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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
[EDIT TO ADD] I agree the petition itself isn't enough. They are also doing an email campaign and asking people to include the link to the petition in every email. They are flooding Jeff's email and have separate emails for authors to send to and readers to send to. Theyn plan to use the petition numbers to garner media attention and the attention of author organizations. You can sit and watch it tick up. It's at 23k in three days.

A Change.org petition has been started and is gathering steam, to influence Amazon to change their book return policy, especially ebooks. A trend has taken off on TikTok of influencers encouraging readers to read and return purchased books, even going so far as to do tutorials showing readers how to return purchased books for refunds. Many authors have seen their return numbers skyrocket in the last few days. From 1 or 2 a week to over a hundred in a day. I'm not talking about on KU; these are purchased books. The author still has to pay for Amazon's digital delivery fee, so some authors are waking up to a negative balance with KDP.

This affects those of us who are editors, as well, because if our clients can't afford to hire us due to loss in profits, we are out money. Many, many authors are on a tight budget, or in the red and trying to justify editing expenses that put them upside down.

Please take the time to read the petition and sign it if you feel so moved.
 

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Okay, first of all, Amazon's return policy has always been part of the game. And the other stores offer similar policies, it's just that the other stores add a quick step, you have to request the return and it's not automated (I mean, it is, in that I've never heard of Apple or Google refusing a return, but there's always a first). Amazon is never going to change this policy. It just isn't going to happen.

Instead of asking people to sign a petition that won't make any difference, inform and educate. 70 words commented on an influencer's post, "Hey, you realize this actually costs authors money. Amazon charges a delivery fee to authors for every sale, so not only does the money from the return come out of the money owed to the author, they also don't give authors credit for that delivery fee. A cup of coffee at Starbucks costs more than most ebooks. Would you finish your cup of coffee and then go back and demand a refund?" will go so much further than a petition that Amazon won't care about because it's not losing them sales/money/or even goodwill. Amazon isn't the bad guy here. The Influencers on TikTok are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Okay, first of all, Amazon's return policy has always been part of the game. And the other stores offer similar policies, it's just that the other stores add a quick step, you have to request the return and it's not automated (I mean, it is, in that I've never heard of Apple or Google refusing a return, but there's always a first). Amazon is never going to change this policy. It just isn't going to happen.

Instead of asking people to sign a petition that won't make any difference, inform and educate. 70 words commented on an influencer's post, "Hey, you realize this actually costs authors money. Amazon charges a delivery fee to authors for every sale, so not only does the money from the return come out of the money owed to the author, they also don't give authors credit for that delivery fee. A cup of coffee at Starbucks costs more than most ebooks. Would you finish your cup of coffee and then go back and demand a refund?" will go so much further than a petition that Amazon won't care about because it's not losing them sales/money/or even goodwill. Amazon isn't the bad guy here. The Influencers on TikTok are.
Of course they have tried to reason with and educate readers! And then they've been laughed and and harassed.

Authors and associations worked together to get a similar policy for Audible changed.

I realize the policy isn't new. No one is saying it is. The trend, with sharply increasing return rates is, and it has had rapid and devastating effects on some authors. If you haven't seen it, I'm glad for you. My clients are seeing it.
 

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This is all over Facebook. Just another reason I am glad I am not on TikTok. Place is very toxic.

Oh, and the scenario about finishing the coffee and asking for a refund, people do that crap all the time. I've seen people who finish a whole meal in a restaurant then have the nerve to say they aren't paying because they didn't like it or it was too cold. People will always try to take advantage and belief or not, often they get a refund because the manager doesn't believe it's worth fighting about it and getting hammered on Yelp.

I disagree the TikTokers will care one iota about a comment. When we say "inform and educate" we assume these people don't know what they are doing. These are adults. They know exactly what they are doing. These serial returners aren't dumb. They know authors don't get paid for returns they just don't care. Some people are just out to get what they can get. But we can't let these folks off the hook by acting like they are some innocent kids that need to be taught they are doing wrong when they know this crap is wrong already so telling them won't do any good. If they cared about authors they wouldn't be doing what they are doing. They have no guilt plus I heard many of these folks are blocking comments anyway. I don't think the petition will work either but who knows? Maybe the 1,000th time is the charm. Out of all the petitions for Amazon, I can't remember ONE working. I doubt Amazon even knows they exist. Not saying don't try but just saying I think going to the media and making a big stink would be a better idea. Amazon seems to get interested in a situation when they start looking bad to the public.

