News is starting to spread across the indie writing world about Amazon’s upcoming plans for quality control on the ebooks sold through their platform.
A number of writers have reported receiving an email stating this:
Starting February 3, 2016 we will begin showing customers a warning message on the Amazon.com 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.
But it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. All those unknowns, all those grey areas, are what’s spreading a mild panic through the indie publishing world.
- How will the quality checks be done? Via a robot, via reader feedback, or both?
- Will the errors be double-checked and validated as genuine errors before the warning message is posted onto the sale page?
- How will regional spelling differences be handled? (eg: the differences between British, American, Australian, and Canadian English?)
- How will Amazon handle things like made up character and place names, made up words or languages in fantasy or sci-fi books, characters speaking in dialects and local slang, characters typing in text speak, technical jargon, or online slang?
But I think the most important question is one of just how automated this system is going to be: in other words, will the onus be on Amazon to prove that the errors are genuine errors before the warning message appears, or will the onus be on the writer to prove that they aren’t in a fight to get the message removed?
A warning message on your sales page, and Amazon keeping your books “suppressed from sale” is going to affect sales, there’s no question about that. Will authors be suffering days, or weeks, of hits to their income while they argue with Amazon over the spelling of a character name?
Meanwhile, I wonder how book formatters will react to this. Clever ones will be jumping on this to cash in with new clients, but will they find authors demanding contracts that include free revisions should their book’s formatting be flagged with a warning? Could there even be claims for compensation on lost sales?
Once again, and as is the way when you’re dealing with a third party distributor, Amazon is implementing a system with little forewarning, a system that us writers will simply have to wait and see how it’s going to work.
Here’s an interesting blog post from Elizabeth Spann Craig, a writer with first hand experience of this system: elizabethspanncraig.com/3877/amazon-pushing-quality-control
What are your thoughts? Will this be good or bad for the industry, or is it simply too early to know for sure?
Here’s some more resources for you: