Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vampires Who Fight Crime > Vampires Who Don't

I'm on a brief Forever Knight-fanfic-reading hiatus. Don't ask.

Well, from what I hear, 90% of these old, poorly-archived stories are better and more complex than Breaking Dawn. Publisher's Weekly had an article about people asking for their money back. Why are there so many "Well, I never!" comments in the publishing industry, like books aren't sometimes treated the same way as other products people buy with hard-earned money? I mean if I bought a TV and it didn't work I would return it, and if a book was so terrible I didn't even want it around I would sell it or donate it. Should we, a publishing industry, be surprised when people who don't like our products question our return policy?

Still approving comments. Go ahead.

65 comments:

ilyakogan said...

I've read the first three novels with interest. I was pleasantly surprised that the second was better than the first and the third was better than the second.

I bought Breaking Dawn and I only managed to read the first ninety pages and it's still sitting on my kindle without being read.

It's interesting that so many different people don't like it for different reasons.

I think my problem with it... there is no plot. I wonder if other people who read the whole thing can confirm my suspicion.

Faustus, M.D. said...

But isn't the usual/average/whatever rate of return about 33%? Is it significantly higher than this with BREAKING DAWN?

Ben said...

If you disliked an episode of a television show you watch, would you try to return the television?

Regardless of how much one has enjoyed the story, the book as a physical device still works. If I bought a new book that was damaged, had misprints, had missing pages, etc., then I'd definitely try to get a refund or an exchange (preferably the latter, so I could read it). Enjoyment of the content of the book is subjective.

I'm going to borrow it from a friend, like I did with the other Twilight novels. I often borrow books, especially if I don't know if I'll like it enough to want to read it again.

For those people without friends, or those people without friends who have the books they want to read, there is some sort of common institution that lets one borrow books (usually for free) and then return them after one's read them, whether one likes the stories or not. It's called a library. The building isn't just there to look old.

Donna said...

I've done that with a rented movie before. It was just that bad that I wanted my money back from it. I only did it the one time, though, and can't remember which movie it was for.

I've never done that for a book though. If I read it and don't like it, I turn it around and sell it to a used bookstore or donate it. I haven't read the Twilight series yet but I'm intrigued by the hype. That'll be a definite library rental for me though because I'm not spending money on it.

I'm a big impulse buyer at the book store but that can lead to rather let down hopes of a book not being good but I've never once thought to actually return it. Barnes and Noble can't really re-sell a dog-eared book, can they? If I eat somthing I don't like, shall I regurgitate it and ask for my money back? Kind of the same thing. If it's broke that's one thing but if you just didn't like it, suck up the loss and learn from your mistakes.

Eika said...

Ben, I think the issue with this isn't that the book is damaged- it's the book isn't worth the money. Say you bought one of those products always advertised on TV- you know, 'call this number and pay $20 and you'll get this and SO MUCH MORE' type. They send you the product, and it does straighten your hair or whatever... but it doesn't do it better than any other product you've ever gotten- in fact, does it worse and with more complicated instructions than most of them. AND it smells like rotten cheese.

It does what it says it'd do- straighten your hair- but you're not satisfied with it. So your return is justified. That's how a business works.

Alexandra said...

I've returned books that I didn't like, since books are expensive and as a college student I can't afford to spend even $6.99 on a product I don't like. I wish I had returned Twilight (I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it either, and I haven't read the other ones).

Since books are returnable, I don't check out a book at the library to see if I like it. I will do that, though, or browse youtube or any number of sites, for movies. TV shows in and of themselves are free, unless it's HBO or some such.

As for why the industry's surprised that books are being returned after being read, they shouldn't be. The book itself may be a physical product, but so is the story. If the story doesn't live up to expectations and what the product has been promised to do (in a book's case, be a great read), it gets returned to the store.

Issendai said...

Faustus, that's the percentage of books that booksellers return to publishers because they didn't sell, not the percentage of books that customers bought and then returned. The average rate of customer returns is extremely low, probably among the lowest in retail.

I'm skeptical about whether the "Don't burn it, return it" campaign is going to result in noticeably high returns for Breaking Dawn. There's scattered anecdata about bookstores seeing piles of BD returns and about refusing to take any more returns because they couldn't afford it, but no harder evidence. It sounds like the kind of flash furors you get in fandom: Someone makes a suggestion, the suggestion propagates, a few people charge out and do it, more people say they're going to do it Real Soon Now, the fandom is all a-quiver, a new, shiny outrage pops up, everyone goes Ooh! and runs off after it. The original suggestion dies of apathy, and sales/visits/fandom return to normal. I suspect that in a few months, sales figures for BD will come back lower than expected, and there will be no more talk about six-figure third printings. The next book in the series will come out, the marketing department will promote their hearts out over it (it's safe because we already know the plot), and the fandom will do their best to forget about it.

At least, until Meyer writes the sequel to BD. Which should be a load of rich and creamy awfulness, because nothing short of a complete rewrite of BD will get rid of certain new elements of the story's world. The poor, poor editor who has to edit that book...

The way the fandom reacted to BD makes me cringe. It's one thing to say a book sucks. It's also fair to say that the author sucks and you're never buying her work again. The reaction to BD goes far, far beyond that, though. They want to punish Meyer for BD. They deserved a good book, and dammit, they should have it! How dare she not pony up! Meyer's own reactions are just as personal--hurt feelings, ego-sparing attempts to minimize the number of critics--which is just gasoline on the fire. They're enmeshed. There's no separation between book and author on either side, or between reader expectations and readers' rights. It's the logical extension of the author-as-brand marketing technique, and it's terrifying.

Christine Carey said...

What? Really? I haven't read it yet - just finished the first in the series, but I'm hoping this is sort of anti-hype. Maybe now that my expectations have been knocked down a few pegs, I'll really enjoy it.

Issendai said...

Why are there so many "Well, I never!" comments in the publishing industry, like books aren't sometimes treated the same way as other products people buy with hard-earned money?

We're expected to treat them like CDs and DVDs--disliking the product is a risk you take when you buy it. The manufacturer isn't expected to give you a movie you like, just a movie that works in your VCR. You have to do quality control on your purchases sight unseen.

