Episode 117B – Jocie McKade – Amazon Book Returns

Overview

Jocie and Stephen discuss the problem of Amazon book returns. Their policy hurts authors. What are the alternatives and possible solutions? We have several and some related issues that we discuss.

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Transcript

let’s talk some author stuff and we have a good topic coming up about people returning books to Amazon. But before we get to that you said you’ve written about 20 books. So what are you doing now in your writing? That’s different than when you first started?

[00:30:18] Jocie: I hope, I think I’m better giving a little more depth and backstory coming from a world of writing nonfiction and I’ve written for newspapers and things like that.

So you’re pretty much to the point who walk when, where, why, and you get the story done, you get the story out same way with magazine articles. And so I think that was reflected in some of my early fiction works. I was pretty much to the point and people are like but why, and so now I will stop and say the blue dress, the blonde girl, and do a little more description, depth of character where before it was like she just said this, you just make it up as you go.

I don’t care why dress she’s got. So I think, and I hope that I’ve gotten better at doing that. I’ve really worked hard to try to get better at doing that.

[00:31:05] Stephen: Okay, great. for your writing, what software and services do you Right now, I just use pages that came with the Mac or word that’s on my HP and pretty much that’s it.

[00:31:16] Jocie: And then I just back up on an external hard drive. That’s it? I’m pretty easy. Pretty simple.

[00:31:22] Stephen: Okay. So let me ask this, you use pages on Mac and word on, do you, if you start a manuscript in word on your HP laptop, do you continue to write it only there? Or do you transfer it somehow between the two?

I have

[00:31:38] Jocie: transferred done it in like a rich text format and transferred between the two. But if I started on one, I tend to keep it on that one because keep it simple. okay. It’s just easy. And then the if I go somewhere I write on a iPad, honestly, I am an old school girl, 90% of the time I have a spiral bound notebook and my notes will go in it.

I have it. Separated and file foldered indexed, so to speak. And I have, I love back to school season. I ha . I have a myriad of notebooks that each one of my books is in. And so I started writing when my kids were in school and if I was waiting for them at band practice or at a sports practice or in the the moth car line, if there were days that I did that, I would be sitting there writing in the notebook and I still do that.

[00:32:31] Stephen: Nice. Okay. So you go all the way from analog up to digital.

[00:32:37] Jocie: Yes. Hey, when I was a kid in high school, this is how they taught me to type. Okay.

[00:32:43] Stephen: Yeah. That was one of the first things when I started doing it. And I sent my manuscript to the, my editor. She said, why do you have two spaces after your sentence?

That’s what I was taught. No, not anymore. That is

[00:32:56] Jocie: hard habit to break. Yeah. I’ve even had to go back through and do a find and search and take that space up. Make sure there’s no extra spaces in there. Yeah

[00:33:04] Stephen: It’s difficult. But the good thing is I learned typing and I can still type fairly well and just, and I’ve actually tried dictation and I just can’t get my thoughts and keep the story going by talking it.

But if I’m sitting here, I can just keep typing and typing and pretty much keep up with my.

[00:33:25] Jocie: Yes, I’ve tried. I have a recorder and I used to use it going back and forth to work. The thought would hit my head and then I would like, I think the worst thing is it’s like this. I would listen to myself.

I went it’s and it’s difficult to listen to myself. Because you see all the mistakes, you make all the ums and the hums and et cetera, and you really work to try not to do that, but it’s difficult not to do that. Yeah. And I’m with you and, or I would just hear road noise and it would block out any other things that I would say back to a notebook and I only did it at red lights, honestly, officer

[00:34:02] Stephen: I know I had a trouble with the dictation, partly because it’d be like, quote. And then what I said was comma quote, next line that type of thing, it really broke the flow. And I don’t know why. I didn’t think about this. I heard somebody on a podcast say I don’t even bother with that.

I just speak and keep talking. Like I’m telling the story and I worry, put all that in later. And I’m like duh, why didn’t I think of that?

[00:34:26] Jocie: Yeah, I would do that

[00:34:27] Stephen: too. And what you said about the ums and things like that, I use a software called script, which will take out those type of words and it gets rough sometimes when you’re doing audio or video, but if you’re just using it for the text, it takes out those words.

