If someone finds a wallet and returns it intact to the owner, that’s great. If someone has been away a long time and excitedly returns home, that’s great too. But when a bookseller returns your book to the publisher, that’s not so great.
I’m a beginning writer who still has much to learn. And part of my continuing education occurred this week. I received a statement from my publisher, indicating copies sold. In perusing the statement, I was alarmed to see a column entitled: Returns. And to make matters worse, there was a figure entered in the column . . . and it wasn’t 0. It was a number much larger than that.
I talked to the publisher’s controller and asked what happens to returned books. He said they can still be stocked in stores as the demand requires. But dog-eared and damaged ones are frequently donated to charitable organizations, libraries, prisons, and so on.
The hard part of the whole writing process I’ve found is the moment of truth. How well has your book sold? And my guess is that the answer, no matter the quantity, is never enough. So to other writers who have endured returns, I know how you feel.
So what does this all mean? It means that I have to work even harder and be patient. It takes time to become known and develop a following. It also means I have to accept the reality that part of the writing/publishing process involves, for one reason or another, returns. Still, it would be far more pleasant if I just lost my wallet and someone returned it to me.