If it becomes socially acceptable to return books on grounds of taste, I expect there to be a slow, steady change in the book world. More conservative stocking in bookstores, reader return rates used as an authorial success metric, intensive in-store use of Amazon-style "If you liked X, you'll like Y" systems, anything to reduce the percentage of people who buy books they decide they don't like. The number of books that currently get sold as used because their owners didn't like them would probably stagger the system if they were returned straight to the store.

I mean if I bought a TV and it didn't work I would return it, and if a book was so terrible I didn't even want it around I would sell it or donate it.

But you didn't say you would take it back to the original store, and that's the difference. Taking a book back to the store is a complete loss to the system. Selling the book to a used book store is a gain because not only does the first store keep its money, the used store makes a profit on it.

The moral outrage over returning books to the store is interesting. At first I agreed with it, but now it's looking more and more like a belief that booksellers fostered because it was good for business. I wonder whether the movement to return BD is an early sign that people are moving toward beliefs that are, at least in the short run, more consumer-centric.

The Rejecter said...

The Forever Knight/Breaking Dawn comparison is particularly apt because Forever Knight also had a really hideous ending to the series. I mean, it was like a train wreck, if one of the trains was actually a bus of children. ORPHAN children. About a third of the fanfic seems to be trying to undo the mental damage by rewriting the last episode. Now I wasn't into FK fandom at the time, so this is just my backwards perspective, but FK was also on a downward slop in season 3 (a lot of chances made to the show, always a bad sign), and a TV series is hard to end in general. Except for a few fans, it wasn't on a pedestal. Clearly I can look back from a writer's perspective and say, "OK, the series didn't have high ratings, so they retooled season 3 with sexier new characters and more drama, and it didn't go well, and they ended it with high drama because it was a vampire show, and it was a huge miscalculation. That sucks, but so does life." UPN got a lot of the blame, boohoo. Certainly none of the actors did.

Meyer was under a TON of pressure to end the series well, and do it all by herself (her editor couldn't write the book for her), and it seems from every review I've read (all of which have been negative) that she did a bad job. She probably tried her best, but who knows. You can easily write yourself into a corner with this "temptation/vampire" stuff. As a writer I feel bad for her. I'm also insanely jealous of her success, but I feel bad for her. The whole "fans demanding a return policy at full price because they weren't satisfied with their product" thing is really an unrelated issue.

1979 semi-finalist said...

The idea that people actively return books "because they didn't like them/ were not given what they were promised" is literally blowing my mind right now.

It had never even occurred to me that people do this - let alone at a clip that could make the news and cause ripple effects (of kind of huge proportions) in the industry.

I am, now that I know about this phenomena, a huge NON fan of it. The writer has not promised you a good time, or the best read of your life, or even insightful observations, you have been promised nothing except two covers with x number of pages of writing in between. The onus is on you to love that book or hate it, but once you've purchased it you've commmitted to it (obviously barring the book having actual physical flaws like misprinted pages).

I hate this whole Meyers craze (as much out of not liking her stuff as out of straight up crazy jealousy at her insane success) but I do feel bad for her in this scenario, because she is being attacked in a way I think no writer would ever dream they even could be - and it's really wrong. She is just writing. You are just reading. It's too bad that what she wrote this time did not deliver for some people, but she really can't be responsible for that.

You don't like the book? Write a blog about, write a review about it, tell all your friends, gossip about it at the water cooler, sell it or donate, even write a letter to Meyer (although this makes me sad too) but don't demand your money back from the store that happened to sell it to you, that is just ridiculous.

There are things all the time that make me afraid of actually getting success as a writer, based on this new information I have a new fear to add to the list. Yay fear of success. Yay I say.

Anonymous said...

The backlash being flung at Stephenie Meyer personally -- people on the amazon threads calling her and idiot, a money whore, and hoping she'll never be allowed to publish again, is so outrageous it makes me shudder.

Yes, I write YA, so I did read all four books. Liked Twilight a lot, New Moon and Eclipse less so, and found Breaking Dawn to be so very poorly edited and the plot points so ill conceived that I felt bad for the AUTHOR, not for MYSELF.

Stephenie Meyer has had four best-sellers (maybe five with The Host?) and for all these self-righteous so-called book lovers to be acting like she owes them an apology is beyond comprehension. I'm not one to worship authors, but nor do feel the need to slaughter them just because I found a book disagreeable, either. That kind of "Return it, burn it, SM's an idiot," behavior says way more about the people spewing it than it does about the lack of quality in Breaking Dawn.

Frankly, a lot of it smacks of jealousy -- I've read posts by at least one published YA writer -- (using an unrecognizable screen name) flaming the fires against SM. What comes around goes around, I say.

Anonymous said...

Bookstores aren't public libraries. If it's okay to return a book simply because you didn't like it, what's to keep people who did like a book from returning it for a full refund while claiming they hated it? Returning a book you've read, whether you liked it or not, is like returning clothes you've already worn. Some people do that, too, but it's unethical.

AR said...

"Returning a book you've read, whether you liked it or not, is like returning clothes you've already worn. Some people do that, too, but it's unethical."

Hear, hear!

NotAnotherExit said...

I think Breaking Dawn is one of the exceptions to the rule on returning book, but not because it was bad.

I bought it thinking it was like the previous three Stephanie Meyers YA novels: marketed towards the young end of YA, not horribly dark or grotesque, and something I could give to my little sister to enjoy when I finished it. I really felt for the mothers who went to the book release to keep an eye on their little girls as they waited for this book, only to find out after their kids have read it--I mean, they've read the first three, and they're as harmless as the Boxcar Children, right?--that the book itself had a gory birth scene, pseudo-pedophilia, and many passages preaching the JOY and HAPPINESS in teenage pregnancy. The book didn’t live up to the age appropriateness it established in the first three.

They made such a big deal about the fact that unlike the Twilight books, the Host was an adult books. With BD, there was no reason to believe it would not be appropriate for the younger end of young adults. A little bit of a warning like we got with the Harry Potter books might have saved some of the outrage.

Admittedly the book was still pretty bad, but there is a difference between bad and offensively bad, and I largely suspect in this case the abrupt shift in what was acceptable in the books is what drove people over the edge.