Some authors are talking about organizing for a bunch of authors to leave Amazon. Uh, that won't do anything either. Do you think Amazon cares if a couple of indie authors leave? No. Bezos will make his billions regardless. Leaving Amazon is not sensible and won't help and will only hurt authors' incomes. The media... going to the media and spreading this to all the news sites, industry bloggers, etc., could get Amazon's attention. That's how people got them to do something about the KU scammers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This is all over Facebook. Just another reason I am glad I am not on TikTok. Place is very toxic.
I agree the petition itself isn't enough. They are also doing an email campaign and asking people to include the link to the petition in every email. They are flooding Jeff's email and have separate emails for authors to send to and readers to send to. Theyn plan to use the petition numbers to garner media attention and the attention of author organizations. You can sit and watch it tick up. It's at 23k in three days. I'm going to add this to my OP.
 

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Um, you all know that Bezos isn't the CEO of Amazon anymore? He's still on the board, and I believe his email is still monitored, but there's a new (for almost a year now) CEO and he has an email too? Bezos isn't involved in the day to day running of Amazon and hasn't been for some time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Um, you all know that Bezos isn't the CEO of Amazon anymore? He's still on the board, and I believe his email is still monitored, but there's a new (for almost a year now) CEO and he has an email too? Bezos isn't involved in the day to day running of Amazon and hasn't been for some time.
Yes, I am aware, as are the people who email it. But whoever monitors it seems to have the ability to make decisions, because I see authors report getting results by emailing that address.
 

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It is indeed interesting hearing that there are instructions on TIkTok telling fellow TikTok'ers how to read-it-and-return-it. I didn't know about this, as I'm not a TikTok'er.

My guess is that basically nothing will change until some big gun authors see this dig significantly into their revenues. There wasn't any action on the audiobook return policy until some big gun authors made a fuss. Or, if trad pubbers see a dent in their revenues and they make a fuss, maybe something would change.

Edit: found an article on this TikTok returns instruction phenomenon, which I guess is fairly new. The article was written by an author, who says that another author she knows had her book 'flagged' for 'suspicious activity' once a slug of books had been returned. Wow..:
This New TikTok Trend Is Damaging Your Favorite Authors | by Jenny Bravo | Let’s Write | Mar, 2022 | Medium

Doing a minimal search on the subject, a few TikToks came up, dealing with returns in general.
 

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Just so that there is no doubt about this in light of what I'm going to say: returns suck. Especially when you have a serial returner who rips through an entire series and then returns them one by one and you can see it happening and OMFG your blood boils because it's thievery and people shouldn't be allowed to do this.

Right?

OK, go and have a good whinge at the dinner table or with your private group of writer friends. We all know the feeling. Even sign that petition if you really want.

Except don't expect it to lead anywhere.

This has been going on for years. And writers have been sending petitions for years. And writing to Jeff (who no longer works for Amazon but eh, if the email still works, coolio) and complaining to consumer organisations and hoping that when a big name writer raises the issue and.... and....

Nothing has changed and nothing will change.

For one, books are a very small part of Amazon's business, and even if a large name gets involved, They. Do. Not. Care. Amazon cares about two things: 1. their bottom line (hence everyone's now paying for ads on top of the cut they already pay the platform), 2. PR.

And no one is going to hit them in the PR nuts over this, because all platforms allow returns for digital items. I bet that if you're really obnoxious, you can even get a return from a cinema after you've watched the movie. Most customer service departments rather refund than deal with obnoxious people. It's just not worth it.

Exhibit A. Amazon is a race to the bottom (they always need to have the lowest price) and attract a larger percentage of obnoxious people than places that don't compete on price.

