Authors Who Use Beta Readers or Provide Advanced Reader Copies and the FTC – November 21, 2020

I receive a lot of e-mails from authors looking for Beta Readers or Advanced Reader Copy (ARC). What all of them fail to do is to adhere to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines – There’s a section on authors:

I’m a book author and I belong to a group where we agree to post reviews in social media for each other. I’ll review someone else’s book on a book review site or a bookstore site if he or she reviews my book. No money changes hands. Do I need to make a disclosure?

It sounds like you have a connection that might materially affect the weight or credibility of your endorsements (that is, your reviews), since bad reviews of each others’ books could jeopardize the arrangement. There doesn’t have to be a monetary payment. The connection could be friendship, family relationships, or strangers who make a deal.

If you provide specific individuals with free copies that are not available to the general public, and they do a review, the reviewer needs to make it clear it was a free copy as a Beta Reader or ARC. If they don’t, the author can be held responsible by the FTC. Some authors encourage these people not to mention it on Amazon as it will get the review pulled. I would care more about dealing with the fines the FTC can levy against you than the fact reviews were pulled by Amazon. If you have any relationship with the author, any review needs to be made clear in the review. That’s true even if you later offer ebooks free for a limited time on Amazon. I don’t review books for friends on any site without making it clear I am a friend or have some other sort of relationship with the author.

It doesn’t help that Amazon adds another restriction to reviews. This is more a financial requirement where you spend so much money on Amazon before you can leave a review. You have to spend $50 minimum in the past 12 months using a valid credit or debit card to leave a review. I put a link and quote below to show where you can find the information.

If that’s not enough, some companies reimburse certain users who leave 5-star reviews on Amazon. Those reviewers use the money from the companies to meet the spending requirements to get approved to leave the reviews. If Amazon did research, it would be easy enough to figure out which reviewers are using the reimbursements as the reviews tend to be 5-star.

Here’s what I got when I tried to leave a review on Amazon today:

We apologize but this account has not met the minimum eligibility requirements to write a review. If you would like to learn more about our eligibility requirements, please see our community guidelines.

From the above link:


To contribute to Customer features (for example, Customer Reviews, Customer Answers, Idea Lists) or to follow other contributors, you must have spent at least $50 on using a valid credit or debit card in the past 12 months. Promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the $50 minimum. You do not need to meet this requirement to read content posted by other contributors or post Customer Questions, or create or modify Profile pages, Shopping Lists, Wish Lists or Registries.

About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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