Hello Everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post (lazy me) but today I’ve been incited into doing one by an ungenerous, some would say stingy, reader.

I’m not sure if it’s the same for all authors, but when I log into KDP (Amazon) to check my sales figures (every day, more than once, and no, that doesn’t make me weird) I’m always a happy squirrel when I see the number increase, even if it is only by one. Each sale is another time my book is going to be read, and I find it most exciting (if you gauge from that, that I live a generally boring life, you’re probably right ;)).

Well, today I logged on as soon as I woke up (stop laughing). I was sooooo happy to see that I had sold 1 copy of my book of short stories, Dark Spaces. This was the only copy of that particular book that I’ve sold all month, so it was extra exciting. Imagine my horror when, this afternoon, I logged in again and it had been returned. What the hell? Who would do this? It’s only $2.99 for goodness sake, and not only that, it has only 4 and 5 star reviews and has been edited and proofread so it’s a good product (there’s no accounting for dodgy taste but that’s another topic…). The book is only 10,000 words so is a quick read and therefore, a target for the Amazon returns policy which states that a customer can return an e-book within 7 days of purchase.

My summation is (and I could be wrong, but I doubt it) that the person read it and returned it for no other reason than wanting their $2.99 back. They can’t have returned it for lack of quality, and since you can read a sample, they knew what they were getting. Do they think I sit on my pile of gold and jewels cackling crazy laughter all day as I rub my hands together and stare at my KDP figures to see that I’ve sold 50,000 copies today? No wonder we writers can safely wear the tag “Starving writer”.

I can understand if someone accidentally clicked on ‘buy me’ or it was a present they didn’t want, but for all of you who can afford to buy e-books and return them because you’re a stingy bastard (I can hear the dismay at my strong language from here, but I think it’s time I said what I, and many other authors, think) you are not nice and are taking money, albeit a small amount of money, from a person that has worked hard to produce something that would take you more than ten minutes to read, when you will probably go out and buy a coffee that costs more and takes five minutes to drink.

I work a day job to pay my bills, and writing is a passion that must be part time. Don’t assume the authors you are buying from are any richer than you, because we are probably not. Any joy I felt at seeing that sale this morning has quickly evaporated. I’d like to ask all those stingy bastards out there to please reconsider before fleecing an author—how would you like to go to work and when it’s time to be paid, the boss waves the money in front of your face then puts it back in his pocket?

For the record, there are many, many readers who don’t return books and I salute you and thank you for your support. You good guys rock!

Ok rant over. Normal services will resume with next blog post :).

35 thoughts on “Stingy Bastards—An Author’s Gripe

  1. I’m sorry about the return, Dionne. Those are so annoying. I get that the occasional one might be because the person’s credit card didn’t process, but many of those have to be because people just want to save the money.

    There was also one case where my husband borrowed my iPad to search for a certain kind of technical manual. He was browsing through the Kindle store for them and accidentally ordered one for $50. Because the iPad is a touch screen and Amazon has that one click setting, it was an easy mistake to make. He hadn’t actually wanted that particular book and for the price we sure as heck weren’t keeping it, so we did return it right away.

    On the other hand, my own novel is only $2.99 and well edited. Readers can easily ascertain from the sample whether the book is for them or not, yet I still get returns. Last month I had eleven of them and so far this month there have been eight. Averaging it out, I see approximately 1-2 percent of sales returned each month. I have to assume at least some of those were people who wanted to save the $3 (whether they liked the novel or not).

    Amazon can see how far a reader gets in the book. There should be some kind of rule that if they make it past the 25% mark then they can’t return it. If you get that far in and want your money back it isn’t because of a quality issue. Not liking the ending or a particular plot twist shouldn’t be cause for returning it. No one at the movie theaters gets that choice. Anyway, I really do hate their return policy. It is ridiculous.

    1. Well said, Suzie. And Amazon does know exactly how far you are into the book so I can’t understand how they can let someone use the product then return it. You don’t wear a dress and return it for a full refund and say “But I only wore it for a couple of hours.” It really is ridiculous.