Exhibit B. Amazon is much more interested in those people's accounts and subscriptions than it is in individual sales. So they'll refund a digital item and if necessary, deal with irate providers of those digital items, before risking losing the account and the customer.

Exhibit C. Amazon wants to be a library (hence KU) where the ultimate aim is to get more money out of everyone. KU is $9.99 per month, right? If they decide to up it to $12.99, who gets to see the money? Not authors, that's for sure. They've successfully decoupled the consumption of a product from an individual transaction to purchase the product. They are slowly populating that attitude across their catalogue, even if those books aren't in KU or the customer isn't paying for KU.

Authors can petition until they're blue in the face. I really think this space is where organisations like SFWA and ALLi can move to "keep the bastards honest", but as individual author, the best you can do is to quit being so utterly reliable on Amazon so that the next time you have a serial returner, you can just sigh, roll your eyes and move on. The collective memory of the internet is 24 hours. That TikTok viral has long come and gone. Many readers commented that they wouldn't dream of returning books they've read. Most people are decent.
 

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My thought still is that trad pubbers could successfully push for a change, if hundreds of thousands of their $15 and $20 eBooks all start getting returned, and those companies start seeing that affect their bottom line.

I mean, if it's indeed true that there are widespread vids on TikTok and elsewhere teaching increasing numbers of young readers to simply buy and return, buy and return, buy and return -- i.e. read any book for free, and don't even bother paying for it by subscribing to KU, that could conceivably make a difference.

Look at how Napster caused a reaction from the recording companies. The two situations (the Zon's return policy and Napster's socking recording co profits) aren't identical, and they don't directly correlate, but there is enough of a correlation to show that when millions of customers start 'stealing' product legally, socking it to corporate profits in the process, big companies take notice.

The buy-and-return trend would have to reach some sort of critical mass, enough to catch the eye of one or more of the Big 5, who probably have more bargaining power with a large internet retailer than Joe or Jane Q Indie Author do.
 

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Trad publishers took on Amazon once before. They lost. They lost in public perception. They lost in court. They wasted a lot of money (something trad publishers do well). The Big 3 will bemoan and decry returns, same as everyone, but they haven't much more leverage than indies. Amazon throws them bones from time to time (you can be in KU and still be wide kids, how's that?) but don't expect traditional publishing (where the emphasis is on "traditional" rather than "innovative") to get behind any real change.
 

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The Authors Guild has reported back after talking to Amazon. Amazon says they haven't noticed a big uptick in returns. Of course, we know Amazon lies but some are questioning how widespread this is anyway. Me in particular. It seems like the smoke is more than the fire. In a few FB groups, I saw a few complaints about TikTok the other day then others panicked it seemed then the petition came out. Most that signed that petition were not affected but of course, signed to help out the community. It seems like (from what many are starting to gather) that this issue is not as big as it seems. Not saying it's not bad if it's affecting just a few authors but it seems like a Chicken Little thing where some started screaming the sky was falling and then it spread like wildfire into this, "Everyone is having hundreds of returns on Amazon and they're laughing about it on TikTok!" No. Most authors seem to not have even heard about this return thing and those that have, have not been affected by it.

TikTok had maybe one or two idiots encouraging this and I think it pissed off authors, they started talking about it in the groups, and then folks assumed their returns were all because of this. I remember every time someone said, "I've gotten more returns this month." Someone posted going, "It's people on TikTok encouraging returns." Then others would chime in that this HAS to be the issue for the returns. Maybe it is, but no one can be sure. We don't know why those authors are getting the returns they are. And it's no evidence that this is happening outside of a small group of authors. Most authors who signed the petition hadn't heard of this before people passed around the petition. Could it also have something to do with inflation? A lot could be the cause. Many authors have been panicking and do not even have a return issue because of this being made out as if this was hitting every author. There is no evidence that it's hit many at all. Except for maybe two FB groups I'm in, no one was talking about this a few days ago then authors started posting about it and that's why it became so big. But I am not convinced there is some "mass returning" going on. If it were, wouldn't it be happening to trade publishers and big authors too? And if so, wouldn't they be making a stink? So far it's been a few indies who said they got a ton of returns and then blamed it on TikTok. But as this goes on, it's bringing more questions than anything. Acting like everyone is getting tons of returns on Amazon when many other authors claim to not have an issue is incorrect.
 

