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JustJas
05-05-2012, 06:47 AM
I've only recently started self-publishing and I've had a few refunds over the last couple of months. I find the Amazon refund policy a little frustrating in that people don't have to give a reason for their refund request. I think authors have a right to know why their book is being returned, and since the buyer is getting their money back, it doesn't seem a great inconvenience to ask them to provide a reason, which is then passed onto the author.

I came across this article (http://indiebookspot.com/2012/03/16/does-amazon-have-a-refund-problem/) the other day that suggests that the rate of refunds for Kindle books has increased and I was wondering if other authors had noticed this. According to the article the average rate of return remained steady at 0 - 2% until January this year when "comments on forums suggest the rate has been creeping up".

Is this your experience and what are some possible reasons for this increase? IMO more people are now becoming aware that they can get refunds, and it's only to be expected that the refund rate will rise.

James D. Macdonald
05-05-2012, 06:56 AM
I don't think that readers should be asked to give a reason. I expect that most of the responses, if such a thing were required, would be, "Because I didn't Effin' like it, okay?"

And -- I've found no correlation between refunds and ... much of anything. Some people seem to be trying to game the system by downloading a book, reading it, then returning it. Books that get downloaded more get refunded more is about all I can figure. But it's a tiny percentage.

I'll be back in a flash with refund rates January-April, for the books I know about.

JustJas
05-05-2012, 07:01 AM
I don't think that readers should be asked to give a reason. I expect that most of the responses, if such a thing were required, would be, "Because I didn't Effin' like it, okay?"

And -- I've found no correlation between refunds and ... much of anything. Some people seem to be trying to game the system by downloading a book, reading it, then returning it. Books that get downloaded more get refunded more is about all I can figure. But it's a tiny percentage.

I'll be back in a flash with refund rates January-April, for the books I know about.

Just from what I've come across in readers forums, it seems a lot of refunds are for books which are accidentally purchased. If Amazon provided a list of reasons for people to select when requesting a refund I think this would be helpful to both Amazon & readers. Eg. Accidental Download / Formatting Issues / Misleading Description / Poor Quality of Writing etc

thothguard51
05-05-2012, 07:17 AM
When a reader returns a book, they can check the accidentally bought button. That is all Amazon needs to know.

Anything else is subjective and does not tell Amazon or the writer anything of value.

I have two views on this. The first is like Uncle Jim says, some readers are gaming the system. The second is that with the avalance of self published books out there, readers are finding more and more of them really are not up to their standards. Still, the percentage is small.

James D. Macdonald
05-05-2012, 07:22 AM
Okay, here's what I have, January-April 2012, books in the Kindle Select program:

JAN12
USA:
0.18%
UK:
0.0%

FEB12
USA:
0.73%
UK:
0.21%

MAR12
USA:
0.31%
UK:
0.11%

APR12
USA:
0.26%
UK:
0.24%

What did change between February and March was the way Amazon presented its data. Before March, free and paid downloads were commingled. Afterward, paid downloads were split out from free downloads.

No one, I think, asks for a refund on a freebie. They'll just delete it.

So, I'm not seeing anything statistically significant.

JustJas
05-05-2012, 07:25 AM
When a reader returns a book, they can check the accidentally bought button. That is all Amazon needs to know.

Anything else is subjective and does not tell Amazon or the writer anything of value.

I have two views on this. The first is like Uncle Jim says, some readers are gaming the system. The second is that with the avalance of self published books out there, readers are finding more and more of them really are not up to their standards. Still, the percentage is small.

It would be good if this info about accidental purchases was available to authors. Since Amazon is collecting it already it would not be too difficult to provide.

James D. Macdonald
05-05-2012, 07:31 AM
What would you do with the info if you had it? What would you do differently?

Stuff like that would be one more thing to drive writers to ... unwise words or deeds.

JustJas
05-05-2012, 08:03 AM
What would you do with the info if you had it? What would you do differently?

Stuff like that would be one more thing to drive writers to ... unwise words or deeds.

