Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors

A look into one of the negative aspects of Kindle Unlimited. I recently read a book on KU that had this same clickbait in the front of the book. I had never seen it before, so I clicked but it was for nothing I wanted — a sort of “special offer”. It wasn’t until I clicked that I realized the whole point was an effort to ensure the author receives full payout for their book. Such drastic measures only seems to point to further issues with the KU system.

David Gaughran

kuAmazon is an extremely innovative company – and usually quite responsive to self-publisher’s concerns – but sometimes it gets things very wrong too.

Today is one of those times.

I’ve received several reports from writers threatened with having books removed from sale, and heard even more worrying stories from others who had their titles actually removed from the Kindle Store without notice.

What were these authors guilty of? What crime did they commit for Amazon to adopt such heavy handed treatment? Something completely innocuous: the Table of Contents was at the rear of their books instead of at the front.

Yep, that’s it.

We’ll get to what might be the root cause of this crackdown in a moment, but Amazon is claiming that having a TOC in the end-matter instead of the front-matter is a breach of the (ever-changing, 100+ pages) Kindle Publishing Guidelines (PDF). Amazon says that rear TOCs result in…

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4 thoughts on “Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors

    • The reason why many authors have done this is because readers like to check out the “Sample” given through Amazon, which is a brief excerpt from the front of the book. That “sample” also includes ToC in its page count, so readers will get far less of the book to try because front matter is taking up the page count. Authors want readers to have as large a sample as possible in order to possible get the sale; also readers checking out a sample don’t care about the ToC. So Authors have gotten around this by putting the ToC at the end of the book, so the sample of the story is larger. A ToC is different than an index. A ToC gives you a brief outline of the chapters in a book while an index is a catalogue of names, references, phrases used to find specific information in a book. You usually only see indexes in non-fiction works, not in fiction.

      • Hello T.A,
        My comment was facetious; I am in understanding of the differences between a TOC and an Index. However, proper formatting of books lists the TOC in the beginning after the title page and copyright data. Either reduce the TOC to allow for a longer sample, or leave it as it. There have been plenty of times I have sampled a book and bought it because the sample was too short and I wanted more. There have also been plenty of times that the sample only shows you the preface and none of the content of the book. It does not seem smart to me to change around the content of a book just to give a reader a larger sample. There is nothing worse to readers than trying to enjoy a book that is out-of-sorts, as we already have to deal with the spelling and editing errors to begin with.

      • Sorry, Jenn, did not pick up on the facetiousness.

        However, even if you are strict in how you want your book to be laid out, this issue has only occurred with a minority of authors, since most do put their ToC in the front of the book (if they have one at all — most of my books don’t) but it is still potentially harmful. The key issue with this article from David G. is that Amazon sent out an alert to all previous buyers of Walter Jon Williams’ book to alert them that “The updated version contains the following changes: Improved formatting for readability. Significant editorial changes have been made”.

        From an author’s POV this is publicly embarrassing, and, at worst, flat-out incorrect (since no ‘significant editorial changes’ had been made). In the case of the article, the author did what Amazon requested but then had to have such a message sent out to the potentially thousands of readers who’s purchased his books–all for a ToC being moved. It’s really ridiculous and rather unfair. It makes him look unprofessional to his fan base when that isn’t the case.

        Also, to address what you said, if you do have a ToC then there is very little you can do to make it smaller, as you suggest. You can format it with a small font-size and single-spaced line-height, but if you have a 28-chapter book, it will likely still take up two pages or so. And the only one who has the powers to ‘reduce’ the front matter in a sample would be Amazon since author’s can’t change the sampling size or what is sampled.

        See, here is where you leave me confused. “There have also been plenty of times that the sample only shows you the preface and none of the content of the book.” That is exactly why some authors are willing to have their ToC (something most readers bypass anyway) moved to the back matter. I too have come across such samples, where I’m trying to get a glimpse of the book but only get front matter. I never end up buying these books. To me, that’s a problem. I don’t want to read an author’s copyright page, I want to see chapter 1. By moving some of that unnecessary front matter to the back, this fixes the problem. Especially for shorter works.

        However, as the article has pointed out, author’s doing this are only going to be punished now. They will have to move them to the front again.

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