And then you got a more clean script to work from to add everything else in. So there’s a thought I haven’t even tried that yet, but thinking about it. Yeah. So I need to, I don’t drive as much as I used to, so I need to go out and take walks to to get into the flow of talking

[00:35:03] Jocie: yes, that’s what I do.

I wa walk every day and And it sounds impressive. It’s not that impressive. I don’t walk that far, but we do have a new puppy, which is a border Collie, which requires frequent walking. So it’s made me get up and walk more, not just in the morning, but at night and doing that. And if I’m alone walking her, I’m okay.

I can use a recorder if my husband or someone joins me, I’m like, I feel like an idiot talking about a story with a walking partner. So that kind of eliminates that. But walking does clear your head and give you some thoughts. Of course, I have almost 10 acres to mow. So when I do grass is when I get my best thoughts.

Yeah.

[00:35:44] Stephen: I, we’ve only got four and a half acres, but I’m mowing. I got all the noise and I’m thinking of things and I’m like, oh my gosh, I gotta stop and write this down or I’ll forget it done and done mowing. We had a border Collie lovely dogs. She was great. She loved belly rubs. That was the first thing she’d always just roll over.

[00:36:03] Jocie: It’s the first one we’ve had. We’ve always had rescues and we’ve always had pound puppies. And this one was a friend of my daughter’s had a litter and it’s a dog that I’ve always been in love with and wanted. And when I grew up a neighbor raised them and I fell in love with them. So when I had an opportunity to grab this little girl then we got her.

Aw. And we had the little, he was. We don’t know, mom was a Jack Russell. Dad was a hit and run and we had him for 15 years. So it took us about four years to be able to bring another fur ball into our lives. Yeah. Yeah. We lost our border col last year. And our boxers getting up there too.

[00:36:42] Stephen: So I’m fearing that day you know how that goes

[00:36:46] Jocie: oh, I do. I do. They become such a part of your family and it’s difficult.

[00:36:51] Stephen: Yeah, Jack Russell is probably my favorite dog though. They’re I just love those

[00:36:56] Jocie: dogs. He was a character. Josie how are you marketing your books?

Lately I haven’t been doing a whole lot.

The best marketing I’ve done is probably through Mickey at creative edge. I hired him as the publicity and media and marketing, and he’s gotten me a lot of opportunities. I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I’ve tried Facebook ads and different things. Probably my best promotion is my newsletter because people sign up for it.

They absolutely wanna hear from you. I can do my sales in it. I can do chapters and new reads and upcoming works because quite often, even on Facebook, Twitter, any of those, you can get clamped down if you’re not a bigger name or I’ve had authors who said nothing of relevance and have been suspended for a time.

So my newsletter is the one way I think is my best marketing tool, okay, great. So you brought up a good discussion topic people returning books, and there’s several different aspects of this, that affect authors. So why did that come to your mind as something to talk about? Has it happened to you.

It hasn’t happened to me. It’s happened to some friends who are much bigger selling authors than I am. And I also write for readers entertainment, which is a blog that focuses on books and book news, publishing news, things like that. So it came up as a topic and an article that I’m working on. And by asking some author friends about this it can get some very heated reaction.

And apparently it began from what I’ve gathered and researched so far on TikTok and some younger, I don’t know if it was younger people, they’re making a blanket statement. People on TikTok had said, Hey, why you can go buy this book, read it and send it back. And Amazon will give you your money back so you can read a book for free.

And what happened was anybody that gets a book and we’ve all done it, even me as a voracious reader, you get three pages in and go this isn’t quite what I thought it was. That’s okay. Somebody should be right entitled to send that back. But if you’ve read the entire book and one author literally has a series of 12 books, somewhat people have read all 12 of her books and sent all 12 of them back.

If you’re reading 12 books, you apparently like the book.

[00:39:28] Stephen: Yeah. And like the series. And I don’t understand the attitude because if you like the author, you like the book. But they’re not making money. They’re gonna stop writing. And people then complain you’re not writing anymore.

You should be writing more. Yet the same people that are sending these books back. If you said, Hey, I want you to spend 30 or 40 hours doing work for me for free. They’d be like, are you crazy?

