About Apple QA Tickets

Similar to Smashwords' own Premium Catalog vetting process, some of our retail partners also do quality assurance (QA) review of books prior to making them available for sale.  Currently, Apple has the most formal process for this.  Starting back on December 5, 2013, we created an automated system to ingest their tickets and make them visible to you in your Dashboard.

This feature will help you quickly identify issues that will prevent iBooks from listing your books.

What you'll see

Your Dashboard will now show you if any of your books have one or more open tickets at Apple which may be affecting your book's availability in the iBooks store.  (You'll also have the option to view any tickets which have since been closed.)  Click on the "X open tickets" link (or "View closed tickets") to visit your book's ticket info page.  Closed tickets usually mean that the issue has been resolved to Apple's satisfaction.  Closed tickets are good.

Any open tickets will be listed at the top, and closed tickets at the bottom. Each ticket will list:

  • which retailer (only Apple, at this time)
  • the retailer's ticket id
  • the ticket's brief description (e.g., "Misleading Description", "Prohibited Explicit or Objectionable Content", "Incorrect Formatting in Description", "Competitive hyperlinks," etc.)
  • the current state of the ticket (e.g., open or closed)
  • when the ticket was opened, and last modified
  • when your book was last shipped to the retailer, if applicable (if it's currently not shipped, because the book is unpublished, opted-out, or has other issues preventing it from shipping, this will be noted next to the book's current state)
  • if your book is currently opted-out, this will also be mentioned
  • notes from the retailer's QA team will be listed


What you'll do next

In most cases, the notes from the retailer's QA team should provide sufficient information to help you identify the nature of the open ticket that's preventing them from listing your book.  See "Types of Tickets" below for additional descriptive help.  Once you've corrected the issue at Smashwords, and your book has been re-approved for our Premium Catalog, your updates will ship back out to Apple.  If they're satisfied with the changes, the ticket's status will change to closed, and your book will appear in their store (if it wasn't already).

If you have trouble understanding the meaning of a ticket, or you're having difficulty updating your book to satisfy their QA team's requirements, the Smashwords Style Guide is usually your best first reference, especially if your problem is mechanical in nature, such as formatting or navigation.  If you're still unable to decipher your next steps, please click "Comments/questions" to reach our support team.  

Note that in some cases, there may be nothing you can do to correct your book.  For example, if your book contains content considered unsuitable for their store, there's little you can do aside from revising your book.  Apple and Kobo have strict policies on some taboo erotica (erotic incest, PI, rape and bestiality are the most common prohibited categories). 

Tickets at Apple (or other retailers, if/when any others create a formal ticketing process) are unlikely to directly affect your book's Premium Catalog status at Smashwords, or availability in the Smashwords store or at other retailers.  However, keep in mind that if your book has problems that cause one retailer to reject it from their store, the same problems may eventually cause issues at other retailers as well. 

Types of tickets

Apple uses dozens of ticket types (based on the brief descriptions), and among them some of the more common ones include:

  • Inappropriate or Prohibited Explicit or Objectionable Content
    Your book contains subject matter that the retailer is unwilling to sell.  Certain genres of erotica commonly cross such lines, especially if your primary theme is incest, pseudo-incest, bestiality and rape.

