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Returning Problems

Good morning everyone!

CP Bialois
CP Bialois

Today’s a little different as I thought it’d be good to discuss some of the issues plaguing authors.

As many of you may have noticed over the last week, a reader’s interaction with an author has been going around on social media. The basic gist of it is the reader contacted the author saying how much she loved the author’s books, but had to return them because $.99 and $2.99 is too expensive and the author should make all of her future books free, since, by the reader’s logic, no one should have to pay for the stories in her head.

Let that sink in a minute.

No one should have to pay for another’s art.

A few months back, there was also a story of an author that lost a good chunk of her income from people returning her books after reading them.

I’ve had it happen to me a couple of times with my novellas, and I know of others that have had the same thing.

Out of all the things that we have to worry about as we try to build our platforms and find our way, this adds to the list. The lone saving grace of it is it doesn’t hit all authors, at least that they know of, so many don’t consider it an issue. There are others that are hit hard by it, but their stories are often lost to the nether region of the internet.

For many, this has been a brewing topic for a while as Amazon allows seven (7) days to return an ebook despite offering a sample and reviews to help the buyer decide, while, from what I’ve heard from others, not allowing returns of downloaded games. We’re given all the tools necessary to make our decision, so the problem then becomes, why allow a return at all? Amazon’s biggest competitor, Smashwords, doesn’t allow returns because of the samples and reviews, and honestly, there is no reason not to know if we’ll like a book or not within the first 15-20 percent.

The question then becomes, how do we fix it?

yourschantz / Pixabay

One good thing that did come out of the mishap between the author and reader is a moveon.org petition asking Amazon to not allow returns on ebooks where more than 15% is read. I don’t want to turn this post into a call of action post, so I won’t share the link here.

I’ve said many times before that unless a file is corrupt, a return shouldn’t be allowed except for a new copy of the same file. I’d also like to add the accidental buy to that list, with a reasonable timeframe of an hour or two. Maybe also having the customer fill out a, “Why I’m Returning This” form would help dissuade such actions?

Do I have the answers? No, but I do think this is a discussion that needs to take place.

As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

Until next time, my friends, let your imagination fly!

 

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37 Responses

  1. Lisa Buie-Collard
    | Reply

    I have to agree with you. Why should there be returns on ebooks? Especially at that price! And, if Amazon already offers samples and reviews,, the ability to try the book first to see if you like it, then there should be no reason for returns. If you want free books, go to the LIBRARY! Yay Moveon.org!

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Thanks for commenting. I love the library comment and couldn’t agree more. 🙂

  2. Kathleen Rothenberger
    | Reply

    Returning an ebook for .99 to $2.99 is ridiculous. You have the chance to sample it, so decide then if you want it or not.I will sometimes read the sample, and sometimes not, but unless a book is riddled with errors, there is no reason to return it. Even so, I have never returned one book, I just delete it from my library. And if you don’t want to spend the money, write the title and author down, and see if it goes on sale, or free, and get it then. The library in my town has a fair selection of paperbacks, but none are new, as they are donated by patrons.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      I’m the same way. If I don’t like it, it was my choice and I eat it. It honestly took me a day or two to fully absorb that someone bought, read, then returned an author’s entire series. I’m still in a little shock. lol

  3. Krys Fenner
    | Reply

    There absolutely has to be a point of no return. Once you get to a certain point, maybe a warning that pops up in the eReader, that says “Hey, at this point, if you continue reading, you accept this book and will be charged for it.” The return option on ebooks should no longer exist. It’s a simple, you either buy it and know what happens or you get to a certain point and you have to find another alternative to read the ending.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Totally agree. That’s one thing I like about the moveon.org petition. They want Amazon to not allow books to be returned if 15% or more is read. Since they know what pages we’ve read, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal for them.

  4. Linda
    | Reply

    I hadn’t heard about this, but am appalled that people would do this. The prices are so low, the samples & reviews are available, I don’t think there is any reason for any returns…and especially after a certain percentage had been read. I agree…go to the library

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Unfortunately, not many have heard of it. Most of us brush off the returns as part of the writing life, but when a reader approached the author and admitted it openly then took an entitled stance the post nearly went viral.

  5. Tiberio Faría
    | Reply

    I love the comment about the Library, that is an absolute truth, you want free reading, by all means GO.
    Krays Fenner’s is right on the money when she says “Once you get to a certain point, maybe a warning that pops up in the eReader, that says “Hey, at this point, if you continue reading, you accept this book and will be charged for it.” End of story.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Totally agree. The current petition (I shared it in a comment below) is asking Amazon to not allow returns once 15% of the ebook is read. It’d be a great start, in my opinion.

