Pages

KDP Rules Roundup

KDP Rules Roundup logo

There’s a legal principle known as ignorantia juris non excusat: ignorance of the law excuses nothing. That principle is alive and well at Amazon, where an innocent mistake could remove your book from sale, or even banish you from Amazon entirely.

That’s why it’s important for authors to understand the rules Amazon has established. Unfortunately, while publishing with Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon is simple, the rules can be obscure. Worse, they’re strewn over a dozen separate documents.

In this article, I’ve gathered those guidelines and prohibitions for your convenience, minus the details of coding and formatting.

Links to the original references are provided. Please note that although this summary was current as of October 2016, Amazon’s rules are subject to change without warning. When in doubt, confirm the rules with Amazon’s official documentation or customer support.

Contents

  1. Covers
  2. Tables
  3. Links
  4. Quality Assurance
  5. Content
  6. Titles and Subtitles
  7. Descriptions
  8. Keywords
  9. Publishers
  10. KDP Select Exclusivity
  11. Pre-Orders
  12. The Rules


Covers

  • KDP requires both an external and an internal cover.
  • Covers must not infringe on the copyright of artists or other publishers.
  • Companion books like study guides, summaries, critiques, or analysis must indicate that before the subject material (e.g., “Critical Analysis of 50 Shades of Grey”), and that must be displayed in the same font size as the rest of the title.


Table of Contents

  • A table of contents is strongly recommended, but not a rigid requirement.
  • If present, Amazon recommends that the table of contents be placed in the front matter, stating that “Incorrect placement of the TOC affects the accuracy of the ‘Last Page Read’ feature.”
  • The table of contents should consist of clickable HTML links, and should not reference page numbers.
  • Ebooks containing multiple volumes (such as box sets) should have a master ToC for each volume in the front matter.


Links

Links must be relevant to the book. Permitted links include:

  • Links to the author’s social media platforms
  • links to bonus materials
  • links to related informational websites
  • links to mailing list signup forms

Prohibited links include:

  • Links to pornography
  • links to retailers other than Amazon
  • links to malware or other malicious content
  • links to “offensive” content
  • links to the content of the book


Confusion results from one poorly-worded clause in the Kindle Publishing Guidelines:

Some examples of prohibited links include … Links to web forms that request customer information (e.g., email address, physical address or similar)

On its surface, this would appear to prohibit links to any sort of mailing list signup form, such as MailChimp or AWeber, even if embedded in the sidebar of an author’s website. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

I contacted Amazon to clarify this worrisome clause. I asked whether a link to a mailing list signup form would be acceptable, either labeled as a mailing list signup or simply as a link to the author’s website. Amazon replied:

Both scenarios described below would be acceptable under our content quality guidelines if they come in addition to the content of the book.

According to our policies, we don’t accept a book solely consisting of one or multiple links that redirect customers to an external source to obtain the book content, or to a third party website not related to the content of the book with the purpose of advertising unrelated items. — SB Karthikeyan, Kindle Direct Publishing

This prohibition is actually referring to the “black hat” practice of publishing ebooks with missing content. When the reader reaches the end of the partial content, they are instructed to click a link and enter their personal information to receive the content they’ve paid for. That’s clearly unacceptable.

In summary: links to mailing list signups are fine. Requiring the reader to complete a form in order to read their ebook is not.


Content

Amazon deems certain types of content unsuitable for ebooks. These books may be removed from sale.

  • Puzzle books
  • Blank journals and stationery
  • Pattern books
  • Coloring books
  • Books with facing page translations
  • Books with extremely short content

Amazon does not accept content that contains:

  • Pornography
  • “Offensive” content (vaguely described by Amazon as “pretty much what you would expect”)
  • Illegal content
  • Copyright infringement
  • Non-original public domain content

Bonus content (additional stories, previews, commentary, character profiles, etc.) must adhere to certain restrictions.

  • Bonus content must be relevant and not disruptive.
  • Bonus content in KDP Select books must be exclusive. (See KDP Select Exclusivity, below.)