      1. Exactly! Last week I had three returns in one day and about wanted to cry. It’s strange how I can go a week or more without a single one and then get slammed like that. Amazon loses money from this too. You’d think they’d make a stricter policy.

    2. I completely agree with you! All my books are set up so you can read 30% for free. If you don’t like the book after that, don’t buy it. If you do, keep it. That $2 may not be a whole lot to either of us, but I don’t think that’s too much to pay for the author’s hard work and a few minutes/hours of enjoyment from the reader.
      Amazon should change their policy to if the book is more than 50% read, they won’t do refunds. The actual bookstores won’t allow you to return books you’ve purchased, so why does Amazon allow this? (I’ve only tried to return books I have duplicates of, and usually have to donate the copy to one of the local bookstores)

  2. I could understand Amazon having a 1-day return policy. After all, it’s very easy to push that ‘buy in one click’ button then whoops! you’ve got something you don’t want. Or equally I can envisage the situation where a book is offered free as a promo and a reader turns up just a LITTLE too late to discover he’s being charged for something he thought was free.
    But SEVEN days??? Nuts. Rant away, m’dear 🙂

    1. Thanks John. Yes, seven days is a ridiculous amount of time. Needless to say, my longer books don’t get many returns at all because you’d have to be a fast reader to read them in a few hours (I hope I haven’t jinxed myself now lol).

  3. More power to your elbow, Dionne.
    I’ve ranted on this one myself. And I take the ‘accidental one click’ with a pinch of salt. I have 1, read it again, 1 return from the German site of Amazon in nearly a year of sales. Do they have a different version of browser? More accurate mice? Are their fingers smaller and less likely to hit the wrong button?

      1. That’s a good point, Mark. I’ve never had any returns on any other site except Amazon US. That includes B&N. I don’t sell very high on the others, but I’ve had enough sales there is a chance I could have had returns. It is rather suspicious.

  4. I had one return right at the seven day mark – drove me crazy because I just knew the person had read the book. 7 days? Come on! 24 hours is plenty, and they can appeal if a reader needs to return outside that window (like if the toddler got their iPad and they didn’t notice for a few days). There are libraries for borrowing.

    1. That’s rude and not only that, I know your books are enjoyable and good quality. They would have had no legitimate (in my opinion) reason to return it.

  5. Thank you for speaking out Dionne. You know how much I hate that policy. With a free sample available for readers to see what they are buying first, there is no reason for Amazon to allow 7 days to return ebooks especially if the person has read it. It’s ridiculous. Amazon is losing money too, so I don’t get it.

    1. Some people say it’s because Amazon wants to encourage people to buy indie books because they feel ‘safe’ but that’s just crap since you can read a sample. Also, there are some trad published books I’ve bought and not read all of because I didn’t enjoy them, but that’s the risk I took in buying an author I hadn’t read before.

  6. Anyone who returns a book to save £1.99 is a complete twat who I don’t want to read my books anyway 🙂

  7. It drives me demented when that happens. Yes, mistakes do indeed happen and I think fine, that’s OK. But there are people around who BOAST of doing this. Which is NOT fine at all.
    The only collateral benefit of it is that the sale still counts when it comes to your rankings, even if it is withdrawn.
    The first time it happened I emailed Amazon and asked why. They did a check and said that it wasn’t a quality issue (formatting etc) but almost certainly a mistake. That reassured me. I think some folks decide that because they can return a book, they will.

  8. It would seem that people in general are getting quite rude of late. I have seen a lot of dodgy things going on and I am kind of sick of it. Aren’t people taught simple manners any more?

    I can’t believe (well I can but wish I couldn’t) that people would read a book and then return it to get their $3 back. It’s a disgusting thought that there are people stingy enough to do that.

    They are probably the same ones that would complain if the price went up even by 50 cents. I think they forget that another person is responsible for the hardwork that goes into making a book.

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