Many authors still don’t know this, but editors cannot review books they edit. At least once a week, this comes up in one or another of the groups I’m in. I’d like to address it here, so that I can simply post the link instead of rewriting the same information again and again. It is not yet common knowledge, but it really should be. I’ll do what I can to help.
Why editors cannot review books they edit
There are two main reasons why editors cannot review books they edit: it constitutes a conflict of interest, and it is a violation of terms of service. I’ll explain each of these.
Let’s address conflict of interest first. Whenever someone has competing interests or loyalties that could interfere with or be at odds with each other, there is a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest is often like letting the fox guard the hen house.
Examples of conflict of interest
A mental-health counselor dates his patient. This is wrong because he has insight into her thoughts and emotions that allows him to manipulate her. He has far more power in the relationship. He could lose his license for life and even face criminal charges.
An employee works part-time for his company’s competitor. He knows inside information about both companies.
Coworkers begin a relationship, and then one of them is promoted to supervise the other. Sooner or later, the newly promoted boss might have to choose between performing her job to the best of her ability and preserving her relationship.
A blogger mentions a product in a favorable light. She does not disclose that she accepted the product as a gift or received payment to write about the product. That’s not an unbiased opinion but a purchased one.
All of these are conflicts of interest. So is an editor reviewing one of his books. Editors cannot review books they edit.
Conflicts of interest should be avoided. In the case of compensated reviews, the writer must reveal the compensation. The FCC is adamant about that. That’s why you see disclosures all over the internet. Some people think neglecting to make the revelation is not a big deal, but it is. Integrity matters.
Amazon has rules
When an author signs up with Amazon to sell his book, he receives and signs the terms of service. If he reads what he signs, he knows that his editor can’t review his book, and neither can anyone else who had anything to do with its creation or production.
When an editor initiates the process to review a book, she sees the rules regarding who may and may not review a book. Anyone connected to the author or to the book’s creation or production is not allowed to review the book. If she continues, she’s breaking the rules that are right there in front of her.
Both an author and an editor should know the rules. Both should follow them.
What if the editor reviews the book?
Suppose the editor reviews the book she edited, even though it’s against the rules. What then? So it’s a conflict of interest. What’s the worst that could happen?
The editor destroys her integrity, and possibly her reputation, too. This means that the editor would lose respect among people who esteem integrity. The editor might lose friends or clients.
Big deal, some say. Anything else?
Yes. The editor and author risk running afoul of the 800-pound gorilla.
The author and the editor both could be banned from Amazon, for life. Amazon views this as tampering, and Amazon takes tampering very seriously. If the author didn’t authorize the review, then the author might sue the editor for damages, because the damages could be substantial.
Here’s a quote from Amazon’s site regarding the risks of leaving or using disallowed reviews:
“We take the integrity of the Community very seriously. Any attempt to manipulate Community content or features, including by contributing false, misleading, or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited. If you violate our Guidelines, we may restrict your ability to use Community features, remove content, delist related products, or suspend or terminate your account. If we determine that an Amazon account has been used to engage in any form of misconduct, remittances and payments may be withheld or permanently forfeited. Misconduct may also violate state and federal laws, including the Federal Trade Commission Act, and can lead to legal action and civil and criminal penalties. (Emphasis mine.)
We encourage anyone who suspects that content manipulation is taking place or that our Guidelines are being violated in any way to notify us. We will investigate the concern thoroughly and take any appropriate actions.”
Effects of review tampering
Let’s get this straight. If an editor (or anyone else connected to a book) reviews that book, the editor (or other person doing the shady reviewing) and author could experience these things:
- Losing the money made on all sales
- Having all your books removed from Amazon
- Being banned from using Amazon in any way, and even
- Going to prison
That’s the risk you take.
Big risks. Risks that far outweigh any benefit. Lifetime problems just to get (or give) one measly review? No way.
Authors, never ask your editor, book designer, cover designer, formatter, or anyone else who is connected to your book or to you to review your books. It’s just not worth the risk, and, more importantly, it’s wrong. Editors cannot review books they edit.
Where to get book reviews
Some authors rely on reviews from readers, reviews that organically trickle in over time. For most authors, however, that’s not enough; they need more reviews. Where can authors get book reviews?
Facebook has thousands of groups for writers. In many of them, authors may solicit book reviews honestly, without running afoul of ethics or terms of service. Editors can share books by their authors via social media. Authors may contact reviewers directly and ask them to review their books (and be sure to include them in the Editorial Reviews section). Many reviewers welcome new books to read and review. Kelly Santana-Banks and Gwen Sargeant are just two. Mrs. Banks gives very specific requirements regarding which books she’ll review, and Ms. Sargeant reviews a wider variety. I’ve been known to review books as well. Authors can find many other reviewers on Amazon and the Amazon-owned Goodreads.
Authors must handle paid reviews carefully. Amazon allows paid reviews, but only in the “Editorial Reviews” section of a book’s Amazon page. Amazon does not see them the same way it sees reviews posted by the typical customer, and it sees their presence among normal reviews as tampering.
Authors must be sure to include in the Editorial Reviews section all of the reviews they compensated reviewers for in any way. If an author paid for a review, that review needs to be listed in the Editorial Reviews section for that book, and not among the regular reviews from customers. If the author gave a reader a free book in return for an honest review, the review also needs to be posted in the Editorial Reviews section, not posted as a regular review. Only reviews from “random customers”—people with whom authors have no connection, people who just happened to find the book in a search or in a BookBub email and bought the book with their own money—are allowed to be in the regular review section.
Violating ethics and terms of service to get or give reviews is not worth it.
TL;DR: Editors cannot review books they edit. You can lose your Amazon account and even go to prison if you use or write reviews you shouldn’t. Follow the rules.