[00:39:54] Jocie: It’s I laugh. My husband has his own shop. He’s a an ASC master mechanic and works on big trucks and farm equipment and road equipment.

And I often laugh and look at people and say can you see somebody telling my husband if my truck runs good for six months, I’ll come back and pay. Go to the grocery store. If I like these bagels, I’ll come back in a week and pay you for them. But they seem, and it’s not just authors.

There was the music industry and the movies, anybody, I think that’s creative, photographers, artists, they all a similar dilemma. For some reason, people think we should give our creative work away for free. Yeah. And authors and actors and musicians, they give away a lot. We’ve all donated books for charity and books for fundraisers and books to libraries.

So we are already giving away quite a bit of work for free for the greater good or whatever, or to help someone in need. And I think this got me because it’s become viral. Millions and millions of books are being sent back and Amazon as one of the biggest book, sellers is really not addressing the issue they are.

Instead of, and clarifying that says you have 30 days to send this book back, or I know that their computer geeks and their Loga rhythms know if Jane over here gets a 12 book series and sends all 12 backs that there’s something wrong with that.

[00:41:27] Stephen: I think that I. Also just to mention, this was a big problem with the audio books on audible for quite a while people were doing it.

So same thing, but personally, I think there should be some limits placed on it. If you get a book physical and you’ve had it X amount of time, two weeks or something, then no, you’re not getting your money back. That, that gets rid of that 30 day return policy and right. And I know there are some other issues dealing with it, but if someone gets a book and reads it in two days and then once their money back, there’s a problem with that.

But I understand maybe they really didn’t like it. Okay, fine. You get your money back. But then if you get book two and book three, no, you’re not getting your money back anymore. Cause obviously you’re scamming it now or it is you can only return. Two books in a 30 day period, or some sort of limits to help with that to try and balance it out.

That’s my thoughts.

[00:42:32] Jocie: And the thing is too, a couple of the authors that I have interviewed have said they’ve had so many books returned, cuz there’s an open end on that you could have bought the book five years ago and still return it. But they’re actually having to pay Amazon. Yeah. And I don’t think people realize if you like an author and you’re, we are reading 12 of his or her books, you obviously like that author.

So why wouldn’t you support them? And here’s the thing from my librarian self, there are many services that libraries have like overdrive, which you cannot only get it in digital format, audio format and print format. And the author will still get. So you can go to the library, talk to the library and say, Hey, I want Jane’s book on Uber mysteries.

And they will order that book for you. And you can get it. And multi you don’t even actually have to go to the library. You can sit here, do it on your computer and download the digital copy. And when you do that, the author still gets paid and you’re getting a book for free. So win-win right. And

[00:43:31] Stephen: now you don’t get to keep it.

You get to read it. But if you’re sending it back anyway, what the matter,

[00:43:36] Jocie: right. And the library will delete it from your digital device at the end of 14 days or whatever period that particular library system has set up. And you can, Hey, if you didn’t get and I’ve done it, I’ve forgot about it.

Or didn’t get an opportunity to read it and went back and checked it back out, which multiple checkouts, help libraries get more funding. So there you go. We’re just keep winning

[00:43:57] Stephen: here. And the digital books, it’s even easier to tell how much of it they’ve read if they have, if they’ve been on a page, if every page is read and they’ve been on every page for about a minute then they’ve really read it.

They’re not just flipping it and yeah, no you used it. You’re done. If I buy a pair of underwear and I wear it for a week, I’m not taking it back to the store. It’s already increased and folded

[00:44:24] Jocie: and and there’s so many obstacles against authors and any creative people. Like I said, musicians, actors, photographers, artists.

There’s so many strikes against them to make a living doing that, that this just adds to the fire and it’s, it makes me very angry, not just for me. I’m working at other stuff and have other income, but there’s you want to make an income from what you love to do and where your passion is.

And I, my first thing is all of these people that are sending stuff back, how would you like it if I just came in and took pieces outta your paycheck? Exactly. And I know a friend of mine was just lamenting the fact that he’ll buy a used book on Amazon. Now, obviously if I have 10 books up and people have bought a lot of ’em and they’re reselling them used, I’m not getting any of that, which there are some things that are gonna be changing.

[00:45:15] Stephen: That there’s a whole different story.

