Writer Tweets About Owing Money To Amazon Because Readers Are Returning Their Finished eBooks, Sparks A Debate Among Online Users (2023)

As consumers, we really appreciate it when businesses allow us to return the items we bought. There are various reasons why we would like to do that. Maybe it is a faulty item and we didn’t notice it while purchasing it, or maybe we found something better at a lower price or saw something in a different light and it didn’t look as good.

Return policies are there to keep the customer satisfied, but it becomes a problem when they start abusing the system. Recently people started sharing a “hack” of purchasing ebooks and then returning them after they’ve finished reading them. Authors have noticed that their returns have gone up and blamed it on a trend that originated on TikTok, raising a question of its ethics.

More info: Twitter

Writer Lisa Kessler received a lot of ebook returns and went to Twitter to vent, finding out it is actually a trend lately

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The issue was brought up by Lisa Kessler, a pretty well-known author for her dark paranormal fiction. She has received numerous awards, the first being for her debut novel Night Walker. This book won a San Diego Book Award for best Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror.

She posted a tweet reminding people that Amazon is not a library and that for every returned book, she is being charged, so now the author is indebted to Amazon.

Lisa opened up about it more in her podcast named The Perfect Podcast created to promote her upcoming thriller Perfect. In the 5th episode, the woman reveals that she has been a writer for 10 years and during this time, a normal month would mean she doesn’t get any returns; 2 was the most she had ever had.

So she was really surprised when she opened up her Kindle dashboard and saw that in May, she had so many returns that she actually owed Amazon. Lisa was upset, and wanting to vent, she turned to Twitter. Her experience wasn’t isolated and so many other authors shared that they’ve recently noticed the same thing.

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In the tweet, Lisa reminded people that Amazon is not a library and informed them that authors get charged for every returned book and she now owes Amazon

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Turns out, she was not the only one experiencing this

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While talking with BuzzFeed, Lisa explained why she thinks this is happening: “I discovered that in March, there was a TikTok video instructing readers about this loophole in Amazon’s return policy allowing them to read books quickly and return them. It even had a hashtag, #ReadAndReturnChallenge, but I don’t think they realized that Amazon was turning around and deducting money from the authors.”

Bored Panda reached out to another writer who also talked about the issue online, Erin Casey. She is the author of “The Purple Door District” series and the genre she specializes in is urban fantasy. Erin told us that she hasn’t seen her books returned yet but she is still waiting for one of her monthly updates on book sales, but she knows of other people receiving negative royalties and is upset that such a trend is hurting the author community.

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Other authors selling their ebooks on amazon shared that they’ve noticed that recently, people are returning more books than usual

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It is unclear where the TikTok videos advising people to return ebooks to be able to read for free have gone, as they are nowhere to be found, but there are a lot of videos of people discussing the situation.

People were comparing reading and returning an ebook to eating at a restaurant and asking to get the money back when the food is already gone. The majority of readers didn’t support this ‘hack’ and actually haven’t ever thought about doing this, even if they bought a book by accident.

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The ones who thought that returning an ebook isn’t that bad didn’t understand the metaphor of comparing a book to food, because the book is still there even if you read it, while the food is gone once you eat it.

They were saying that they should have the right to return a book because what if they didn’t like it? What if it was problematic and they didn’t want to support the author?

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Lisa thinks this is due to a trend that started on BookTok where people encouraged people to read books and return them to save money

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We asked Erin if she saw more people supporting the authors or the ones that believed following such a trend wasn’t a big deal. The author admitted that she noticed there was a mix, “On TikTok, I’ve seen tons of readers/authors supporting authors in this situation. I’ve also seen TikTok users saying it’s not stealing and calling authors entitled.”

She explains why such a trend is so hurtful for authors, “We spend months and years developing this work, paying for people to edit it, create cover art, etc. It takes a lot of money out of our pocket in order to bring this creative world to the reader. And to have a reader take that work, read it, and return it just so they don’t have to pay… it’s literally taking money out of the author’s pocket.”

Also, returning books is a problem not only because authors get charged for it but some places will stop carrying the author’s books. Erin believes that not everyone realises that authors are losing funds and that is why they say things like “Well, if I didn’t return it, I wouldn’t have read the book anyway, so you’re getting exposure from it and not being negatively impacted.”

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Of course, if you accidentally bought a book and didn’t want to read it in the first place, then it’s a completely different situation. Also, if you bought a book and after reading the first couple of chapters, you realize that this wasn’t something you wanted, most people also don’t have a problem with the buyer returning the ebook.

