Welcome to a mid-week edition of The Soul of a Writer! Today was supposed to have been A Center Stage Moment with Karina Kantas. Well, thanks to those wonderful Facebook gremlins I didn’t receive her message until late yesterday and I was on the road picking up the minion from college. As soon as I get all of her materials, I’ll get it posted. Until then, let me share something that came across my Facebook feed the other day.
Of course, I jumped on board and signed the petition. That prompted the following post:
Imagine going to a hyped movie. You buy your refreshments and sit down prepared to see something awesome. But 20 minutes in you decide the acting sucks, the story line is crap, and you hunt down the manager and demand your money back. Not happening. So why is this behavior accepted by Amazon?
Imagine going to Barnes and Noble or some other brick and mortar retailer. You buy a book and read a few chapters. The book is creased and maybe even dog-eared if you don’t believe in bookmarks. Then you go back to the retailer and demand your money back. It wasn’t what you thought it was. You’ve read the book. You can get an exchange, but you can’t return it for funds simply because it wasn’t what you really wanted. But, on Amazon, you can do this.
People, you’re robbing authors. We take a lot of time and effort to provide reading pleasure to an audience. There are previews available of books. Sign up for Kindle Unlimited if you don’t want to pay for each and every book. Go to your local library and petition for the book to be added to a shelf. You can borrow to your heart’s content.
Help support authors. We don’t do our jobs lightly. Most of us, will never get rich or be able to quit our day jobs. We do this because we love it. Don’t take what little we make out of our wallets.
The subject stayed on my mind. In an age where we can rent nearly everything, why buy something virtually only to return it? Somehow instant gratification has evolved into guaranteed satisfaction. Let me explain…
Remember Napster? People couldn’t believe that musicians and songwriters wanted to get paid for their music. Napster eventually died and evolved into other forms of PAID streaming music. We all know the days of buying an album and having nearly every tune be a hit. Nowadays, we’re lucky if there are two songs worth listening to on some albums. Here’s the rub, you can’t return a purchased digital CD. If you buy the whole thing, you own the whole thing. Period. So people buy tracks. That’s acceptable. They purchase what they’ve already heard with the expectation that they’ll enjoy listening to it. After all, they’ve heard them on the radio, on tv, and/or over a streaming service. News flash people. That’s the ONLY venue where you get a guarantee of satisfaction.
If you subscribe to a magazine, you are not guaranteed to like every page. You can, however, cancel your subscription if you’re dissatisfied. Depending on how many issues are left in the service, you’ll get that money back. You don’t get the whole thing.
Now enter Amazon. They have a service called Kindle Unlimited. You’re essentially renting titles. Authors get paid for the number of pages read. If you don’t like a title, you’re out of zero dollars. Just borrow something else. It’s the best of both worlds for readers who like to borrow, and the authors who provide material for them to read. So why buy a book, read a few pages, and then return it?
The practice reminds me of the people who go to high-end clothing stores and purchase expensive items. The clothing or shoes are worn to an event and then brought back to the retailer. I worked for one of those places years ago. Women would buy overly expensive dresses and bring them back claiming they didn’t fit. Mind you they tried them on in the store. But because the policy allowed it, funky items were returned. The store couldn’t sell the clothing. They paid for dry cleaning and then the dresses were sent to their discount store. The store lost money and so did the employee who had earned a commission. Policy at the time was that any item returned came off the hourly commission of the employee who sold it. You may have had a great day, sales wise, only to have it ruined by someone returning a $200+ dress and refusing to purchase anything else. If you had a terrible sales day, that return may have cost you a day’s pay. Have enough of those days and you’re out of a job.
I know there will be those who will wonder what’s the big deal. The book was bad and they didn’t want it anymore. I feel for you. Personally, I’ve purchased non-fiction books that sucked. They didn’t live up to the promise of the title let alone the blurb. I paid a whopping $2.99 for it. Lesson learned. I didn’t purchase a second title by the author, and I didn’t return the book. It’s mine. The author earned a small royalty from it. I can delete from my app or let occupy a little digital space.
But you’re saying you want some sort of payback. After all, you paid a small fortune ($3.99) or got a freebie and sat through reading it. You deserve something. Okay, Mr./Ms./Mrs. Entitlement, I’m going to clue you in on something. It works even better than returning a book. Give the author feedback! I’m not talking about writing a scathing review. Most writers appreciate knowing how people feel about what they’ve written. If you’re able to enter into an honest, heartfelt discussion, go to the author’s website. Find the contact information. Compose a well-written email consisting of what you liked and disliked in the book. I’m assuming you liked something, otherwise you wouldn’t have hit the ONE-CLICK button in the first place. Make your email respectful. Don’t call the writer a hack or disparage the book. If you have suggestions of what would have made the story better FOR YOU, by all means, share it. The author has the choice to thank you and use the comments as food for thought, or ignore it all. If it’s ignored it, know that you tried and call it a day. The author lost a reader and future income. You save yourself a few ONE-CLICKs in the future.
The bottom line is that every book published is not for everybody. If you have any doubts about an author you’ve never read, check your local library. If the author isn’t on the shelves, talk to the librarians. Request the books. No exchange of money needed. Did you know you can preview some books on Goodreads.com? Sometimes excerpts of books are on an author’s website. Check out those sites! We don’t just put them up because they look pretty. Utilize those to learn about authors and the books they write BEFORE you even decide to buy the book. That’s being a smart consumer and reader. It’s something bookworms are notorious for doing.
If you want to read for free, try Kindle Unlimited. You pay an annual subscription fee and you can borrow as many books in the catalog as you like. Another option is to subscribe to the various newsletter/services providing low cost and free titles daily. I get quite a few of these myself and have filled my Kindle app with a lot of new titles. When money’s tight, I get freebies. When I can splurge, I buy books AND keep them. If I get a dud, well, so be it. Another option, if you’re able to, is to contact friends who have Kindle or Nook apps. Maybe you can borrow a title from them. Anything is better than using Amazon.com as a lending library. You’re not borrowing. You’re getting a service, using it, and then returning it. That’s theft. No other way of putting it.
Oh, and a word to authors (published and waiting to be published)… keep doing what you do. Make sure your work is as polished as you can get it. Just remember, that every genre nor every story has universal appeal. There will be some knuckleheads out there who delight in getting stuff for free and then returning that free item. There are those who find pleasure in causing pain. Writing and publishing is hard. We check Amazon hoping to see downloads, sales. We celebrate those things. When someone yanks the rug from under us with a returned book, our sails furl. The day becomes night. Joy gets sucked out. Hang in there because there’s a thing called karma and she can be a ……
Sorry to be the speed bump in your week. I just felt it needed to be said.