  6. Lawrence W. Paz
    | Reply

    How do we get Amazon’s attention? Sounds like a cause for Florida Writers Association to address. Maybe a petition?
    http://www.soarwithoutlimits.com

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Since it was mentioned a couple of times, I shared the MoveOn.org petition link in a comment below.

  7. Kayte
    | Reply

    I would no more return a book than drive drunk. Modern times are riddled with despicable people.

    This renders me speechless.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      I hear you. It seriously took me a day or so to fully ingest the exchange I read. The idea that someone, or someones, are so entitled to expect every book to be free is beyond my comprehension. lol

  8. rmrizzo
    | Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. With the ability to read a sample, unless the file is corrupt and needs to be replaced there should be no returns for e-Books. Thanks for calling this to everyone’s attention.

  9. George Encizo
    | Reply

    Returning a .99 or 2.99 book after reading it is as cheesy as returning a dress after wearing it.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Definitely. To me, it’s outright theft. If we choose to offer our work for free, then fine. If not, why expect or demand it?

  10. CP Bialois
    | Reply

    Thank you everyone for your comments. As mentioned in the post, there is a moveon.org petition for Amazon to tweak their return policy. I didn’t want to post the link due to it would probably take away from the discussion, but since it’s come up a couple of times, here it is. Please read and sign only if you agree with it.
    https://www.change.org/p/amazon-com-amazon-stop-letting-people-return-ebooks-after-15-read

  11. PTL Perrin
    | Reply

    I’m so glad you posted the link to the petition. I’m going to share it on my Facebook page, with a link to your article, if you don’t mind. Others have posted articles along these lines. Thanks for being on top of it.

  12. Jon Guenther
    | Reply

    I’m not sure I agree that this petition is a “good” thing yet unless we have some real facts and data to back it up. The problem here is there will always be scammers and thieves who work the system, just as there will always be piracy, plagiarism, and corruption in all levels of writing and publishing. It’s human nature. If someone reads part or even all of my book and returns it I figure: Hey, least I’m getting read! And what’s the difference if a person buys my book and then “gifts” it to someone else (talking physical books here a moment) or a used bookstore buys and resells it? You see where I’m going? This type of discussion becomes pretty much a matter of opinion from author to author at the end of the road. Finally, there’s no getting around the fact returns has long been part of the publishing biz—frankly it’s a part of most retail business models. Fighting Amazon isn’t going to change anything and will, ultimately, alienate paying customers. DRM taught us that much. Before we rush to judgment, I think looking at the real statistics of percentage returns to e-books is in order. A better compromise is get Amazon to offer a higher amount of contiguous pages to sample (say 40-50%), and then simply not allow returns (except under certain conditions like formatting or book wasn’t finished, etc.) if the book is purchased since the reader had more than a fair chunk on which to base a purchase decision.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      I agree, it does come down to opinion on how we look at it. Personally, while I’m happy they read mine, I would prefer if they don’t try to scam it. It’s about limiting others’ ability to do so as much as possible. Also, as someone that looks at this as a livelihood, those running the scam are on par with those taking money from a cash register.

      When a reader actually admits they do this with all of the author’s, and other’s books, there is a problem. There have been a great number of people reporting this. The one I mentioned in the post actually messaged the author back complaining that she couldn’t return another author’s book and had to dial a 1-800 number to return other books after being reported. I wish the author hadn’t taken the conversation down, but at least enough saw it to take action.

      As far as comparing this to physical books, it’s apples and oranges. When you purchase an ebook, you purchase the liscense to read it and Amazon can take it away at any moment and without warning. When buying physical books, you own them outright. By law, you can resell a physical possession, but you cannot tranfer an ebook aside from “loaning” it out for a limited time on Amazon’s model.

      There really is no way to know whether one reads the entire book or not until when/if Amazon releases the pages read each month for their authors to see. When it comes to the sample size, there really is no excuse for needing more then 15-20%. Considering one cannot return downlaoded video games or ANY electronics such as movies, games, software, etc when the packaging is opened to brick and mortar businesses, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we hold Amazon to the same standards.

  13. Peter Guinta
    | Reply

    Mr. Bialois: I don’t have an e-book yet, but I hope to have one soon. Returning one for a measly few dollars would seem to be a subversive act by an indifferent reader, one terminally cheap and lacking character. Not every book will please. My old drill instructor would say, “Suck it up, Guinta, you maggot!” Sorry, I digress. No one is that needy. If they are, a kind person should direct them to the nearest food bank or homeless shelter. Writing is both craft and art and should be respected. Unless a product is defective, I say don’t pander to whiners.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Totally agree. Given the tools we’re offered between reviews and a sample, I don’t see how anyone can justify returning a file unless it’s corrupted or an accidental purchase.

