Monday Musings: “Your Books Are So Good, I Shouldn’t Have to Pay for Them.”

This happened to an author of my acquaintance. She got an email from a “fan” and the gist of it was this:

Dear Ms. Author.

I really like your books. I think they are well-written and I enjoyed reading them. (So far, so good, right? Hang on.) However, I have returned them all because you priced them at $0.99 to $2.99, and that is too much to pay for them. I can’t afford to pay that much for a book, even though I liked it. In the future, can you make sure you make all your books free so I don’t have to return them?

And, when the author in question blocked this “fan” (and it seems, reported her as an abuser of the return system on ebooks), she sent another email chastising the author for blocking her and forcing her to open a second account (presumably to harass the author further). She went on to say that other authors haven’t been this terrible to her, and in fact, have asked her to be a beta reader because she bought and returned their books, so why does this author think she has the right to do these terrible, terrible things?

Uh, WTF? Lemme tell you something, sweetie. This writing stuff? This is work. This is our JOB. It takes time and effort to write a book, edit and revise several times, get it edited and proofread by outside sources, a cover designed, and the e-book formatted properly. Not everyone has the skill set to do all that themselves. In fact, the outside edit/proofread is essential to producing a professional result. Many times, those things we can’t do ourselves cost actual money. Oh, yes, sometimes you are lucky and have a relative or friend who will work gratis or for barter or a small payment. But it still requires the effort from all involved. That 99 cents you paid? That gets the author a pittance of a royalty, but at least it is something. Again, to a lot of us, this is a job.

Now, I have no idea what this lunatic does for work, but for those of you who do have a job, how would you react if your boss came to you this morning and said: “Look, we love the work you do, we think you are a valuable employee, and you really do help us out a lot. However, we have decided that we shouldn’t have to pay you to do that work. We think it is so good, you should just give it to us.” You think that would fly? Yeah, no. And, yet, this is exactly what this person wants authors to do- give her our work without getting paid. Um, sorry. Ain’t gonna happen. Further, it shouldn’t happen. We put a lot of effort into what we write and we deserve to get paid for it.

She also most certainly should be reported for abusing the system. I worked retail for many years, and you can bet the chronic returners got shut down after a while. You can’t go into a store, buy something, use it for your party or whatever, and then return it, over and over, without being tagged as a problem customer. Oh, and by the way? Threatening to “never buy anything here again (or buy another of her books)” isn’t much of a threat. When you return it, we don’t make any money on it, anyway, so no big deal.

So, listen, honey, get a clue. Those “stories in our heads” are not a gift to you unless we choose them to be. We don’t owe you the chance to read them. We’re not offering them to you for your undying love and admiration. We’re working here, just like everybody else. And, just like everybody else, we deserve to be paid for that work.

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Available now: (and you’re gonna have to pay for ’em. 😉 )

tn_Circle Unbroken Cover (eBook)

After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here.

tn_Six of One

A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.

tn_Survival of the Fittest (Front Cover)

A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final envinronmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.

171 thoughts on “Monday Musings: “Your Books Are So Good, I Shouldn’t Have to Pay for Them.”

  1. Reblogged this on Rhani DChae and commented:
    I had to reblog this, because I just couldn’t believe it! It just amazes me how the minds of some people work. If you can’t afford to spend the asking price of any item, then you don’t buy that item. I have seen books on Amazon that I wouldn’t mind reading, but I’m not comfortable paying $4.99, or even more for an e-book. I would NEVER buy, read, and then return a book because I couldn’t afford to buy it in the first place! At any rate, please read on. I’m sure you will join me in my state of shock.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You get to read a book for 99 cents! A book! A fancy cup of coffee is more expensive than that, and it is gone after you drink it up. But a book is with you forever, and you can read it as many times as you wish. How can us readers show our support and make sure our favorite authors will be able to write more if we don’t pay? Even the raised price is seriously very graceful of the author. I think return options for digital books should apply to more expensive ones, like books that cost more than 10 dollars or so. Hope that “fan” will find some sanity.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This post inspired me to write to a car manufacturer…
    “Dear Ferrari, your cars are great. The quality is amazing! But I had to return them because they cost too much. Could you start making them free, please? K? Thx.”

