Amazon Warning Readers About Mistakes in Your Books

New FlashA few days ago, I read a post by a writer who was deeply concerned by a message she received from Amazon. It caused her to immediately jump into action to solve the problem before one of her books was stamped with a big yellow warning sticker informing readers the book had issues.

A worst case scenario would be this sticker.

Item Under Review

This title is currently unavailable because customers have told us that there may be something wrong with the description, the content, or the way that the content is displayed.

We’re working with the publisher to fix the problem as quickly as possible. As always, we value customer feedback.

Did I Get the Warning?

I haven’t received a message from Amazon concerning my books, so I might assume they are safe. Although I don’t know if all authors were contacted in one big mail out, so I’ll wait to see if a message shows up on my doorstep.

Self distructBenefits of Big Yellow Stickers

Although many authors may dread this act by Amazon, in the long run, I believe it will benefit them. eBooks unprofessionally formatted will be removed, making customers more confident with their purchases. It will separate the wheat from the chaff.

This whole business will cause a big stir in the short term, but it will eventually settle once books with issues are corrected and returned to the sale shelf. Self-published authors who have long since abandoned their faulty work will be permanently removed. Others will have to step up their game and either get a professional to format their books or learn how to do it themselves.

Check Those Spelling Errors

One of the issues that surfaced on a few websites is spelling errors. Some are concerned with made-up or unique names and British spelling not passing the test. However, when I upload a book, I review Kindle’s Spell Check and get them to ignore unique spellings. I’ve never had a problem with British spelling, but unique character names do get flagged. I accept them, and my book is declared error free.

I can only assume books flagged for spelling errors are ones not resolved through the Kindle Spell Check.

If memory serves correctly, Kindle Spell Check was added to the publishing page about a year or two ago. So books published before that time have a higher chance of being flagged. Since I update my books each January (see Tuesday’s post), my books have gone through Kindle Spell Check.

The Deadline is Fast Approaching

Authors and publishers of flagged books have until February 3rd to correct the issues. Then one of two things will happen.

If there are a few spelling mistakes and the file is readable, a simple warning will appear on the book’s page, alerting customers to minor issues.

If there are major formatting issues, Amazon will remove the title from their listing until they are corrected.

So What Can You Do?

Watch for that email from Amazon. If you receive it, take immediate action. You have six days to fix the formatting and upload the new file to avoid the ominous February 3rd sticker. It usually takes only 24 hours for the new file to be accepted, but with the possibility of large numbers being uploaded between now and the deadline, plan for 48 hours.

Correct ErrorsFormatting Costs

Interior formatting for Kindle takes between one to two hours, depending on the formatting of the original file and the number of chapters. If illustrations are involved, it may take three hours or more.

The price to have a book formatted can be as high as $100. I charge $35 (Canadian) to format a Kindle book. I format books with text only. No illustrations.

Anyone interested in getting their books formatted to meet Amazon’s new conditions, contact me at quartercastle@bellaliant.net.

Have you received notice from Amazon? Or is this the first you’ve heard about the warning stickers?

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20 thoughts on “Amazon Warning Readers About Mistakes in Your Books

  1. I am thrilled with this change, Diane. All indie authors are negatively impacted by unedited and poorly written and formatted books. As authors, we need to take our work seriously if we want readers to take it seriously. Yay for Amazon.

  2. When you upload a book to Kindle it is checked for formatting and spelling errors and you have an opportunity to sort then or to sort offline and re-upload your file. So I wonder, providing this isn’t a hoax, why there is a need for this. Rather than complaints about spelling or grammar, perhaps it’s readers complaining about what they see as unsuitable content. I do know writers/readers who are very picky about sexual content, even if not explicit, swearing, and what to them are other issues that should not be in books for general reading. So the issue could be censorship.

  3. I’m back. I just read the kindleboard link you sent. The only thing scary is the fact that if this happens, it does give people free reign to complain about petty things and it could turn into a troll situation. I also heard and read many articles from blogs of some of the leading pioneers of the Indie world who advise to be leery of kindleboards because there are lots of trolls there too. I also read some of the comments here and agree, that the kindle previewer before downloading is a good idea. I gratefully hadn’t ever been told by previewer there was a problem. But if it flags errors then that is when it should prevent downloading, not let anything pass through if there are found errors at the downloading point. That would be more suitable. Oh, and while I’m on the subject. Let us not forget that trad published books have their share of errors. I always come across the odd typo in one book or another and overlook it because that’s human nature. An editor can miss something as easily as the author.

    • The comments on the Kindleboard as well as other sites have me more concerned than what Kindle will do. When I say concerned, I mean I’m aware and will pay attention, but I’m not worried. If anyone–from keen readers who notify Kindle of real problems to the person who only wants to make the author suffer for some personal reason–can submit complaints and have them taken at face value and books remove, then that’s really scary. It might be a troll or someone having a bad day, or an incompetent person who thinks colour is spelt incorrectly.

      I have never been contacted by Kindle with these sorts of issues, but as time goes on and the trolls exhaust their author hate list, who knows who will be the next target.

      I don’t visit Kindleboard often, only when links take me there. I was advised about five years ago that many individuals in the forum are newbies too, so you don’t want to learn from someone who knows less or about the same as you. A lot of misinformation gets spread around there, troll or no troll. I’m sure the level of knowledge has increased since then, but I just haven’t made the effort to visit. When I look for information, I go right to the source or someone who’s been doing this longer than I have.

