Amazon updates ToS for Authors
I’ve written before about how important it is for any indie or hybrid-author to keep up with the terms of service for all outlets for their books. That is particularly important because those ToS are fluid. Every store changes them from time to time. Sometimes it is in response to a problem they have seen. Sometimes it is in response to what other stores have done. The reason for the change isn’t really important. What is important is that we, as authors, know what the rules are and do whatever it takes to stay in good standing with the store.
Before we get to the update to Amazon’s ToS, let’s revisit #cockygate for a moment. I’m not going to spend much time on it. Let’s just say that Faleena Hopkins was handed her first legal defeat, or at least her first legal setback, in her attempt to prevent other romance authors from using the word “cocky” in the titles of their books. In his denial of her TRO against a series of authors – and a publicist – the judge noted that he doubted she could prevail at trial. Whether she continues to press the matter until the September court date or not, only she knows. However, she has the Author’s Guild and RWA against her and those two organizations have a lot more heavy hitters on their legal team than she does. My guess? This will disappear sooner or later but it will have done what Hopkins wanted — it will have caused a great deal of PR around her name and her work and it seems clear that she is of the belief that any kind of publicity is good publicity. Shrug.
On to Amazon. The change to their ToS is in response to what David Gaughran calls #Tiffanygate and is in response to those authors who are “book stuffers”. Book stuffers are those who add multiple titles into their Kindle Unlimited titles in an effort to inflate their KU pages read payouts. We’re not talking about authors who put out collections. We’re talking about those authors like Chance Carter, who Gaughran calls “the unofficial leader of the book stuffers.”
Not only did Carter “stuff” the books, he incentivized it. He also added a “click to the end” sort of thing that would make it look as if all the pages in the stuffed book had been read, thereby giving him a larger payout.
Amazon finally took steps to stop this sort of behavior (although it appear Carter and others are still trying to get around the rules. But it will take time for Amazon’s little bots to crawl through all the titles and pull them and then do so again when the authors try a new way to get around the rules yet again). The updated rules on bonus content can be found here.
The new rules are really very simple.
- Bonus content must be relevant to the customer (if your book is a romance title, don’t add hard SF “bonus material”, for example.)
- The bonus content should not disrupt the reading experience. (In other words, don’t have it in the middle of the main story where they have to either read it to continue reading the main story or click past it)
- Bonus content must be at the end of the book
- Bonus content must be listed in the table of contents
- Bonus content should not make up more than approximately 10% of your book.
- Bonus material must also meet the content requirements for KU
- It must be exclusive to Amazon
- “disruptive links” aren’t allowed
- there must not be promises of gifts or rewards
- Titles must meet the metadata guidelines
Now, most of these rules were already in place. What wasn’t specifically spelled out was easily discerned from the content. However, authors like Carter make it necessary for Amazon and other stores to become more and more specific simply because they try to game the system. They are the writing world’s equivalent to those folks who have made it necessary to print warnings on coffee cups that the contents might be hot or that you can fall off a ladder.
So, what is there to take away from all this (other than don’t be an ass and try to game the system)? Just be honest with your readers. Tell them upfront what they are getting. Be responsible to your fellow writers. Don’t let greed or just a need to beat the system ruin it for everyone.
When is the last time you checked the ToS for the stores you sell your titles through?