    Sometimes, Apple's rejection is vague, and they simply tell you it's inappropriate but they don't tell you why.  Most of such tickets are levied against erotica.  Certain themes are completely off limits at Apple (and Kobo too).  Apple doesn't want erotic incest, PI or bestiality.  They don't want books where the dominant theme is rape, sexual violence, non-consent or gang bang with unwilling participants.  None (Smashwords included) want extreme taboo erotica.  Barely legal (characters who recently turned 18 years of age), while generally allowed at most retailers, will always receive special scrutiny.  Similar to the Smashwords Terms of Service, no characters can be under the age of 18.  If characters are just 18 or barely over, or if the age is at all questionable, the book's description should explicitly state that all characters are 18 or over, and the book must remain true to this claim.  Authors who try to push the lines of acceptability will invariably receive extra scrutiny for their entire list, and risk having all their books removed from a retailer (if you cross the line with one or more books - especially with underage - and you have multiple books, the retailer may decide your entire list is not worth the trouble and risk).  Apple accepts erotica, but they don't want erotica that pushes the line.  What are examples of pushing the line?  Here are the most common examples we see:  1.  Barely legal erotica that is really targeted at readers who desire underage erotic fiction (Smashwords doesn't want this either!).  2.  Excessive profanity or sexualy explicit language in book descriptions.  Keep book descriptions PG-13.  3. Cover images where the models appear as if they're underage.  4.  Cover images with floppy bits exposed or over-exposed.  5.  Book titles with profanity.  6.  Erotica that contains illustrated or photographic nudity.  Erotic literature should paint pictures in the reader's imagination with words.  Books with nudity are porn, and no retailer wants porn.  Retailers will look at each of the items above individually, but also in their totality.  Books that push the limits of acceptability on multiple fronts (cover design, description and titles) face the greatest scrutiny.  Bottom line, act professional and don't push the line.  How to Appeal:  If you think Apple incorrectly rejected your book for objectionable content, please contact our support team so they can ask Apple to reconsider.  Provide us a calm and concise one or two sentence explanation of why you think the book does not violate Apple's content policies and we'll try to help.
  • Navigation Errors
    If your NCX (the table of contents file that is part of your epub) is incomplete or inaccurate, Apple will reject the book.  Step 20 in Style Guide shows you how to build great navigation in your ebook.  Also check out our new video, How to Add Navigation to your Smashwords Ebook (links first to Smashwords blog, where you'll find some great tips on how smart navigation can help you sell more books).
  • Midpoint Errors in NCX
    As we mention in Step 20 of the Smashwords Style Guide, if your book was formatted without a linked Table of Contents, or without Chapter headings that would allow Meatgrinder to automatically generate an NCX for you, then Meatgrinder will create a two-part NCX for your book.  The first part will be a link to the title of the book at the top of your book, and the second part will be a link to the approximate midpoint of the book.  If your book is extra short, or it's mostly images, the midpoint link may not point to the exact midpoint, and Apple may reject the book for this reason.  Here's a good solution:  In the Style Guide's Step 20, we strongly encourage you to create a linked Table of Contents, even if your book is short, and even if it's fiction.  This gives you two very important benefits:  1.  It gives you complete control over the creation of the NCX.  2.  It's a good opportunity for you to add important back matter sections that are useful to your reader, and useful to you as an author or publisher.  At the very moment the reader finishes your book and is thinking you're awesome, it's a great opportunity to market your other books and build your social media platform (attract followers!).  These recommended sections can include

About Jane Smith
Put a short bio here.

Other Books by Jane Smith
Book title 1
Book title 2
Book title 3 (make these a plain text listing, not hyperlinked)

Connect with Jane Smith
Friend me on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/accountaddress
Follow me on Twitter:   http://twitter.com/twitteraddress
Favorite me on Smashwords:  link to your Smashwords author page
Subscribe to my blog:  link to your blog
Subscribe to my mailing list:  link to your subscription page, if you have one

   ^^ Remember to hyperlink each of the "Connect with author" links. 

Once you create these important back matter sections, you'll create a Linked Table of Contents at the top of your book that might look like this:

Start of book
About Jane Smith
Other books by Jane Smith
Connect with Jane Smith

To learn how to easily create a linked ToC like the above, check out our blog post and video tutorial, How to Add Navigation to Smashwords Ebooks

  • Competing Websites
    Your book, and/or its description, should not contain references or links to another retailer. Such references and links provide a bad customer experience.  Imagine reading a book in iBooks and being prompted to buy a book's sequel at Amazon when your favorite store is iBooks.  Such messages and links will confuse your fans and it's also inconsiderate to the retailer.  Apple is extra finicky when it comes to this.  Apple doesn't want to see language that encourages their customers to shop elsewhere for ebooks.  So, for example, "Buy my other books at Smashwords at [hyperlink]" or "Find this book at Smashwords at [hyperlink]" or "Visit my personal's website's ebook store to buy my book direct from me" or words to similar effect are not good and may cause them to reject it, but "Visit my Smashwords author profile at [hyperlink]" is fine, or generalized text such as, "Find my ebooks at better ebook retailers everywhere" is fine.  Similarly, don't include text that encourages your fans to leave reviews at specific retailers such as Amazon.  Instead, use generic text such as, "If you enjoyed my book, please leave a review at your favorite retailer."
  • Competitive Links in Smashwords License Statement
    For the last five years, Step 21c of the Smashwords Style Guide has recommended that authors include the "Smashwords License Statement," which provides readers a gentle reminder of their legal and ethical obligation to respect the author's copyright and support the author with their purchases and downloads.  The License Statement provides a kinder, and friendlier alternative than the fire and brimstone "$500,000 Copyright Violation" threats so common in license statements of years past.  The Smashwords License Statement is optional but recommended.  Up until recently, the recommended license statement contained the following sentence:  "If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy."  The recommended license statement for FREE ebooks contained the sentence, "If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy at Smashwords.com, where they can also discover other works by this author."  Recently, Apple began rejecting books with these sentences because the wording prompts Apple customers to visit another site to purchase or download books.  Apple's concern is understandable, so out of respect for all our retail partners on December 10 2013 we modifed our recommended license statements.  You'll find them below.  Both are acceptable to Apple.

