Your Book Description Doesn’t Just Show up at Amazon



I was creating a Goodreads giveaway yesterday when I noticed that one of my book descriptions didn’t look quite right. Then I realized that a few of my book descriptions had similar issues. (I haven’t yet looked at all of my books there, but did check my recent releases.)

The problem was that I had formatted my descriptions at Amazon KDP using the limited HTML that is available (boldface, italics, line breaks, bullet points, and ordered lists). While that resulted in improved formatting at Amazon, the HTML had a few undesirable effects at Goodreads. In particular, if you use short bullet points with words or phrases in each point, the words and phrases might not appear on separate lines and there won’t be any bullet point symbols.

So if you meant to make a list like this:

  • red riding hood
  • big bad wolf
  • grandma’s house

It could instead look like this at Goodreads:

red riding hood big bad wolf grandma’s house

It actually can look even worse when it blends together with the previous and following sentences.

At Goodreads, there is a simple fix. After you’ve logged in and pulled up your book, there is an option to edit the description. You may need to click a second time to edit the description. Also, beware that there is a required field further down: you need to enter a comment explaining the revision.

If you self-publish with KDP, you should be used to checking how it looks at Amazon shortly after you publish. You might also have the good habit of using Author Central to improve the formatting. (But when you revise your description with Author Central, you want to go to Edit HTML and copy/paste the HTML for your description into KDP and save it at KDP. Why? Because if you later republish your book, even if it’s just to add keywords or change your price, the KDP description will automatically replace the Author Central description.)

But where else does your description go?

For the Kindle edition, it automatically populates into Goodreads, and it does this very quickly after publishing.

The print edition can take longer to populate at Goodreads. I often wind up adding my print book to Goodreads manually, in which case I get to enter the print description at that time.

If you check the box for Expanded Distribution, your description also goes to and dozens of other online booksellers (if they choose to list your book for sale online; usually, there are many that do). If you don’t sell many books through the Expanded Distribution channel, most of these may not matter to you, but you might want to see how they look on a few of the major websites.

If your Kindle edition isn’t enrolled in KDP Select and you use an aggregator like Smashwords, your eBook description also gets used with a variety of eBook retailers. You might want to see how it looks from the customer’s side for a few of the major eReaders. If your book is enrolled in KDP Select, however, then the digital edition must be exclusive to Kindle, so this is a non-issue.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Author Central Description Reverting to KDP when Republishing

Blurb Formatting

Blurb Formatting

The image with this post shows that your Amazon description can include blank lines, boldface, and bullets. It can also include italics and numbered lists.

One way to do this is by formatting your book’s blurb through Author Central:

Not only does Author Central allow you to edit and format your Amazon product description, but it also provides a preview of what to expect—a feature that Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) doesn’t offer.

Republishing Issues

It used to be that once you edited your book’s description at Author Central, it would become the only means of revising it in the future.

However, this has changed recently, and it’s causing some problems with Kindle e-books.

Presently, if you republish a Kindle e-book at KDP, the product description automatically reverts to whatever is entered at KDP.

So what’s the problem?

Suppose you just want to do something simple, like change your Kindle list price. You have to go into step 2 of the publishing process and “publish” your e-book again. When the price change takes effect (usually in about 12 hours for the US site), the formatting changes with it. That is, your Author Central formatting is stripped and replaced with your original plain KDP formatting.

If you’re just changing your price, it may not even occur to you that your description could change, too.

(At this time, CreateSpace paperbacks do not seem to be affected. However, it may be worth checking this, just in case things change.)


Before you republish a Kindle e-book, do the following:

  1. Visit Author Central.
  2. Find your book. Be sure to select the Kindle edition.
  3. Click the button to edit the product description.
  4. Click the HTML option.
  5. Copy and paste all of the code into Notepad.
  6. Save this file.

After you republish your Kindle e-book:

  1. Wait for the book to go live. (KDP usually sends an email.)
  2. Return to Author Central.
  3. Open the HTML version of your Kindle book blurb.
  4. If you see the old version there, replace it with the HTML that you saved in Notepad.
  5. Check several hours later to see if it took effect.
  6. Remember to check Amazon UK, too.

