Are you confused about Amazon's rules for authors? 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. The attached link should be the most up-to-date information but if in doubt, always confirm the rules with Amazon's other official documentation or customer support.
Amazon Rules for Authors: Contents
- Quality Assurance
- Titles and Subtitles
- KDP Select Exclusivity
- The Rules
Amazon Rules for Authors: 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.
Amazon Rules for Authors: 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.
Amazon Rules for Authors: 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.
Amazon Rules for Authors: 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:
- “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.)
Amazon Rules for Authors: 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
Amazon Rules for Authors: 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.
Amazon Rules for Authors: 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.
Amazon Rules for Authors: 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)
Amazon Rules for Authors: 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”)
Amazon Rules for Authors: KDP Select Exclusivity
- Advance review copies are exempt from KDP Select exclusivity requirements.
- Content offered for sale through KDP Select may not be offered in digital format for sale or for free, on any website outside of Amazon, except for a 10% sample.
- KDP Select's exclusivity does not apply to print editions.
- 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.
Amazon Rules for Authors: 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.
Amazon Rules for Authors: Reference List
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.
- Terms and Conditions
- Kindle Publishing Guidelines
- Content Guidelines
- Guide to Kindle Content Quality
- Metadata Guidelines
- Make Your Book More Discoverable With Keywords
- Bonus Content
- KDP Select
- Kindle eBook Pre-order
- Reschedule your Kindle eBook pre-order
OVER TO YOU
Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below!