I believe people will accept a lot more before being outraged if they're at an R-rated movie than if they're at a PG-rated movie.

Elissa M said...

It has never crossed my mind to return a book I didn't like to the bookstore. Like others, I'll donate it or sell it at a yard sale, tell anyone who asks that I didn't care for it (and why), and probably not buy another book by that author.

I'm only peripherally aware of the series in question here, but it blows my mind that readers would behave this way. Some fans weren't happy with the ending of the Harry Potter series (and some of Rowlings comments after), but I didn't hear of them vilifying her or returning the books. At least not this vocally.

Makes me wonder if books need to carry some sort of disclaimer on the cover, "Not guaranteed to meet astronomical expectations." Of course, that would probably hurt sales...

Starstruck said...

I've returned books twice in my life I think.

Once was when a long-awaited book came out and the hubby and I coordinated poorly about who was to buy it, and we ended up with two copies.

The other was a non-fiction self-help style book that didn't turn out to be what I thought it was based on the cover copy and brief browsing.

Books I buy and DO read and dislike intensely go to the used book store. If I was going to complain, I would complain to the company that saw fit to publish the dreck, not the bookstore that sold it or the author who wrote it.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the implosion of Forever Knight, I always felt that the jump in networks is what killed the show, not the final episode. Many fans continued to watch, but with the first episode on the new network, half the cast was killed off (and prettier people brought in like you mentioned), and by the end, only 3 of the original characters were still there and by the end of the final scene, only one remained. Talk about a messy death. Another show that did something similar is La Femme Nikita. Funnily enough both were (eventually) on the same cable network USA. I think the network execs made harsh ultimatives that the creators had to comply with and ended up disemboweling the shows in the process. It sounds like something similar maybe happened here? Being told to end something makes writers do crazy things.

Sheryl said...

I'm an adult YA author/parent of a teenage child. I've read the entire Twilight series and I'm not jealous of SM.

There, disclosure out of the way.

I read BD and liked it a lot. There definitely is a plot with some very clever twists. She brought things together and paid off things set up in earlier books. I'll admit the beginning felt a little rough, but once she hit her stride there was some amazing writing going on.

I think the accusations of psuedo-pedophilia is stretching it a TON and sounds a LOT like sour grapes.

As for the 'adult content' of this book -- I read an article by a librarian explaining how she would govern access to BD in her library.

In short, she stated if the reader was high school age (14 up) she would direct he or she to the book.

If the reader was 13 or younger the librarian explained her technique to try to steer the reader toward something 'more age appropriate.'

If reader started with Twilight at age 12 he or she would now be 14 or 15 -- old enough by most standards.

Asking for a refund for a book is pretty outrageous, imho.

David said...

I'm a very, very niche market for the Twilight series (being one of the extremely rare male fans, and (I suspect, though I have much less data to back this one up) one of the extremely *rarer* male fans who aren't gay), so maybe my opinion on BD counts less. So be it.

I had no major problem with BD. I would have preferred that what people are describing as pseudo-pedophilia not be the canon pairing, but more because I preferred another pairing for the first half of the book for the character in question (go Leah!) than because of any particular squickiness the book inspired. And most of the criticisms that people recount leaves me baffled, because they are "sins" SM is no less guilty of in the first three books.

Folks, the Twilight series is not literature. It is fluff, it is a Twinkie. It is a fairly well-executed Twinkie, but it is not even literature on the level of Harry Potter. It is not literature at all. It's just a vehicle for turning off your brain for a few hours and departing with a glow of "aww" when you and your brain rejoin ways.

I could blast SM on any one of a hundred of things, if I were judging her work against Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Animorphs, or, heck, most YA heavy fandom'd properties (Not Eragon, though. I have much greater respect for a writer who chooses to sit on the sidelines of the game of literature than one who attempts to play, cheats, and still manages to lose). But I'm not. It's enjoyable enough. Let it be.

The Rejecter said...

Returning a book you've read, whether you liked it or not, is like returning clothes you've already worn. Some people do that, too, but it's unethical.

Explain how this is true. Show your work. Not the dress part, the book part.

No, really, I'm curious. I'm a staunch defender of books and the publishing industry in general, but if I'm gonna take a stance, I should know why I'm taking it. Why do we equate book returns with immorality?

pegasus358 said...

"Returning a book you've read, whether you liked it or not, is like returning clothes you've already worn. Some people do that, too, but it's unethical.

Explain how this is true. Show your work. Not the dress part, the book part.

No, really, I'm curious. I'm a staunch defender of books and the publishing industry in general, but if I'm gonna take a stance, I should know why I'm taking it. Why do we equate book returns with immorality?"

I don't know if I would equate book returns with immorality, per se, but it's sort of like going to a movie that looks good from the trailer, or gets a great review from critics. You take a gamble. You are gambling that either because of the trailer, or the critics, or the actor that's in it, this movie is going to be good. But how many times are you disappointed?

How many times are all the "good" scenes in the 2-minute trailer? How many times do you say, "wow, that critic is on crack!" But do you ask for your money back from the movie theater? I guess some people might, and to placate them, the theater might actually do it.

But if we all started returning books that we took a gamble on and didn't like, the industry would have some serious problems. I've read plenty of books that I consider dreck, some by "bestselling" authors. Some by authors whose work I've enjoyed in the past. I've thrown some books across the room in a fit of rage. But I haven't returned them. Sure, you CAN return them; most bookstores do have a return policy, assuming the book is in sellable condition. But hey, you took a risk in shelling out the money; can you really blame the author for not delivering?

There are plenty of people who liked BD, just as there are plenty of people who hated it. I didn't think it was terrible, and certainly not worthy of the vilification that Stephenie Meyer has received. She wrote the book, an editor approved it, and it was published. This is the story she chose to write... does she owe it to her fans to give them what they want? And what exactly did they want? There were some bizarre plot twists, and I didn't re-read ECLIPSE before reading BD, so I didn't remember a lot of the things that were foreshadowed, but as a whole, I thought the story was okay. My main problem was that some things which were built up never really delivered, and much of it was anti-climactic. I thought there was enough left over at the end for me to want to read another volume in the series.

