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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Official: Amazon Confirms No More Pictures in Kindle E-Book Sales Page Descriptions

A recent trend among Kindle publishers has been to format their Amazon sales page descriptions more attractively using so-called Amazon HTML. And one thing many authors have done is add photos or other images.

I did this myself a few months ago with my illustrated sci-fi novella The Festival on Lyris Five. I included a couple of images from the book, created by my talented illustrator Louise Tolentino. Here's how the description area used to look...


Pretty snazzy, I thought. Then one day I opened this page in my browser and the images had gone. I checked the page source code and established that the HTML for the image files appeared to have been stripped out completely.

So I raised a query with Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). And here is the relevant section of their reply I received...
Hello Nick,
Thank you so much for your message. I understand that you'd like to know why there are no images displaying on the product description of your ebook.

We've recently restricted the types of HTML tags allowed in product descriptions, which is why your formatting isn't displaying like it was before.

We only allow certain types of HTML tags to be used when formatting content in your "Product Description".

The approved HTML tags are: "b", "br", "em", "font", "h1", "h2", "h3", "h4", "h5", "h6", "hr", "i", "li", "ol", "p", "pre", "s", "strike", "strong", "sub", "sup", "u" and "ul".

You'll need to update your content using only the tags noted above. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this causes.
The reply was prompt, helpful and courteous, but the bottom line remains that images are no longer allowed in product descriptions.

No explanation was given for this change, but my best guess is that Amazon were concerned that authors putting images in descriptions might spoil the look of sales pages and have a harmful effect on the company's branding.

While that is their prerogative, the result is that authors are deprived of a powerful method for improving the appearance of sales pages and making them more eye-catching and compelling.

A further drawback is that some authors were using pictures (including invisible single-pixel images) to collect visitor stats from Amazon pages by using link shortening services such as bit.ly. This could be a good way of gathering data on how many people were viewing your sales pages, so you could assess how effective they were at turning visitors to buyers. Sadly, that option has also now been removed.

On the plus side, it is still possible to format your sales page descriptions using bold, italics, different heading styles, bullet-point lists, and so on, and I recommend doing so.

I also recommend making good use of the maximum 4000 characters Amazon allow. Don't make the mistake of putting just a couple of unformatted sentences! Take a look at some of the best-selling books in the Kindle store and see how they use the description area (and formatting) to good effect.

Finally, formatting descriptions can be a little tricky, as Amazon uses a variation on normal HTML which I have seen variously described at Amazon HTML or HTML entities. This forum post has a list of the main codes you can use when formatting descriptions (though obviously image codes are no longer allowed). For reasons I may discuss in another post, I strongly recommend using KDP edit when formatting descriptions rather than going via Author Central.

I also recommend (and use myself) an application called Better Book Tools (affiliate link) by Andy Makar. This generates the necessary Amazon codes automatically for you and lets you see how your description will look before you upload it via KDP. It has various other cool features as well. Check it out!

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to post them below and I will do my best to answer them.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Thanks to Andy Makar from Better Book Tools for pointing out that you CAN still have images in your descriptions, but only if you edit via Amazon Author Central. Please see my latest post for more details about this.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Andy Makar said...

Thanks for listing my tool! I appreciate the link!

If authors now want to add images to their book description, they need to use Author Central. Here is my article on how to add the image using Author Central:

http://www.betterbooktools.com/amazon-hacks-add-html-to-author-central-book-descriptions/

Thanks!

Andy Makar

12:53 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Andy. Actually, I found the following post from your blog more useful, as it has specific info on the new rules regarding images: http://www.betterbooktools.com/updates-to-the-amazon-kdp-kindle-book-description-tool/

It amazes me that Amazon can apparently have two different sets of formatting rules. My suspicion is that if they don't want authors to be able to add images to their descriptions, they may well close the Author Central "loophole" soon. But it's good to know that the option remains in the meantime.

Thanks again to Andy for the clarification. It's yet another good reason for investing in his Better Books Tool software, of course!

8:40 AM  
Anonymous susanne collyer said...

appreciate your Better Books tool but the link above does not go to how to insert images in book description
Here is my article on how to add the image using Author Central:

http://www.betterbooktools.com/amazon-hacks-add-html-to-author-central-book-descriptions/

just talks about adding html text

Would really love to know if we are allowed to add images to our descriptions and how to do this

3:28 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Susanne. As I said above, I think Andy may have given the wrong link in his comment. Another post on his blog does talk about using Author Central to insert images in book descriptions. It's at http://www.betterbooktools.com/updates-to-the-amazon-kdp-kindle-book-description-tool/

I will blog about this again soon, but for now it seems to be the case that you can still have images in descriptions, but ONLY if you use Author Central to edit your description. Whether Amazon will move to plug this "loophole" remains to be seen.

8:49 AM  

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