Amazon is famous for surprising its authors with new features, new offers, and newly revamped designs, all while keeping quiet about it. Past moves have included adding whole new sales territories in foreign countries, and only revealing to authors that their books were available in Mexico, for example, when they found the country listed on their sales dashboards. It’s akin to the non-announcement that KDP Select titles were going to be available as part of Kindle Unlimited, a move that had some authors crying foul and lost revenue.
Hopefully the newly launched KDP dashboard–albeit possibly temporary, per a statement on the dashboard itself–won’t be quite so surprising to authors, although it will certainly take a little getting used to.
Amazon’s dashboard now features a more streamlined, white space look, with a lot of the info that authors need tucked away behind clickable buttons. The status of each book (ie, Live, Draft, or unpublished) is prominently stated next to the title, along with the book’s publication date.
Right off the bat, the first complaint about the new look is that this is information that authors don’t need, at least not in the way that it’s displayed. A book that was once live but has now been taken down, for example, won’t come as a surprise to the author who removed it from Amazon’s shelves, so why dedicate so much of the screen to informing an author that his book is available for purchase? Isn’t that why he’s checking his sales dashboard in the first place? And why does an indie author need the publication date of his own book, especially since it can be called up right from the Amazon sales page for that title?
Another key change that can be confusing is the right-hand buttons that offer different options, depending on the KDP Select status of the book. If a title is enrolled in Amazon’s exclusive program, the button to the right says “Promote and advertise,” but if the book is not enrolled, the button says, “Edit book details.” Authors who are used to seeing a very prominent indicator of where to take advantage of KDP Select opportunities may be confused about “promoting and advertising,” and may also wonder if they no longer have the option to edit anything about their title if it’s enrolled in Select.
Finally, there is a comparatively tiny box at the end of the book’s details box that simply contains three dots. It’s now a recognizable icon for the “More” option, but knowing that a lot of authors have come at self-publishing rather late in the game means that many of them won’t think to look for some really crucial options hidden away in that box.
Overall, the look of the dashboard is “cleaner,” but it may not achieve the goal that Amazon is looking for. Even more confusing is the box at the top of the dashboard that informs authors this is only a test model for the new dashboard. It states, “Welcome to your new Bookshelf!We’re testing an improved Bookshelf and hope you enjoy the new look. As we test, you may see this Bookshelf or the earlier version.” That type of phrasing usually indicates you can click a button to see the older version of the dashboard or website, but that’s not the case here. Even more ambiguously, authors might see the new version or they might see the old version, depending on what Amazon is doing that day.
Once the bugs are worked out and authors become used to this new format, this will all surely become a non-issue. In the meantime, authors would do well to work through the new format and get used to it so that when need arises for a sudden or immediate change, they’re well versed in how their own dashboards work.