Are these books great works of literature? Probably not. Have they ever claimed to be? I doubt it. Are they comparable to Harry Potter? Not in my opinion, but there are plenty of people who didn't like those books either. Is BD perhaps not appropriate for a 10-year-old? Probably not. Is that the target audience? No. So for the librarian who will nudge younger kids away from BD, kudos. I'm all about "parental guidance is suggested" being added to things like this if necessary. But to personally attack SM is disgusting and immature.

I think I've rambled on long enough; hopefully I said something worthwhile.

Elissa M said...

I personally don't think it's "immoral" to return a book, but it seems wrong to purchase a book, read it through, then return it used. I also don't care for people reading books in the store while eating danish and drinking coffee, but I'm obviously in the minority there.

When I pay good money for a new book, I want it to be new. If the store had a spot where they sold returned books at a discount, that would be fine with me. I often buy used books, too. Sometimes it's the only way to get a copy of some books.

I do think it's like clothing. Donate the used book to the Salvation Army if you don't want it.

1979 semi-finalist said...

Since this seems to be such a rampant problem (people buying books they don't like) I'm going to share my [brilliant] book buying secret:

1. Shallow though it is, I must be drawn to the cover/packaging and title. Despite the myth of not judging a book by its cover, these can be extremely helpful for a variety of reasons.

2. I read the first line of the book.

3. I NEVER read the "summary" on the back or inside jacket, though I will read and sometimes consider quotes by authors/publications I respect on the back or front of the book.

If the cover, first line, and title all meet my standards/guidelines (i.e. I know what I like) I buy it.

Since instituting this system I don't think I've purchased a book I intensely disliked. There have been a few disappointments along the way, but no hate, and mostly, love and adoration for what I've picked up (and I buy a lot of books - probably averaging three or four a month).

The other upside to this system is that I have found so many books that I don't know how I would have discovered otherwise - it's opened up whole new worlds.

Now, you may return to your regularly scheduled programming - feel free to throw tomatoes and rotten fruit while I break my own arm patting myself on the back.

Anonymous said...

I can not believe every book published is a winner with everyone. A reader should review it with a friend, not return it.
Let me put it this way; A good word goes to two or three people , a bad word skips across the universe. It is like trying out a new restuarant, you reccommend it or you don't. Maybe thats a bad comparison- you might get your money back there if you yell and throw a tantrum.

http://freewebs.com/robertaustin

Anonymous said...

Well I personally think an author who is paid MILLIONS OF DOLLARS is expected to have some sort of quality, or at least fluffy enjoyment, in their stories. To me, "It was ok" isn't good enough for an author who is being paid seven figure numbers. I don't see the problem returning her shoddy last book, it's not like she's going to go to the poorhouse for it. Though people really shouldn't insult her personally.
On all other books, I don't see the problem with returning super crappy books, but I seem to be one of the few. A story is also a created product. You're not paying $6-40 for the paper. If we start returning crappy books, that'll force the industry to... sell better books! Oh Noes!

Alexandra said...

Anon 10:03pm: "Though people really shouldn't insult her personally."

I think that is what is making this case worse--not necessarily returning the books, but insults are being thrown at Meyer herself. There have been a lot of comparisons between her books and her Mormon life (and Mormons tend to get the short straw whatever the case). That's a valid criticism point if one argues that an author's values have caused the book/characters/plot to veer so far off course as to not make sense, but people are insulting *her* without logical argument.

As for book as product: I've noticed that, even among writers, they are split pretty evenly on whether books should be returned after read. One side argues that, like dvds, you shouldn't be able to return a product you have technically used. The other writers (my side) note that anyone can write (and anyone can--I didn't say write *well*) but when you enter publishing you are selling a product, and if you don't live up to hype and expectations your product is unsatisfactory.

On whether or not you can return an open/used/read product: my parents recently bought a new desk chair from Staples. Of course, my parents' needs of sitting down and checking email are different from my gaming brother who spends hours sitting in front of the computer. Even though I had assembled the chair, my brother hated the thing, and Staples took it back for store credit.

Another way to look at returns is like this: you can't return an open dvd because the store can no longer guarantee that the dvd isn't damaged. But with a book, if there's damage, it's obvious--bent pages, cracked spine, what have you. And stores have return limits--15 days, 30 days. It's not as if someone can enjoy this product for 6 months without damaging it.

Anonymous said...

Readers are the customers. Since when don't writers owe the readers at least a decent time? Or a well thought out story? Sure writers spend a lot of time working on a book, but readers spend their hard earned money. So if they want to go online and talk about what a horrible book this (or any book--even mine) was, then they have the right. If they talk about stringing up the writer by his toes and shaking him until they deliver a decent book, then so be it. If they hope the writer never writes another book again, then it's their prerogative.

What is wrong with you people that you think somehow writers are above question? And, yes, I'm a writer.

As for returning books, I think it's more danger to say things like, "writers don't owe readers anything..." What happens when readers get burned so many times by bad books that they stop spending their money? What happens when they hear their favorite authors saying they don't give a damn what they think? Readers support writers with their money; writers damn well better support them back.

Anonymous said...

Returning a book you've read, whether you liked it or not, is like returning clothes you've already worn. Some people do that, too, but it's unethical.

Explain how this is true. Show your work. Not the dress part, the book part.

No, really, I'm curious. I'm a staunch defender of books and the publishing industry in general, but if I'm gonna take a stance, I should know why I'm taking it. Why do we equate book returns with immorality?


You've misquoted me. I never said returning a book was immoral, I said it was unethical. I equate immorality with the major stuff the Bible, Torah, Koran, etc. tell us not to do. Unethical stuff can be just as severe, but it can also be something as minor as using the office copy machine to make a copy of your income tax return. I'd say returning a book you've read leans more toward using the copier than committing murder or adultery.

As for why I think returning a book you've read is unethical? A book isn't paper and ink, it's ideas. Unless you're talking about something like a dictionary, once you've read the book, you've gotten what you paid for, even if the book was crap. Returning it would be like eating an entire box of cookies and then returning the empty box because the cookies were stale.