Quality Assurance

Amazon may remove a book from sale or place a warning (the “CFQI”, Customer-Facing Quality Indicators) on books with quality control issues. Beware of the following issues:

  • Missing content
  • Duplicated content
  • Excessive typographical errors (typically 10–15 errors in an average length novel)
  • Formatting and OCR issues
  • Visible HTML code
  • Unsupported characters
  • Alignment errors
  • Blurry or incorrectly compressed images
  • Forced typeface or background color in a reflowable ebook
  • Page numbers embedded in the book text
  • Nonfunctional table of contents


Titles and Subtitles (Metadata)

  • Titles must contain only the actual title of the book.
  • Titles may not contain unauthorized references to other titles, authors, or trademarked items.
  • Titles may not refer to sales rank (e.g., “bestselling”).
  • Titles may not refer to price or promotions (e.g., “free”, “discounted”).
  • Companion books like study guides, summaries, critiques, or analysis must have a title that begins with that indication (e.g., “Critical Analysis of 50 Shades of Grey”).
  • Titles and subtitles should not contain extraneous words (e.g., description) that’s not shown on the cover of the book.
  • Do not enter series title information if the book is not part of a series.
  • Subtitle and Series Title fields are subject to the same restrictions as titles, above.


Descriptions (Metadata)

  • Descriptions must not contain pornographic, obscene, or offensive content as determined by Amazon.
  • Descriptions must not contain website addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, or other contact information.
  • Descriptions must not include reviews, quotes, or testimonials. (These can be placed in the Editorial Reviews field instead.)
  • Descriptions must not ask readers to leave reviews.
  • Descriptions must not include promotions or advertisements for other products.
  • Descriptions must not include time-sensitive information like tour dates.


Keywords (Metadata)

Keywords cannot include any of the following:

  • The names of other authors or titles — Amazon considers this a serious offense
  • Amazon trademarks or program names (“KDP Select”, “Kindle Singles”, “Amazon Prime”, etc.)
  • Information repeated in other metadata, such as the author name, title, or series title
  • Claims about quality (“best”, “greatest”, “cheap”, etc.)
  • References to promotions or advertisements (e.g., “free”)
  • Time-sensitive information (“on sale”, “new”)
  • Common misspellings
  • References to things unrelated to your book (e.g., “romance” in a nonfiction book about UFO sightings)


Publishers (Metadata)

The publisher field must contain either your name or the name of your publishing company. It cannot contain the following:

  • Amazon trademarks or program names (“KDP Select”, “Kindle Singles”, “Amazon Prime”, etc.)
  • Companies that previously published the book
  • Websites or domain names (e.g., “AwzumPublishing.com”)


KDP Select Exclusivity

  • Advance review copies are exempt from KDP Select exclusivity requirements.
  • Content offered for sale through KDP Select may not be offered for sale or for free (in digital format) on any website, except for a 10% sample.
  • Adding new content to a book that’s available elsewhere does not make it a different book for the purposes of KDP Select exclusivity.
  • Bonus content (stories, previews, commentary, character profiles, etc.) in KDP Select books is subject to the same exclusivity requirements as the main content. This means that you may not offer a story for free on your website and also include it in a KDP Select book as bonus material.


Pre-Orders

  • You may not offer pre-orders for public domain ebooks.
  • You may not offer pre-orders for a book previously published through KDP.
  • Pre-orders are unavailable at Amazon.in.
  • The deadline to upload and republish your final manuscript is 3 days before the release date.
  • You can postpone your release date once, for up to 30 days.
  • If you cancel your pre-order, you will be automatically banned from pre-orders for a period of one year.


The Rules

Finally, here’s the list of rules and guidelines referenced in our roundup. When changes are made to KDP’s policies, they’re reflected in these documents almost immediately.


OVER TO YOU
Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below!

KDP Rules Roundup: all the #Kindle rules for #IndieAuthors - by @johndoppler Click To Tweet

RELATED POSTS

Amazon Academy

How to Choose the Best Keywords When Publishing Fiction on Amazon

All The Ways To Self-publish A Book On Amazon

, , , , , , ,

19 Responses to KDP Rules Roundup

  1. Richard Lowe December 18, 2016 at 3:08 am #

    I think there is one small error. The KDP PDF file “Kindle Publishing Guidelines” doesn’t say “links to retailers other than Amazon”. It says “Links to commercial eBook store sites other than Amazon”. Perhaps they changed it?