What bothers them and the authors is when people read the whole book and then decide to return it. Which was the case with Lisa Kessler, because she noticed that people would return her whole series, and who would buy a third and a fourth book from the series when they knew they didn’t like the previous two?

People failed to realize that in this way, you are hurting the author and many of them considered such behavior stealing

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Many readers and authors argued that when you are paying for the book, you are not paying to get a great book or a satisfying ending. The product is reading itself and if you’ve read a book, that means you’ve got what you paid for and consumed it. You can’t give back the experience, the same as you can’t give back the experience of seeing the Mona Lisa or consuming any other form of art.

But if we put morals aside, there is another problem with returning ebooks: the authors get charged and they can even owe Amazon. The authors not only lose the money for the books, but they are also charged the download fee, so when it adds up, the revenue for the product might be negative.

Readers were outraged, suggesting that Amazon’s return policy is faulty and they should try harder to protect the authors who choose their platform to sell their work

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This trend on TikTok probably started out as an innocent hack to save money, because there are definitely people who like to read a lot and books are expensive. But there is such a thing as a library where you pay a small annual fee, you can read as many books as you want, and it’s actually expected from you to return it.

Libraries offer ebooks as well, if you prefer a digital version, and in this way you are not hurting the author because the library pays for those books. Many people also pointed out that Amazon has a subscription service called Kindle Unlimited, which costs from $9.99 a month and you get access to more than 1.5 million titles, including books in foreign languages.

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While people still believe they should have a right to return a product, most of them recognized that it is easy to abuse the system

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While going to a library seems like a very easy solution if you can’t afford books, Erin gave us a few reasons why people wouldn’t want to go there or maybe don’t want to: “1. People are now making it a challenge to read and return books for the exposure. They don’t care. They just want to prove they can do it. 2. Some people say they don’t physically have access to a library, which I can respect and understand. Accessibility is so important! That’s not to say they should steal books, but something else needs to be put in place to help them. 3. In some countries, people have to pay to use library services. 4. Sometimes the book isn’t at the library. However, if you request a book from a library, they more often than not will put in a request to buy it or interlibrary loan it. I’m not sure if people are aware of that.”

The author realises that not everyone understands returning ebooks after having read them is wrong, “They see others do it, so they assume it’s okay if they do it. That’s why I strive to educate because I know not everyone may understand.”

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To solve the problem, many people suggested Amazon should track how much of a book a person has read and not allow returns when they pass a certain percentage. Others think there should be a shorter time limit for returns.

Erin agrees that Amazon should review their return policy. Now it says that you can cancel the order in 7 days if you accidentally bought the wrong book, but “people are reading books within 7 days and returning them. Perhaps shortening the time in which a person can return an e-book would be helpful. Another easy way to fix the issue is for readers to stop returning the books. Amazon isn’t a library. It’s not meant to have items bought and returned after the item has been used.”

Have you ever returned an ebook? Did you know that it costs the author? Do you think it is a buyer’s right to be able to return an ebook? Do you have any ideas how the issue could be solved? Let’s create a discussion in the comments!

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Do authors lose money on Amazon? ›

So, not only does the author lose that sale, they are also charged for the return and lose their very small royalty. For every returned ebook, the author owes amazon money for the return.

How much does Amazon pay authors for books? ›

KDP offers a fixed 60% royalty rate on paperbacks sold on Amazon marketplaces where KDP supports paperback distribution. Your royalty is 60% of your list price. We then subtract printing costs, which depend on page count, ink type, and the Amazon marketplace your paperback was ordered from.

What 30 year old makes $1.8 million self publishing on Amazon? ›

A 30-year-old went from writing as a hobby to making $1.8 million in a year self-publishing on Amazon. Here's how he did it in less than 5 years and his best advice to other writers. Dakota Krout was a newly married full-time student making $11,000 a year from two jobs.

How much does an author make for 1 million copies sold? ›

Typically, an author can expect to receive the following royalties: Hardback edition: 10% of the retail price on the first 5,000 copies; 12.5% for the next 5,000 copies sold, then 15% for all further copies sold. Paperback: 8% of retail price on the first 150,000 copies sold, then 10% thereafter.

How does Amazon pay its writers? ›

Royalties are paid every month, approximately 60 days after the end of the month in which the sale was reported (90 days for Expanded Distribution) as long as you meet the minimum threshold for payment. Direct deposit payments can take 1–5 business days to show on your bank account from the payment date.

