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Random Thoughts - Readers aren't the Enemy

on Sat Mar 24, 2018 7:18 pm
As per title - or at least, they oughtn't be.

I've just parted company with an online indie author community due to my thoughts on this topic. I stand by my opinion: namely that it's completely fine for readers to return books that they weren't happy with having read. But I'm not supposed to think this, because some readers (allegedly) abuse the system in order to avoid paying for their reading material. Some authors have commented that they feel it's a wide spread issue that's stemmed from a sense of entitlement. Others implied that it was sometimes more personal, and that the readers involved were targeting them on purpose. Let me be clear, I DON'T think that it's okay to abuse the returns system, and I'm NOT supporting picking on any authors, indie or otherwise. Clearly, neither of these things is acceptable. Anyone who suspects that this has occurred should report that to the retailer involved.

However, I also don't agree with getting rid of the returns system entirely, or at least reducing it to those readers who either haven't started the book at all, or have only read up to 25% of it. Because readers are people too, and they deserve to be able to vote with their feet, so to speak. I've been a reader far longer than I've been writing. I've read a lot of books over the years, and yes, some of them were just awful. Irredeemably bad, poorly edited, horrible books. These things do exist, and in my view, if someone wants their money back after reading them, that should be understood and accepted. It also shouldn't be denied just because they bought the e-book instead of the paperback. Books aren't the same as computer games.

My suggestion was that instead of having a time limit on returns as there is currently, there should instead be a limit on how many books by any particular author an individual reader could return. So for example, if someone were to stumble upon a scene that triggered them in the final chapter, then they could still react to that if they wanted to by returning the book. But once they'd returned one book by that author, then the onus would be on them as a reader to accept that they might not like other books by this person. If they still decided to buy more, there would be no option for returning them, unless it was a faulty book with half the pages missing, etc. I felt that this approach would protect genuine readers and put a stop to the alleged serial returners; who apparently use the existing returns system like it's a lending library.

Perhaps needless to say, my opinion was not popular.

Regardless, I believe that authors have a degree of responsibility towards readers. I accept that not every reader will love, or even like, every book. I know that inevitably someone is going to trash my writing in a review. After recent events, I suspect that this someone will most probably be another indie author with too much time on their hands, and a lesson to teach me (which I will laugh at and then ignore). But I don't assume that the possibility of my being trolled precludes my aforementioned responsibility to genuine readers.

So, if you happen to purchase, and subsequently hate, any or all of my books, then please go ahead and utilise the returns system. I shan't judge. It's between you and the retailer. What I would ask, is that you still leave me some feedback about what you felt was wrong. I don't promise to agree with you, but I can't fix it if I don't know there's a problem. And remember, if reviewing publicly, that nobody likes spoilers.
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