I'm friends with a lot of really amazing authors. Some of them are bestsellers, some of them are just plain popular without having made the bestseller list, and some of them are like me, somewhere near the middle of the pack.
Many of us share one thing in common: we're plagued by book thieves. These are people who buy a book, read it, and return it once they're done reading. Sometimes, they download the file, grab the mobi from their device, and then return it as ‘an accidental' purchase. Sometimes, they give a different reason.
Some of these book thieves have gotten really bold. Some of them leave reviews complaining they loved the book but they had to buy it. This happened to one of my friends. To add insult to injury, it was a 1* review, where the reviewer praised the book and went on to bitch about the price tag.
The cost of the book was $2.99.
I have had this happen to me. Amazon limits how often a reader can return books. So, when the latest culprit started to buy and return, I watched my stats. Sure enough, right around the time the return limitation expired, a new one of my titles would be returned.
I recently ran a large free book promotion for Beneath a Blood Moon. I gave the book away. A lot of people took advantage of this, too. Which is fantastic.
I want people to be able to read my books. That's why I give them away. First, it introduces people to my titles. Some people decide to read more of them. That's fantastic. I'm grateful.
Then there are the book thieves, who discover my book after the promotion. They buy the book, then they return the book. It makes me really angry. Why?
I give my books away frequently. Most of my titles are put up for free at least once every three months. I encourage people to approach me about ARCs for reviews. I want people to read.
I don't want to be stolen from, however. I give my books away for free, and I encourage Amazon's KU library, because $9.99 a month for a huge collection of books is really reasonable, and I'm paid quite well for it.
My promotion for Beneath a Blood Moon has caused a storm of returns. There isn't a problem with the book file. I've asked those who recently got it to make certain. Amazon hasn't contacted me about major problems, either. (There were two typos that were immediately corrected.)
Here are my stats for May 2016, to show the surge of returns:
I gave away almost 3,000 copies of Beneath a Blood Moon. I've ‘sold' 62 copies, 9 of which were returned. One of the returns was part of the return spree by the suspected singular reader. (You can see the titles that were affected in the Units Refunded column.)
It started when I gave Inquisitor and Winter Wolf away last month, and has carried over to this month. It's pretty annoying, really.
If you're someone who buys books and returns them so you can keep reading, would you work at a fast food joint for free? Would you go to your cushy office job and work for free? Try it sometime. You probably won't like it.
Those books are my career. When you steal from me, you're taking directly from paying my bills, putting food on the table, and so on. I give away books to introduce people to my writing. It's a calculated risk, and it's something I do because I want people to be able to read.
Don't steal from me. You wouldn't like it if I came into your home, rummaged through your fridge, and took your food. You wouldn't like it if I wandered in, grabbed your kid's shoes, and made off with them. How about your computer? Or your television? How about your collection of DVDs/Blu-Rays?
That's basically what you're doing when you take a book someone is selling it, read it, and refund it because you're a cheap thief.
Just because I give books away free sometimes doesn't mean I'm an all access pass.
(P.S.: If you're going to steal my shit, at least leave me a glowing review telling people why you loved my book. Maybe then, at least, the write-off isn't as heartbreaking. Or, better yet, have the basic common decency to wait for when the book is free and I'm giving it to you because I want you to read.)