Do authors get more money from eBooks? ›

A first-time author with a traditional publishing deal might expect an advance of $1,000-$10,000 and 5-18% royalties once they “earn out” their advance. Self-published authors do not receive advances, but their royalties can reach up to 70% for ebook editions.

How much do Amazon Kindle writers make? ›

Amazon pays out a 35% royalty rate for books priced at $0.01-2.98 or any book over $9.99. However, if you list your Kindle book within the preferred $2.99 – $9.99 range, you'll earn 70% royalties on all book sales. Obviously, it pays to play Amazon's game and keep your price point within their golden zone.

How do I get paid to read books on Amazon? ›

The best way to get paid from Amazon for reading books is to start a book review website. Then you can try to open an Amazon Associate's account and share Amazon affiliate links within product reviews on your own site. You must disclose that the links are affiliate links and that you earn a commission from each sale.

How much do ebook authors make? ›

Ebook Writer Salary
Annual SalaryMonthly Pay
Top Earners$113,000$9,416
75th Percentile$83,500$6,958
25th Percentile$40,500$3,375

Can you make a lot of money self-publishing on Amazon? ›

If you publish with the KDP Select program, you can earn up to 70 percent royalties on your book in many major national markets and 35 percent otherwise. You get paid royalties on a monthly basis. Amazon's verified purchase review system means you can collect and post favorable reviews for your book's site.

Can you make a living selling books on Amazon? ›

Yes, Amazon is a great way to sell books of many different kinds online. If you're a published author, it's also a great way to get your work in the hands of millions of people.

Is self-publishing on Amazon hard? ›

Amazon self-publishing is easy, but is it profitable? If you enroll in KDP Select, your book can only reach so far, depending on your genre. Your friends and family, who may be more comfortable getting your books elsewhere, won't be able to do so.

Who is the richest writer in the world? ›

The Ten Richest Authors in the World
  • Nigel Blackwell – $292.5 Million.
  • Barbara Taylor Bradford – $300 Million.
  • Danielle Steel – $310 Million.
  • Nora Roberts – $390 Million.
  • Stephen King – $400 Million.
  • James Patterson – $560 Million.
  • J.K. Rowling – $1 Billion.
  • Elisabeth Badinter – 1.3 Billion.
Feb 10, 2023

Do authors get paid for every book sold? ›

Royalties are calculated as a percentage of book sales. For example, an author might earn 7.5% royalties on every paperback sold and 25% on every eBook sold. Royalties are typical in traditional publishing, where Authors sell the rights to their book to a publisher.

How many copies do first time authors sell? ›

How Many Books Should I Expect To Sell? Most self-published authors sell 250 books or less, regardless of how many different books they write. Traditionally published books sell around 3,000 copies on average, with only 250 of those sales in the first year.

How do online writers get paid? ›

  1. Start a blog. Blogging is a tried-and-true method for writers to make money online. ...
  2. Create blog posts (for others) ...
  3. Establish a niche website. ...
  4. Self-Publish a book. ...
  5. Create affiliate content. ...
  6. Write scripts for video creators. ...
  7. Write show notes for podcasts. ...
  8. Create written content for social media.

Do online writers pay? ›

The industry is relatively young and there are few established websites that offer these services. However, the jobs are often advertised on freelance writing websites such as Upwork and Freelancer. The average pay is Ksh2,300 ($20) per job - which could take you roughly three hours to complete.

How do new writers get paid? ›

How to Make Money Writing
  1. Guest Post on High-Paying Publications and Magazines. ...
  2. Become a Copywriter. ...
  3. Do Freelance Content Writing for Businesses. ...
  4. Ghostwrite Stories. ...
  5. Get Paid to Write on Medium. ...
  6. Self-Publish on Kindle. ...
  7. Blog and Make Money through Affiliate Marketing. ...
  8. Find Paid Writing Internships.
Aug 24, 2021

Which eBooks sell the most? ›

The top five selling categories for ebooks on Amazon are: Religion and Spirituality. Biographies and Memoirs. Business and Money.
Bestselling Book Genres
  • Memoirs and Biographies.
  • Self Help.
  • Religion and Spirituality.
  • Health, Fitness, and Dieting.
  • Politics and Social Sciences.
Feb 10, 2023

What eBooks make the most money? ›

Fiction (particularly erotic fiction) is by far the biggest seller in the eBook market, but that doesn't mean other areas aren't profitable as well – it's all about finding your niche. For example, eBooks on religion and spirituality, and business and money, also tend to do well.

