by Julie, enjoying the warmer weather in Somerville
This week a friend asked if I’d heard about a a trend on TikTok called Read Return Challenge. I hadn’t, so I looked into it. Apparently there’s a trend encouraging people to buy a book or audiobook, read or listen to it, and then return it for a refund. I know that I don’t have to explain to readers of this blog why that is problematic. When a book or audiobook is returned to Amazon, Amazon doesn’t take the financial hit. Authors do. Sure, Amazon loses their portion of the sale, but they make enough money to offset the loss. For indie bookstores, the return of a sale has a bigger effect. They operate on slim margins, and returns add up.
But this is about more than money. It’s the spirit of the thing. Not liking something creative–whether it is a book, a meal, a play, music, or a movie–does not mean you can return it. When you experience something creative, you are taking a “risk”. A risk that it may not be to your liking. A risk that you may not enjoy it right away. A risk that you may have a visceral reaction and truly loathe the experience. We are living in a thumbs up/thumbs down world, and creative endeavors require a more nuanced conversation. Having feelings about your experience is part of that conversation, and helps you develop critical skills.
I suspect that the creators of the Read Return Challenge weren’t being critics of the work. They were gaming the system. On the backs of writers. Not cool.
Which brings me to other thoughts about the book business. There are many ways people can get and read books. One is, of course, the library. Authors love libraries. Requesting your local librarian purchase a book or series you’re interested in shows support for the author. Budgets for libraries are being cut, so showing support for your local library is crucial. That means getting a card, using it, and advocating for the library with your local government.
Not every library has the wherewithal to purchase indie books. Programs like Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited are a subscription service that pays authors, but also allows the reader to enjoy an unlimited number of books every month. There are traditionally published books in the program, but there are also a lot of indie authors.
Another way to access books, if you’re a reviewer, is NetGalley. NetGalley is how many Goodreads reviewers, for example, get books early and share their thoughts. Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising, so this is important. Blatant Self Promotion time: The Plot Thickets, Garden Squad #5, is up on NetGalley.
Many publishers do giveaways as part of book promotions. Goodreads is one place where you can find them. Publishers will also announce them (follow them on social media), as will authors.
BookBub is another book source readers should know about. There aren’t free books on the site, but there are book deals. Signing up is free.
If you want to support indie bookshops, but there isn’t one in your area, Bookshop.org is a great resource. I’ve curated reading lists on Bookshop.org for Sisters in Crime, which is another great way to use the site.
Barnes & Noble is also an important part of the book ecosystem, as are other online retailers.
If you have a local library you love, and would like to support, Sisters in Crime has a “We Love Libraries” $500 grant that is given out six times a year. Pass this link to your local librarian.
If you have a local independent bookstore you love, Sisters in Crime also has a “We Love Bookstores” $500 grant that is given out six times a year. Pass this link to your bookstore.
Thank you, dear readers, for supporting this blog, and for supporting the authors who visit us. And for those of you who review books, THANK YOU!
What’s your favorite way of accessing/reading books? Me, I’m a combo Kindle/Audiobook/Bookstore/Library reader. And conferences–I have yet to come back from a conference without a bunch of books and a long reading list.