    Excellent article. Answered the questions I had on the subject.
    thanks

  2. Angela November 21, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    Great post!
    One issue I ran into was with Author names. My book is part of a collection with other authors and we each added the name of the collection as an author, so they could then be “claimed” and grouped together under that name as well as our own names. We had seen this done by many other authors. Everything was great until my book went through a random quality check and they decided my author names could mislead the customer. I immediately complied by removing the collection name and in my response also asked for clarification about how to group collections of books another way. Amazon so kindly responded in their clear as mud fashion by saying my book (which they still had as showing the collection name as an author) now meets their quality check. I’ve been tempted to ask for clarification again, but am hesitant to poke the beast.

    Is this rule breaking? Any idea on what would be the correct way to group books in a collection?

  3. Kate Rauner November 13, 2016 at 10:59 pm #

    I looked at a couple terminology sites, but can’t find what an external cover and an internal cover are – anyone have a definition? Thanks

  4. Jackie Weger November 13, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

    Good Morning, John: You have done indie authors a grand favor by putting together this blog. I wish Amazon would dig in and send out the QC notices to indie authors who ignore the rules.

    I have a single author boxed set. The TOC is at the back of the book and is acceptable. So far.

    I would like to have clarification on this from VP of KDP: A table of contents is strongly recommended, but not a rigid requirement. Here’s why: If we don’t install a TOC front or back, we get QC notices.

    I see covers with “Number One best Selling Author” often. I see review quotes in book descriptions. So. When one author sees those quotes, s/he pops in and adds them to descriptions. It’s like a virus, sweeping the entire indie community.

    I can point you to a series of books right this minute with An Amazon Brand/logo Best Seller sticker. The entire series is sucking mud in stats. Amazon told me this is copyright infringement. Really?

    Any author can go here to download one of those stickers FREE: http://www.adazing.com/amazon-best-seller-logos/ and pop it on a book cover with impunity.

    On any given Sunday there are twenty or more click farm books in the #1 slots in certain genres. Amazon cannot keep up. There are hundreds of 29 to 34 pages ‘books’. Dreadful things–in Select and priced 99c to $4.99. Click bait books. Click bait book authors are invading Amazon Community and Kboards forums–pretending to be serious authors. Two such click bait authors tried to engage me in co-promoting. It’s a mine field out there.

    I would love to see the playing field leveled. But it seems that Amazon bots picks its wars. At the moment it is a War on illegal Reviews. And the occasional QC notice regarding TOCs.

    I follow the rules. And it’s a wonder that I sell books.

    • John Doppler November 14, 2016 at 2:49 am #

      Thanks, Jackie!
      Amazon has had a number of issues with enforcement of their rules. Enforcement is wildly erratic, and when they launch a major crackdown, the employees responsible for policing it are often poorly trained. As a result, we see overzealous enforcement and incorrect application of the rules.

      Quality alerts on titles with TOCs in the back matter were in error. KDP posted an official announcement stating that “absent any other issues of quality, locating the TOC at the end of a book is not in itself outside of our guidelines.” Any CFQI placed on a book for that reason alone should be challenged, with reference to this announcement.

      https://kdp.amazon.com/community/ann.jspa?annID=991

      I’ve reported some eye-popping, abusive violations of Amazon’s rules, only to find that nothing has been done weeks later. It seems the problem goes deeper than Amazon being overwhelmed with violations; employee diligence and competence has been a frequent problem.

      They are working on it, though. I know that’s little comfort to the author who’s unfairly slapped with a CFQI warning in the meantime, but I’m hopeful they’ll get their house in order, step by step. And each problem successfully addressed will free up more resources to deal with the other violations.

  5. Val McBeath November 13, 2016 at 12:00 am #

    Thanks for the summary. For a new author like myself it is very useful. One question I have regards the comment ‘Do not enter series title information if the book is not part of an existing series.’

    I am about to publish a prequel to a series of 3 or 4 books. The subtitle is ‘A Prequel to the Ambition & Destiny Series.’ Book 1 should be available in early 2017 and again I was clearly going to label it as Part 1 of The Ambition & Destiny Series. The statement above suggests that I won’t be able to do that for the first book in the series. Have I interpreted it correctly?

    Thanks
    Val

    • John Doppler November 14, 2016 at 2:30 am #

      Hi Val,
      I’ve checked with Amazon, and the rep I spoke with confirmed that you may enter a series title even if the other books have not yet been published. I’ve edited that line to remove the word “existing”.