    LOL. Seriously, though, people who can’t afford books shouldn’t write to authors/publishers about it any more than I should be whining to Ferrari that I can’t afford a luxury car. The time and effort spent on buy/return/email and whine should be spent either earning more disposable income or hitting up a LIBRARY, where folks can borrow free books without harassing authors about the injustice of it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for spreading the word about this. A friend of mine voiced this same opinion in a well-known author’s Facebook group and was severely vilified. Of course, that author is a big proponent of FREE books. The group’s retaliation sank to posting fraudulent negative reviews on one of my friend’s books. She was flabbergasted at the reaction. How can any serious writer believe that giving away her/his work (other than as a short-term promotion) make sense? It’s so nice to find authors here of a like mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh! Have I come to the wrong place to get some free books?

    hahaha!!! Just kidding 🙂

    There is a saying that comes from Yorkshire in England… There is nout queerer than folk! In this case it applies perfectly.

    Great post, by the way.

    Like

  6. Sharing your post on social media – this is symptom of two major problems we’re dealing with in the services and intellectual property sectors.

    One is that large platforms (Huff Post, Amazon, etc.) encourage working for free for “exposure” or have policies that don’t allow the owner of a work to protect that work, as demonstrated in the case of the return policy.

    The other issue is this mindset that is a bizarre combination of entitlement, scarcity, and cynicism around paying for intellectual property like books, courses, services, graphic design, photos, etc. Because there’s so much of it available for free through the Internet, there often seems to be a sense of, “well, I SHOULD be able to get it for free,” combined with either the scarcity argument of ‘I can’t afford to pay for it,” or the cynicism argument of “it can’t be worth that much.”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Other than than the obvious, the problem with this dynamic is her logic is more supported by the industry than ours (indie authors) is. When you’ve got forces like Bezos stating that trad publishing is down so make your ebook free on Amazon to drive yourself up in a category, it only financially serves the top dog of that system, which in this case is him. In that respect, he is no different than elite publishers who cry party foul at the indie authors tripping up the industry. As if. This readers’ single voice isn’t at all removed from the bigger picture that giving our work away is a categoric expectation, not a fluke.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I confess… I have returned books. Exactly two books each of which had been given to me as gifts by people who meant well but clearly had no idea of my tastes. I didn’t read one at all. The other I read a half of a chapter and then skimmed a bit further in to see if I wanted to plow through. If I read 15% in total, I’d be surprised (it was a print book). When I buy a book at a store, I generally do the same thing.

    That said, I’ve never returned a book I bought. If I click that button, or step up to the register, I’ve made a commitment.

    But even if I didn’t see it that way, I can’t imagine this “fan”s attitude of entitlement.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do understand that there are legitimate reasons for returning anything, books included. But this person was deliberately playing the system and implying she’d done the same to others. And wanted to be rewarded for it. That’s unforgivable.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You did. I just like repeating things. 😉 And just wanted to clarify that I don’t think everyone who returns a book is a bad person. Just the ones who try to play games so that they never have to pay for anything.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I think if some of these people know the hard work that goes into writing they wouldn’t open their mouths like this. I have one ‘friend’ who thinks her connection to me should automatically entitle her to free books. Needless to say I don’t see much of her any more!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What drives me insane is the people who put my hard work, and that of other authors, up on free websites for people to download without paying us a penny for our hard work. I also have people asking me for free copies of books. One woman was caught on FB, by another author I know, buying eBooks books and then reselling them at a cheaper price. She thought she had a great game going with a PayPal account set up to take money for books other people wrote. She was reported to the FBI and all the other agencies who claim they will do something about copyright infringement. There is a misconception out there that writers earn a fortune and can therefore afford to give their work away.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you for writing what you did and for posting this! I agree with you and I posted your link to this article with my IRISH comment (outrage by the thief!) attached to the post on my FB.

    Authors need to stand together and stand strong – time to stop all freebies and giveaways – whoever started the FREE stuff and 99 cent books in the first place has gotten us here!

    Remember when you were young and first started dating, and your mom said if you give the milk away for free why should the boy buy the cow? Well, those who started this cheap and free stuff has made the mess we author today are paying for…time to make some changes!

