The Promise Every Author Should Make

“If you don’t like my book, I’ll buy it back from you.”

Author Promise
Photo Credit: The Shopping Sherpa via Compfight cc 

That’s what I tell every single negative Amazon review I’ve ever responded to.

If you bought a car and it didn’t work right, you’d bring it back to the dealership. If you bought a cell phone, and it didn’t do all the amazing things the ad said it would do, you’d want a refund. Right?

So why don’t authors do this with their books when people don’t like them?

I would never want someone to keep a book that didn’t live up to the promises I made as the author. Which is why I tell people, “If you buy one of my books and don’t love it, send me your Paypal address, and I’ll pay you back..” I’d rather get the book into the hands of someone who might love it.

Yes, this is a little risky, but I think every author should do this. Why not give your readers the kind of guarantee they deserve? If you don’t love this book, I’ll give you your money back. Do you really want to make a royalty off someone who doesn’t love your work? That just seems wrong.

Offering dissatisfied readers a refund just makes sense. Here’s why:

  • It’s best for the customer (because who wants a book on their shelf that they don’t like?).
  • It’s best for the author, as such a promise will engender greater trust from the reader.
  • It’s best for the books, as it will force authors to write better books (because you don’t want your readers sending you a bunch of “I hated this” emails).

A crazy experiment

So, I’m doing this right now for my latest book, The Art of Work. Since the book came out last week, over 150 people have reviewed it. A couple of them didn’t like it. I offered to give them their money back if they ship it to me, so I can give it to someone else.

I sincerely hope they take me up on it.

If you haven’t bought the book yet (or taken advantage of the bulk deals that are going on this week), I want to offer you the same deal:

  1. Get the book this week at any retailer, including AmazonB&NBAM, or iBooks.
  2. Submit your receipt here to get four digital bonuses worth $250.
  3. Read the whole book and email me if you don’t like it. I’ll Paypal you back the money you spent on it and give your copy to someone else. You can even keep your bonuses.

It just seems like the only honorable thing an author can and should do.

Another way you can help

Many readers have written in, asking how they can help with the launch. Usually I say, just keep doing what you’re doing. It helps — a lot. But recently, something came up.

Yesterday, my publisher told me this book has a good chance of hitting The New York Times Best Sellers list this week if things continue to go well. So if it’s not too much to ask, I’d love your help in getting the word out.

If you’ve already picked up a copy of the book and would be willing to spread the word, that would be great. And if you grab an extra book or two, that’d be amazing.

Don’t forget: There are limited bulk bonuses available this week that are going away soon. And if you want to help spread the word about the book, click here to tweet about it.

You can grab a copy of The Art of Work today for 40% off the list price at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Be sure to get it soon; I’m not sure how long this price will last.

What do you think about this promise authors should make? Share in the comments.

40 thoughts on “The Promise Every Author Should Make

  1. I nearly finished the book and it’s amazing …….the book has made me finally figure out what my own calling is…..I’m all excited….thank you……Åsa (sweden)

  2. I haven’t completed The Art of Work yet, but I must comment at this point: It is bulging with interesting factual meaning to anyone with a reasonable topnoggin that’s in good working order. Our inner voices are kept pushed down, hearing shush from us so often, that we’re missing knowing our real selves. Good work Jeff. You’re a brave guy!!

    1. eBooks are pretty easy to refund through Amazon and such. If you’re selling them yourself, you can do this through the online shopping cart.

  3. This is a very nice thing to do for readers. I really doubt anyone will take you up on that offer though. I believe for the most part that people who leave negative reviews are not mad because they lost out on time or money, they are mad because they know they aren’t doing something their soul is nagging them to do. Something hard. It’s so much easier to simply kill the messenger than battle your resistance. Its easier to write a negative review and knock someone else down than do the hard things that person is trying to do.

    By the way, I started reading it this week. Then you did that podcast with Donald Miller and so now I’m reading his too. Two books are a’ dueling!

  4. I’m going to guess this is for non-fiction, right? Because as far as I’m concerned, if people don’t like my fiction, they can leave a negative review and move on. People don’t go into movie theaters, watch the whole movie, and then demand their money back because they didn’t like it. Heck, people buy, read, and return my books all the time on Amazon, and nothing makes me more mad than people using Amazon as a library. We take chances on books, not all those chances are going to work out. I suppose if I bought a non-fiction book on how to learn Photoshop, I read it and followed it, and it didn’t teach me anything, I might consider returning it. On the other hand, if I bought a romance and I didn’t like the themes or writing, I wouldn’t demand my money back, and the people that do should really consider how much work goes into a book before doing such a thing.

    1. I agree SJ.
      It would be career suicide to offer a refund if the reader didn’t like a work of fiction. Life is a lottery in that we take a lot of chances. We order the coffee of the month at Starbucks, we choose to walk home on a different route and maybe nothing will happen, or we buy a lottery ticket and win. Buying a book is the same. We take a chance the book is going to fulfil our need to be entertained. If it doesn’t we move on.