Elissa M said...

anon 9:00 am-

I honestly don't feel writers "owe" readers anything, not even the promise of a good book. An author should always try to write the best story she can, but there are never any guarantees. To say she owes readers a book they approve of, is saying the readers owe the author a guaranteed sale.

anon 10:03 pm-

Who determines what is "crappy"? Sounds like censorship to me. I also don't see how the money an author makes should influence judgment of the book's quality. A good book is good no matter what the author was paid.

I personally have no problem with not buying further books by authors who have disappointed me. That's not the same as returning one.

Anonymous said...

What a bizzare turn these comments have taken.

If you don't like a book, then don't read any more books by the author or check them out from the library for free. The thought that people think it's okay to return a book they didn't like is absolutely wack-o to me. You don't return CDs or DVDs because they "weren't what you expected" but somehow you should get to return a book??

Dear God, people, books are not wrapped in plastic, nor do they have locks on them. Stand in a bookstore aisle and flip through the book in question. Read a few pages, from the beginning, the middle, the end. Or, read some Amazon reviews to see if it's something you'd be interested in.

GOOD is SUBJECTIVE -- there were just as many people that LOVED Breaking Dawn as hated it. I didn't love it. Not at all, but that's the risk I chose to take.

Grow up.

Anonymous said...

"Grow up."

This is not about being immature, this is about people having different views and discussing them.

Implying that someone is childish because they don't agree with you, is in fact, the definition of immaturity, I think.

That said, I just don't see the point of returning a book. But, if it works for you, and you think somehow it'll impact the author, whatever.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:16 --

(I'm Anon 8:05 pm -- and for the record I didn't return BD, nor have I ever returned a book in my life -- so I'm usure what Anon you're confusing me with??)

Discussing things is fine, but for the commentors to think returning a book because the author should've read their mind, personally, and written the book in the manner THEY would've liked is insane. Not just childish, but insane!!

GOOD is SUBJECTIVE. Go on Amazon, read the good and bad reviews. Everyone has their own, subjective, opinion. For the thousands that hated the book there were thousands more who thought it was peachy keen. Being disappointed in a book, or movie, or CD you buy is the inherent risk in purchasing the product to begin with. THAT is my point. My point is, yes, grow up.

Obviously SM must've thought BD was the best way to end the series. It is up to you as a living, breathing, thinking human being to then flip through the book before you buy it and see if it's worth your money -- not to buy it blindly and then slam SM and storm bookstores to return an already read book.

So yes, grow up.

Michael said...

Well,

Any return policy opens the ‘returnee’ to the possibility of abuse. I worked in a distribution center for Amazon.hell, I mean .com, for three years. One day I additional assistance was needed in the returns department. I, being the team player that I am, volunteered for the task. What I found was most interesting.

The process requires that I scan the invoice and item being returned, which pulls up all activity on that particular account. To my surprise, well, not really, the majority of people who were ‘returners’ were, in fact, ‘returners’ of lot’s! In some cases, everything that they purchased, from the time the account was opened.

Amazon has, or had, a liberal return policy. My point here is this: Whatever your policy is, be prepared for some unscrupulous people, to abuse it.

The question is whether or not to open ourselves to this, in order to set at ease the honorable people. A question that can only be answered by the company in question.

Thank you!
Great site!

Michael

Arlyle said...

I'm so glad that people are finally fed-up with this Pedophile-Vampire Series. I tried to read the first book, but I just couldn't.

Caroline Steele said...

If I buy a product—any product—and I'm not satisfied, then the producers haven't done their job, whether that's the author or the oodles of people the author had to go through to get their book on the shelf. I expected a product of a certain quality, and if I didn't get it, then that's unacceptable and I should be able to return the product. This applies to *any* product, not just books. If an author produces something that doesn't live up to expectations, then I didn't get what I paid for, and if I'm unsatisfied, then so should be the producers—someone who produces disappointing product should not be rewarded with the royalties of anticipatory purchases.

As Anon 10:03 said, I'm not paying for just paper here.

(As an aside, I don't return books, because I rarely buy books that are worth returning.)

Meredith said...

Returning a TV because it didn't work and returning a book because you didn't like it aren't equal examples. If you returned the book because you didn't like it, that would just be the same as returning the TV because you didn't like the model or the colour. It's not like the book was misprinted or not working.
It is true that writers wouldn't be where they are if they didn't have their fans but if you expect them to only write books that satisfy their fans, where would you draw the line? Which fans' opinions are more worthy of contributing to the plot? It would just turn out with writers mechanically writing to satify the whims of their fans, mindlessly spoonfeeding them whatever they wanted to read. You may as well write your own book then.
Not everyone disliked BD. It's the same with any other book; look at how much criticism HP got but it's fanbase is still huge. Whining about wanting to return books just because you didn't like it is just ridiculous and childish. There wasn't anything fundamentally wrong with the book other than the fact that you personally didn't enjoy it. Just because hordes of others agree with you doesn't suddenly make it okay to throw a tantrum and demand your money back.
By forking over your money for a book, you're already forgoing the option of spending it on something else. You made a conscious choice to buy and read it, the author didn't brainwash you into it. Just live with the consequence that yeah, you bought a book that you didn't like. Why should the author be responsible for your choice? True, you may have bought it on the reliance that the author would write a story you'd like but the author never made a contractual promise to each and every fan that she would write exactly what you wanted. Surely she has the right to write the story she wants. If you didn't like it, too bad. Your contract is between the store you bought it from and yourself. Punishing the store because you didn't like it isn't reasonable.

Michael said...

Lot's of passionate responses to the whole, 'return' issue. I'd lke to add this: If I go out for dinner, order a steak(sorry vegans, I eat dead animal), and it isn't how I ordered it, I send it back. If I EAT IT, and then ask to not be charged because It wasn't how I ordered it, then I'm an asshole. It is also likely that I won't get the refund.

Anonymous said...

Caroline Steel:
There's a reason why movies, music, novels, or paintings go under the legal definition of Intellectual Property. And you're mistaken: a novel isn't a product like all other products.
The plot, the language, the characters... they are not a product. The product is the paper, the typing, the cover. If those are damaged, then yes, your product is damaged and you may return it.

