Amazon remains one of the best platforms for selling books, but it has its own barbed-wire fences to bear along the publishing path – especially for the self-published. They’ve recently pulled a lot of books out of circulation (off their virtual shelves) in what they are saying is an attempt to crack down on scammers who have stuck pamphlets into the rotation and other unsavory practices, but the people being truly affected are real writers who have great books. Their most recent challenge has been to pull books by authors who did not put their TOC (table of contents) at the front – despite Kindle now having an external TOC option – and it hasn’t hurt the scammers one bit.
David Gaughran wrote a recent blog post about the issue of scammers vs Amazon vs innocent authors being derailed. He wrote:
“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.”
An obvious solution would be to place your TOC at the beginning, kidding Amazon’s feet for allowing you to rekindle (no pun intended) your good-standing relationship with them.
The real question is this: will Amazon enforce their rules on scammers who’ve been encouraging readers to jump to the back of their shams for pay-per-page-view payouts or will it fail in a manner as Gaughran states:
“The worst part is that banning rear TOCs doesn’t even seem like it will solve the problem as these guys could use regular links, footnotes, or other alternative methods to funnel readers to the end of their books.”
The question is truly legitimate. Amazon admittedly has a poor system for accurately guaging actual pages read. In fact, you could get bored with a slow spot and just flip ahead and Amazon would think you’d actually absorbed those pages…making pay-per-page-view almost ridiculously easy to manipulate (and some readers may not even do it with conscious knowledge that it matters). I have skimmed many a book because I was bogged down and wanted to move along, but to think there are people out there publishing drivel hoping I will do just that – inexcusable, really. And to find out that authors I enjoy reading are getting shafted instead makes me irate. I haven’t even started on where I stand with Amazon on my own novel.
Gaughran suggests going with the flow. If Amazon wants the TOC up front, then it may be time to change the way YOU (the author) format. You may have done it for better reader experience, but at this point Amazon isn’t looking at readers. They are focused squarely on writers – comply or get knocked/docked.