[00:45:17] Jocie: Yeah. Honestly, I, my books, I found on eBay and they want $460 for it and I’m like,

[00:45:24] Stephen: wow. Yeah. Wow. Which I laughed so hard on that one. I’m like, really? Yeah. I just wanna put in the comments y’all can go over here to Amazon and get it for 2

99.

Right. But his thing was that he’s been getting books that they say they’re like new or new condition and all that. And he gets it and he says that they’re bet increased and dog geared and pieces, chunks, and missing pages. And they’re just like, they’ve been run through the ringer and he’s they’re nowhere near new.

And I think that could hurt some. Now I know a lot of independent authors don’t have people buying and then reselling it and they have 800 used books for sale under their titles. But when if someone reads a book and then sends it back, Amazon, isn’t going to sell it for new again. And if they do sell it used the author’s not getting any of that.

So the author’s lost all the money from it and Amazon’s still reselling it. Or somebody is for

[00:46:24] Jocie: a, and Amazon’s seller yeah. Fulfilled by Amazon type thing or on eBay or Spotify feed different things like that, that Spottify, or however that is Shopify. So they sell him on many different venues and the authors out again.

And like I said, they do it with, even with music. What’s his name that wrote happy said something that he lost, like 17 million because people shared. And he didn’t get paid for any of them. Wow. And that’s a lot of money to lose. For me, I might lose $17, but that’s not 17 million.

And I made the number I’m quoting is not an accurate number but in the millions.

[00:47:03] Stephen: Wow. Wow. And there are ways for Amazon to check this. We’ve heard a lot of stories of an author messing up somewhere or accidentally through some thing that’s not even their fault get banned or blocked or whatever, by Amazon, the Amazon’s I don’t wanna talk to you about it.

You get these readers that will get a book and they haven’t paid for a book for months. They read 30 books a month and they haven’t paid anything for any of ’em. Yeah. And the thing is there won’t be 30 books to read soon because authors have to earn in a living. So if you keep turning them, you’re gonna be completely outta books or out of music, out of movies, out of all those entertainment, things that you enjoy, because people are gonna have to go find a job somewhere else to earn a

living.

And you said they pointed toward the younger crowd cuz younger crowd is more on TikTok doing the videos than that. Yes. And yes, they’re wrong for doing it, but look at what they’ve grown up with. Hey, I wanna watch any movie that’s ever been made since 1940. Click a button.

There it is. Hey, I got it. It didn’t cost me anything. Hey, I wanna listen to any song, any album I want. Boom, boom. Hey, there it is. I can listen to it. So for them to say I paid three hold dollars for this book that I read one time they’re not programmed that way and it’s wrong. They should have been taught, but you, I can at least understand why they think it’s okay.

Oh, I can

[00:48:31] Jocie: I very much can. I’m the mother of millennials and they take a beating and my kids mine are all firefighter, first responders. Been in the military. So you, I don’t wanna make a blanket statement on any generation. But yeah, the kids today, they’re just used to instant gratification.

I’m always laughing about that. The other day. You can, if you don’t live out in the boonies like me, you can literally, within two hours, get an order from Amazon and growing up if it said seven to 10 days and we got it on day seven, I was doing a happy dance. Exactly. So yeah,

[00:49:03] Stephen: four to six weeks was common.

You four, you have to send in a check in an envelope.

Two months later. So if you order something at the end of the school year, you’re probably not getting it till the beginning of the next school

[00:49:16] Jocie: year. Yeah, no, absolutely not. Unless you went to the post offs and got a money order, because that was like cash and hope someone open the envelope and it is they’ve raised in this world of instant gratification, instant click can get whatever they want.

And it’s a wonderful thing. I love the technology myself. Obviously where I’m using it right now. But I don’t think sometimes some of the younger people have a concept of people who create these things, be it, the computer, the books, the music, they need to earn a living. I will kids, they wanna be this influencer online and I’m like, man, that’s amazing to make a living, being an influencer.

I’m in fact jealous. And I’ve seen some of these people they can do two or three streams of income, know exactly what they’re doing and I’m going, would you come here and teach that to me? But I, as they still get paid for their time of creating content, their content creators. Oh. And I don’t think they realize that when they take that content from somebody else that they’re not getting paid.

