No, Amazon Will Not Penalize Your Book for a Typo
Here we go again…
There’s a change coming at Amazon. You know what that means.
Panic! Share the first poorly-researched blog post you can find! Scream! Rage at Amazon’s cruelty until your fury is spent and you’re left crying into your ice-cold coffee.
And now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, let’s breathe calmly into our paper bags while we examine the facts.
This week, the Good E-Reader blog announced that “Kindle e-Books will have a warning message if they have spelling mistakes.”
Some authors have taken that headline at face value and assumed the worst: that Amazon will brand any books deemed to have typographic errors — no matter how minor — with a sinister warning label.
First, only ebooks that have received specific complaints from readers will be examined. I once filed a complaint like this when an ebook I purchased turned out to be an unreadable mess. Literally unreadable. Gibberish and random characters in place of the headings, line breaks in the middle of sentences, hyphens interrupting every third word.
This is the kind of situation KDP’s new proofing initiative is designed to combat, not the isolated typo that inevitably slips through the most diligent of editing.
Second, complaints are reviewed by actual humanoids at Amazon. The process is not automated, and there will be an opportunity to contest or correct a problem if your book is determined to have issues.
What will Amazon look for?
The errors Amazon will flag include:
- missing content
- duplicated content
- numbers inadvertently substituted for letters, or vice versa (“typ0gr4phic”, “the year 2o12”)
- punctuation used in place of letters (e.g., “I read bo%ks”)
- visible or malformed HTML code
- discretional hyphens (“bad hy-phenation”)
- missing letters (“m ghty pecul ar”)
- unsupported characters (e.g., emoticons)
- incorrect content (as when the publisher uploads the interior file for a different book)
- blurry or excessively compressed images
- body text rendered entirely as underlined, bold, or hyperlinked
- page numbers embedded in the text
- nonfunctional table of contents or internal links
As you can see from the list, these issues are largely due to formatting problems or OCR errors. Amazon will also remove works that violate Amazon rules or don’t meet basic standards, such as a book designed solely to advertise, or a poor translation obtained through Google Translate.
What will Amazon ignore?
Amazon will not flag:
- minor typographical errors (“What have you got to loose?”)
- regional spelling differences (e.g., “favourite” vs. “favorite”)
- dialogue, accents, or dialects (“I doan’ budge a step out’n dis place ‘dout a doctor”)
- foreign languages, archaic speech (“leet his sheep encombred in the myre”)
- proper names (“The Dothraki called that land Rhaesh Andahli”)
What are the consequences?
If Amazon’s screeners confirm that a book has issues, there are two possible actions.
For errors prominent or numerous enough to detract from the reader’s enjoyment, Amazon will place a warning banner on the product’s page alerting customers that the item is under review. Authors and publishers will then have an opportunity to correct the issue and promptly remove the warning banner. (Amazon has already been doing this for years; they’re just expanding the conditions that can trigger an alert.)
Errors that render the book unusable or incomplete or books that violate Amazon’s Terms of Service will be removed from sale.
That’s it, friends. Nothing malign, nothing alarming. Just an improvement to quality control that won’t affect any professionally edited and formatted book.