      Thanks!

      • Val McBeath November 14, 2016 at 5:45 pm #

        Hi John
        Thanks for checking – I really appreciate it 🙂

  6. Jean Gill November 12, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

    Very useful. Thank you. I thought amazon used the external cover as an internal cover too.

    Review quotes within the description are my big headache because if you only put them in the editorial section they only show up on .com not the other amazon – I was under the impression that amazon is OK with one or two review quotes in the description?

    It’s not clear to me whether including free in keywords for a permafree book is acceptable? I thought it wasn’t.

    It looks as if referring to books like yours within a description is OK? On the lines of ‘for readers who like x’ ?

    It also looks as if listing categories at the end of a description (to encourage SEO) is OK?

    • John Doppler November 14, 2016 at 2:17 am #

      Hi Jean,
      References to “free”, “permafree”, or any promotion are prohibited in the keywords. That was inadvertently left off the list, but I’ve corrected that. Thank you!

      As for mentioning other books or authors in the description, one would think that was disallowed as it is in titles and subtitles, but I could find no explicit prohibition in the rules. I’ve got an inquiry in with KDP to confirm that, and I’ll report back as soon as I’ve got an answer.

      Listing categories in the description would likely be nixed by Amazon under the “no keywords or tags” rule.

      • Mark Williams - The International Indie Author November 17, 2016 at 8:38 am #

        “As for mentioning other books or authors in the description, one would think that was disallowed as it is in titles and subtitles, but I could find no explicit prohibition in the rules. I’ve got an inquiry in with KDP to confirm that, and I’ll report back as soon as I’ve got an answer”

        Look forward to seeing clarification on that, John. Past ALLi post contributors have actually stated this is acceptable, and have even recommended doing so.

        When I questioned this here I was told simply that it isn’t specifically excluded and therefore must be permissible.

      • John Doppler November 21, 2016 at 1:35 am #

        Unfortunately, after several exchanges with Amazon’s support, they were unwilling to go on the record to state if this is acceptable or prohibited. Each title will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, which means the acceptability of this practice is entirely up to the whims of KDP’s staff.

        However, I have confirmed that there’s no explicit prohibition against it. I was able to find dozens of examples of this in long-standing titles in the US store, so it doesn’t appear that name-dropping in descriptions is a violation in Amazon’s eyes — or at least, it’s not one they’re interested in stopping.

  7. Keith Dixon November 12, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    Great post, John! Seems to me Amazon aren’t as thorough in pursuing their own rules as Smashwords are in pursuing Apple’s – for example, I’ve never seen the rule that you can’t provide links to other publishers in a Kindle book, but Smashwords are relentless in getting you to remove such links as it might upset the snowflakes at Apple.

    Also, their definition of ‘pornography’ must be wider than I can imagine – when reading some ‘romance’ novels for research purposes I was often shocked, shocked, I tell you, at some of the scenes that ensued between otherwise caring adults.

    So, I’m now off to check my books against this list … wish me luck.

    • John Doppler November 12, 2016 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks, Keith! Amazon’s enforcement is very erratic, which leads to outcries when they finally get around to policing those violations.

      Good luck with your compliance check!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Easy ways to format epubs | Self-Publishing Advice Center - March 16, 2017

    […] KDP Rules Roundup […]

  2. A Look at Amazon: Timeline and Indie Author News - March 13, 2017

    […] “KDP Rules Roundup” on Self Publishing Advice […]

  3. Cómo publicar cualquier tipo de libro en Amazon - techleo - December 18, 2016

    […] >> Resumen (en inglés) sobre las normas de KDP […]

  4. Self-publishing News: Format Wars | Self-Publishing Advice Center - November 18, 2016

    […] reported here, Amazon has recently updated its KDP terms and conditions (John Doppler has written an excellent piece on what that means). An observant soul at a German self-publishing site has noted that the guidance pages for […]

  5. Top Picks Thursday! For Readers & Writers 11-17-2016 | The Author Chronicles - November 17, 2016

    […] you do self-publish, John Doppler gives us his KDP rules roundup, while Randy Stapilus explores the next Amazon indie offering: KDP […]

Leave a Reply