Can you get rich from writing a book? ›

Writing a novel can make you rich, but only a small percentage of writers get really rich from their writing. Most authors do not survive on royalties from book sales alone. Many retain other jobs to make ends meet. But every now and then, a writer will break through to earn big money.

Is KDP publishing worth it? ›

Yes, Amazon KDP is still a very reliable source of online income with self-publishers making thousands of dollars every month. But to find success on the Kindle Store, it is essential to pick a profitable, low competition niche.

How many books need to be sold to be a bestseller on Amazon? ›

“How many books will I need to sell?” In order to hit #1 on Amazon, you'll need to sell somewherebetween 3,500 and 5,000 copies in 24 hours. Want to hit top 10? You'll need to sell roughly 300 for print, or 2,000+ copies for combined formats.

How much does it cost to create a book on Amazon? ›

It's free to publish a book on Amazon through their Kindle Direct Publishing program. While there is no set-up price for authors on KDP, delivery and printing costs are automatically deducted from royalties made on each sale.

Can I get paid to read? ›

There are also a few other platforms where you can make money by reading, such as Online Book Club; their payouts range between $5 to $60. You can also try apps like Instaread, Fiverr, Booksta, Upwork, etc., where you will get plenty of opportunities to read/write/narrate and get paid for that.

How can I make money by reading online? ›

How to make money by reading books
  1. Join BookTok. ...
  2. Write book reviews as a freelancer. ...
  3. Start a book blog. ...
  4. Run a book club. ...
  5. Proofread books for money. ...
  6. Become a book podcaster. ...
  7. Get paid to narrate audiobooks. ...
  8. Work as a book editor.
Nov 25, 2022

How to earn money through Amazon? ›

Let's get to it!
  1. Sell your own private label products on Amazon. ...
  2. Publish your own books on Kindle Direct Publishing. ...
  3. Sell wholesale goods on Amazon. ...
  4. Deliver goods for Amazon. ...
  5. Become a blogger. ...
  6. Become an Amazon Influencer. ...
  7. Flip store-bought products with retail arbitrage. ...
  8. Flip online retail store products using online arbitrage.
Jan 12, 2023

Can you make a living from ebooks? ›

But when you do set everything up correctly, ebooks can help you make money for a long time. In fact, the more evergreen your content is, and the more you keep promoting and updating it, the longer the life of your ebook.

Can you make a living selling ebooks? ›

This makes ebook self-publishing a great–and scalable–way to earn passive income. Ebooks can also attract potential leads to your business, which makes them a great lead magnet. This is mainly because of the value you offer through your ebooks, which should be more than what's already available online for free.

How long should an eBook be to sell? ›

So, how long should your eBook be? According to our research, the average length of a best-selling eBook can be anywhere between 20-50 pages (and, sometimes, even 100). But, depending on several factors, it can also be less than 20.

Can you make a living self publishing? ›

Being a successful self-published author clearly requires a huge time investment. But despite the low odds, and the enormous amount of work involved, it can be done. And with the right combination of careful marketing, hard work, and (of course) good stories, it has been done.

How to sell ebooks on Amazon and make money? ›

To sell ebooks on Amazon and earn money as an author, you need to start by ensuring your book page is polished and conversion-friendly. This includes: a professional-looking book cover, engaging book description, strong author bio, and relevant categories and keywords.

How do I become a self publisher for Amazon? ›

How to Publish a Book on Amazon KDP (Amazon Self-Publishing)
  1. Create an Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Account. ...
  2. Add a new Kindle ebook (a “new title”) ...
  3. Set Your Primary Language. ...
  4. Enter your book title and subtitle. ...
  5. Enter the Author name. ...
  6. Enter your book description. ...
  7. Verify your publishing rights. ...
  8. Choose your keywords.

Do I need an LLC to sell my book on Amazon? ›

In short, no. You do not need an LLC to sell on Amazon. You can start selling immediately under your name as a sole proprietor. If you are beginning to explore ecommerce and want to test the waters of selling on Amazon, having a sole proprietorship is perfectly fine.

How much does the average Amazon book seller make? ›

Most Amazon sellers make at least $1,000 per month in sales, and some super-sellers make more than $100,000 each month in sales. 45% of Amazon sellers make $1,000 to $25,000/month, which could mean $12,000 to $300,000 in annual sales.

Do I need a business license to sell a book on Amazon? ›

The short answer is no. You don't need a business license to sell products online including Amazon. This is because most products that are being sold on Amazon are not Federally regulated.

