Friday, May 9, 2014

Book Returns Done Wrong

Having never published a book I had to sit and talk to a few authors about this topic. I always wondered how much money an author loses a year in book returns. A person shouldn't have to ask themselves what constitutes a reason to return one. If you have to ask yourself that, then, well, I dunno what to tell you.

If you read an ENTIRE book and then return it... SHAME ON YOU! You don't go to a salon get your hair cut and styled, walk out enjoy the day and then decide tomorrow you don't like it and want a refund. It doesn't work that way. The stylist isn't going to hand you over the money after you've enjoyed it. Same thing applies to books. If you read it, you know it. You've enjoyed it (or not).

At a movie theater they will allow you 20 minutes in to a feature to decide if you like it. If in that 20 minutes you walk out and demand a refund they will give it to you, no questions asked. Now, if you watch the whole thing and say, I didn't like it I want my money back. You're getting laughed out of there.

Amazon and other sites will let you read chapters for free and let you continue on if you purchase it. That seems fair to me.

If you are reading a book and you hit chapter 4 and you are rolling your eyes and just feel like you are in book hell. STOP. RETURN. Don't read the entire thing all, "Yeah, just like I thought it would be, utter crap! I'm getting my money back." Uhhh, no. You read it. You have the knowledge all up in your head. My opinion is, you don't get to return it at that point.

After speaking to a few authors here's some info I received. One author told me they lost a couple hundred in royalties last month averaging to a couple grand for one year. I'm genuinely curious how many of those returns are legitimate. That's just awful.  Imagine your boss coming up to you with your check and it's a few hundred bucks light, he says, "Well, I didn't like your performance in the last budget meeting so I didn't think I should pay you for it." Even though you worked your ass off. How pissed would you be?

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't return a book you don't like. I'm saying if you read it to completion then you own it. You knew early on that you liked it and that's why you read it. You also know by chapter 4 if this isn't the book for you. So okay, you tried... Return it then.

It takes writers hours, days, weeks, months, years to get a book off the ground. Think about what you do for a living. Think about someone deciding what you should get based on your performance. If you were a chef and someone ate the entire meal you prepared and then demanded their money back and you HAD to do it because you aren't in control of the policy, how angry would that make you?

These authors have no say on how the returns work. So, remember that the next time you go to return a book.


  1. Big issue. Thanks for bringing attention to it.

  2. You're welcome :) It's always irritated me.

  3. I agree with you. You read most of it, you own it. Mostly you can tell from the sample if it's for you. The policy needs to be changed.

  4. Great post and you are absolutely correct, the retailers should be forced to change their policy. They are basically allowing themselves to be a lending library and shafting the artists and authors in the long run.

    I believe I heard somewhere that there is a 7 day return policy with Amazon on books...considering that most readers will read a book in 1-2 days, usually starting right after downloading; 7 days is asking them to read it and return it.

  5. It's sad that this happens. Sometimes you get some entertainment thing you thought you'd like and it sucked. Move on, it didn't hurt your life or cost much of anything. My thoughts anyway. Never returned any book except for college when I sold them back.

  6. I agree 100%. and if Amazon can sync your reading location across multiple devices then they should be able to tell if a book has been finished and not allow returns on those items. I realize that they want to keep their customers happy but like you said, if you finished it, you own it.