From David Gaughran:
Amazon 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.
. . . .
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 a poor reader experience, and it has very suddenly decided to clamp down heavily on this practice, without notifying the community-at-large, even though moving extraneous front-matter to the end of the text has been fairly standard practice for years.
Some individual authors are receiving Quality Notices warning them that their title will be removed from sale unless the TOC is moved to the front. Normally these notices – which appear to be generated by bots – give us just five days to comply. Other writers are having their buy buttons removed without receiving these notices.
. . . .
A straw poll indicates maybe half of my author friends put their TOCs at the back. Certainly anyone who compiles e-books with Calibre could be affected – one of the most popular tools – or anyone who uses Guido Henkel’s formatting method (which I heartily recommend). And anyone that has read Let’s Get Digital or Let’s Get Visible – because it’s how I recommend authors lay out their books; it’s pretty standard advice.
If I had to put a number on it, I would guess tens of thousands of titles are affected – if not more.
When I started self-publishing in 2011, it was considered best practice to put the TOC at the back of the book. The reasoning is fairly simple, and reader-friendly: it gives them more of the actual text to read in the sample. And when you have a non-fiction book like Let’s Get Digital, the TOC can take up considerable space.
That’s a pain for browsers to wade through and where you can lose an on-the-fence purchaser. Readers aren’t inconvenienced by the TOC being at the back, as it can be summoned with the tap of a button anyway. Further, I don’t believe it was contrary to Amazon’s terms and conditions back in 2011 – either way, it certainly has never been enforced. Until now.
. . . .
One of the quirks of Kindle Unlimited is that we are all fighting for money from a fixed pot, putting us into competition with each other in a way that we aren’t normally. And KU has been plagued by scammers and opportunists – “authors” who who seek to gain an edge with unethical behavior (I hesitate to call them authors because they are often internet marketers who farm the actual writing out to someone else).
Amazon has been very slow to act. Indeed, the switch to a per-page compensation model is widely believed to have been at least partly prompted by these authors publishing junk booklets which were only a few pages long and contained no real content, but still triggered a full KU borrow payout – but that change was a year in coming and Amazon did little to combat these guys in the meantime.
The latest wheeze from this shady crew was to place a message at the start of their KU titles encouraging readers to click through to the end – because this fools Amazon’s system into thinking the entire book has been read, the author of that title then receives an inflated payout from the KU pot, and then honest, hard-working writers who aren’t pulling these cheap tricks on readers have less money to share. It’s a mess. These guys are peeing in the KU pool and Amazon is paying them by the gallon.
And it seems this is what triggered the TOC crackdown.
Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital
Here’s a link to David Gaughran’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.
Here’s an excerpt from a PG email to David:
As I was thinking about this incident, it occurred to me that it may be an unanticipated side effect of rapid growth with lots of new employees and, presumably, rapid promotions of some new employees.
Someone without context and history sees scammers exploiting a particular type of ebook layout and, without much historical knowledge of ebooks, assumes everyone who places a TOC at the end is doing so with malign intent.