Anon 11:16:
There is something inherently childish about this culture of entitlement, as it has been displayed in this thread and in relation to BD. While I can dig a culture of entitlement that assumes your government owes you something, I can't fathom how an intelligent, mature person would even think for a second that an author owes him some imaginary objective, quantifiable sense of pleasure.

It's disturbing how easily people's understanding of consumer rights devolve into a misguided sense of entitlement. Yes, you are a consumer. Yes, you bought a product. No, you did not buy bliss, happiness, or a sense of fulfillment. Those, I'm afraid, even if existed, would probably cost a hell of a lot more than a copy of a book.

No. You are not entitled to a refund if you do not like the contents of a novel!

Sock said...

Just yesterday I stumbled upon an article about bad jokes endangering the health of those who tell them. Long story short, when someone tells a bad joke, the listener feels insulted and offended, often to the point of wanting to teach the joke-teller a lesson by humiliating them or inflicting physical harm.

http://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/magazine/19103/a-bad-joke-may-endanger-teller

I haven't read this particular book, but there was another released this year that caused me to temporarily morph into some kind of author-hating rage monkey. And for the same reasons, too. My intelligence was insulted by the suggestion that I was too stupid to notice the book had no plot, had scenes copied almost verbatim from earlier books, and was poorly written. I got the distinct impression the author and her publisher thought I was a big enough moron that they could put a price on unedited crap and get away it. And boy howdy, did that twist a knot in my knickers.

Now, I'm not saying it's right to call an author names or to threaten them for writing a bad book. But at the same time, when people--especially younger people, like much of Stephenie Meyer's audience--feel as though they've just been insulted, they tend to act out. It's like a big game of Punch U, Punch Me. From the reader's point of view, the author thinks the reader is an idiot, so to prove the author wrong, the reader goes out and calls the author an idiot for thinking he was an idiot.

Or something.

I don't think it's supposed to make sense. It's just how things are.

Chumplet said...

Bookstores are actually allowing returns from consumers? Sounds risky to me.

Wouldn't people abuse the system and simply return books and get their money back, even if they liked the book?

Bookstores are having a hard enough time keeping their doors open without being treated like a library. The whole process seems silly to me.

Returning a book after reading it is like returning a dress after you wore it to the Prom.

My friends at work are lapping up the Twilight series like it's HP or something. My daughter says it's badly written. I'll trust my daughter's judgment.

sylvia-rachel said...

I can't opine on Breaking Dawn, because I haven't read any of the series and don't particularly plan to.

Now that that's out of the way ... I don't think I've ever returned a book to a bookstore because I didn't like it; in fact, I don't think I've ever returned a book to a bookstore ever. Oh, except once or twice to the university bookstore when I was a student, as when a course for which I'd already bought the books was cancelled or similar. (I tried to return the Spanish language textbook from which pages began to fall out in the last week of September, but they wouldn't take it back, even though it was clearly defective, because it wasn't still shrinkwrapped. ::fume::)

But then, I don't buy a lot of books I haven't already read, and I buy more second-hand books than new ones. You can always take second-hand books back to any old second-hand bookstore, not for what you paid for them but for cash or credit, because then they can sell them to somebody else who also isn't expecting something pristine, and everybody wins.

I don't think authors owe their readers a particular ending or a particular type of plot or whatever. I think when a publisher markets a book to twelve-year-olds that has adult content in it, that's a problem (I'm not saying they did that, but it sounds like a possibility), but I also think that some people have a much lower "adult content" threshold than I personally do, so ...

Anyway, I can't imagine ever taking a book back to a bookstore and asking for a refund because I thought the book sucked. When I think a book sucks, really sucks, so much that I don't even want it on my shelves (this is a rare occurrence, btw), it's likely to end up at the Goodwill or in the Hadassah donation box or something. A lot of those books came from the remainder bin to begin with, and taking them back to argue for my 2,99$? So not worth it.

Anonymous said...

At the movies one time, my father-in-law left before the movie started and demanded his money back because he didn't like the previews. (He got the refund, too.)

Alexandra said...

If bookstores didn't allow returns of "used" (read) books, I wouldn't buy new books. If I was interested in it and the library didn't have it, too bad for the author--they aren't going to be making a fan of me.

Kami said...

I think the people trying to return books to make a statement have an impossible expectation of the publisher. Art is a matter of taste. Personally I think the painting we have in one of our local libraries is hideously ugly. The only impressive thing about it is that it's big and contains a lot of expensive oil paint. But someone liked it (or the artist) enough to procure it for the library, and I'm sure there are people who like it just fine.

There's never a guarantee with art. The author pleased some people. The author will not be able to please all people. It's a shame that she couldn't please a higher percentage, but I'm sure she did her best in good faith and in the hopes that the readers would continue to enjoy the story she's telling. The publishers and editors out there can't and shouldn't write the stories. If the readers like the story so far, the assumption is that they'll keep liking the story. If they don't, it's a shame but out of the publisher's, and honestly, out of the writer's control. Writers aren't psychic and can't always guess correctly what the readers will want, though I'm sure SM sure wishes she was about now. Ouch.

Amy said...

I wouldn't return a book simply because I disliked it, the same way I wouldn't demand my ticket price back from a movie theater if I disliked the film, or from the box office if I were dissatisfied with the dramatic content of a play. Entertainment is a subjective thing; we therefore expect consumers of entertainment (which books like BD are) to take a slightly greater chance of dissatisfaction. If the actors just stopped in the middle of a play, or the projector broke down during a film, then I'd ask for a refund; if a book were lacking chapters, or if it had been sold with the wrong dust jacket attached, something like that, then I'd return it. Other than that, I take my chances. I think this is the most appropriate response. In other words, we don't treat books like any other consumer goods because they aren't -- they're entertainment.

Michael said...

Hey amy?
KOO-HOO-DOE's.
Nicely done.
Once I'm published, make sure you and thoes like you buy it. OK?

;-)

~michael

ALC said...

Anonymous said...
Well I personally think an author who is paid MILLIONS OF DOLLARS is expected to have some sort of quality, or at least fluffy enjoyment, in their stories. To me, "It was ok" isn't good enough for an author who is being paid seven figure numbers.


