I’m beginning to think May is Return an ebook month. Several authors I know or follow their blog have mentioned that they don’t enjoy working for free and talked about the number of returns they have seen.
And I feel their pain, because it’s official; I’ve had more returns in the 8 days of May than I normally have in 4 months. Twice this month, I have watched books be returned in order of being read (the Strachan Series & The Dysfunctional Chronicles have both been hit by it). I’ve had 36 returns of Dreams & Reality novels…
I track all that stuff. If I add up all my returns starting January 1, 2016 going through April 30, 2016, there were a total of 38 returns on Amazon.com and Amazon UK – 16 of these were indeed read the book, return it, and get the next in the series and the majority of the leftovers were Mutilated Dreams (see note below). Since May 1st, I have seen a total of 51 returns on Amazon.com and Amazon UK. That’s not counting Amazon Canada or Amazon Australia, where I had never had a book returned until this month (2 if I add those in).
As a matter of fact, in 2015, I only had a total of 134 returns for the entire year and I’m set to break that this year.
Then there’s the pre-orders: I’ve had 17 pre-orders of Fortified Dreams cancelled. I only had 2 of Mutilated Dreams and 3 of Belladonna Dreams (most of these seem to happen because of 1-click errors or the reader just isn’t sure they can spare the money the day the book comes out, so they cancel the preorder and put off buying it – yes I talk to a lot of readers). Before May 1, I had zero pre-orders cancelled.
So, what exactly, is going on this month? If I don’t have “return every book in a series” problems, I average only 5 returns a month, the majority of them are my newest release, Dark Cotillion, The Dysfunctional Honeymoon, or Mercurial Dreams. I get those returns.
- Newest Release: Every new release has returns. It doesn’t matter who the author is or what the book is… it happens. The majority of returns happen in the handful of days after the book releases, but returns can trickle in for a few weeks.
- Dark Cotillion: they didn’t like the book and the rest of the series isn’t going to interest them.
- The Dysfunctional Honeymoon: Dysfunctional Affair ends with the threat of a shotgun-esque wedding – The next logical step in the series is the honeymoon… however, The Dysfunctional Valentine is actually book 2 and there’s been some confusion, the reader feels lost, and the progression seems weird (that’s why I created the Books in Order by Series page on my blog and try to be very good about updating the “Also By” section in each ebook – that page is also in reading order).
- Mercurial Dreams: Readers tend to love Elysium Dreams and they go into Mercurial Dreams expecting a similar ending and it’s definitely not. It is actually one of three D&R novels that readers tend to be disappointed with the ending (Mercurial, Battered, and Mutilated) and there are two that leave some confused (Summoned & Belladonna). So, I’m never really surprised when I have returns or bad reviews of these five. However, I like to keep the series as realistic to serial killers as possible and strange shit happens to them in real life, so some books just don’t end like expected (although, Mutilated ends the way it does because Aislinn just loses interest once she realizes who the mutilator is).
That does not account for the high number of returns I and other authors have seen this month though. I’ve done the math and I’ve lost approximately $131.18 in returns for May and I still have 23 days to get through (since I haven’t finished day 8 of the month yet). That is not counting lost revenue from pre-order cancellations, because readers might go back and buy them at a later date. If the average continues, I’ll lose over $500 in returns just this month. A handful of returns is small change, but when they start piling on like they have this month, it becomes a significant chunk of income. I can only imagine how it is impacting authors who make less than me, but are seeing similar return rates. It’s no wonder there has been an outpouring of posts about authors feeling like they are working for free.