Rarely, you can get locked out of your Author Central description. This has happened once to me, and a simple email to Author Central resolved the issue.

Side Note

The best place to format the book description for CreateSpace paperbacks is at CreateSpace.

Why? Because if you use basic HTML at CreateSpace, the formatting will carry over to your eStore,, and some of the other online retailers that may pick up your book through the Expanded Distribution channel.

If you want to see an example of a CreateSpace paperback with HTML formatting in the Barnes & Noble product description, click here (then scroll down).

You don’t need to know HTML: Simply copy/paste the HTML from your Author Central description into your CreateSpace description. Be sure to remove the space from the <br /> tag, as CreateSpace and Author Central are inconsistent with this.

Important: After inserting HTML into your CreateSpace description, immediately run over to your eStore to view the description. If there are any problems (like a boldface tag that isn’t closed), you’ll be able to catch it and resolve the problem swiftly.

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

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Formatting the Book’s Blurb

You can include boldface, italics, and bullets (with dots or numbers) in your book’s description on Amazon.

If you publish a paperback book with CreateSpace, you can include this formatting in your description when you publish. There is an advantage of using CreateSpace for this if you enable the expanded distribution channel: Online booksellers may preserve this formatting. For example, Julie Harper has a CreateSpace published handwriting book at Barnes & Noble with such formatting (click the link below if you want to check it out, then scroll down to the Overview). The caveat is that you must use basic HTML. But don’t worry: Even if you don’t know anything about HTML, the only HTML that is allowed is so simple that you can do it easily. Hold your objection further: There is even an easy way out of the HTML all together, if you really must. You can find this solution at the end of this blog post.

If you have an eBook or didn’t publish your physical book with CreateSpace, you can still format your blurb using AuthorCentral. When you login to AuthorCentral, click the Books tab. Then click on your book to edit the description. You can format the boldface, italics, and bullets yourself, or you can choose to write the description with HTML, if you prefer. Use <b> for bold, as in <b>bold</b>, <i> for italics, as in <i>italics</i>, and <br /> to force a new line (the Enter key won’t have any effect on the output text in HTML mode; the <br/> command basically has the same effect as the Enter usually has). If you want to create a blank line, use the <br /> command twice. Strangely, the <br /> command has a funny space between the ‘br’ and slash in AuthorCentral’s HTML.

To create bullets, use <ul> for dots (unordered list) and <ol> for numbers (ordered list). Place <ul> at the beginning and </ul> at the end. For each bullet, place the text for that bullet between <li> and </li>.


<b>Here</b> is an <i>example</i>. <ul><li>This is the first point.</li><li>This is the second point.</li></ul>

The HTML above produces the following effect at AuthorCentral.

Here is an example.

  • This is the first point.
  • This is the second point.

Unfortunately, (almost all) fancier HTML won’t work in AuthorCentral.

I recommend formatting your blurb in three stages:

  1. First, type the blurb in Microsoft Word as just basic text (no formatting). Use Word’s built-in spellcheck and grammar-check tools to ensure that you didn’t make any obvious booboos. It’s probably easiest to edit your text in Word. Typos in the blurb tend to kill sales.
  2. Copy and paste the blurb from Word to Notepad. This will strip it of unwanted formatting. If you omit this step, you might get a nest of extra stuff that you didn’t even know was there in Step 3 (you might be able to see it by clicking on the HTML option afterward).
  3. Copy and paste the blurb from Notepad to the description at AuthorCentral. Toggle back and forth between the Compose and Edit HTML modes a couple of times to ensure that everything looks okay (if not, you should notice something ‘funny’ when you go back to Compose).

How to format the blurb at CreateSpace without knowing HTML:

Follow the three steps outlined above. Then copy and paste the text from the Edit HTML window at AuthorCentral into your description at CreateSpace. You’ll need to remove the space from every <br /> to make it look like <br/>, otherwise you’ll get an error message. After saving your description at CreateSpace, open your book’s project page and click the Channels link in Distribute, then click the tiny link for eStore Setup. Now click the link for Title URL to view your CreateSpace eStore. This will show you how the formatting looks. Preview this carefully and correct any mistakes.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)