Amazon removes HTML loophole in Author Central

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This past week has been a busy one investigating the latest changes to the Author Central platform.

Prior to October 2013, Author Central users could publish an HTML enabled description to using as ASCII version of HTML character.  This allowed authors to embed images, embed video and add advanced HTML that was typically not allowed on the Author Central platform.

Below is a response one of the Author Central authors received:

The book description contains unsupported HTML tags. While we’ve allowed this HTML in book descriptions before now, after November 2, 2013, we no longer support it. For more information about what’s allowed in book descriptions, please see:

Once you’re familiar with what you can include in a book description, log in to KDP and update what you have there. If you leave your book description as is, it will appear as plain text, which creates a poor experience for prospective buyers.

If you’ve updated your book description in Author Central, you can solve this in either of two ways. You can either update it in both Author Central and in KDP, or you can update it in KDP and delete your Author Central posting. For help with deleting descriptions from Author Central, please contact Author Central Customer Service.

Thanks for updating your book description—please do this by October 31 to avoid having HTML appear in your content as plain text. If you have any questions, please contact Kindle Direct Publishing Customer Service.

The crazy thing is this change to the Amazon platform is inconsistent as some users are still able to publishing using the ASCII HTML.

So what does this mean for you?

If you have your book on Author Central and you are no longer seeing an HTML enabled description, you need to use Author Central’s basic online editor to reformat your book description.

Yes…unfortunately this means no more images, no video and no advanced HTML styling.  The Author Central platform does allow you to add bold text, italics and bulleted lists so you should still be able to put some formatting into your book descriptions.

Can you revert back to KDP?

If you contact Amazon support, you can request the book be removed from your Author Central account.  If you’ve added your book to Author Central, you need to modify all the descriptions in Author Central as the KDP descriptions will no longer update your Amazon book listing.  If you can delete your book from Author Central, you should be able to modify your description with a limited set of HTML in the KDP Bookshelf.

Better Book Tool members can use our KDP Editor to create an HTML enabled description.  The HTML codes are limited to the approved list on Amazon’s platform so unfortunately that means no more images or analytics tracking.

Is there a fix?

Currently, I don’t have a fix because it really isn’t a defect in the Amazon platform.  It isn’t a defect in the Better Book Tools suite.  It is a change the Amazon made to ensure more consistent book descriptions.  Developing software tools for a platform that I don’t control is a significant challenge.  When Amazon changes the rules, the Better Book Tools suite needs to adjust accordingly.

However, I will commit to providing an alternative once I learn of a technique to embed images and different HTML tags.

(I gotta admit adding video and pictures was a pretty cool feature!)

How can I add an HTML description to my Kindle books?

As of October 2013, you can only add a limited set of HTML tags including H2 heading tags (the orange Amazon text) if you use KDP Bookshelf. If you are KDP Bookshelf user, please continue to use the KDP editor within the Better Book Tools suite.

You can also add HTML to your CreateSpace book.  I recently added a new CreateSpace HTML editor to the Better Book Tools suite.

Remember the sky isn’t falling.

As an author, I don’t think this latest change will make or break the success of my Kindle books.  The HTML enabled description was a nice to have but you can still communicate the same information with properly formatted text instead of orange headings or embedded images.  Just use bold text and bullet points to emphasize your key concepts.

It was a nice feature to add images and analytics tracking, but I also think it is important to add editorial reviews and messages from the Author.  Those features are only available in the Author Central account.  If you look at Kobo or NookPress, you’ll find many successful authors selling ebooks on their platform without an HTML enabled description.

Your writing matters…not the color of your book description.


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2 Responses to Amazon removes HTML loophole in Author Central

  1. Max November 17, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Unfortunately the Amazon implementation is very hit & miss. I’ve updated almost 40 of my ebooks in Author Central still using the ASCII equivalent for HTML. 6 of them show the resulting HTML as text. The other 34 show as intended and as they used to.

    Working through Author Central has been, well, useless. Based on their correspondence, if someone at Author Central touches a book, the author loses the ability to update anything. So, with a good measure of self-protection in mind, they have so far refused to remove any descriptions or other content from Author Central for my books.

    Hello Max,

    I regret that we haven’t been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. Further to your email, I understand that you’d like the product description and Editorial reviews of your kindle books to be removed from the Author central account.

    However, as explained previously, if your Kindle book is also managed through your Kindle Publishing account , you’ll not be able to make further changes to this section once you have updated it in Author Central.

    I see that you’ve recently updated the Product Descriptions of your books through your Author Central account, hence you’ll not be able to make any changes through Kindle Direct Publishing account.

    Also I see that you still have an Edit option in your Author Central Account to replace the current reviews/product description with any other review/ description instead of removing it.

    Please know that when we make a change to an existing review on the behalf of an author, the system we use prevents that author from making further edits. I didn’t proceed to remove it right away because I didn’t want the system to prevent you from making further edits.

    At this point, we request you to follow the below steps to replace the current Editorial Reviews for your book in Author Central. Here’s how:

    We won’t be able to provide further insight or assistance for your request.

    Thank you for contacting us.

    Best regards,

    Kalyani K

    This is the typical response. *shrugs* So I’m trying to work around the problem, but pretty irritated that I now have at least 5 titles now showing HTML tags in descriptions and no clear workaround other than breaking away from the standard formating I had been using for all my titles. :/

    • Andrew Makar November 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

      It is a bit frustrating as I have seen the same hit or miss response. I have been following these steps:

      It isn’t perfect but it still allows some of the HTML to be formatted properly.

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