  14. Hannah Cole
    | Reply

    People never seem to want to pay anything for someone else’s creation. This person who said those prices were too expensive for something she didn’t like is full of manure. I buy many things that I don’t like after I get them, and books are always unknowns even if you are familiar with an author. These were excellent prices for books. She does not deserve any kind of refund. The whole idea is ridiculous. Just chalk it up to a mistake you made, or start going to the public library. Books can be read for FREE.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Definitely. I’ve had more than a few I didn’t like, but I figure it was my choice and I didn’t have a reason to blame them.

  15. Eugene Orlando
    | Reply

    It’s quite an insult to be expected to go through years of mastering the craft of writing spending hundreds of hours writing, editing, and promoting a book you’ll just give away. I think people like that should be made to write a book and have to go through a professional editor until it’s marketable. I think they’d be glad to pay for an e-book after that.

  16. Markee Anderson
    | Reply

    I’ve had many of my books (and I have 55 titles) returned in ‘chunks’ at one time or another. I can almost see the reader read them, return them, and buy another one by the same author (I have 5 pen names) and then return that one, in chunks of days. They seem to like the Eryn Grace pen name of mine for some reason, which boggles my mind (those are Christian romances). I’ve noticed that this happens to my readers in Canada more so than say, the U.K. They’ve been using Amazon as a library for too long.

    I haven’t had this problem on any other selling platform, even though they also have the option to return. If it happened on all vendor’s platforms, then I’d know it’s the books. But it’s not just one book, and it just happens at Amazon. Many times, its book series, as if they’re reading them one by one, in order, then returning them.

    It’s frustrating, but I know others have had the same problem. There are authors complaining of the same thing on the Kindleboards. Amazon doesn’t seem to care, either, which is even more frustrating.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Agreed. I actually had one bought, then returned an hour or so later after I published this post. I don’t know if it was one of these cases or not, but it was interesting timing and fits what I’ve had happen before. I just wish Amazon would at least have a “why do you wish to return this item” questionaire or something.We just have to keep putting th epressure on them, I guess.

  17. Ed Ireland
    | Reply

    I had a person request (demand) that I make my books free a while back. I asked her what she did for a living and she told me she was a chef. So I asked her to come make me dinner for free for life. Sometimes, you need to ask for something equally ridiculous in order to get people to see that what we do is no different than what they do. Another favorite of mine is to ask if their children went to good schools/college. When they say yes I ask if mine can do the same. I don’t think most people WANT to be dicks, they just don’t see this as work. Just like they don’t see acting as work.
    I guess for now, all we can do is educate our clients and keep the pressure on Amazon to fix the problem on their end.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      I’m grateful that I haven’t had anyone demand or request that of me yet ::knocks on wood::. Like you, I’d probably ask them if they mind working for free for a week or two around my house. I already figure I’ll get some weird looks, but they’re probably be nothing like what I’d give them. lol

  18. G. CORLEY
    | Reply

    I’M AMAZED THAT PEOPLE THINK THAT WAY. I THOUGHT IT WAS DONE BY SOME SILLY TEEN-AGED STUNT UNTIL I READ THAT A FEW PEOPLE FEEL THAT WAY.
    WELL MAYBE THEY AREN’T MATURE ENOUGH TO REALIZE THAT EVERYTHING THEY HAVE EVER PURCHASED STARTED IN SOMEONE’S HEAD.

    MAYBE THEY CAN TAKE THAT CAR OR HOUSE BACK AFTER FIFTEEN PER CENT OF USE. ARE YOU SURE THESE PEOPLE EXIST. MAYBE THEY JUST THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUN TO GET FOLKS IRRITATED. THEY DO WALK AMONG US!

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Though there are definitely trolls out there that do this just because they can, these people unfortunately do exist and many aren’t shy about admitting what they do.

  19. Sara McFerrin
    | Reply

    In my 70s I’ve launched a writing “career” with four books on Amazon (Southern fiction and cozy mysteries). They have been selling well, and things are looking up. Then, just this week from out of nowhere, I find that two books have been refunded. What? I am thrown for a loop! This is just tacky, tacky, tacky! Of all the nerve! Didn’t do a thing for my self-esteem. And believe me, starting out at 74, I need all the encouragement that I can get. What kind of person would return a three dollar book?

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      I can see it if it was an accidental download, but I don’t get how it’s allowed when other digital downloads aren’t refunded. I had a couple of novellas returned this month a hour or two after they were bought.I like to think the best in people, but it’s hard not to wonder at times.

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