I’ve said this many times in the past and I’ll keep issuing the warning. If you’re an author on Amazon, do NOT allow your friends or family members to post reviews of your book. This is explicitly against Amazon’s rules and FTC regulations. Amazon has the technology. They will find that relationship. They could easily shut down YOUR ENTIRE AMAZON ACCOUNT and eliminate your sales permanently.

Amazon is a massive near-monopoly on the book selling industry. The last thing any author wants to do is to risk in any way their access to that market.

I am an author with over 350 books in the Amazon system. I also have a fairly extensive family and friend network. I do ask those family and friends not to review my books. Apparently someone might have done it recently, though, because I got this fairly harsh warning email from Amazon.

* * *

We have determined that your account is related to accounts that have written Amazon customer reviews for products that you have a financial interest in. This may include products that you or your competitors sell.

Why did I receive this message?
Family members, close friends, or employees of a seller on Amazon may not write reviews for the seller’s items or negative reviews for items sold by that seller’s competitors. Sellers are not allowed to manipulate ratings, feedback, or customer reviews.

Violations of our policies may also violate state and federal laws, including the Federal Trade Commission Act. Amazon strives to maintain customer trust and provide the best possible shopping experience. As a result, we will investigate when we learn that sellers, vendors, or others have attempted to manipulate reviews. This includes offers of compensation in exchange for reviews.

If this continues, it may result in account deactivation.

* * *

This is a strongly worded message and it carries a fairly dire threat. Yes, of course Amazon is not the only book seller on the market. One could still sell with iTunes, Barnes & Noble, SmashWords, and other avenues. But if one lost the entirety of the Amazon marketplace – from ebooks to paperback books, from Audio books to Kindle Unlimited’s lending library – that is simply massive. For me the loss of Amazon would be catastrophic. It’s where 99% of my sales take place.

I have written Amazon to try to get more details about exactly what I need to watch for. Do they want me to police all my reviews on a daily basis, watch to see if anybody looks like an account I might know the owner of, and write them to ask them to take that review down? What if a cousin is using a pseudonym on their account?

The short answer, though, is that every author needs to take this VERY SERIOUSLY. Never, ever ask family or friends to write reviews of your books. I’ve said this before and I’m doubling down. It is just not worth it. Get your reviews through legitimate means – work with bloggers, do book promotions in marketing newsletters, and build your fan base. That is the ONLY safe method of building a review count which is healthy and Amazon-approved.

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