How Can I Prevent My KDP Account From Being Terminated?
If you’re a member of any KDP Facebook groups related to publishing, especially low-content book publishing, you’ve no doubt seen a lot of posts lately from people asking for help because their KDP account has been terminated. First, no one on FB can assist with this; if your account has been terminated it’s up to you to contact Amazon and see if you can resolve the issues with your books. Rarely is an account reinstated and any pending royalties are forfeited.
Frequently problems occur because the author has taken time to read and understand the Content Guidelines. Often it’s because people try to game the system for quick profits; either purposely or because they’re following bad advice they’ve found on YouTube or from some ‘get rich quick’ website. This article lists some suggestions for keeping your book creation business out of trouble.
Note: I’m not a lawyer and I’m not qualified to give legal advice. It’s your publishing business and your responsibility to ensure you understand the Amazon KDP terms and conditions, in addition to the content guidelines.
Also, you’ll find many violations in the Amazon marketplace to these suggestions. Some of them just haven’t been reported or caught yet. And some were uploaded to KDP before guidelines were written or being enforced; especially in regard to author pen names and subtitle/description keyword stuffing.
Avoiding Trademark Violations
This is a big one that gets many people in trouble. Sometimes it appears to be people not using common sense; do some low-content publishers really think it’s okay to use Disney or Marvel characters? Other times it’s just unintentional; many phrases are trademarked that people are unaware of.
A frustrating issue is that trademark protection is retroactive to the date of filing. (Reference: GERBEN) You could publish a book with a clever phrase in the title unaware that someone just filed for a trademark on that phrase. Since it is currently taking six to nine months for approval, your book could be in the Amazon marketplace for several months before you receive a notification that you’re in violation of a trademark. You have no choice but to remove it (actually you could go to court and argue about prior use but it’s usually not worth the expense.)
You should always attempt to avoid violations by performing a trademark search for filings and registrations in the countries you plan on making your books available for sale. Trademarks on both phrases and logos are approved for specific product classes. For publications, you’ll want to see if the phrase is approved for class 016.
If you’re only going to sell in the US, then you can use the TESS database listed below. If you’re planning on making your book available in all Amazon marketplaces (which is commonly the case) then see the global trademark search sites listed below.
Checking US Trademarks
Select the first option ‘Basic Word Mark Search (New User)
Under ‘View Search History’ leave Pural and Singular selected, select Live (since we don’t care about expired trademarks), enter your search term (Bullet Journal in the example above), and click the Submit Query button.
Here you can see there are 3 live trademarks on the phrase ‘Bullet Journal’. The last column lists the classes that the trademark applies to. Class 016 applies to paper, cardboard, books, and similar products. So you can not use the phrase on a book or any other paper product. It doesn’t matter if you add words in front of or behind the phrase – you can’t use it.
If you click on the serial number, registration number, work mark, etc., the next page will show details of the filing. In the above example, the first filing is for a specific graphic image of the words, the next if for the words themselves, and the last row is for a supplemental filing on the works. All three rows were filed by the same company.
Checking Global Trademarks
If your publication is going to be marketed in only Canada, you can do a trademark search at the Canadian Trademarks Database. Canada is unique in that they have prohibited marks; words or phrases that are listed because they can’t be trademarked! (Ref: cwilson.com)
Performing the same search for Bullet Journal on Trademarkia, brings up the following results:
The results are easy to read than those found on TESS since the description is clear on exactly what the trademarks apply to rather than just displaying the class number.
Use of Public Domain
Publishing public domain on Amazon is allowed but the book has to be different than other versions of the same found in the book marketplace or online. They have specific guidelines that deal with public domain books that you can find here.
Many people lose their accounts over the publishing of public domain works and personally I don’t recommend using them. If you do a search in books for Alice in Wonderland there are over 10,000 results. Why would you want to risk your account over a book with that much competition? Do you really have something to bring to the book that would make someone buy yours over the thousands of others published already?
But here’s an idea, the author of a public domain book has already created a world and characters. Use those as a headstart on creating a new book. Alice and the Mad Hatter pop out of the rabbit hole and into the modern world? Cinderella and Snow White team up to rescue their Prince Charmings? I’m sure you can come up with better ideas than mine.
Use of PLR (Private Label Rights)
PLR content is not allowed to be published on Amazon. Most of it is given away on the web already and much of it is poorly written – just fluff to take up pages. If you’re writing original content I suppose you could use PLR as reference material. Though the few useful nuggets you may find will need to be completely rewritten in your own words.
This one gets a lot of people into trouble; unusually unintentionally. Never “borrow” an image from a website or google search. There are many stock image sites but you have to read and understand their terms for usage. Some will require you to modify the image in some way and not use the image “as is.” While others may not allow use in print on demand (POD) products or require an additional license for such use.
The safest way to stay out of trouble with images is to use your own creations, download from a site where you’ve paid for usage (and are certain POD usage is allowed), or pay someone to create a unique image for you. Though you still have to be careful who you hire and ensure that the work is unique to you and will not be reused. See the section titled ‘Keep Documentation’ below for more details but be certain to track transactions and communications with people you outsource work to.
