Warning Messages for Errors in Amazon Kindle e-Books

Quality Control Amazon


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.


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


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.


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…


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.


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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

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63 comments on “Warning Messages for Errors in Amazon Kindle e-Books

  1. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Fellow Indie Authors,
    Here is the best analysis of Amazon’s new policy regarding editing/formatting issues in independently published work. It’s even more impetus to use an editor. A lot of the rumors and myths are dispelled in this very good analysis.

  2. Thanks, Chris! I’ve heard about this, and I decided not to freak out until I learn more. I have a slight concern with what it will with made-up words in fantasy and scifi (and my own paranormal romance), but if they contact me first, I can just point out that they are made-up words and not typos, I’m guessing. 🙂

    • I expect them to be reasonable in most cases. I would expect to have the chance to respond, provide a compelling explanation, even link to their own help page that specifically mentions intentionally misspelled words.

  3. I hope they have an understanding that things go wrong with the conversion too. Many times, a reader has pointed out a missing word, but my master file has it there. What is the definition of ‘disappointing content’ anyway?

    • The help page mentions missing content. It seems they are more concerned when more than just a small phrase is missing.

      I think disappointing will generally be extreme circumstances. I certainly don’t expect a few opinions in one-star reviews to constitute disappointment (or there may not be any books left).

      • Curious to see how that one plays out then. An important factor will be if the system is automated or controlled humans. Computers don’t know how to differentiate and will simply believe what they’re told. Humans can tell when somebody is trying to abuse the system for good or bad. That’s always been my worry with Amazon. Too many programs and not enough human.

  4. I’m far more curious (holding off on ‘concerned’) about “disappointing content”!!! Any clue 1) what it is and 2) who is the “disappointed” party and what are they “disappointed” about? Chris, I think you are correct that it’s far too early for anyone to panic, but I also think it’s reasonable for the ‘content providers’ (the writers) to get answers sooner rather then later from the ‘content platform and check writer’ (Amazon), which has a well-documented tendency to use imprecise and/or vague language when speaking to writers. Causes mild headaches!

    • My guess is that disappointing content is for more extreme cases, vague to cover possibilities that Amazon might not have thought of. Certainly, the more we know about this, the better.

  5. Chris: I got a message from Kindle about three MINOR mistakes in my first book, which I am fixing this weekend. But I heard they will take down your book until you do fix them and the response I got from them seemed to indicate that. Any word on this issue?

    • According to their help page, removal is supposed to be for Critical Issues, and while the help page does outline specific Critical Issues, it doesn’t say whether or not a few typos is one of them. That seems a bit extreme. What if you happened to have an expensive promo going on when that happened? It has also been rumored that a notice may be posted on the product page.

      If would be interesting to see the exact wording of the part of the email that mentions any possible removal. Thank you for sharing your experience with this.

  6. I’m actually thrilled with this planned action by Amazon. One of my pet peeves with self-published books (I’ve written a number of blog posts on this subject: http://www.dawnlajeunesse.com) is that so many of them are poorly written and poorly edited, giving a bad name to all self-published authors. Amazon’s response to this issue will result in a better product, which will reflect favorably on all self-published authors.

    • I agree. I don’t think “perfection” is the standard. The issue is, “Is this a waste of a customer’s time and money?” I’ve never read one traditionally published book that was 100% free of typos, so it would be amusing to see Amazon try to make that the standard. On the other hand, I once bought a self-published book that consisted of a tepid retelling of common “urban legends,” and halfway through the book we went from large print to about ten words per page (increasing the page count – and cost – exponentially). It was a waste of time and money, and that’s the sort of thing we all have to contend with when it comes to customers’ willingness to take a chance on self-published work.

  7. Pingback: Warning Messages for Errors in Amazon Kindle e-Books  | CKBooks Publishing

  8. I had to chuckle. The list includes ‘Unsupported characters.’ I thought, Great! Stories where the characters are not introduced, given some kind of a story arc (however minor), and then dismissed if they are going to disappear should not be allowed.

    And then I realized they mean don’t use letters and symbols that are not in the usual fonts on the devices. How disappointing. The other kind of characters are far more important to the stories.

    • There was a period where we couldn’t use the word character at the KDP community forum or the post would automatically go to moderation. That word gets used frequently when discussing all things publishing. As you point out, in more than one way.

      • Here I thought they were going to address the quality of the writing. I guess they don’t care about that – unsupported characters are your problem, and you should give them some backstory and something to do in the story.

    • Hah! I had the same thought, exactly. About the time I started envisioning great debates over creative “vision,” I realized they HAD to mean something less labor intensive, more “automatable” – and thus typeface related. Oh, well.

      • Amazon isn’t going to start enforcing ‘quality’ standards in writing – that is possibly done in their imprints (which are doing very well, per the Author Earnings reports). Or we’d be right back at traditional publishing.

        Too bad – but what they’re doing, removing stuff that is badly formatted, or with missing pages, that they can and should do, as they said, based on customer complaints.

        In a way, the fact that the standards are up to me if scary – but also empowering: I don’t have to fight with some agent or editor with a different creative vision.

