Yep! New rules! For all authors…Beginning February 03, 2016, Amazon will start posting a little message on all Kindle books not up to snuff. Doesn’t matter if the book is by an indie author, small press, online publisher or boutique publisher. But this will most assuredly affect indie authors the most. Here is the notice that will show up on your book if errors are discovered or Amazon has received complaints, courtesy of Michael Kozlowski, Good E Reader on January 21, 2016.
Perhaps you overlooked this in Amazon’s Content Guidelines:
Poor Customer Experience: We don’t accept books that provide a poor customer experience. We reserve the right to determine whether content provides a poor customer experience. See the Guide to Kindle Content Quality for examples of content that’s typically disappointing to customers.
Since the innovation of the Kindle, Amazon has been very kind to indie authors, among others. Some of us have published books with grammar snafus, misspelled words, misused punctuation and formatting mishaps. Legacy publishers often scan print editions and publish the digital edition sans a proof. I recently downloaded one such title from Bookbub. Formatted double spacing between all paragraphs. Absolute horrid experience to read. I gave up. Won’t mention the author because it wasn’t his fault.
Proofing a book is a witch hunt for those errors. I pay a very good editor and a professional formatter. I also pay for a beta reader. We all miss something. Because our indie author landscape is changing and Amazon sold bucket loads of Kindles and Kindle Unlimited subscriptions over the 2015 holidays, I predicted the market will tighten. I also said new Kindle readers and new KU subscribers have been reading print editions. They did not ‘grow up’ on digital readers with our early ebook efforts. Indie authors and publishers were all learning the new game in town. That’s over. The market has matured on every front.
The 2016 audience and beyond will expect our books to be pristine. And this audience will be far more vocal than the early Kindle audience. I have spent the past couple of months encouraging eNovel Authors at Work members to proof their already published books in the online proofer Amazon provides. And if an error is discovered, repair it ASAP. I do know this: Before Amazon tags a book with that warning, it will alert and inquire of the author. Amazon once queried me on errors it found. They were foreign words or the French names of paintings. Fine, Good to go. A annoyed reader complained to Amazon of three misspelled words in one of my books. Amazon emailed me. I emailed right back and said the repairs would be made within 24 hours. Thank you for alerting me. Repairs made. Good to go. Thus, it will be critical for indie authors to respond to those emails. Ignore them at your peril. Because Amazon will take the book off line.
How else will these flags impact the author? Imagine: You snag a Bookbub slot, pay a mint, schedule the promo and the day before the promo goes live, Amazon pulls it. If Amazon takes your book off line, you can’t promote it. The premium book promoters such as Bookbub, FreeBooksy, Choosy Bookworm and Fussy Librarian and an entire host of lesser promoters, will refuse your submissions–because Hey! It ain’t on Amazon. And if it is already scheduled, you are in a world of hurt to get the promo pulled and refunds. It takes at least 24 hours to sort and respond to emails, repair and upload the new file.
This happens. Some sly indie authors claim as an editor their maiden names or the names of family members or a beta reader–and publish a less than stellar book. Some set themselves up as publishers, so the book does not appear as indie authored. If the book is not well-edited, and Amazon gets a complaint, and it only takes one, you are gonna hear about it.
The next item is before we hire an editor, we look at the books of that editor’s clients. We look inside. We look at those one and two starred reviews. Ignore one starred reviews such as: “Eww, terrible. Not for me.” Or: “Stop. Bickering. I. Can’t. Bear. Any More.” Those are legitimate reader opinions. You want to look for this: “…huge plot holes, poorly edited, and just terribly written.” Or this: “Lots of errors in grammar, tense and punctuation.” Do NOT hire the editor of those books. There are rafts of pseudo editors crawling on the Web and hoping for your $$$. Here’s the skinny. Now we must hold our editors and formatters to Amazon’s standards. Which means making good use of that online proofer.
The good news is Amazon will point you to the specific mishaps which makes the repair an easy fix. If you get right on it, the turnaround is about eight hours or less. Correcting formatting errors may take a bit longer. Standard for digital and print editions is 3 character paragraph indents. Not five, as in a business letter. Don’t believe me? Pick up the nearest print book handy and look. No double spacing between paragraphs…that includes a single line of dialogue. Always use some sort of divider for change of scenes or change of POV. You skip right over when reading, but your brain registers and prepares you for the break.
Next time. Updates on Amazon giveaways and other tips to help you master Amazon. I’m Jackie Weger, Founder of eNovel Authors at Work. I am not a best selling author, but when I promote, I sell books. That’s the goal. Reviews are always nice. I never like to sign off without sharing with you the gentle plea most of us in eNovel put at THE END in our books:
Thank you for taking the time to read [title]. If you enjoyed it, please consider telling your friends or posting a short review. Word of mouth is an author’s best friend and much appreciated. Thank you. [author name].
Yes, it works. In the past two years or so readers have kindly posted above 14,000 reviews on eNovel Author at Work member’s titles.