    HH

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Free promos can have value. I think the real issue is that too many consumers are so sure that everyone is out to rip them off and everything is overpriced anyway, they have lost sight of the actual value of things. There is far too much perception that if you are not Stephen King or Ansel Adams or Picasso, you aren’t really working. It’s a hobby or something, and we shouldn’t expect to be paid for the things we do for fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. *stands up in applause*
    It’s unbelievable how many folks think it’s okay to steal from artists like this ridiculous soul. What’s worse is when artists give their work away for free, supporting the appalling audience who demands this sacrifice from us. Thank you for sharing this article. All authors, self published or traditionally published, should read this and stand united.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. As an aspiring writer and having been an assistant manager of a bookstore for years, I can’t believe this person but am not surprised. Working retail, I have seen a bunch of things people do to try and “get away” with getting something for “free”. When I worked at a computer store, guys would come in one day and buy a game and then return it the next day to buy another game and keep doing this cycle. You knew they were copying it at home but couldn’t prove it. At the bookstore, we had several people who would buy a book and then in about a week to two come back to return it and buy another book and keep that up. Some were even bold enough to say “I didn’t like this book so I am returning it”. I was always like “If you READ the whole book you don’t get to return it.” I mean imagine if we took this approach to something else like dining. Sitting calmly in a restaurant and suddenly the guy at the next table vomits his meal back up on his dessert plate and states he is now not paying the check. Absurd. But we see this entitlement kind of behavior over and over again. I applaud you for taking a stand. Even the Bible tells us that a worker is worth their wage and you certainly should be getting yours.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I worked retail for many years and you are so right. People will try all sorts of schemes to get out of paying a fair price for something. Not surprised it happens with e-books, also, but I think it can’t hurt to make it known.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. If people want to keep a book for two weeks, they should get a library card. I legitimately bought two boxes of books at a library book sale. I frequent Half-Price Books, and I have a kindle. If I feel that I can’t pay full price, there are ways I can read for free or discounted rates without stealing from the author.

        Liked by 2 people

  14. I love to volunteer. In the modern era, nobody wants to pay for anything, everyone loves a volunteer. Even employers want to give you a stipend insufficient for normal expenses. unfortunately volunteering doesn’t allow me to afford the gas in my car, the food on the table, the heat, the ac, the electricity the water, and my house payment, not to mention clothes and home repairs and car maintenance and other normal things that other people, for some strange, inexplicable reason, want to charge me for!

    Like

  15. I have returned an ebook clicked on in error, gifted on a second copy of something given to me or bought in error, but only ever returned copies of things that arrived damaged or misprinted. I’ve deleted free books that were so bad as to be unreadable, but only ever reviewed things I paid for.

    I get that ‘your stuff is too expensive’ crap frequently: I make individually designed customer specified bespoke clothing. I sympathise if folk can’t afford the things I make, but as I’m earning less than minimum wage by the time overheads, materials and all the pre-contract unbillable customer wrangling is done, their not being able to afford it is a very different problem from my being ‘too expensive’. Writers certainly earn their keep in sleepless nights, long hours, and wrangling publishers and editors. Pay or stop reading! or try writing your own…

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I loved your point of view and agree wholeheartedly. I still believe it is magical how stories come together.
    I have never been able to pay as much as most if not all books cost. Feel guilty buying yard sale books knowing that by passes royalties.
    I recently got a Kindle because I had broken both arms and could not hold a real book. I also feel uncomfortable buying things online. Thus the reason behind my writing. “What if” I could go to a brick and mortar store and purchase a flash drive that has all my purchased ebooks. It would have to be made so that you or I could not copy them to other device. That way I get my book and the author gets a portion of what they deserve.
    Yes I know I talk too much but so love my books. At one time I had over five hundred paperbacks. My favorite books I have bought many yard sale copies and gave them to so many saying, “hey this is great.” Stranger in a Strange Land, enough said.
    If something like this was available, I think that a higher ebook price and some of the device could go to the author.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t mind people picking up books at yard sales or used bookstores. I have done it myself. It has helped me find authors I might not be willing (or able) to afford to buy new. Then, I can justify spending on more by that author. But I was fully aware that the author wasn’t benefitting. What galls me is that this person is deliberately playing the system, bragging about it, and expecting to be rewarded. That is just too ridiculous.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As a writer myself, I purchased a set of used books online for a couple of bucks each and felt sort of bad that I bought them used and so I calculated what the royalties would have been and sent the author friend of mine an envelope with six bucks in it. Just to balance out this person who thinks everything should be free. Ha!

