Everyone’s favorite publishing whipping boy, Amazon, has gone and done it again. As of February 3, they will flag self-published books on Kindle Direct when they contain user-reported spelling mistakes or formatting issues. The consequence: an ugly warning message on the sale detail page, and possibly publication “suppression” (a euphemism for “block”).

amazon-kindleAccording to emails sent to Kindle Direct Publishing authors, Amazon plans to use a two-tiered system. For books that contain several validated quality issues, Amazon will begin showing customers a warning message on the Amazon.com Kindle store detail page. Books with “more serious quality issues” will be blocked from sale.

Complaints about the quality of self-published books, specifically spelling problems and formatting woes, are not new. Some self-published authors welcome the move by Amazon, seeing it as a much-needed step to validity and recognition in the marketplace. Books of poor quality are “an embarrassment” and the move has been hailed as “a huge step towards making self publishing respected in more circles.”

Authors who object to Amazon’s tactics agree that quality works should be the goal of every independent publication, though they disagree with the way in which the business giant is going about this. A common objection is the treatment of dialogue under this approach. Message boards pose frequent variations of the question, “How do they know what dialect or version of your language you are writing in and what is ‘deliberate’?”

In practice, how this updated process will play out is unclear. What qualifies as “several” versus “more serious” issues? Self-publishing authors were quick to point out other potential problems with the top-down approach, such as:

  • How much of the system will be human-mediated versus robot-driven or automated? Most of us know the weaknesses of spell-check.
  • What about invented words and names, such as in Fantasy or Science Fiction?

As more than one person has pointed out, “no software can completely replace a good set of trained eyes.”

You may find Amazon’s guidelines for what to review in your manuscript before publishing through Kindle Direct here.

alex_shots_10Alexandra O’Connell, Your Resident Wordsmith, helps self-published authors and entrepreneurs refine their message and make a professional, inspirational impact on their audience with writing that is engaging and editorially beautiful. Find her at www.alexoconnell.com.