Why? And, who are you to dictate what is appropriate pay for someone who isn't getting their millions DIRECTLY from you? This is such an assinine argument.

It's like a 350 pound couch-potato lamenting that the pro-football quarterback doesn't deserve what he's being paid. Until you can get off of your behind and do the same job with even mediocre by comparison to the quarterback's WORST results - you are in no position to judge what is appropriate pay for the job.

The simple fact is, Stephanie Meyer has made an exorbitant amount of money for her publishers. She has managed to write at least three "pleasing" best-sellers for the fans (what have YOU done lately?), and has done it as a first-time author- Literally! Twilight was her first work of fiction EVER.

And, just so you know, I didn't care for Twilight. I read to pg. 317 and couldn't bring myself to finish. It just wasn't my cup of tea. I ended up giving it to my niece for her birthday and creating a new Stephanie Meyer's fanatic.

The ONLY justifiable reason I could possibly think of for returning a book is that there was something so completely offensive within its covers and that it was labeled as a family (i.e. safe for everyone) read.

Buying a book, reading it and then returning it just because you didn't LIKE it is like buying an article of clothing and using it 'til it's worn out (because once you've read the book you've completely used the product)and then trying to return it because you didn't LIKE it.

You bought the book. You can't prove that there's anything reprehensible enough to warant a return after having read it. NOT LIKING it is, as has been stated here a number of times already, the chance you take on ANY book you buy whether its from an unknown or a tried and true author.

People, they can't all be winners.

I bought a new collection of short stories by Stephen King six years ago. I'm not a HUGE King fan, but I'd read some of his novels and shorts years ago and thought that it would be the perfect way to pass a long flight. I couldn't read ANY of the stories to completion. They were all filthy! The ones that didn't start out filthy turned filthy suddenly at some point into the story.

Was I unhappy about this? Absolutely. Did I feel ripped off? To a certain degree, yes. However, I realized that I hadn't read any of his work in years and that times have changed. It was the chance that I took when I purchased the book.

If any of you people are aspiring writers you might want to think twice about encouraging people to return books just because they didn't LIKE them. If this becomes the trend then getting published will be even more difficult for first time authors.

THINK people.

Michael said...

ALC is bit fired up, no?

If you return a book because you didn't like it, than your an asshole.

Maya Reynolds said...

A question and a comment. First the question.

Rejecter: I don't remember seeing an article in Publishers Weekly about the number of returns on Breaking Dawn. I searched the PW archives and couldn't find one. Would you mind advising when the story appeared? Thanks.

Comment: I've returned a book exactly twice in my life. The first time was in 1998. The book was When the Wind Blows by James Patterson. I'd plunked down my $25, expecting to curl up with a solid mystery. Instead I found myself reading a sci-fi/paranormal about children with wings. Despite the fact that I LOVE paranormals, I was seriously torqued. I felt I'd been a victim of bait and switch. The flap of the book was misleading, talking about the mystery confronting a widowed Colorado veterinarian. I returned that book to the bookstore for credit and, in the ten years since, have never purchased another Patterson novel.

The second time was a few years ago with Amazon.com. I was cruising the mysteries and saw one by an author unknown to me. The concept was intriguing so I ordered it.

When it arrived, I couldn't read more than four pages--it was THAT badly written. I couldn't believe any publisher had actually released the book. I turned to the copyright page and realized it was self-published. I was so damn mad, I called Amazon (it wasn't easy to find a number, which tells you how mad I was). They agreed to let me return the book, which I did.

For some time afterward, I was very careful to check the publisher before making a purchase on Amazon. Nowadays, I've stopped buying from Amazon altogether because I just don't like the bullying tactics they've been using on publishers.

Sock said...

I used to work in a department store. Every Monday morning, we would have returns in the double-digits from people who had purchased an outfit the Friday before, spent all weekend partying in it, and then wanted their money back. The clothes would be in bad shape--wrinkled, stained, damaged--but we took them back anyway, no questions asked, because that was the company's policy. Yes, it was annoying. But the company's promise to the customer that she can return an item for any reason within thirty days trumps my opinion that it's a sleazy thing to do.

So the way I see it, whether a book is a product or an experience shouldn't matter. Neither should the question of whether or not returning books is ethically or morally an OK thing to do. If the store where the book was purchased says their customers can return books they didn't like after reading them, then the customer has every right to do just that, preferably without being labeled an asshole.

Michael said...

...and without it being labled a sleazy thing to do.

ALC said...

That's interesting since most people I know would all agree that, regardless of store policy, buying an expensive outfit (or any outfit) for a one-time party or gig, using and abusing it for that one-time gig and then returning it - again, regardless of store "policy" - is, and always will be, a "sleazy" thing to do.

It's just a step "above" shoplifting, because guess who ends up paying for the now "unsellable" merchandise? And who do you think they'll pass those costs on to?

BuffySquirrel said...

It would have been nice to get my money back on "Twilight", which I thought was utter rubbish, but I didn't even try because, well, you don't. If I'd then gone on to buy "Breaking Dawn", I can't see how I'd have any justification for complaining about its quality, or the lack thereof. All you can do is shrug, donate or sell the book, and move on.

Sock said...

ALC -- Those who return books haven't stolen the book, downloaded it illegally, or infringed against the author's rights in any way. Just because many of us here don't agree with returning books to the store after having read them doesn't mean it's wrong. It may be morally disagreeable, but it isn't "wrong".

I do think the way returns are handled now is flawed, and you're right that some of that cost is diverted back to the reader. But there's little that can be done about that until the rules change. As long as stores say it's OK to return a book, there will be those who take them up on that offer. I don't like it, but I can accept it as how things are at the moment.

Just FYI, about the partied-in clothes, they were placed back on the racks and sold anyway. If they were damaged, they were discounted. If they were dirty, they got pressed -- not cleaned, just pressed. It's one of the reasons I don't try things on in stores anymore.

Anonymous said...

"All you can do is shrug, donate or sell the book, and move on."

No, they can return it. The fact that many don't like it is irrelevant.

Carradee said...

