I saw a petition floating around the social networks this afternoon, beseeching the viewers to sign a request that the return policy on novels be changed to a twenty-four hour window. I totally filled out that bad-boy and when I hit the "sign" button, I pounded it like it was my worst enemy. To be honest, probably exposing my naivety, before becoming published I never knew you could return books on Amazon, that there was a problem with doing so, or how it affected the author. After publishing three books in the last seven months, I know how it works all too well.
Independent authors spend countless hours, weeks, even months on researching, outlining, writing, revising, editing, formatting, changing, crying, hoping, dreaming, hating, loving, rejoicing, picking through thousands of stock photos or hiring a professional photographer, creating the cover or hiring that done as well, publishing, worrying, waiting, hurrying, screaming, shouting, kicking, dancing, marketing, planning, watching sales reports, figuratively adding what our potential paycheck might be, and then, unfortunately, subtracting half of those sales off again once the returns start pouring in, and then worrying some more over every single manuscript. Creating an entertaining story for our fans to read is what we live for. We skip meals, we lose sleep, we even occasionally go without showering in order to write page after page straight from our hearts to be molded into a suitable novel for our beloved readers. Then, just in order to even sell the book we poured our blood, sweat and tears into, we have to set the price at approximately the same we would purchase a McMuffin at McDonalds for. Regardless, everyone who purchases the book gets a fist pump and those who leave a glowing review receive tears of gratitude from the author. However, when said author (and yes, I'm talking about me) signs into her KDP account and sees that she's had four (or forty) returns in the last week literally makes her vomit. Like, I honestly turn green just thinking about it.
Let's go back to that McMuffin I mentioned earlier. Sounds yummy, doesn't it? I'm always hungry. Anyway, here's the scenario: You're totally craving a Sausage and Egg McMuffin so you drive to McDonalds and order one. After paying $2.99 for your breakfast, you go sit down and absolutely devour it. It was delicious. You loved every moment of it, except the rubbery egg, and you're already planning on buying another McMuffin from McDonalds the following week. Crumbling your paper-wrapper-thingy up, you make your way to the cash register with a satisfied smile on your face...
"Hello," you say. "First let me commend you on this awesome breakfast invention. The McMuffin is God's gift to humanity. It was amazing. Second, I would like to request my $2.99 back so I can spend it on my lunch at the Sonic down the road."
Of course, the baffled clerk says, "What? You can't do that. You already ate it. You have no complaints with it. We can't give you your money back so you can go spend it somewhere else. Not only would you be taking your money back, where we make no profit, but you would be costing us money since you consumed the product we supplied for nothing."
Then, imagine the disgruntled manager (let's name him Mr. Ama Zon just for the heck of it) comes running up and says, "Oh! You want your money back? Sure! Here you go. Come back next week and purchase another McMuffin and don't worry, we'll give you your money back then too..."
That's what happens when you return a book, along with the fact that you practically rip out part of my heart. Do you want that on your conscience? Come on, now.
Authors slave for months and do our very best to write a quality manuscript for the reader's entertainment purposes, mark it at such a low price that we can't even buy our own Sausage McMuffin (by the time Amazon takes their cut) and work our bottoms off (not literally, unfortunately, we have to spend money we barely make to pay for our gym memberships too) to make everyone happy. Why, then, if you enjoyed our novel, would you snatch our hard-earned money away to buy another book? For that matter, why would you at all? Let's try this scenario thing again...
You go to McDonalds and order a Sausage McMuffin. You pay for it. You sit down and take a bite, then say, "Oh! Shoot! I meant to buy hashbrowns this morning! Not a McMuffin!" or "Wow. This is my first McMuffin and it's really not what I thought it would be. I expected it to be spicy but I was mistaken." or "I'm not a fan of McMuffins at all. I've never enjoyed McMuffins but I just keep trying them hoping I'll change my mind..." so then, you go and demand your money back from McDonalds.
We work really hard to appease our fans, knowing that it's absolutely impossible to please everyone. It hurts when you don't enjoy our work, because we truly want to make our readers happy, but we're all different. We all have a different taste in books (or McMuffins) and that's what makes us unique and special. So, if you purchase a book of your own free will and decide that you loved it, hated it, etc... It's still your book. You bought it. You own it. I don't want it back (laughing... but seriously) when you finish it. I do, however, want to keep the approximate $1.70 I make from a $2.99 book sale that I intend to put toward my sons' college educations.
If you're a reader/fan of indie authors then I give you the biggest pat on the back in the world. Here's a virtual hug. Here's a handshake. Here's a happy dance. Lastly, here's my exaggerated fist pump and it's all for YOU. We love you. We appreciate you. You absolutely make our careers. You're the best and we want you to know it. Life as an indie author is rewarding, painful, exciting, difficult, etc... but without our readers, we wouldn't even be able to pursue our passion. To all of those who read, review, and support us, you have my heart and to those of you who read, then return every book for your money back... perhaps you didn't realize how much if affects the indie author and I totally understand, but I hope this sheds some light on the topic. I didn't get it either until I started writing. Now, I know. A person should have no more than a twenty-four hour window to return a book to Amazon after purchasing. Anymore than that just cheats the author out of his or her hard-earned money and time.
If you're interested in signing the petition, here's the link: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/amazon-i-think-amazon-should-change-their-book-return-policy-from-7-days-to-only-24-hours?recruiter=87177624&utm_campaign=twitter_link_action_box&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=share_petition
Thanks for understanding and for supporting indie authors!