Good questions. I'm a little obsessive-compulsive about these things, and I would just like to know for the sake of knowing. Since it's my product I think I should have access to this information. I don't think there's too much danger of it driving writers to say or do unwise things if the information is kept anonymous. From discussions I've had on other sites I know there are others who would also like to know the reason for refunds.

BTW thanks James for providing the information on your refund rate. From my understanding this is below the average of 1-2%, reflecting well on your books.

Terie
05-05-2012, 09:46 AM
Good questions. I'm a little obsessive-compulsive about these things, and I would just like to know for the sake of knowing. Since it's my product I think I should have access to this information. I don't think there's too much danger of it driving writers to say or do unwise things if the information is kept anonymous. From discussions I've had on other sites I know there are others who would also like to know the reason for refunds.

If you've self-published a book, you're a producer when you're wearing your self-publishing hat. How often do you think other types of producers get data on why people return products? If you didn't like that new detergent you bought and if you returned it to the store, how likely is it that your reason for return (even if you gave one) got back to the company that produced the detergent?

Also? People lie about why they return things. I'd even suggest that the reason for return is a lie more often than not. So what good would it do you to know that information just for the sake of knowing?

Medievalist
05-05-2012, 09:54 AM
If you work in a bookstore, retail or used, you soon discover that some customers think the bookstore is really the library.

They buy a book. They read the book.

They bring it back for a full refund.

Sometimes, they do this as a regular "thing."

At UCLA a woman wanted "smart books."

So she bought smart books--textbooks, and classics in bright thick bindings, and law books.

Her interior decorated glued the pages shut so the books would display on non-standard shelves.

The customer decided some of the colors weren't "attractive" so brought the books back, and expected a full refund.

merrihiatt
05-05-2012, 10:24 AM
I get a few returns each month. Nothing major, I can usually count them on one hand. I have received refunds of free books. I always found that strange, but maybe the reader wanted to make sure Amazon knew they didn't like/want the book or they didn't know how to delete it from their Kindle/Kindle app.

When you return an e-book, there is a prompt regarding the reason, but Amazon doesn't share the information.

JustJas
05-05-2012, 10:30 AM
If you've self-published a book, you're a producer when you're wearing your self-publishing hat. How often do you think other types of producers get data on why people return products? If you didn't like that new detergent you bought and if you returned it to the store, how likely is it that your reason for return (even if you gave one) got back to the company that produced the detergent?

Also? People lie about why they return things. I'd even suggest that the reason for return is a lie more often than not. So what good would it do you to know that information just for the sake of knowing?

Everytime I've returned a product to the shop I've had to give a reason for the return (not sure if they pass this info onto the manufacturer, but they always ask). But the main thing I'd like to know is which returns are accidental purchases, just to give me a little reassurance that not every refund is because they think my book is crap.

Here's an interesting customer discussion (http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle%20book?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx3RFWX8IMGF85E&cdThread=Tx13ZR8T8EZ38GG) on Amazon about why people return books.

JustJas
05-05-2012, 10:40 AM
If you work in a bookstore, retail or used, you soon discover that some customers think the bookstore is really the library.

They buy a book. They read the book.

They bring it back for a full refund.

Sometimes, they do this as a regular "thing."

At UCLA a woman wanted "smart books."

So she bought smart books--textbooks, and classics in bright thick bindings, and law books.

Her interior decorated glued the pages shut so the books would display on non-standard shelves.

The customer decided some of the colors weren't "attractive" so brought the books back, and expected a full refund.

That's hilarious...Clearly a person in need of more than a few 'smart' books.

If some people treat a bookstore like a library, they will continue to do this with ebooks, and I'm wondering if novellas and short stories have a higher rate of returns because more people are likely to get through them within 7 days.

Do you think Amazon makes it too easy for customers to return ebooks, or is the rate of returns too low for it to matter if some people abuse the system?

merrihiatt
05-05-2012, 11:12 AM
I'm wondering if novellas and short stories have a higher rate of returns because more people are likely to get through them within 7 days.

Do you think Amazon makes it too easy for customers to return ebooks, or is the rate of returns too low for it to matter if some people abuse the system?

I haven't had any returns of my short stories. I have had one novella returned, but not for length. There are a couple really racy scenes near the beginning that some people find inappropriate.