You can make reverse look-ups of images using TinEye: https://tineye.com/ or Google Image Search: https://images.google.com/ This needs to be done on photos images you find on free image sites (for example Pixabay) to ensure the image is not found on a paid stock image site. Though free image sites attempt to ensure users are not uploading copyrighted images, some spill though. And many people on outsourcing sites are selling designs they’ve downloaded from sites like Creative Fabrica; in other words, they’re selling items they did not create and do not have a license to resell. If you buy from them and publish on KDP using the unlicensed image, you’re the one Amazon is going to punish.
Most violations of related to images are due to publishing images “as is.” Images should be combined and modified in some way. Amazon doesn’t want to have hundreds or thousands of books in the marketplace with the same or similar covers. This leads to confusing customers.
Another option for obtaining original work is to reach out to students in your local community that are majoring in graphic design or visual arts. Fifty dollars goes a long way for a student and can ensure you get something unique to your project.
Devote some time to learning basic design yourself. You’re don’t have to be an artist; anyone can learn enough skills to produce an attractive cover. You’ll also develop the ability to modify and combine downloaded images on your own.
Title/Author Name Causes Confusing Customer Experience
This relates to keyword stuffing in the author name or title/sub-title of the book. Amazon used to allow pen names that contained keywords but this is no longer the case. Pen names like Super Notebooks or Jan Smith Journals are not allowed due to the keywords ‘Notebooks’ or ‘Journals’ used in the name. You’ll still see some in the marketplace that was published in the past but they’ll no longer be approved.
A sure way to get your account is terminated is doing stuff like creating a sub-title like this:
Besides the fact that this independent author doesn’t have the right to use Disney character names, this example of keyword stuffing in a title is what Amazon labels as a ‘confusing customer experience.’ Is it a composition notebook? A journal? A sketchbook? It was published using KDP, how is it spiral-bound? The look inside shows it’s just a blank lined notebook, how is it a “creative kids gift?” And the description references the cartoon character Totoro even though the character is not found anywhere on the cover. This is someone trying to game the search results and though the book has been listed for a couple of years, it will eventually be blocked and possibly result in the author’s account being terminated.
Content Causes a Disappointing Customer Experience
This is a new violation of KDP publishing and many people have recently found their books blocked for this. It happens when someone creates a generic interior them puts dozens (or hundreds) of covers on it. Usually, the covers are a different color but sometimes they have just one change on each. For example, a notebook for people aged 5, a notebook for people aged 6, …., a notebook for people aged 105. I recently saw the same book for people aged 3 to 107! Another variation is getting the same book but with hundreds of different first names on it: a notebook for John, a notebook for Sam, etc. That is just frustrating for people searching for a book that has to go through page after page in the search results of the same junk.
Some people have recently uploaded multiple journals, notebooks, etc. with the same interior but different covers and had the first approved and the remaining ones blocked. A lot of times this is the result of bad advice from so-called gurus on YouTube to produce hundreds or thousands of products in KDP. Just don’t – if you want to build a long-term and profitable KDP business you need to focus on creating quality work that provides value to the customer.
One of the first things I do when creating a new book is open a Word document (of course you can also use Google Docs or just Notepad) and keep track of every step of the process. I create a directory on my computer for each book where I store not only the final files to be updated but also the working files (images, fonts, etc.) I keep my process documentation file in that folder – so I have a separate Word document for each book I create.
In the document, I keep track of where I downloaded or purchased images, screenshots if needed to prove I had a valid subscription to use the image, or screenshots of the site’s license terms. If I purchase a font the details are recorded there. If I outsource something, the details and screenshots of communications with the person performing the work are kept there.
I once published an education book and a few months later I received the dreaded email from Amazon that my book was being removed from the marketplace because it appear similar to other books that could be found on the internet. As it turned out, someone had copied my interior and was selling it on Fiverr. I had purchased the font from a site that provides resources to teachers and created the book myself in Word. The book included some animal graphics; a couple created by myself and several more downloaded from Creative Fabrica where I have s subscription. Because I had documentation to show: where and how much paid for the font, source files for the book and graphics, and proof I had an active subscription for the images at the time the book was published, my book is still listed on Amazon, and if fact, has become my biggest seller in expanded distribution.
Keeping detailed documentation can save your account. If you get an email about using a copyrighted image on a cover you outsourced, you can present proof it wasn’t intentional. Offer to unpublish the book or upload a new cover and let them know you’ll be more cautious in the future.
I’ll add to this list as I run across stuff I think is useful.
There is a good article on Kindlepreneur about Font Copyright
Let me wrap this up with a side note. Sometimes people receive an email that states their account will be closed if they don’t respond with a confirmation about conforming to publishing guidelines. They reply to the email and receive the same response that their account is going to be closed. That email is sent out by an automated account and your account will be closed unless you do exactly as the email says, copy and paste the exact word-for-word confirmation they’re asking for into your reply and send it back. Also fix, any problems they list.
If a book is blocked or put back into draft on your KDP bookshelf, you will receive an email letting you know the problem. If you don’t see it, look in your spam folder. You need to respond and deal with the issues they report – either unpublish the book or correct it and republish. Don’t argue with them about it; they don’t care about you, they care about creating a good experience for their customers. If they terminate your account and refuse to reopen it, I’m sorry to say you really don’t have any recourse. Move on to something else.
One of the problems with Amazon’s decision to terminate an account is that the company refuses to provide examples or details of the violation that led to it. Even go so far as to identify the specific rule that was breached. Which makes it nearly impossible to correct the violation.
If you follow the guidelines and provide quality books with unique content you shouldn’t run into any problems.
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