Has someone ever entered your house, eaten your food, gotten up, and left? You might frown at this, but this can very well happen in your life. Such a thing is also currently happening to many authors, right now: readers get into Amazon, buy one or several books, read them, and return them, thus depriving the authors of their revenue.
A sad trend, isn’t it? And yet, some immoral people are doing exactly that.
I am human enough, and connected enough to the current economical situation in most countries with the COVID and the inflation it caused, to understand that most people can barely make ends meet (heck, I am one of them). However, there is something profoundly disturbing in this new trend, insofar that, when it comes to books, it deprives authors of their revenue.
Yes, as some authors I know confirmed, when a person buys and returns a book, for whatever reason, the author does not receive any form of payment for the sale.
You read correctly:
If someone buys a book, then returns it, whatever the reason, the author consequently does not receive the money they would’ve normally made for the sale.
In other words, by being completely selfish and thinking of themselves and their wallet, those “readers” deprive a hard-working author of a revenue that they need to make a living, and might, in consequence, discourage them from writing more books, because they would not be able to afford the cost of living.
A minority, but one that does hurt
I will state something obvious, here: the “readers” who buy, read, and return are a minority. However, this minority hurts the authors in ways that could end up costing the honest readers more books from an author, more instalments in series, etc.
This is especially true when it comes to indie published authors, as they are responsible for the complete costs of everything related to their books, from cover to publishing to edition to marketing, and so on.
In short, a person who uses their books as a disposable good that they can freely return deprives honest self-employed workers of their livelihood.
As I said earlier: would you let a total stranger enter your home, eat your food, and go without paying their part? No? Well, it is the same for the authors. When they are indie published, they pay for the complete costs of publishing their books. In other words: they are letting us into their home and are inviting us to their food. So the least we can do, to thank them for their hospitality, is to offer them a host/hostess gift in the form of keeping the books we purchased, like a good guest (the equivalent of bringing a bottle of wine, a cake, or a bouquet of fresh flowers to someone who receives you in their home).
As for Amazon, they should ask for valid reasons for returning a book, especially an eBook, since those are generally not goods which can arrive damaged to the buyer, contrary to an actual physical book, and even in the latter’s case, it should take an important reason to return it, like missing pages or printing errors.
Take note, Amazon, and help the authors continue making a living by selling on your site!
Can’t afford to buy? There are options!
Let’s say you cannot buy the book that you wish to get. Of course, you can wait until you can actually afford it, but if you are not willing to wait, there are other options:
- You can borrow the book on Kindle Unlimited, if available (and the author is paid per page read, so you can double their income if you are a rereader and buy it afterwards); or
- You can borrow on Prime Reading, again, if available.
So you can always help your favourite indie published author by maximising their revenue without making a huge dent in your own budget!
What to do with that?
Simple: spread the word to your friends to raise their awareness to this very important problem that we can all solve together.
And put pressure on Amazon to have them respect the authors by fair return guidelines when it comes to eBooks.
Thank you Caro for making this important blog post!! Indeed, I have been flabbergasted at the RETURN button that appears next to ebooks I have read every page of on Amazon. It makes no sense.
I would also add that many authors give away ARCs (advsnced reader copies) Readers who want free books can lend us authors a big hand by signing up for Netgalley, Booksprouts, AuthorsXP etc and leaving a review after reading the book for free.
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