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“I Owe Amazon Money” – Author Goes Viral Speaking Out Against TikTok Trend That Hurts Writers

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies; I’ve had to literally build bookshelves in my home because I ran out of space. So I’m enraged by this TikTok trend in a special way.

Recently, TikTok has started a trend that is going to cause an enormous financial problem for many writers — writers who have spent literal YEARS on their craft, and on the business end of that craft. It’s SO hard to get a book to publishers. And now TikTok is ruining it? Color me furious.

Lisa Kessler, award-winning author of 44 novels, recently took this trend on in a tweet that went viral.


Kessler chatted with BuzzFeed about readers buying and returning the electronic versions of her books.

“Until May, I rarely ever had a returned eBook, and when I did it would be just one or two, which I chalked up to accidental purchases, totally understandable. But last month, there was a sudden swell of returns of an entire series of books,” she said.

She figured out that the returns were mostly happening with her Muse series — and it didn’t make sense: if you bought book one in a series and returned it, why would you buy the next two?

Via Lisa Kessler

“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,” Kessler said.

TO ME, this is so frigging cut and dry: you’re stealing from the author if you return their books after you read them. ALSO JESUS CHRIST, GO TO THE LIBRARY IF YOU WANT FREE BOOKS. We HAVE A SOLUTION. Yes, I’m YELLING AT YOU.

There’s even a #ReturningBooks hashtag and some users think it’s totally okay to return books (it’s not) after reading them (no) because they’re following the store’s policy (you’re the worst).

So here’s what happens — and here’s who you’re hurting:

When you return an ebook, the royalties are deducted from the author’s account. AND, Kessler points out, “There is also a digital delivery fee that Amazon charges the author, and we do not receive those back when a book is returned.”

So despite Amazon’s ebook return policy allowing returns within 7 days, you’re crushing that author.

Kessler says that other writers have also been hurt by this dopey trend.

“In May, many saw this wave of returns. One had over 250 eBook returns in May alone. That is crushing to an indie author who is paying for book covers and editing up front, hoping for the royalties to cover all their expenses.

“I also heard from an author who was offering the first book in her series for free and when the returns started piling up, it cost her for every copy to comp the delivery fee.

“It’s frustrating because Amazon doesn’t allow returns for digital movies once you hit the play button. The same is true of digital music. Why would digital books be any different?”

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