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The petition is now getting press. In my Google notices this morning there was an article from Euronews.com It claims the petition has 20,000 signatures so far. Not many out of millions of authors.

One author interviewed claims in instances readers are reading and returning entire series, returning each one as they read on. I've had a series out for over 12 months and not had 1 return. I have to say though that when I've had returns; they have been insignificant regards overall sales. What few returns I have had are usually following a free day where the customer believe it to be free by mistake, so that's understandable. That's the only pattern I have ever seen for returns. As a self-publisher for over 10 years, I'm not sure it's a big enough deal to worry about for eBooks and I've never had a print book returned.

If it was such a massive problem, then I would think that trad-publishers would have been hardest hit with their high-priced e-books and they'd have already taken issue directly with Amazon, but I've not heard a peep about that.

I know in the past I've seen either threads on here or maybe in blog posts that repeat offenders of returns have their account stopped? Ah, wait. Here it is, reported in the Wall Street Journal. Banned From Amazon: The Shoppers Who Make Too Many Returns This says to me that Amazon already have it covered.

I would think that audio books would be a bigger problem with the article in Euronews.com saying you can apply for a refund to audible up to 12 months after purchase, and not the 14 days for Amazon purchases.

Really, the only genuine gripe would be if a reader returns a book for refund if they read it all, but then serial refunders run the risk of getting banned, so these Tik-Tokers need to beware..

People should have a right to refunds if what they buy doesn't live up to their personal expectations. I've had people in KU pick up a book and say go on to read only 1 page to say 50, then nothing, only crickets. Clearly, the books in those instances were not to their expectations for whatever reason, but they don't need refunds as they can simply download another book. So it does happen that in some instances a reader could require a refund if they have paid for an individual book, and it wasn't what they expected.

While some readers might do both, some readers don't go for a refund but vent their disappointment in reviews. Which would you prefer?
 
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I signed it. Like others have said, Amazon probably won't care. If it gets enough media attention they'll say all the right things but they really won't care. Still, I can dream so I signed it because I'm also an editor and hate to see authors ripped off. I've seen so many horror stories with authors saying they've had an entire series bought and then returned. That's insane.
 

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Trad publishers took on Amazon once before. They lost. They lost in public perception. They lost in court. They wasted a lot of money (something trad publishers do well). The Big 3 will bemoan and decry returns, same as everyone, but they haven't much more leverage than indies. Amazon throws them bones from time to time (you can be in KU and still be wide kids, how's that?) but don't expect traditional publishing (where the emphasis is on "traditional" rather than "innovative") to get behind any real change.
Agreed, except TikTok is presently where there are a lot of influencers of younger demographics, and if this idea of using returns to read books for free really takes off the way that filesharing of MP3's of copyrighted, released music took off in the 2000s, it could change the business model.

Whether that would actually ever happen, I don't know.
 

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Agreed, except TikTok is presently where there are a lot of influencers of younger demographics, and if this idea of using returns to read books for free really takes off the way that filesharing of MP3's of copyrighted, released music took off in the 2000s, it could change the business model.

Whether that would actually ever happen, I don't know.
Well, that wasn't the point, really. There are many scenarios where things happen that force changes in the business model. People could stop reading novels altogether at some point, as far as that goes. Our job is always to adapt. I'm just saying that you shouldn't expect change, or support for change, to come from traditional publishing. They are heavily invested in the status quo and yet somehow never see threats to it, and prove unwilling to adapt to them until forced. Change costs them money.
 

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I have no doubt that some readers abuse the return policy. Amazon should track and flag that kind of behavior. It would be easy for Amazon to do. They probably do already.

I have only returned one ebook out of the 2000+ I have purchased over the years. It was a technical book that I requested a return within hours of receipt. The technical content was terrible.

Otherwise, I have read only a handful of fiction books that were not worth sending to the bit bucket. In those cases, I left honest (negative) review rather than return them.

Solving this issue with Amazon is way above my pay grade. :(
 
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