Monday, June 23, 2014

Refund - Royalty Lost

You've written the Great American Novel.  You spent over a year sweating laboriously on it late into the night knowing full well that in mere hours you would need to get up to go to work at the full-time job. You paid big bucks to have it professionally edited.  You paid even more money to get a super snappy cover to grab the readers' attention.  Finally, you paid somebody to format the book so it could be published on Amazon as an ebook and paperback.  You did your homework and spent, if not thousands, at least hundreds of dollars to see your name in print.  By the way, I'm not talking Vanity Press publications, another totally different subject.  I'm talking for

The book is available.  You rejoice.

Now the next step.  Marketing.  You pay token amounts to different Twitter accounts to get the word out. You establish Facebook accounts and pay for advertising so others can learn about your new book.  You move forward with other media outlets and start the marketing of your book.


You see the book's rating on Amazon slowly move up.  You have sold copies!  You check your KDP account and note the number of books sold and see the royalty figures climbing.  You move over to the CreateSpace area and note the sales being generated there.

Dollar signs light up your eyes!

A few days pass and you've kept a close watch on the numbers.  It is exciting.  You can even see the sales in Europe, Great Britain, Australia, Japan and other foreign countries.  Exactly how much is 101.51 GBP?  You find a monetary converter on the web and save out the address to your favorites.   WOW!  Almost $173 in U.S. funds.  The excitement is overwhelming.

A few more days pass and you once more check on your royalties.  Sales has been going up and UP!

You now have 100.10 GBP.  HUH?  That number is less than it was before.  The foreign market has dropped but there has been sales.  Wait!  Even the U.S. sales is confusing.  Sales shows books being sold but the numbers no longer make sense.  The new book sales ... added to the old book sales ... should be higher, but is only minimally higher.  How can one add 30 more books but only reflect 25?


Amazon allows all readers a seven day grace period in which they can return a book.


Hmm?  What can go wrong with this idea?

I get a book.  I now have seven (7) days before I need to return it and get my money back.  Being a tight-wad, I open WordPad (or Word) and my Kindle app on my computer.  It takes some time but...

I highlight the text of a Kindle page.  Click "Copy" and then ALT-TAB to WordPad where I conveniently hit "Paste" which puts the text there.  Oh, yes, it also copies the book title and credit along with it - big deal. A quick delete and it is gone.  There.  A couple of hours work and I now have a copy of the book on my WordPad or Word application and can save it.  Tomorrow I send the original back to with my sincere apology that ...

  1. I didn't want it and made a mistake
  2. I didn't like it and want my money back.
  3. My kid ordered it by mistake.
  4. Some other obscure reason.
Amazon has a "No questions asked" return policy.


I can't go into a restaurant, order a meal, eat it and then tell management I didn't like it and walk out.  I certainly can't pump my tank full of gas, drive until it is near empty and then expect a refund because I didn't get 39 miles to the gallon.

Yes, I can go into a chain store, buy a shirt or shoes, take them home and return them because they were the wrong size or some other reason.  Yes, I can return a dead plant to a garden center within a reasonable amount of time.  If there is a flaw in the material or construction, most items can be returned.

You can't return computer software that has been opened.  You can't return music or videos (DVD) unless it has been damaged and then only for the same item - not cash.

Why would a major corporation fall prey to the concept of accepting returns on books?  Yes, it can accept returns on the usual suspects such as clothes, household items and equipment.

But with intangible items, like music and/or books - the author is being cheated out of possible royalties.  Yes, for clothes and other commodities that are returned, the vendor loses revenue.  Only the unscrupulous buyers are the ones who use the item (wear the dress, for example) and return it for full refund.  Yes, I realized there are unscrupulous readers... but Amazon is inviting them to the table to feed and gorge themselves at the expense of the author.

If this concept continues at Amazon, I fear that many authors will pull their books from the pool in hopes of bringing the giant to understand that lost royalty is lost income.

How do you feel about this?  Me?  I've seen returns and watched anticipated royalty dissipate before my eyes.  Amazon gave me the chance to eliminate the middle man so I could earn more but if they continue to allow returns, I don't earn.  I may have to consider another option.

By the way -- don't feel smug if you're published through one of BIG publishers, a return is a return, you just don't see it and if you got an advance, a return still hurts in the long run. 

There is someone out there who is ready to build a better mousetrap -- Amazon created and brought to market the ebook industry.  This could kill it.

Until next I ramble on...


  1. I'm with you Bob, this is crazy! Maybe we should start an author petition?

  2. Tara: This is a possibility that might really fly. We should let Amazon know with a thoughtful nudge. Something to think about.

  3. Whew - that's depressing Bob! I suppose the best case scenario is to simply sell more than get returned! GEEZ!

  4. LJ Davis: I guess you found the silver lining in this ugly situation. One must remember that they can't return any more than have been sold. At least you'll never owe! LOL.

  5. To be honest, not too happy about this. It's so well open to abuse. With paper copies it's a good idea, but with digital, well you can just copy and paste, so it's not wise. Might need to look at that eventually...