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Returning Kindle Books After Reading Them: The New Piracy.

April 10, 2015

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Returning Kindle Books After Reading Them: The New Piracy.

April 10, 2015

Recently, I came across this post on an Amazon discussion board. You can view it here.

This person’s actions are despicable and she admits to stealing the hard work of authors just because she is unhappy.

 

She complains that she hates it when authors only publish a portion of the story, forcing readers to wait a few months to a year for the next part to come out. Well, let’s look at this here. Authors, like movie producers, like to produce series. It’s the only way you truly make a living in the business of publishing. Anyone can write a one-hit-wonder, which may be remembered for a while and perhaps become known as a classic, but that is no way to make a living. To have a career as an author, you have to write a series. In some cases, you have to write several. Every professional author does this, whether published by a big name company or independent.

 

Look at Terry Goodkind or George R.R. Martin. They each have published about 15-20 books in their fantasy series. Yes, I said series. And you have to wait about 2-3 years between books. Sometimes longer. I wonder if this same individual complained about the wait between Harry Potter novels. And let’s consider the books that are currently popular: Hunger Games, Divergent, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Twilight. They are all part of a series and the books all came out about a year apart. Did this person complain about that as well? It doesn’t seem like it. But let a self-published author do the same and she goes ballistic.

 

Why do authors release the books in a series a year apart, you might wonder. The answer is simple: when the first book in a series is released, chances are, the others have not been written, or are written, but not finalized. Within that 12 month period between releases, the publishing company is busy marketing the first book, editing the next one, preparing a cover design for the next one, and marketing it as well. They also set up author book signings and interviews. All of this takes time. This is what the big name publishing houses do, but in the realm of the self-published author, there is so much more.

 

As a self-published author myself, I know what goes on behind the scenes. Most times, I will publish the first book in a series soon after it is written and edited, just so I can start getting some money coming in to help cover the costs of publishing the second book. During this time between releases, I am finishing the next book; getting it edited by a professional editor willing to work freelance; hiring a cover designer and going through the proofs until I get the right cover; paying for marketing; formatting it for print and ebook, which I do myself; filing for a copyright; and filing for a Library of Congress Control number all before hitting the publish button on KDP. All of this, I do on my own and pay for out of my own pocket.

 

As an author, it can take me over a year to write a single book, since writing is something I do part time. I also have a job, working as a freelance book formatter, helping other independent authors, like myself, to get their books formatted and ready for publishing. Then, there are all of the odd jobs I do just to bring in enough money to pay my bills. Producing a book is not easy.

 

So, to complain about having to wait a year or two for the next book in the series is ludicrous. And, so what if you forget what happened in the previous book? How hard is it to reread it?

 

The same thing happens in the movie and television industry. When a series of films come out, you usually have to wait 2-3 years between films, unless they filmed them all at once, in which case you wait a year. In television, many shows have a midseason break, where you wait 2-3 months for the next set of episodes. Then, there is the break between seasons where one ends, and you wait a few months for the next one to begin. What are you going to do? Stop watching TV entirely, or quit paying your cable bill because you have no patience?

 

It seems to be what this individual does. She openly admits to buying books and returning them because she isn’t happy with the fact that authors write a series and force her to wait a year for the next book. She also isn’t happy with the fact that, because many write a series, she has to purchase multiple books just to finish the story. Some of you might share this sentiment, but some stories become so long that they have to be broken up into sections. Can you imagine buying the Harry Potter books as a single volume? Think of how impossible that would be to hold in your lap and read.

 

 Oh, and this person also loves to return books if they have grammar issues. By the way, I have come to the conclusion that many people complain about grammar issues just so they have something to complain about; and in her case, I would question her complaints since she is proud of buying a book, reading it, and returning it. I have bought books that were so poorly written, I wanted to smack the author with it; but I kept it. After all, buying a book is a gamble.

