I recently received the following email:
You may have talked to my brother about his book. This is an email from him today you may enjoy. Please don’t use his name or book if you write about it.
EMAIL FROM HIS BROTHER:
As part of the Print on Demand publishing world, an author is pushed to accept returns as a condition of getting distributors to sell your book. An author is given a choice as to whether to pay to have the returned books sent to you.
I knew that I sold a hardcover book in May because (my publisher) sent me a notice of my royalty payment (paid 4 months in the future) for one book.
Today, out of the blue, I got a return in the mail. I opened it, somewhat unhappy, because why would someone return a book, unless it had a flaw in it? You buy a book, if you read it and don’t like it, you shouldn’t get to return it, but if it has a flaw, such as one with stuck together pages, that is acceptable.
So, I looked at the book and it seemed thicker than normal. One quarter of the first pages looked blue instead of white. I opened it, and the first section is a kid’s cartoon book. One full blank page, and then my book follows. The Cover is my book. I will write to my publisher and ask for a refund of my return cost.
That is one of the minor dangers of accepting returns. You could be on the financial hook if your publisher or printer erred during the production process. However, there are other far more dire financial considerations as well. If a book is returnable, that means not only can customers return it (at your expense), but retailers like Amazon can as well.
Worst case scenario: What if someone who is angry with you learns your books are returnable? What if one publisher really wants to stick it to one of their competitors? In either of these scenarios, that person or company could order multiple copies (dozens, hundreds, or even more) of your book from Amazon or from the distributor, wait a few days, and then cancel the order. During those days, the publisher or distributor is processing the order. By that time, the books will already be printed, and on their way to Amazon or the customer. Since the order was cancelled, YOU will be on the hook for the cost of those books. Worse, you’ll have to pay more than the retailer did just to get the returned books in your hands.
I posted this to a private publishers’ list and some of our competitors asked me not to talk about the sabotage possibility. They didn’t want me to give anybody any ideas. However, I know I’m not the first author or publisher to consider the risk of sabotage if a book is made returnable. I have encountered some very bad actors in this business and nothing surprises me anymore.
Even if you don’t want the books returned to you by your publisher (those books are supposed to be destroyed in those cases), you’ll still have the money you previously earned removed from your publisher or author account. And, depending on the publisher, you could still be charged a fee for every returned book.
Several years ago, I wrote about an elderly man who sold thousands of copies of his book to a major retailer. Almost all of them were returned and he had to file for bankruptcy.
Making a book returnable gives retailers zero incentive to order wisely. They have no financial risk whatsoever. Worse, printers and distributors can profit from book returns. They charge the retailer. They then give the retailer a credit for the returned books, and turn around and charge the author or publisher for those books, plus a return fee per book (“shipping and handling”) if the author or publisher wants the returned books sent to them.
Some publishers charge authors an annual fee of hundreds (or more) dollars if they want their books to be returnable. Why? Because:
- It’s just another way for them to get more money from their authors.
- They know books are going to be returned and, if they’ve already paid those royalties to the author, they may not get that money back from the author in the future.
- They know making a book returnable isn’t likely to lead to more sales.
- They are putting 100% of the financial risk on the authors, not their own company.
Even Ingram, the largest distributor, states: “
- The wholesale cost of the book (money they had to return to the retailer). If, in the meantime, you have raised the price of your book, you’ll be charged the higher wholesale cost, regardless how much the retailer paid.
- A $3.00 shipping/handling fee PER BOOK to ship those returned books to you in the U.S. If you are outside the U.S., the fee is $20 PER BOOK!!!
The quality of the returned book is not guaranteed. If you received dusty, dirty, and/or bent books, too bad.
Even if you opt to have the returned books destroyed by the distributor, you’ll still be charged the wholesale cost of each book that was returned.
While Ingram has been pushing publishers and authors to make their books returnable, they do offer a non-returnable option and, on their website, state: “” Interestingly enough, that verbiage was not included in emails sent to us where Ingram was strongly encouraging us to make our books returnable.
If you think you can simply get out of paying for those returned books, think again. Ingram deducts all of those fees from your future compensation (future book sales).
If you change your mind, and make your books non-returnable again, you are forced to keep accepting returns for 180 days after that (6 months!). Worse, if you switch your books to returnable status, retailers can start returning books they purchased when your book was non-returnable.
Print on Demand was originally touted as a game changer in the publishing industry. It was supposed to eliminate the need to warehouse books and, thus, eliminate the need for returns. Now, the verbiage has changed.
Book returns are a BAD DEAL all the way around for authors and for publishers. And, making your book returnable isn’t likely to lead to more sales anyway. It’s far too much of a gamble. I have always, and will always, recommend that all authors and publishers keep their books non-returnable.
- STOP GLUTTONOUS PURCHASING PRACTICES BY BOOKSTORES! Why ALL Books Should be Non-Returnable!! By Angela Hoy – 01 2021
- Should I Pay to Make My POD Book Returnable? NO!
- Another Shocking Reason to NEVER Accept Book Returns!
- Why All Books Should Be Non-Returnable – Part I
- Why All Books Should Be Non-Returnable – Part II
HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SELF-PUBLISHING A BOOK?
a self-publishing services company that has been in business since 1998. Ask her anything.
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela Hoy.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
Angela has lived and traveled across the U.S. with her kids in an RV, settled in a river-side home in Bradenton, FL, and lived on a 52 ft Irwin sailboat. Angela now resides on a mountaintop in Northwest Georgia, where she plans to spend the rest of her days bird watching, gardening, hiking, and taking in all of the amazing sunrises.
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!
Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!
Read More Of Angela's Articles HERE
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