      1. I agree with Kevin. You cannot refund a book based only on someones’s disliking of it. It would be denying that the person has a share of responsibility in there too. He/she chose that book. Even in the case when the book promised to teach something, and did not deliver it, I believe that a 100 percent refund would not encourage the person to try to find out the reason why that book ended up being such a disappointment for him/her. Maybe a 50/50 would send more of that message, still showing the author’s good will – but the other person then should be humble to see that the other 50 percent also requires his/her humble understanding that we are all human beings.

  5. If you’re going to refund readers who didn’t care for the book, how about readers who loved the book sending you a “tip” for outstanding service?! I think you’d get far more tips than refund requests, Jeff!

  6. I haven’t purchased or read the book yet, but I plan on buying it today when I get home from work. In the meantime I agree 100% with offering a money back guarantee on your products and/or services, including books. There is no better way to demonstrate your integrity and your commitment to providing the best possible product. Of course, there will always be people who do not like what you do, no matter how good it is, or who will take advantage of your offer simply because they don’t want to pay for it, whether they like it or not. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing the best you can with everything you produce or create.

    1. That’s quite true but I wouldn’t worry about that. If you’ve read Matt Lieberman’s book called Social, a large majority would choose to be fair and not rip the author off. The author also gains more credibility, he’s seen to be more confident and even more fair and since – like Jeff said – no one is doing this, I think it makes the author truly unique in this world where creators are struggling to make a dime off of their art.

        1. Thanks Jeff. I don’t recall the actual statistic, but I know it’s in that chapter called Fairness Tastes Like Chocolate. And speaking about “Social” the comment section of your blog is my favorite part. 🙂

  7. I have actually been thinking about how nice it would be if authors offered you a free e-book version of their book if you bought it in hardback/paperback. Especially with the very heavy/bulky books! That way, it’s easier to take with you when going out and to continue reading, without having to drag around this massive book

  8. Hey Jeff – can you clarify something please? I have an author friend who say this post and said, “I don’t think that promise should apply to novels. Fictions is a matter of different tastes.”

    I disagree. I think it should apply to fiction and nonfiction authors alike. What do you think?

    1. Hey Marcy!

      I have to agree with your friend, and disagree with Jeff regarding both fiction and nonfiction.

      Buying a book is not the same as buying any other consumer object, like the car in Jeff’s example. Consumer objects promise certain things. With a car, we are promised that it will get us from A to B and that it will do so in a particular way, using the features we’ve paid for, in the style that we’ve paid for. There’s no personal subjectivity provided by the car; nothing fluid or open to interpretation. It is what it is. A commodity.

      Books are not commodities. They contain the opinions, thoughts, reflections, knowledge, wisdom, imagination, art, and vision of the author. Unless the covers don’t open properly or the pages don’t turn as expected, a book always functions as it should: as an offering from the author to the reader.

      If the reader doesn’t like what the author offers, they have still gained from that offering. We often learn just as much from words we don’t like as we do from those that we enjoy.

      Bottom line: a book is a subjective experience; not a commodity. I think it’s dangerous to consider it any other way.

      1. Thanks for your thoughtful reply, T.O. It’s crazy because I can TRULY see both sides: yours and Jeff’s. I guess that’s the beauty of life — everyone must do what feels right for them.

  9. Jeff. The book is perfect. Don’ t worry about the negatives. It is like a pair of shoes. They either fit you or they don’t. You don’t really know until you get them home and walk around in them. You need only worry about pouring your heart on paper . Let the readers see if it fits. It is the missing glass slipper for me. Isn’t that all that matters?

  10. I’m going to get 1 star reviews, guaranteed. My topic drives some people nuts and they’re just waiting for an opportunity to spew venom.
    Your idea is great, but a caveat for unexpected item/bad writing vs. can’t stand their opinion on this might be useful to add.

  11. Hi Jeff, Nice idea. Only kindle edition available in India. However, for us, shipping price for sending back will be 2 to 3 times then book price.

  12. I think it’s a pretty safe promise, given the price of postage. However, I would require also the receipt, since I would never know if the book actually belonged to the person who returned it. I mean, whoever would not like The Art of Work could easily be dishonest in the first place? And there are those who just desire to ruin a person…

  13. I even do this when I promote others’ books. I offer to buy it back from them. I’ve sold at least 500 books for authors and never had anyone take me up on it.

  14. Surely a whole chapter to read, plus reviews, should be enough to give an idea of whether you are likely to enjoy a book. If a reader cannot make a decision based on that, should he really be entitled to a refund? Those who feel they cannot ‘take a chance’ on an author who has put his heart and soul into his work, should perhaps use Kindle Unlimited or his local library…? I am not sure how a refund on a Kindle purchase would work, but the author would certainly not get the full amount back from Amazon.

  15. Worth the investment in time and money. Absolutely no refund needed. “A calling takes everything you’ve done up to a certain point and turns it into preparation” … was my favorite quote from your book. Thanks for the inspiration to keep writing Jeff

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