Did you know that people who view your Kindle book during your promotion may not be seeing its current description? If your book has been available for some time and you have revised its description in Author Central without also revising it on its KDP page, they’re not.
Although we were told in the past that the KDP description is not used if a description has ever been entered in Author Central — and some books about Kindle promotion still say this — Amazon has changed its system. The KDP description now overrides whatever was done in Author Central if any change at all is made through KDP, including price or categories.
This happened to me twice recently. I revised a book description in Author Central before a promotion, then lowered the price. To my dismay, I found during the promotion — after it was too late to do anything about it — that the description had somehow reverted to its old text. Unfortunately I failed to investigate why; I simply updated the description again. Later, when it happened with another book, I discovered that the first book had again reverted to its original description when I changed the promotional price back to the regular price.
At that point, I wrote to KDP Customer Service and was told about the change. They agreed that it is confusing and have passed my comments on to their development team for consideration.
The current help page about updating your book in KDP does state that you must update KDP if you update Author Central. But the Author Central page doesn’t say it — and how many authors who’ve been updating books for years go back to reread the KDP help pages?
A related problem is that the KDP description box, unlike the one in Author Central, gives no indication that it will support formatting. Actually, it will accept HTML, but I didn’t know this. My earliest ebooks were automatically transferred to Kindle from Mobipocket and the KDP update page seemed self-explanatory, so I never had occasion to read the help for submitting a book. Therefore, when I decided to update all my books’ KDP descriptions — some of which were several years old — to match their current Author Central descriptions, the italics for referenced book titles were lost and I had to correct the formatting by updating Author Central again. I was under the mistaken impression that I would always have to do this whenever I changed a book’s KDP page for any reason.
Later I was told that certain HTML tags can indeed be put in the KDP description box. This solves the problem for me because I’m familiar with HTML, but some authors may not be. You don’t have to know any HTML to format the description in the Author Central box. If, however, your description includes italics or boldface, you must now either include the coding on the KDP page or correct the Author Central description again after KDP every time you change anything at all about the book — even if you haven’t revised the description itself. (Incidentally, when the KDP page is changed, the current KDP description will automatically be shown on the Author Central page rather than what you last entered there,)
For those of you who don’t know HTML, the most important tags are <i> and </i> to enclose a word or phrase in italics, <b> and </b> to indicate boldface, and <br> to create a line break. A caution about <br> — unlike a coded Web page, on which a carriage return (ENTER) does not affect the result, the KDP description box does treat a carriage return as a break. Therefore, if you want a blank line, you need just one <br> instead of two, or else two without a carriage return. Otherwise the spaces on the product page will be too wide.
There are other supported HTML tags; you can see a list of them at https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A377RPHW6ZG4D8. According to those listed there it’s possible to do formatting that can’t be done through Author Central, such as changing fonts.
Customer Service told me to update the book description in both Author Center and KDP whenever changes are made to it. However, this isn’t necessary. Since KDP overrides Author Central and must always be up-to-date, updating Author Central is pointless — it has become useless for describing books published through KDP although it is, of course, needed for print editions and for other information such as editorial reviews. I now make description changes on the KDP page alone.
Sylvia Engdahl is best known as the author of the Young Adult novel Enchantress from the Stars, which was a Newbery Honor book, a 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year runner-up in the Rediscovery category, and winner of the Children’s Literature Association’s 1990 Phoenix Award. She has also written five other YA novels and three adult science fiction novels. Learn more about Sylvia from her website and her Amazon author page.