I like that Amazon gives you a week to return a purchase. I've accidentally purchased two books when my finger slipped while using my iPad. I didn't even realize I had done it until I received Amazon's e-mail confirmation of my purchase. And one time I accidentally bought three copies of the same e-book, which you aren't supposed to be able to do, but I managed to somehow. I contacted Amazon and they credited two of the e-books back to me. I wanted one.

JustJas
05-05-2012, 11:16 AM
I haven't had any returns of my short stories. I have had one novella returned, but not for length. There are a couple really racy scenes near the beginning that some people find inappropriate.

I like that Amazon gives you a week to return a purchase. I've accidentally purchased two books when my finger slipped while using my iPad. I didn't even realize I had done it until I received Amazon's e-mail confirmation of my purchase. And one time I accidentally bought three copies of the same e-book, which you aren't supposed to be able to do, but I managed to somehow. I contacted Amazon and they credited two of the e-books back to me. I wanted one.

Maybe the solution would be to have another step in the buying process, asking "Are you sure you want to purchase..." before you actually buy it.

This could cut down on accidents and also discourage people from rorting this system.

meowzbark
05-05-2012, 12:34 PM
I've returned several ebooks. One was because I didn't understand that I could only use my free prime book if I owned a Kindle device. At the moment, I use my PC to read ebooks. Then there were a few that I accidentally purchased because I have one-click purchasing.

I returned a hardcover book from Amazon immediately after purchasing because I shipped to the wrong address and then re-purchased it and sent it to the new address. Just last week I accidentally purchased two copies of the same book. Gah! I use Amazon because they guarantee refunds, no matter the reasoning, and it is hassle-free. I've had a hell of a time getting refunds from other online sites.

Although there are some people who do abuse the system, those people wouldn't "pay" for your book regardless of the return system.

JCedonia
05-05-2012, 06:39 PM
I return books for 2 reasons:

1 - I didn't like it, and I happened to read it within the 7 days, which is seldom because they'll sit on my Kindle for weeks sometime before I get to them.

2 - Accidental purchase.

shadowwalker
05-05-2012, 06:42 PM
People will tell you whatever reason seems most apt to guarantee a refund. Not that they want to lie, necessarily, but just being asked makes them paranoid. "I was told I could return it no questions asked so why are you asking are you going to refuse my refund!!!!!" 'Accidental purchase' seems the easiest and most hassle-free - I'd use it.

ebar
05-05-2012, 08:27 PM
My heaviest months for refunds have been Jan and Mar 2012; I would say for January that can be attributed to people with shiny new Kindles buying books by accident. In the spirit of curiosity I've just worked out that my overall return rate currently comes out at 0.7%.

G. Applejack
05-05-2012, 08:27 PM
I disagree that authors have a "right" to know why their books are returned. Readers are not required to leave a review or explain themselves when they return a ebook.

I've only returned one. It was so riddled with grammar errors and nonsensical syntax which appeared after the sample (My guess is that the author got the first few chapters professionally edited, but neglected the rest.) that paying 3.99 still felt like a slap in the face.

Actually, in that case I wish I could have told the author exactly why. haha.

Ari Meermans
05-05-2012, 08:32 PM
If you work in a bookstore, retail or used, you soon discover that some customers think the bookstore is really the library.

They buy a book. They read the book.

They bring it back for a full refund.

Sometimes, they do this as a regular "thing."

At UCLA a woman wanted "smart books."

So she bought smart books--textbooks, and classics in bright thick bindings, and law books.

Her interior decorated glued the pages shut so the books would display on non-standard shelves.

The customer decided some of the colors weren't "attractive" so brought the books back, and expected a full refund.

Irrational thought processes like this fascinate me. How can someone deface a book or destroy any item and think they're entitled to a refund? Years ago when I worked in a large department store, we had a regular who'd buy expensive outfits, wear them, then return them because she didn't get the compliments she'd hoped for. It got to the point no one would assist her because whatever commission earned on the sale would later be deducted when she returned the item(s).