[00:50:20] Stephen: And again, not making a blanket statement, not pointing just at the younger crowd millennials, but quite often I’ve seen people that have no problem piloting movies or copying music or any of these type of things. Then their neighbor asked ’em Hey, can you come do this? Yeah, that’ll be 20 bucks.

It you have that mindset of everything I do should be paid for, but someone else I should just get for free. There’s some entitlement to that also. And I don’t know where that mindset comes from. Cause I’m not like

[00:50:56] Jocie: most of it comes from parents. Because even when my children were younger, there were many parents around them that wouldn’t tell, allow them to work while they were in high school and things that are building blocks to becoming a self-sufficient adult and to understanding finance and things like that, that come from working that, that little job part-time in high school.

I think it teaches you quite a bit. Oh yeah. A lot of them were like I had to work and I don’t want my kids to have to work. And I understand that too. We’ve all had those moments where you want to make the world better for your kids than it was for you. And I think sometimes it’s hard to draw the line as to where it’s better and where you’re letting it

[00:51:38] Stephen: take control.

Yes. Define better because better isn’t making them feel like they should just be handed everything right. That they need to be. Cause I know my son when he was younger, we went to some good music concerts and he loved him and had a great time. And then he got a little older outta school, had a first job pays a little bit.

And I took him to a concert or two in that. Then one came up and the tickets were more expensive, like 75 bucks. And he’s oh, can we go? I’m like, yeah, sure. He’s oh, let’s get tickets, blah, blah. I’m like, okay, there’s 75 a piece. He’s okay. And I’m like, you owe me 75 bucks.

He’s oh, I’m not paying 75 bucks for that concert. That’s funny how that changes. Isn’t it?

[00:52:22] Jocie: Yeah. Yeah. It is. It

[00:52:24] Stephen: is and with people returning books and stuff, it’s an argument for putting your stuff in kind unlimited or script or scribed or whatever that is, these services that people get it and read it and you get so many pennies or overdrive and stuff.

That’s a good argument for putting it in that stuff. I know some people say, oh, I would never put it in Kindle unlimited because they don’t allow me to put it anywhere else. What good is it putting it somewhere else? If you’re not making any money.

[00:52:53] Jocie: Honestly you I’ve had it on apple books and Cobo and different things like that.

And I’ve never sold any of them except via Amazon, a few on Barnes and Nobles, but nothing in comparison. The only thing I can say with that, and I have three of my books in Kindle unlimited is if you’re like me, you have a two B red pile. And so if people get Kindle unlimited and they stack up 10 books and yours doesn’t get read right away, you don’t get paid.

They’ve bought it, but until they open it and they go through those pages, you don’t get paid. And so as it has it disadvantages and disadvantages like anything, and I have a couple on there cuz they are exclusive to Amazon. But the pay rate on those is, is not real great either.

[00:53:40] Stephen: Right?

Yeah. You gotta get a lot of page reads and I know.

[00:53:46] Jocie: It makes me realize why way back in the old days, Leonardo DaVinci and all of them had patrons. I need a patron.

[00:53:53] Stephen: well that’s yeah. That’s exactly a friend. And I talk about Patreon. That’s exactly what that was really designed for. The deci paying the,

[00:54:03] Jocie: and several authors.

A lot of authors actually have gone to Patreon. There is a thing on Amazon called Vela, which is a series. They you do a serial book series, but. In doing that, it’s very expensive to the reader. It’s like a 99, a dollar 99 per chapter. Yeah. And the author really doesn’t get mud like 79 cents or something out of it.

So many authors have taken to Amazon and say, Hey, you pay me $5 a month and I will get you six or seven chapters versus a dollar 99 per chapter through Amazon. I,

[00:54:41] Stephen: and I’ve toed a little bit with Vela myself, but I don’t think I’m gonna stay with it too much. I’m gonna pull my stuff because I write middle grade, okay. No parents are sending their kids develop and teachers and parents aren’t using Vela. Yeah. I have other avenues, my own website newsletter, like you said, that’s better way of getting that stuff out. Yes. So I was playing with it, but I don’t think I’m gonna stay with it.

[00:55:06] Jocie: Yeah. I’ve looked at it, talked to some other authors who have done it, and most of them I think are pulling out of it.