        Of course, I stand or fall by the marketplace, and know that some people do need externally-imposed standards because their own are iffy (including writers who sell a lot for big pub like Dan Brown and many indies – but people still like them, so they should be able to sell).

      • I was hoping not to have to learn marketing; but first readers aren’t reviewing and recommending as much as I’d hoped they would.

        Now I have to leave something I love to do something I don’t particularly want to learn. Maybe I’ll see what I have organically until the second book is ready, or the third.

      • Organic is better, when you can get it enough quantity, but it’s also often very slow to come (yet can be worth the wait). The more books you have out, the better the prospects for returns on your marketing. Unfortunately, it’s usually not easy.

      • There are a couple of unique things about Pride’s Children – a disabled main character is rare – and it is mainstream and a love story. I’m hoping to catch on because of some of those. I also like to think that it is well-written, by any standards.

        There are several unique things about me, too, but I’m not using any of those – even though they might help – because this is not about me, and I don’t want to play those cards.

        I’m writing Book 2 – and thinking about how to take advantage of certain things, without, well, taking advantage of them.

        And meanwhile, I’m still the same slow writer who took so long to finish the first book.

        Shrug. Organic may be what I get.

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  10. This is stellar. If nothing else, I think it’ll certainly go a long way toward removing some of the content out there that is masquerading as books. There’s quite a slush pile out there, and this’ll provide a way of determining which stuff is and which stuff isn’t beforehand. How often have you sat down with a nice Kindle book, only to discover that the text suffers from stuff that simply ought to have been covered by a careful author in the first place?

    If I like the story, I’ll highlight the errors as I read and then send ’em to the author to do what they will. Maybe they use em, maybe they don’t.

    I thought the “Unsupported Characters” thing referred to characters in the story who suddenly appeared at the last moment without explanation. “That’ll have to be a clever bit of vetting to figure out what that is,” I thought. Oh, it’s far more pedestrian than that. Just think, if Amazon took it a step further: “Your book is suspending for failing to have character arcs” or “Your book had a poorly developed plot and is thus suspended.”

    I doubt that’ll happen in our time.

    • It would be easier for Amazon to check on formatting issues and spelling or punctuation, but probably not plot or storytelling . But problems with the plot can make a story more unreadable than some formatting or spelling issues…

  11. I noticed that when you follow the links for “disappointing content” in the “content that doesn’t provide an enjoyable reading experience.” This of course opens writers to all kinds of ambiguity. Does this mean a couple of one star reviews can kill a book? It seems like Amazon always tries to clarify but makes sure they leave the door open to arbitrarily act.

    • I don’t think so. My guess is that it’s for drastic problems and unique kinds of “books,” and a loophole for Amazon when an author comes up with something that Amazon couldn’t anticipate.

      • Let’s hope. We know that Amazon culled a lot of legitimate reviews based on the “friends” clause. I know that Amazon has sent some of my reviews back for inexplitcable reasons and only when i removed a perfectly innocent sentence or changed an unobjectionable headline by one or two seemingly innoccuous words could I get them accepted.

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  13. Well-written analysis. Amazon has been sending these kinds of reports to publishers for years, but they are finally getting the same system implemented on KDP.

    This is a shameless plug, but for anyone who creates EPUB files and wants a way to catch some of these issues (especially issues with tables, images, and links), I highly recommend you check out our FlightDeck tool. It is the best ebook quality assurance tool available, and provides detailed feedback and analysis on issues that can affect the quality of your ebook. http://ebookflightdeck.com

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  15. But what’s new about this? It’s even dated 2015. It’s just a statement of long-existing policy, and IMHO has nothing whatever to do with the new “quality” control, which nobody seems to have a clue about.

    • That’s a good point. This page has been extensively updated. And it has been updated again since. This new quote now appears on the KDP help 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.” This shows clearly that books will show warnings right on the product page, if the issue is not considered Critical, but is considered Distracting enough to readers (until the author/publisher resolves the issue).

  16. Great article Chris! I’m reposting on my facebook page and linkedIn. I actually work with publishers doing these Amazon corrections on ebooks.

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  18. Late to the discussion, interesting comments. But for all those who seem to want Amazon to formulate standards not only for the mechanics and presentation of storytelling, but for storytelling itself, please think what the world of 20th century letters would have been like without James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Wolfe, Jill Johnston… There would have been warning messages all over their sales pages and no lack of other writers bemoaning the fact that writers like them were giving all writers a bad name. Sales rank and reader reviews already provide a robust filter for what’s a good buy and what isn’t. Not to mention the “Look Inside” feature. When buyers can’t be bothered to look inside a book before they buy it, they become the problem — especially when they start expecting “coding” to solve a problem for them they won’t spend a minute to solve for themselves. In theory, this might all be a good idea. In practice, it might not produce the result people expect. Even if there are human reviewers making individual decisions, can we expect all of these to be as literate as, say, James Joyce when he was writing Finnegan’s Wake? Sales Rank and Reader Reviews already provide all the filter buyers need, as well as the Look Inside feature.

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