If you buy anything at the store, and decide you don't want it, and it's still in like-new condition, you're free to return it. If you start reading a book and don't like it enough that you're not gonna finish, sure, return it. I've returned shoes that proved impossible for me to wear after two tries.

Now, once I put white-out in a book, to avoid the language. That one got bad enough that I didn't finish it, but I didn't return it. It had white-out in it. If it had lacked the white-out, I would've returned it in a heartbeat.

People who work at some book stores are allowed to borrow and read whatever's on the shelves as long as it still looks new when they're done. I see nothing wrong with returning a book for a plot defect as long as it still looks new.

ALC said...

Sock said:

It may be morally disagreeable, but it isn't "wrong".


Ahem ... in what world is "morally disagreeable" (an hysterically funny turn of phrase, btw) not "wrong"?

I once knew a lady whose husband was a pathological liar. She said he had "honesty problems."

It amazes me how people in this day and age can "sugar coat" things in this fashion.

Also, store policies exist to protect consumers from products that fall apart after one or three wearings or in the washer, not so that they can make a test run on how their friends think they look in them. Unfortunately, store policies are flagrantly abused.

And, yes, if a pair of shoes caused me unmerciful pain upon actual wear I would consider returning them - although, if it was a pair of 3" stiletos I'd hope that I'd have enough sense to have seen that coming. I'm guessing that Carradee didn't have that particular problem because sometimes a pair of sensible shoes can surprise you, too.

Sock said...

Morally disagreeable, meaning the distinction between what is right and what is wrong is one to be made at the individual level. There are many legal and acceptable practices I don't believe are morally right. For example, I would never wear fur or leather. Others do. I don't agree with their choice, but it's still their choice to make.

I'm not trying to "sugar coat" anything. But this isn't a black-and-white issue like shoplifting or piracy, where ethical (and legal) boundaries are firmly in place. Bookstores that allow returns have given their customers the choice of keeping the book or returning it for a credit/refund. I don't return books, regardless of how I felt about them, or encourage my friends to return books they no longer want or didn't enjoy. But if someone wants to return a book, that's their decision. Not mine or yours or anyone else's.

I'd also like to clarify that my focus on this topic is on those who returned a particular book because they felt it was unreadable, not repeat offenders who abuse the privilege of returns by treating book stores as libraries.

A couple of posts ago, you mentioned the costs of returns being passed down to the customer, and you were right. They're also passed down to the author. But who's to say that won't happen regardless? Stores allow returns because they have nothing to lose by doing so. They, too, have the option to return books they can't sell, which is why many are willing to take a risk on a midlist or debut author. If by axing its return policy, a book store lost sales, do you not think they would pass those losses on to the consumer? Sure they would.

On a higher level, if publishers did away with their return policies, what else would they do away with to cut their losses? Coop? Advances? Fewer books and lower print runs? Those things would ultimately affect the cost of books, too.

As I said before, I do think the way returns are handled now is flawed. But I also can't think of any other solution that wouldn't be just as bad or worse in the long run.

Etiquette Bitch said...

rejecter, where have you gone? we miss you!

Anonymous Gimp said...

I assume the rejecter is out writing the great American novel...

But the rejecter could also just be off enjoying the sun...

Or be very busy rejecting people in real life...

Either way, there is a void in the blogosphere...

Emily said...

Personally, I return books that I think stink. On the other hand, I'm a very careful reader, and books I've read all the way through, even several times, often look like they've never been opened at all. I'm finicky that way.

If I weren't such a careful reader, and books looked used after I read them, I don't think it would be right to try to return a product the bookstore can't resell -- that's unfair to them. It's expecting them to willingly take a loss. However, if I return a book that still looks brand new, and they can resell it to someone else just as easily as if I'd never bought it at all, I don't see the trouble.

Personally, I see that as little different from sitting and reading the book right there in the store -- true, that does mean that it won't be available for someone else to buy during the days you kept it at home, but that's about it.

On the other hand, if a book looks used after you've read it, which it seems to with most readers, returning isn't the fairest policy to the bookstore. Better to use libraries more often, and then donate/sell to used bookstores/trade on BookMooch any books you've read and didn't like.

At least, that's my opinion. For the record, I don't tend to return books unless I think they were actually awful; books that were good and just not my taste, I tend to trade online to other readers, even if they still look brand new. It's nicer to everybody.

JLR said...

Oooh, a fellow Forever Knight fan! I actually came into the fandom the odd way around. I read some of the fanfic--probably from a crossover fic or rec, it's been a while . . .

Anyway--liked it, devoured more, then decided, if the fic is this good, surely the dvds are great. So I bought them. Not disappointed. I've just recently gone into hiatus myself in order to work on my own works in progress.

--Jodi (a lurker)

lachocolatreine said...

Personally, Breaking Dawn was tooooooooo far fetched. She lost the whole realistic vibe in Breaking Dawn. The point (my personal opinion) of fantasy/fiction is to mold a myth into reality. I love the idea of a hot vampire or attending a magical school (Hogwarts.)
You feel me?

The whole pregnancy? Imprinting? Jacob? There is a way of creating a happy ending with or without bloodshed. There were so many avenues she could have used.

Honestly, I think Steph used every first "great" idea she thought she had. Which in my opinion and experience in writing is a big fat no no. I don't even know that she went through the first draft to edit (and approve) her work.
For me it was a disappointment, I could not finish it.
Y
es I did want to return it, but it sits on my nightstand collecting dust.
If a shirt does not fit properly, will you not return it? Same should go for books. I for one HATE buying an album that sucks! But of course you cannot return it because the seal has been broken. So what do you do? give it away or it gets lost in your collection.

P.S. Breaking Dawn was way to drawn out (snore.) There was to much about things that us readers could careless about.
Though I must say, I still love her OTHER books.I hope she continues to write... WELL.

Caitlin said...

I put books in the category of experiences rather than things, so I find the thought of returning a book I didn't like distasteful. However, I also get outraged when I buy and read a book that isn't up to my standards (although I usually get mad at the publisher/editor for letting dreck be put out in the marketplace, not mad at the author). Books are the medium, the content (or perhaps the experience of the content) is the product.