There’s a, there’s several that have done well. But they’re also bigger names and they write, I think science fiction, I think science fiction is one that does well as a series. And not that it’s a single chapter, but it is chunks of the book as it goes. But I would venture to say 60 to 70% of authors, I know are going to Patreon and telling their authors, you can get extra content, we can do a serial book and it will cost you a third of the price that it will on Amazon.

And I get more money as the author. So because of, except for a nominal fee to have the platform carry you on Patreon, you get all of that money yourself. So that enables you I said, the more money that you make, and it’s not like I’m Steven King and I’m gonna make millions. But if you’re in that 50 to a hundred thousand dollars reign of income, then you have the time to put out more material and make happy readers, all right. There we go. People returning books. We don’t agree with it. End the story.

I can’t say I, I don’t agree. It’s great. I’ve gotten a book I’ve returned to, because I didn’t like it, it wasn’t what I bargained for, but I didn’t read the whole book and nor did I buy 12 books in the series and read them all before I decided to return them.

So

[00:56:25] Stephen: there, there’s definitely a line. And honestly, I’ve gotten some books that I didn’t like, but right. For me a lot of times I bought that three years ago and now I don’t like it. So I end up passing them on to someone else, a present.

[00:56:39] Jocie: I donated them to the library. I donate them to we have a senior citizen center.

I donated books there. So they they’re still getting usage there going on, but it’s not something that, and I honestly have not returned much. It had to really be something shockingly different from what I thought it was for me to return it.

[00:56:59] Stephen: I even bought a duplicate a couple times just because it was something I was like, oh, that’s out.

Let me grab it. Forgot I got it. Cause I hadn’t read it yet. And later I’m like, oh, that’s on sale. I needed that book. Grab it again. I’m like, oh look, I got two .

[00:57:15] Jocie: And I think too to go on that point, most authors, especially Indy authors. If you’re with the publisher, your books are going to be priced higher because you have so many other people that are taking a chunk of that money.

But if you’re an indie author, most I would venture to saying 90% of indie authors. Their books are between 2 99 and 4 99. And that’s less than a gallon of gas. Or a Starbucks coffee. So I’m not sure why you’re arguing over getting it for free when you’re getting it for in comparison to other things pennies.

[00:57:49] Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve you do a price comparison. Video games are a pretty good deal because even though they’re 60 bucks, a lot of them are like 30 hours of play and replayability that type of thing. Yeah. So that’s a pretty good deal. A movie. If you go to the theater 15 bucks or so, plus and you get two hours.

Yeah.

[00:58:10] Jocie: It heavens if you take kids or a date and you get popcorn you’re talking some money there. I laugh. I said the port kids today that go on a date, they have to go Dutch. Because by the time you take a girl out for a burger and fries and a movie that’s some chunk of change

[00:58:25] Stephen: there.

A $50 night minimum yeah. All right. Joie, before we go, I appreciate talking to you. It’s been a really good discussion. Hopefully some other people will have some thoughts too. What would you give, what would be your advice to new authors?

[00:58:43] Jocie: Right? Period. That’s it write and don’t sit there and tell me, I don’t have time.

You can write at 11, between 11, 11 30, when you’re sitting in bed you can ride in the car, waiting on your kids. You can ride on your lunch hour. You can ride on the back. I’ve read on the back porch, Rob snapping, green beans. And the more you write the better you do nobody’s unless you’re graced buy the universe, nobody comes into writing, doing it all that.

It takes some time. If you read some of even Steven King’s early works, compared to later works, you can see the progression of his language skills and his depth of character skills. And the more you write, the better you get. And I have many authors who have told me and they do, they write to market.

Because this is hot, that’s hot. The other is hot don’t because what’s hot now is not gonna be hot in six months. The story you need to write. Got it. Great. Thank you. All right. Joie, I’m glad we’re able to keep connected. Get through the interview. It all went good. I will let you know when it goes live and I appreciate chatting with you.

Thank you very much. Thanks for your patience with this. I appreciate it. And it’s been a lot of fun. Yeah,

[00:59:52] Stephen: thanks. Great. I’ll talk to you later. Have a good day. All

[00:59:55] Jocie: Thank you. Bye bye.

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