    • Good license statement for PRICED Books

      Smashwords Edition, License Notes
      This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


    • Good license statement for FREE books

      Smashwords Edition, License Notes
      Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.

  • Incomplete Description
    Your description at Apple must be at least 50 characters long.  It must also be a complete description.  At Smashwords, we give you the option to create a short description and a long description.  Please note that these two descriptions are separate and standalone.  Some authors make the mistake of assuming that the long description is a continuation of the short description, and omit the short description's information in the long description.  When we have both a long description and a short description, we will typically (as is the case with Apple) only send the long description.  If the description only contains a book excerpt, Apple will reject it. 
  • Incorrect or Misleading Description
    Make sure your description accurately describes your book; the product that the retailer is trying to sell for you! Don't use your description to promote other products.  Don't make promises or claims that your book cannot satisfy.  Don't include hyperlinks to web sites, email addresses or phone numbers in the description.
  • Categorization errors
    Your book should be accurately categorized.  Accurate categorization helps the retailer place your book on the proper virtual shelf.  If your book is truly erotic, you're required to label it as erotic.
  • References Pricing
    Do not mention prices in your book description, on your cover image, or inside your book because prices will vary in different territories and currencies. These words are not allowed in reference to pricing:  Free, Complimentary, Reduced Price, Low Price.   Another reason you don't want pricing mentioned in the description is that Apple sells in 51 different countries, and not all countries price the books in US Dollars.  Also, don't make references to retailer-specific pricing, like "Get it for 50% off at Smashwords with the code ABC123!"
  • Spelling and Grammar, and Formatting
    With automatic spellcheck and grammar check, there's little excuse to have a book with poor spelling or grammar.  Remember to respect your potential audience, and our retail partners' customers.  Make sure you use proper capitalization in your description.  If you start a sentence in lower case, or your write in ALL CAPS, Apple may reject the description.
  • Author Name on Cover Image Doesn't Match Author Name in Metadata or in Book
    If your pen name is HG Wells on the book cover image but Henry Wells in your author metadata or in the book, Apple may reject the book.  Please make sure the spelling matches everywhere.
  • Compound Author Names in metadata
    Your author metadata should only have one pen name in it.   To modify your author name in the metadata, click to the Smashwords Account tab, then click to Edit Account Information.
  • Missing an Interactive Table of Contents
    If your book has multiple sections or parts, such as the typical non-fiction book, it must have a Linked Table of Contents from which Smashwords will generate NCX navigation.  Learn how in this YouTube video, How to Add Navigation to a Smashwords Ebook.
  • Limited Functionality (a.k.a. "is this really a book???")
    If your ebook is only 300 words, it hardly meets the definition of a book.  Apple will reject ebooks that don't really meet the definition of a book. 

 

There are many more types of tickets, and in all cases, it's important to look at the QA teams' specific notes about your particular book, and be sure to address their concerns.

You may note that some of your books are flagged for an issue, and others are not.  If only a subset of your books are flagged for a particular issue, it does not mean you should go back and revise all other books with the same issue that Apple already accepted.  Apple's QA process, similar to Smashwords', is performed by humans, and is therefore subject to some inconsistency from time to time.  You may also find that things that were okay a year ago are no longer acceptable to them going forward.

Some have asked why we show tickets for books that might be unpublished or opted out.   Here's why:  We deliberately show tickets because authors have different reasons for unpublishing books, and many of our authors plan to return these unpubbed books to live status at Smashwords as soon as they complete edits, or complete exclusive obligations with KDP Select.  We believe it's a service to these authors to give them advance notice on what Apple would want fixed.  These tickets also help inform you about what Apple and other retailers will expect for your future books.

We trust this new feature will prove helpful to you, and help you not only get your books selling in more places faster, but also help you produce even better books and better experiences for your readers!   Thanks for using Smashwords!!