Amazon Pushing Quality Control

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraigAmazon

Amazon is sending out emails warning authors that they need to upload corrections to their books or else receive a quality-related warning label on their book page starting February 3rd:

Starting February 3, 2016 we will begin showing customers a warning message on the Kindle store detail pages of books that contain several validated quality issues. We will remove this message for a book as soon as we receive the fixed file from you and verify the corrections – typically within 2 business days.

We understand that even with the best quality controls, defects sometimes make it through. That’s why we’ve limited this messaging to books with several issues. Books with more serious quality issues will continue to be suppressed from sale.

Before the warning message appears, we would like to work with you to ensure these issues are fixed. After you’ve made the corrections, please upload your revised content through the ‘Book Content’ section in your KDP Bookshelf and republish it by clicking “Save and Publish” so that we can verify the corrections and prevent the warning message from being displayed on your book’s detail page.

Sadly, I received one of these emails. As you can imagine, it made me jump into action.

The book was one of the first self-published books that I published.  In 2011, I paid a pretty penny for a formatted file with an absolutely gorgeous interior design.

Unfortunately, pretty penny or not, the formatting makes text either difficult or impossible to read on certain Kindle devices (many of which launched after the formatting was created in 2011), according to Amazon.  This includes my title page, dedication, chapter headings, and the first letter of each chapter.

I have a new formatter now and I sent it to him yesterday. Rik Hall was good enough to immediately take care of the issue.  I’ve already uploaded a corrected file to Amazon.

There were also two inexplicable items Amazon listed. They referred to two typos:

Issue: Typo. Details: "down" should be "down" ". Location: 1144.
Issue: Typo. Details: "moment" " should be "moment". Location: 2453.

But neither location included either of those words, either in dialogue or in the narrative. What exactly was the issue that they needed corrected?

The email, if you get one, does refer to an address to write for more help.  I did send an email (regarding the ‘moment’ and ‘down’ mentions) and heard back nearly immediately that they’d forwarded my email to their ‘quality team’ for follow-up and that I should hear back in a couple of days.

Despite the drop-everything-and-work-on-this-one-issue feeling that I got from the email, I’m glad that Amazon is implementing some quality control measures. I definitely want my book to be easy to read and as error-free as I can make it. That only helps me in the long run.

I do wish I’d heard of any formatting problems before now.  Maybe an email was in my spam folder for a while? Usually readers are quick to either email me regarding issues or write about problems on a review.  Hard to imagine this just popped up when the book has been out for 5 years.

But this post is just to say…watch your inbox for an email like this one.  None of us want warning labels on our book pages! Ugh.

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28 thoughts on “Amazon Pushing Quality Control

  1. I dread this email. My fantasy novels have made up words, but worse yet, my nonfiction has British spellings *and* Old English spellings. The original terms are the whole point of those books.

    I can just see the notice: “Your book has 155,555 misspelled words!”

    1. Deb–The email I got from Amazon was long, so I didn’t put the whole thing on the post. Specifically regarding your point, it’s addressed in Amazon’s Q&A on the email: ”
      5. What if a reported issue was an editorial choice? We respect author intent. If the reading experience is as you intended, please contact us immediately.”

  2. Hi Elizabeth – sounds like Amazon need to get their ‘quality control requests’ in better order … those two words seem crazy. It will be interesting to hear what happens.

    I’d have had a heart attack if I’d seen one of those emails .. especially if I’d just started as a struggling author and was still learning the ropes ..

    Thanks for letting us know. Interesting comment from Deb – that could be difficult for many of us … Cheers Hilary

    1. Hilary–It was a heart-attack inducing moment, for sure. I tried to undo the formatting myself, started making a huge mess of the file, then decided…hey, I think I’ll forward this to Rik Hall and get the whole mess taken care of for $30. :)

      I think, in Deb’s case, she can definitely argue that it’s an editorial choice. Regardless, though, it sure adds an extra workload/deadline and something else for writers to be concerned about.

  3. I understand the warning, but what a way to guarantee a book won’t sell. People will see that and back away immediately.
    So far, none of the books I’ve downloaded on my iPad have have a serious enough issue that I couldn’t read it. I guess Amazon is going for perfection.

  4. I see the good and bad with this. Like Alex, I’ve never purchased or read a book that was so bad It needed fixing. Most I read are very clean. I have received this notice from Amazon twice. It wasn’t for spelling. It was about removing a line I had in there. They did take it off sale. So they do mean it.

    1. Laura–Ugh. Sorry that happened to you. Curious, did you have a dialogue with Amazon, back and forth, on your editorial choice (was it an intended line?)

      Having a book taken down would be bad. But I’m thinking it might even be worse, publicity wise, to have a warning label. Amazon states it will be prominent (this in their very-long email, the Q&A section of the email):
      “3. What will customers see? Customers will see the feature near the top of the detail page next to the star ratings. A small warning icon will appear with hover text providing basic detail about the issues found in the book.”