How many pages can you self publish on Amazon? ›

The minimum page count is 24 pages, and the maximum page count depends on ink, paper, and trim size options.

How long does it take to start making money on Amazon KDP? ›

With Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you can self-publish your book on Amazon and start making money in as little as 24 hours. Sounds a whole lot better than waiting months or even years to find an agent, get a book deal, and go through all the rigmarole of traditional publishing for a printed book, right?

Can I publish elsewhere if I publish on Amazon? ›

Publishing on Amazon is free to you. There are no costs to getting your book(s) self-published through this platform. If you publish on Amazon KDP, you can publish elsewhere. You cannot publish elsewhere if your book is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, however.

Does Amazon take a loss on books? ›

Amazon maximizes this advantage by using books as a loss leader — losing money on their sales so that customers will be drawn into buying higher-margin items. That's why many books on Amazon are cheaper than the same books at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.

Are books profitable to sell on Amazon? ›

Selling books online can be a lucrative side gig or a profitable business venture. Here are a few benefits of selling books online: There's money to be made as an online bookseller. You have no sales constraints—sell as much or as little as you want.

What percentage do authors get from Amazon book sales? ›

The initial royalty on your self-published book is based on which royalty tier you are in—35 percent or 70 percent. The royalty percentage is calculated based on your listed purchase price. After that, delivery costs are deducted (around $0.06 per book), as are sales tax, value-added tax, and delivery costs.

What percentage does Amazon take for books? ›

Amazon charges a referral fee for each item sold. The amount depends on the product category. Most referral fees are between 8% and 15%.

Who pays for Amazon missing? ›

If a buyer made the purchase through Amazon Prime, Amazon will be responsible for any A-to-Z claims, and will pay up to $2,500 of the purchase price and shipping.

Can I buy a book on Amazon read it and return it? ›

Yes, Amazon's return policy allows it. However, that doesn't make it right. When you have read the book, you CONSUMED the product. Returning a book after reading 10-20% is one thing.

Does Amazon accept returned books? ›

For some products, you can replace or return them within 7 days. And for some other products, you can only replace them with a new one within 7 days, for example, “books”.

What is the most profitable way to sell books? ›

Tip #1: Find the Best Places to Sell Used Books Online
  • BookScouter. The first thing you should do is go to BookScouter. ...
  • Amazon. If you like more complicated ways, you can go directly to Amazon and try selling your books there. ...
  • eBay. ...
  • Etsy. ...
  • Decluttr. ...
  • Powell's Books. ...
  • Half Price Books. ...
  • Local Bookstores and Book-Buying Markets.
Sep 29, 2022

What type of books sell most on Amazon? ›

The top five selling categories for ebooks on Amazon are:
  • Religion and Spirituality.
  • Biographies and Memoirs.
  • Business and Money.
  • Self Help.
  • Cookbooks, food, and vine.
Feb 10, 2023

Can you still make money selling used books on Amazon? ›

You can sell books on Amazon FBA today and still make a profit. Amazon may be a giant, but it can be profitable for those willing to put the work in. Maybe you have a backlog of books at home gathering dust, you want to start an Amazon business selling books or you're researching your options.

How many books do I have to sell to be a bestseller on Amazon? ›

“How many books will I need to sell?” In order to hit #1 on Amazon, you'll need to sell somewherebetween 3,500 and 5,000 copies in 24 hours. Want to hit top 10? You'll need to sell roughly 300 for print, or 2,000+ copies for combined formats.

Is Amazon KDP worth it? ›

Amazon KDP is worth it if you want to self-publish a book easily, at a low cost. But if your sole objective is to make large amounts of money, it may not be worth it. It's possible, but the chances are fairly slim.

How much does it cost to start an Amazon FBA? ›

It's all up to you. You could start with as little as $500 in inventory if you're really strapped for cash, or you just don't wanna take a big risk, or more than likely, you'll wanna start with around $2500 to $3000, and that's what most of our students do.

How much of a cut does Amazon take from ebook sales? ›

Sales of eBooks in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and 37 other sales territories/countries will generate a 70% royalty, but sales in all other countries generate a 35% royalty. You'll find a list of those that pay 70% here.

How much of a cut does Amazon take on eBooks? ›

How much does it cost to publish on Amazon KDP? Publishing on Amazon KDP is free. No charge to upload the file and no shipping costs or hidden fees. Authors get royalties of 35% to 70% of the sale price (for prices $2.99 – $9.99, Amazon gives you 70% and takes 30%, for other prices you get 35%).


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