Warning Messages for Errors in Amazon Kindle e-Books

Quality Control Amazon

KINDLE E-BOOKS WILL HAVE ERROR MESSAGES

This rumor has been going around for a week or so. When I first saw this rumor, my first thoughts were:

  • Where is the PROOF?
  • Why hasn’t Amazon provided any information about this?
  • Let’s get more information, preferably from Amazon itself, before we PANIC and WORRY.

This morning I learned that Amazon HAS provided much updated information about quality issues, right on their KDP help pages:

Click here to view the KDP help page describing error messages.

ACCORDING TO AMAZON KDP

A few quotes from this KDP help page are quite illuminating.

This new quote appearing on the KDP help page provides evidence that, in some cases, Amazon will, in fact, post error messages on the product page:

“A moderate amount of Distracting or Destructive Issues can result in the book remaining available for sale, but with a temporary quality warning displayed on the detail page of the book on Amazon.com until corrections are made.”

The KDP help page includes this quote in the opening paragraph:

  • “If readers tell us about a problem they’ve found in your book, we will make sure you know about it.”
  • So we see that Amazon will be contacting authors/publishers to notify them about problems that readers have reported.

Note that the same sentence also ends by saying that Amazon will “point you in the right direction to get the problem fixed.” This suggests that there won’t be instant action, but that Amazon KDP will contact the author/publisher, giving the author/publisher a chance to resolve the problem.

But if the author/publisher doesn’t resolve the problem, here is the worst-case scenario, also quoted from the KDP help page:

  • “Because Critical Issues significantly impact the reading experience, any Critical Issue will result in the book being removed from sale until the correction is made.”
  • This quote specifically refers to Critical Issues, as determined by Amazon.
  • Authors/publishers will want to communicate with Amazon and work to resolve any issues to Amazon’s satisfaction to avoid CFQI (customers facing quality issues) notices and to avoid having the book removed from sale.
  • Authors/publishers will also want to ensure that formatting, spelling, and grammar are correct before publishing.

I know there is much concern among authors regarding SPELLING mistakes. Take some comfort in this quote from the KDP help page:

  • “Sometimes improper or dialectic spellings are intentionally used by the author. These are not considered errors. Common examples would include character dialogue. Spelling differences which occur between US and British English are not considered errors.”
  • So we shouldn’t be worried about spelling differences between the US and the UK.
  • And we shouldn’t be worried about made-up names.
  • Note that it doesn’t say that a few typos will be considered a Critical Issue. Maybe there are, and maybe there aren’t, cases where typos may be considered a Critical Issue. But the help page doesn’t clarify this. It is clear that Amazon wants you to correct any known typos. But the help page doesn’t spell out exactly what the consequences will be for not fixing them. (Maybe a customers-facing-quality-issues notice. But that’s just speculation right now.)

Here is a sample of the kinds of errors that Amazon is looking at:

  • typos
  • unsupported characters
  • image quality (like unreadable text)
  • table issues (like content that goes off the page on some devices)
  • links (like those that don’t function properly)
  • even “disappointing content” is on the list
  • see the complete list here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1MMQ0JHRBEINX

BUT WHAT AMAZON HASN’T SAID (YET)

This KDP help page doesn’t say:

  • that any notices will be posted on the product page (that could happen; it just isn’t mentioned on the help page at this point)
  • except for Critical Issues, what will happen (e.g. if there are a few typos, it doesn’t outline exactly what will or won’t happen)
  • whether or not things like typos can be construed as Critical Issues (maybe they can, maybe not; the help page does mention a few specific Critical Issues, but doesn’t clarify this with regard to spelling)

Will they post error messages on the product page? Under what circumstances will they do this? Under what conditions will they remove a book from sale?

This remains to be seen to some extent. It does state that Critical Issues will result in taking down the book until the issues are resolved. But otherwise, we are left to speculate.

It seems reasonable that Amazon would first contact the author/publisher, allow a reasonable period for the issues to be resolved, and allow for a possible response with a detailed explanation.

A few authors have reported receiving emails from Amazon regarding spelling mistakes. We know that Amazon has sent emails about spelling mistakes for the past few years, but a few authors who have received them recently seem to make it look like the nature of the email has changed recently. But I guess we won’t know for sure until (A) Amazon announces such a change publicly or (B) we happen to receive one of those emails.

ABOUT TYPOS AND SPELLING MISTAKES

Don’t panic yet over all the worst-case scenarios that might pop into your head.

Let’s see how it goes first.

If you’re a UK writer and you’re worried about American readers complaining about differences in spelling (and vocabulary), you shouldn’t be. It says very clearly on the KDP help page that these aren’t considered spelling errors.

If you’re a fantasy author and you’re worried about made-up names for monsters you’ve created, at this point I see no reason for you to panic.

This probably isn’t the same thing as the list of possible spelling mistakes that you receive when you upload your content file. Maybe Amazon will use an automated spellchecker to aid in their assessment, but it won’t be purely automated: The KDP help page specifically refers to mistakes that “readers tell us about,” so readers will be involved to an extent.

It also appears that a human being will be involved from Amazon’s end, to verify the issues and to send an email notification to the author/publisher.

Sure, a human being can misinterpret something. But it won’t do any good to panic now. Let’s not think of all the ways that a human being might misinterpret an author’s intentions.

How many typos is too many? Does it really matter if it’s 5, 15, or 25 typos in 50,000 words?

If Amazon discovers and verifies that there are mistakes in your book, why wouldn’t you fix them? Every typo that gets fixed benefits readers…

IS THIS GOOD OR BAD?

The benefits are clear:

  • Improve customer satisfaction.
  • Improve the perception of Kindle e-books.
  • Improve the self-publishing brand.

In comparison, I think the “bad” may seem relatively minor:

  • In most cases, it just causes a minor inconvenience to the author to make the changes and resubmit.
  • In rare cases, it might be more involved. For example, a richly formatted book created from a PDF using the Kindle Textbook Creator might require more work to fix a few typos.
  • If an author shelled out big $$ for professional e-book conversion and just has a .mobi or epub file to work with, it might not be so easy to fix a few typos. It depends: Some professional formatters are quite reasonable and oriented around author satisfaction.
  • There is possible abuse, but I think overall Amazon will be reasonable. Amazon’s goal is clearly to improve customer satisfaction, but without significantly disrupting the authors who supply valuable content.

Realize that we don’t know all the details yet.

Right now, what we know from Amazon is posted on this KDP help page, and it doesn’t answer every question that we might have.

And some of the rumors out there include details that aren’t addressed on that KDP help page.

It seems reasonable that (except for Critical Issues) Amazon KDP would first notify the author/publisher of the issue, and give the author/publisher a reasonable chance to correct the problem before taking any drastic action.

The customer is paying money for Kindle e-books, and we all want the customers to have positive reading experiences that encourage them to read more Kindle e-books.

And as readers ourselves, we want to have positive reading experiences when we read Kindle e-books.

That seems like a reasonable goal, and I expect Amazon to be reasonable in helping authors reach that goal.

SUGGESTIONS

Find out which email address you have associated with your KDP publishing account. Monitor this email address. Periodically check that you’re not missing important emails in your SPAM filter. If any of your books have quality issues, you should expect to hear something from Amazon KDP.

Periodically check the KDP community forum, Kindle Boards, or another place where authors often share their experiences. This way, you might learn from the experience of any other authors who deal with quality notices from Amazon KDP.

Don’t worry about the what-if’s. Focus on writing and marketing. Try to write, format, and publish the best book you can.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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