 

Buying a book, reading it before the return period is over, and returning it for a full refund is stealing. There is no other way to describe it. You are pirating, and stealing the hard work of another. If you are too cheap to purchase a book and keep it, then go to the library. There, you can read all of the books you want free of charge.

 

Authors lose anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in royalties because of people like this person. And if you are thinking that we are wealthy and can afford it, think again. Very few authors achieve the fame and wealth that E.L. James, Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, or even Mary Higgens Clark have achieved. Most, spend their days struggling to make a living and pay their bills.

 

As an independent author, I will never achieve the sort of wealth and success that the above mentioned authors have. At most, I make about $1 for every book that is sold, and sometimes it’s less than that. That means that I have to sell about 100 books, books that are not returned by cheapskates, in order to make $100 in income. Then, I have to pay taxes on that $100, so in the end I only get to keep about $70-80.  That is barely enough money to buy a week’s worth of groceries.

 

I spend a year to two years of my life writing a single book. For the last two years I have been working on my Solaris series. In order to make the wait between books shorter than the normal year, I wrote the entire series before publishing the first book, thus allowing me to release them about 3 months apart. But I have still spent countless hours writing, rewriting, and rewriting again. Then, I paid for a professional editor and cover designer before shoveling out more money to pay for marketing. Do you want to know how many books of Solaris Seethes I have sold since its release in December 2014?

 

 7.

 

That’s right. I’ve only sold 7 copies. That means at $1 royalty per sale I have made $7. That is well below minimum wage and it doesn’t come close to the $2000 I invested in publishing that book alone. There are 3 more in the series. You do the math.

 

So, when someone comes along and uses me as their own personal lending library, you can understand why I get upset. Every month, I lose about $200-$300, and sometimes more, to people like this Riette. The majority of my books are $5 or less on Kindle and Nook. That is less than the price of a movie ticket and comparable to what many people spend on a latte.

 

I wonder if this lady tries to get a refund when she goes to a movie and finds issues with it.

 

I am telling you all of this because you need to understand what goes on behind the scenes in the publishing world, especially for independent authors like myself. There is so much that we have to do and we spend our own money making our books a reality. Most of us never make a profit. There is a reason why many authors are thought of as broke. Some, manage to achieve monetary success and get picked up by a major publisher. Most do not.

 

If you practice this sort of thing, if you buy books, read them, and return them for a full refund, you are a thief. Yes, I said it. If you do this, you are a thief. It is no different than sneaking into a theater without paying; pirating a movie or TV show online; or buying a shirt, wearing it, and returning it to the store.

 

So respect the lowly author. They invest their lives into bringing you entertainment, and get very little in return. The least you can do is, when you buy their book, do not return it. Even if you hated it, don’t return it. Donate it to a library or school, or just delete it from you kindle, but don’t return it for a full refund.

 

“Oh, but the book was so bad. Why should I have to keep it? I’m unsatisfied, so I deserve a refund,” you might say.

 

No, you don’t. You don’t deserve a refund. Do you purchase movies, watch them, and return them? Do you demand a full refund when you go to a movie theater and hated the movie? Do you buy a CD and demand a refund after discovering there is a song on there you didn’t like?

 

When you buy a book and read it, you are getting to immerse yourself in a world that the author worked hard to produce. You are getting their hard work. When you return the book, you have already gotten what you wanted, a chance to read what they created, but now, they aren’t being compensated for that. So, you have thus stolen their work.

 

Because of people like this Riette, I have started raising the prices of my own books. I have also decided to no longer invest so much time and money into producing my own books and creating a world that people can immerse themselves in as though they are there.

 

Here is the result of the actions of people like this Riette: when an author sees their work being pirated, they stop producing. Why should an author keep writing books that people are just going to return after reading?

 

So, if you want authors to keep writing and producing these imaginary worlds that you can lose yourself in, to keep creating characters you can relate to and love, show some respect. When you buy a book, keep it.

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