  5. This is really helpful information, Elizabeth. No matter how many times we go over our work, and have someone else read it too, there’s always something. And it is nice to know there’s an effort to reduce those typos, etc.. They do get annoying.

    1. Margot–Yes, I think in some ways we can crowdsource our editing this way! None of us wants to have a less than perfect book available to readers, but the truth is that I have plenty of trad-published books with known errors in them (and no hopes of having them corrected). At least with our ebooks, we have the opportunity to have the files corrected for future readers.

  6. Ack. No emails for me yet. (Checked the spam folder, just in case.) I do the formatting myself and try to keep everything as simple as possible. No extra images. No freaky fonts. I check how everything will look on the devices like Amazon wants me to. But, yes, the fear of an email like this is there.

    Sorry you got one. Fingers crossed there aren’t any more for you. I feel really bad for some authors who’ve written perfectly lovely books that have formatting issues. (Lord knows I’ve read a few of them, but I ease past the flaws because I like the story.) But as harrowing as this will be for authors, it’ll be helpful for readers and maybe remove the argument I sometimes hear that self-published books aren’t as professional-looking as traditional. :shrug:

    1. B.E.–Thanks!

      My new formatter didn’t even try to correct the mobi I sent him. He asked for a Word doc and I emailed him one (after taking the opportunity to update the “other works” in the back and do some other light housekeeping). So it’s fresh, very plain, and hopefully just what Amazon wanted. Fingers crossed, indeed! You’re very wise to go basic with the formatting.

      This particular book has 657 reviews. So…I wonder if the more reads a book has, the more likely this kind of thing will happen? More eyes, more complaints.

      1. LOL, yeah, the most I have is one book with 20 reviews and the others with way less, so it could be that if no one’s complaining, they’re leaving it alone for now.

        I don’t know about wise. Shoe-string budget is more like it. I’d love to have pretty graphics for scene breaks and chapter titles. But I do what I can.

        1. B.E.–It makes me think that a fraction of the readers who encounter a problem will complain, even if they mentally register that there *is* a problem.

          I’m making a vow not to ever do fancy formatting again.

          In 2011, as a trad pub author, it seemed essential to me to have the same interior formatting that I had for my Penguin books. But even in 2011 when I reported on my self-pub experiment, Camille LaGuire commented on my blog that it might cause problems on mobile devices. It was a very insightful statement of hers.

  7. Love their corrections for the typos. LOL

    That’s a lot it found wrong. I wonder how many issues are due to the new formatting system Amazon has in place? It might be converting files differently.

    1. Diane–Helpful for the typos, wasn’t it? :) You should see the frantic email I sent them back (“how do I correct this? Where is the item I need to correct?) No dignity, lol.

      That’s a thought…that it might be a result of the new system. The old formatting sure was pretty. Pity it’s not visible!

      1. Yikes, that would certainly make my heart rate spike. I do think it’s a good thing, though, but if they’re going to put themselves out as perfecting quality control, they should perfect their own quality control team first.

  8. I’m glad it’s happening because I hate buying a book where the writer didn’t pay the attention he/she was supposed to, but I’m so glad I didn’t get a mail like this.

  9. Definitely issues with this.

    Amazon marks Pinterest as a misspelling.

    They marked 92 words in one novel as spelling errors. Those 92 “errors” included four names, and word changes. They especially didn’t like gatherboard and huntboard. Although, those are the terms the society in the novel use.

    Although I agree with the idea in general, I think it may be used to block books that are perfectly fine. an example would be people who consider using the Oxford comma a major grammar error.

    Although, a warning of style use might be helpful, as some styles are “wrong” to people who use a different style.

    1. April–I think we all need a bit more information from Amazon, I agree.

      Amazon’s email to me seemed to suggest that their action is spurred from customer complaints. But then, in their Q&A section of the email:

      “How will I know if my book has the quality warning? We will notify you in an email that includes the list of issues reported by the customer along any other issues discovered when we confirmed the customer’s complaint.”

      So that definitely opens the door for Amazon to find other “issues.” And we don’t know if the text is being checked by a bot or a person.

      A common bit of dialogue in most of my books involves a rural psychic with horrific grammar. I was relieved that I wasn’t asked to correct Wanda. :) That would take weeks…and it’s an editorial choice, not an issue at all.

      You’re right–I’ve also had emails in the past from Amazon where a reader complained about my (correct) use of second conditional clauses. I *am* the daughter of an English teacher, ha!

  10. I actually got one of these a few weeks ago for my first novel–two minor spelling mistakes. No mention of dialect or grammar problems, thank heavens. Corrected them immediately. Agree totally that quality control is a good thing, and at the same time relieved that they are open to editorial choices!

    1. Deb–Not sure, but I did just check my Author Central, since you mentioned it. I noticed that there doesn’t appear to be a message/notification part of the page (never noticed that before) and that, even if they had added one, I don’t have a message there.

      Honestly, this is such a serious issue, y’all may want to add their email address to your safe list so it won’t go to spam. It’s:

      From: Kindle Direct Publishing
      Subject: Amazon Kindle – Important Update Regarding eBook Quality‏

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