J. Tanner
05-05-2012, 09:50 PM
Maybe the solution would be to have another step in the buying process, asking "Are you sure you want to purchase..." before you actually buy it.

This option exists. Turn off "One Click Buying". But people like One Click (me included) and so leave it on. Amazon gives you a hassle free way to take it back if you make a mistake. More good customer service.

Their customer service is pretty fantastic. Most issues are with vendor treatment (the case here) and I think for self-publishers they really do give you a lot of info compared to the alternatives. I wouldn't be opposed to more (useful or not) but this wouldn't be among the top 10 on my personal list of things Amazon could improve upon with KDP.

J. Tanner
05-05-2012, 09:52 PM
Actually, in that case I wish I could have told the author exactly why. haha.

Review! :D

thothguard51
05-05-2012, 10:22 PM
Do you think Amazon makes it too easy for customers to return ebooks, or is the rate of returns too low for it to matter if some people abuse the system?

If Amazon made it hard to return e-books, do you think your sales numbers would drop even more?

veinglory
05-05-2012, 10:27 PM
It seems to have become okay for a lot of customers to read the whole book and return it because you didn't particularly enjoy it--even if there is not actual defect or error.

I think this attitude does seem to be on the rise especially with romance ebooks based on the authors who are reporting increasing returns.

IMHO, if you read the whole thing and it is not "defective", you bought it. Otherwise it is a bit like eating the whole apple and wanting a refund because it wasn't as sweet as you expected.

Fuchsia Groan
05-05-2012, 11:08 PM
IMHO, if you read the whole thing and it is not "defective", you bought it. Otherwise it is a bit like eating the whole apple and wanting a refund because it wasn't as sweet as you expected.

As a reader, I agree. You take a gamble when you buy a book or a movie ticket. It's up to you to read the sample, the reviews, etc. and do the due diligence. When I still end up hating something, I figure, whatever, at least I helped support the publishing industry today. And since it's an e-book, it won't be cluttering up my house.

But in the case of the book where only the sample was properly edited, I can understand feeling like you were the victim of false advertising, and possibly demanding a refund. If you hated Drive because it wasn't the action-packed flick the commercials led you to expect, well, maybe you should have read some reviews rather than demanding a refund afterwards or suing the studio for defrauding you. But with a self-pub book, you may not have anyone to warn you away, until other reviews start trickling in.

JustJas
05-06-2012, 12:11 PM
This option exists. Turn off "One Click Buying". But people like One Click (me included) and so leave it on. Amazon gives you a hassle free way to take it back if you make a mistake. More good customer service.

Their customer service is pretty fantastic. Most issues are with vendor treatment (the case here) and I think for self-publishers they really do give you a lot of info compared to the alternatives. I wouldn't be opposed to more (useful or not) but this wouldn't be among the top 10 on my personal list of things Amazon could improve upon with KDP.

I didn't realize you could turn one-click buying off. It's not a problem for me as I use a laptop and have never accidentally purchased something I didn't want, but I can see how those with ipads might have this problem.

JustJas
05-06-2012, 12:24 PM
It seems to have become okay for a lot of customers to read the whole book and return it because you didn't particularly enjoy it--even if there is not actual defect or error.

I think this attitude does seem to be on the rise especially with romance ebooks based on the authors who are reporting increasing returns.

IMHO, if you read the whole thing and it is not "defective", you bought it. Otherwise it is a bit like eating the whole apple and wanting a refund because it wasn't as sweet as you expected.

I write romance and my return rate for the modest number of books I've sold is a little higher than those shown here, so this makes me feel a little better.

Although those on this thread seem to disagree, I also believe, based on anecdotal evidence, that there is a growing attitude that readers have a right to return books they didn't like. I also read an interesting comment on another forum that Amazon has a generous refund policy to make up for the fact that it publishes pretty much anything. The theory is that readers would turn away in droves from self-published authors if they weren't able to get their money back on books they thought were below standard.

