf of someone else?
A. No. Customer Reviews are meant to provide customers with feedback from fellow shoppers. For this reason, you should use the Editorial Reviews section of your book’s detail page to share content that is posted on other sites or from individuals who do not have an Amazon account. You can update the Editorial Reviews section of your book’s detail page through your Author Central account.

Q. Can I ask my family to write a Customer Review for my book?
A. We do not allow individuals who share a household with the author or close friends to write Customer Reviews for that author’s book. Customer Reviews are meant to provide unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers.

Q. Can I pay for someone to write a Customer Review for my book?
A. No. We do not allow any form of compensation for a Customer Review other than a free copy of the book provided upfront. If you offer a free copy of the book in advance, it must be clear that you welcome all feedback, both positive and negative.

Q. A Customer Review is missing from my book’s detail page. What happened?
A. Reviews are removed from Amazon for one of three reasons:

  • The review did not meet our posted Customer Review Guidelines.
  • The customer who wrote the review removed it.
  • We discovered that multiple items were linked together on our website incorrectly. Reviews that were posted on those pages were removed when the items were separated on the site.

For more information, here is the full list of Amazon Customer Review guidelines.