      Yes, the Kindle previewer is a must. It’s a necessary step in the publishing process. Formatting errors can be easily picked up through it. Since I don’t own a Kindle, this is how I check my books. The follow up is to download them to the Kindle computer software, so I can double check it.

      You are right; if there are any major issues, the book should be flagged at the publishing process, so the author can fix it before it goes live. In a sense, this is what Smashwords does. Yes, your book automatically gets published on Smashwords, but if there are any formatting issues, you get a notice telling you this, and it is not sent to the expanded distributors until you get it right. If Smashwords can do this, why can’t Kindle?

      As for spelling mistakes, I think that’s being made too big a deal of. Only certain genealogy databases recognises my name–Tibert–as being a correct spelling. Which means it would be flagged and removed every time on Kindle. It’s impossible for a software to recognise every word, so they can’t depend on that.

      Insurance for spelling approval is in Kindle Spell Check, another step in the publishing process that should not be ignored.

      I also agree with trad books having errors. I’ve read many of them. No one is perfect.

      Thanks for finding and sharing this information with us. I guess only time will tell how much concern we should place on these warning label warnings.

  4. Hi Diane, I also read the comments that this also may be a hoax, but in any case, authors should ensure their work is above reproach. It would be good if Amazon cracked down on poorly formatted and/or books with spelling errors. Thanks for another informative post. 🙂

    • Thanks, Tracy. I think we are thinking like many others: poorly formatted and poorly written books should be removed. Not because it reduces the number of books, but because it gives readers more confidence in self-published writers.

      That’s not to say traditionally published books are error free. I’ve seen many errors over the years. The worst was when an entire paragraph was moved three paragraphs down and the original one wasn’t removed. Bonus: you get to read the paragraph twice.

  5. It’s a hoax Diane. There are many posts about this, and follow ups. I can’t remember where I saw the exact source but Alex from Notesfromanalien.wordpress.com has the up to date post out now. This Michael guy for Goodereader is infamous for scaring writers and criticizing Indies. 🙂

    • A hoax? The blog post I read was by a self-published author. She had received a message from Amazon alerting her to this. Are you saying this person is ‘acting’ as Amazon and sending these messages to unsuspecting self-published authors?

      The warning is noted on this post on The Digital Reader (http://the-digital-reader.com/2016/01/21/yesterdays-news-badly-formatted-kindle-ebooks-will-display-an-error-message/). He starts to say it is an old story that broke in 2012, but then he found confirmation that the warning labels will appear February 3rd.

      Here is notice on a Kindle Forum by a lady who also received the message: https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?threadID=281868&start=0&tstart=0

      I have not heard of this Michael Kozlowski, but I found him when I searched. Whether is it fear mongering or not, the ones who received the messages know for certain, and the rest of us will know February 3rd.

      Thank you for giving this side of the story. I did read several comments on Kozlowski’s page that made me think some people didn’t like him. Who ever he is, he doesn’t worry me, and I’m not worried about my books on Kindle. If they get flagged for some reason, I will fix them and continue.

      As for criticizing self-published authors, he better enjoy it while he can; eventually we’ll have a strong hold on the publishing industry, and we won’t be going anywhere.

      • Touche on your last sentence. But Di, you’re saying that authors have actually had warnings? Well that’s a new one? None of the posts I’ve read had already confirmed anybody had been notified. Sheesh, now I don’t know what to make of this. Now I’m dreading Feb. 3rd! 😦

  6. Apparently the Zon has real people watching this and not software, and it really only targets horribly mangled formatting. Some SF authors were having hissy fits because of all the made up words we use, but unless it’s accompanied by afore mentioned formatting it’ll be OK.

    • Real people is a good thing. I think if the person uploading the book to Amazon completed the Amazon Spell Check, they will be fine regardless of the made up words. The words I included in my fantasy novel didn’t flag my books.

      As you say, as long as the formatting is okay, things should be okay. Thanks for visiting.

  7. I’m happy to see this. I’ve read freebies I could barely understand because the grammar and spelling was terrible, and I have wondered how in the world those books were able to receive five star reviews to begin with.

    • I’ve read–or I should say–started to read books poorly formatted with bad spelling too. If writers are serious about their work, they need to pay attention to these things. Spelling and grammar are basic writing skills that need to be acquired when writing. And if they can’t be, an editor must be hired. Thanks for visiting my site and leaving a comment.

  8. If you use the on-line preview before you press “publish” you will know that they alert you to possible errors – and have been doing so for some time. So far they have given me the choice to accept changes or not. My concern is with things like dialect or colloquial usage. So far it has not been a problem.

    • I agree, Yvonne. I also check the book using the online preview before I publish. I’ve noticed a few things and fixed them before hitting published. It saves time and hassle. I haven’t had any issues with dialect or unique words, probably because I’ve gone through the Kindle Spell Check and told them directly that the words are okay.

  9. Thanks for the advice on this. I wasn’t aware that Amazon was doing this. Yes, I’d rather have my book (whenever it gets out there) to be completely readable. Having content and format errors, I would assume, is going to hurt sales and reviews.

    • I agree; in the long run, it will help the authors by pointing out these issues. If a book is simply flagged for spelling errors, I think the author might be able to reload the same file and go through Kindle Spell Check. It could be as simple as spelling names differently (Bryan for Brian, Cyndee for Cindy). I’m sure fantasy authors will have issues with names if they don’t resolve them.

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