Unfortunately I think this attitude is carrying across to books they just didn't like, but as a self-published author I also want people to take a chance on my books, so at the end of the day I guess you just have to accept that some customers will rort this system. If Amazon starts losing too much money I'm sure they'll crack down, but at the moment it doesn't seem to be a problem for them.

woodtop255
05-06-2012, 08:34 PM
Funny thing is I've had a Kindle for years and I didn't know until recently you had up to seven days to return an ebook. I thought your one shot was when the warning screen came up asking if you purchased the book accidentally.

Fins Left
05-06-2012, 08:43 PM
I also believe, based on anecdotal evidence, that there is a growing attitude that readers have a right to return books they didn't like. [...]
Unfortunately I think this attitude is carrying across to books they just didn't like

Not liking a product is a legit reason for return at most major retailers. It is not gaming the system.

I've downloaded a couple books that didn't live up to the reviews or the sample. Now, I'm wishing I had returned them. I'd never even thought about that before reading this thread. But I do begrudge the money to the authors of those con-jobs.

If there is a small number of people that buy/return because they're cheap, I'm sure it is no more than the average shoplifting costs to any other retailer (except that they haven't lost any product). Heck, B&N (if they still exist?) used to let you sit in their store and read the book right there.

If more people returned bad books, that would drive the bad writers/publishers into some other line of work.

fireluxlou
05-06-2012, 10:09 PM
I always accidentally purchase an item when I am meant to press the 'try a sample' button. I am just a clutz.

veinglory
05-06-2012, 10:49 PM
But you can't return ebooks at any other major retailer, and you can't return any other digital item at Amazon (movies, software etc). So it seems a rather uneven principle.

I still think that if the book was good enough to read from start to finish, it's good enough to pay for. i.e. you took the tags off and wore it, you ate it, you used it.

IMHO you can't eat the whole cake and reject it too. That last bite is the point of no return

BenPanced
05-06-2012, 11:33 PM
The only times I've ever returned a book at Barnes & Noble were when I'd accidentally bought second copies. I figure life's too short to bitch about a crappy book I've bought when I can just hang on to it and donate it to the United Way book drive at work later in the year. And when buying online, always check out the sample if it's available.

JustJas
05-07-2012, 12:45 AM
Not liking a product is a legit reason for return at most major retailers. It is not gaming the system.

I've downloaded a couple books that didn't live up to the reviews or the sample. Now, I'm wishing I had returned them. I'd never even thought about that before reading this thread. But I do begrudge the money to the authors of those con-jobs.

If there is a small number of people that buy/return because they're cheap, I'm sure it is no more than the average shoplifting costs to any other retailer (except that they haven't lost any product). Heck, B&N (if they still exist?) used to let you sit in their store and read the book right there.

If more people returned bad books, that would drive the bad writers/publishers into some other line of work.

I can understand if there's a major problem with quality, but 'liking' or 'not liking' a book is very subjective. I agree with the principle if it's good enough to read to the end it's good enough to pay for. I've bought plenty of books I didn't end up enjoying as much as I'd hoped but I would never return them for this reason.

merrihiatt
05-07-2012, 10:30 AM
If it wasn't for the fact that authors who self-publish through Amazon KDP can check their sales figures (and returns) whenever they like, they'd never know how many e-books were returned. It's only because we can see that someone purchased it, then returned it, that we spend even two seconds worrying about it. Personally, unless the number becomes a significant percentage, it's not even on my radar screen.

brainstorm77
05-07-2012, 11:57 AM
I've had a few returns on the shorts I have self-pubbed. I personally don't worry about it TBH. I also know quite a few readers do use Kindle as a library and are proud of the fact they do so.

I agree with what some others have said in regards to returning a book simple because you didn't like it. It's absurd in my opinion. If there are problems with formatting or it's edited terribly, fine. I've returned a couple because of formatting. The ones I did return I didn't finish.

JustJas
05-07-2012, 02:38 PM
If it wasn't for the fact that authors who self-publish through Amazon KDP can check their sales figures (and returns) whenever they like, they'd never know how many e-books were returned. It's only because we can see that someone purchased it, then returned it, that we spend even two seconds worrying about it. Personally, unless the number becomes a significant percentage, it's not even on my radar screen.

So true! It's especially hard for writers like myself who have obsessive-compulsive tendencies.