        Like

  17. Having never returned a book in my life, and never even donating them to charity any more because I can’t bear to part with them, I am beyond words. How is this ever okay, anywhere, for any reason? I’m more of a reviewer these days than a writer, but words on pages are so much more than that: blood, sweat, tears and a whole exhausting bunch of feelings and emotions is what the reader is paying for.

    I once accidentally ordered the same paperback twice; instead of returning the extra copy I found someone who didn’t have that book from the saga yet and gave it to them for Christmas – because it was my own fault and I didn’t see why the author (not indie, but still making a living) should lose out. I often buy books for my mother, because I know she’ll enjoy much of what I read and feel that broadening someone’s literary spectrum is never less than a good thing – and if it’s an author we mutually like I buy duplicate copies. I honestly cannot comprehend why any customer would fail to realise that they are that author’s bread and butter!

    Liked by 5 people

  18. She should try that with her landlord and at the grocery store and see how far that gets her. I’d like to see her get into a taxi and try that. I’ve heard of people requesting artists to send them their art for free too. It’s not just writers, so it must work enough times that they keep trying. Shame on artists (I consider writers in this category) for rewarding this behavior. Sorry for the rant. Dee

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I didn’t even know you could return ebooks at Amazon–I just took a look at their policy and it doesn’t appear that they allow it to become a habit, though how strictly that’s enforced, I don’t know.

    I do know that I once returned a hardcover (I received two copies of the same novel as gifts) and Amazon gave me partial credit, only a couple dollars back on a book that cost around $25, which was not even worth the hassle of the return.

    I remember reading an interview with Esmerelda Santiago in which she expressed frustration with fans who would come up to her and say they loved her work so much they passed the book on to family/friends (instead of telling them to buy their own copy) so this isn’t new problem in the age of ebooks and .99 promotions.

    Like

    1. It’s not just the fact that people do this. I am not surprised by that. People will game any system they can. The outrageous thing was that she not only bragged about it bur expected to be rewarded for it. Just ridiculous.

      Like

  20. I agree with what you said, but (nooo please, don’t hurt me ! i’m not that bad !) i feel like the author should have said those thing to this reader, instead of blocking her.
    I see so many people who still have some fantasy about the life of a writer (we are rich, lazy, and writing is not a real job, when will I get a true one by the way ??) but sometimes they just need a little chat to understand, that no, you cannot offer for free something who cost several years of work, hours of desperations, frustration, pure epicness (sometimesà and an eternal fight against procrastination and boreness (when it’s about correcting the text)…
    sorry for my english !

    Like

  21. This takes the biscuit indeed. I don’t find any reasonable excuse for returning an e-book as there is the look inside option and readers can get a sample of the book. Unless it’s a very short book that should give enough idea of whether you might enjoy it or not. Unless there are technical problems with the book that only become evident later on…

    Like

      1. But Amazon is in this for one entity only: Amazon. They don’t care on any sort of global scale. Which is why, if you have proof of this sort of thing, you need to report. They do seem to be taking some steps to fight the KU scammers which is a good thing. Returns are a trickier issue which is why, I think, they will handle these cases on an individual basis.

        Like

  22. Reblogged this on Bloody Book Blogger and commented:
    The audacity of these so-called ‘fans’is incomprehensible – how can anyone think that something like this is ever OK?

    If you’re as angry about this as I am – you can help by signing the change.org petition “Amazon stop letting people return ebooks after 15% read!” by following this link – https://www.change.org/p/amazon-com-amazon-stop-letting-people-return-ebooks-after-15-read?recruiter=368637140&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=mob-xs-no_src-reason_msg&fb_ref=Default

    “By signing this petition you are not only supporting the indie book community but preventing the theft from more of our wonderful author’s pockets.”

    Like

  23. I can’t imagine returning a physical book never mind an ebook. If I don’t like a book I just don’t buy any more by that author. Expecting authors to work for nothing is insane. How can we the readers expect authors to keep writing if they get paid little or nothing? Pay for the books or get them from a library.

    Liked by 2 people

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