Author Topic: The danger of buying your own books/Mark Dawson buys 400 copies of his own book  (Read 14799 times)  

Offline ........

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But surely, if he didnt cheat, people finding out what he did would not have resulted in him losing his Top Ten status. Would it?

They're trying to spin it as Mark Dawson, innocent babe in the woods just trying to fill overseas orders for readers who had no other way to get hardback copies, went into a bookshop and bought 400 copies from the goodness of his heart, innocent, innocent!

It was all just a big kerfuffle and he had no idea it would manipulate the list (despite him talking directly about doing it so sales would be recorded and it would manipulate the list).

Apparently the former lawyer who has been around publishing for years now is just an innocent babe.

Nielson stripped him because it was list-manipulation and I think they didn't come out harsher against it because it's egg on their face to be so easily duped. They blamed covid-19 for not being able to check as they usually do but the truth is, it was probably always hardly checked.

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    Offline MMSN

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    In my work, I've seen people in this general type of predicament many times. Invariably it happened because they had become quite successful/powerful they got so full of themselves they lost sight of the forest for the trees and stepped way over the line. Then they got nailed and were shocked. Outraged! Justifications, rationalizations, blame (not to mention lies) flowed.

    It seemed to me that the people who always made out the best were the ones that just said Sorry, I had a terrible lapse in judgment, I understand why you're all angry at me, and I will do better. That always seemed to take the air out of the whole thing and people would lose interest. It was the individuals who flopped around like fish who just dug themselves in deeper.

    But doing that mea culpa does of course involve taking a direct hit to the ol' ego.

    Mark says that Neilsen stripped his ranking because Nielsen decided that his purchases were innocently made but couldn't count towards the list because some went to readers outside the U.K.  :-\Huh? What Neilsen said was that they had initially counted Mark's bulk-buy books towards his rank because they believed they were part of a virtual book signing arrangement. When Nielsen found out they were really just a bulk-buy, they stripped Mark's rank. Nielsen apologized for having let this get by them.
    « Last Edit: July 25, 2020, 06:56:15 pm by MMSN »

    Offline Jena H

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    In my work, I've seen people in this general type of predicament many times. Invariably it happened because they had become quite successful/powerful they got so full of themselves they lost sight of the forest for the trees and stepped way over the line. Then they got nailed and were shocked. Outraged! Justifications, rationalizations, blame (not to mention lies) flowed.

    It seemed to me that the people who always made out the best were the ones that just said Sorry, I had a terrible lapse in judgment, I understand why you're all angry at me, and I will do better. That always seemed to take the air out of the whole thing and people would lose interest. It was the individuals who flopped around like fish who just dug themselves in deeper.

    But doing that mea culpa does of course involve taking a direct hit to the ol' ego.

    Mark says that Neilsen stripped his ranking because Nielsen decided that his purchases were innocently made but couldn't count towards the list because some went to readers outside the U.K.  :-\Huh? What Neilsen said was that they had initially counted Mark's bulk-buy books towards his rank because they believed they were part of a virtual book signing arrangement. When Nielsen found out they were really just a bulk-buy, they stripped Mark's rank. Nielsen apologized for having let this get by them.

    Actually meaning the mea culpa sincerely.... that's always a plus.   ::) 
    Jena

    Offline Crystal_

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    I'm not a gamer and I have no worship of Mark. He seems like a good guy and he's done a lot for Indies, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But that's as far as I'd go. And it's kind of ironic for all many anonymous people to critique him for being shady when he talked about this on his very public podcast.

    I'm annoyed because people are creating an atmosphere that discourages sharing of information. Not because I care about Mark. I don't, really.

    But surely, if he didnt cheat, people finding out what he did would not have resulted in him losing his Top Ten status. Would it?

    No. He exploited a broken (imbalanced or unfair) rule. The bad press brought attention to the broken rule, so the list owners changed the rule.

    Offline ........

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    I'm not a gamer and I have no worship of Mark. He seems like a good guy and he's done a lot for Indies, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But that's as far as I'd go. And it's kind of ironic for all many anonymous people to critique him for being shady when he talked about this on his very public podcast.

    I'm annoyed because people are creating an atmosphere that discourages sharing of information. Not because I care about Mark. I don't, really.

    No. He exploited a broken (imbalanced or unfair) rule. The bad press brought attention to the broken rule, so the list owners changed the rule.

    The list owners didn't change a rule. Bulk-buying to manipulate lists has been banned for years. There is a whole section on the NYT wikipedia section about people who tried to scam their list.

    The Sunday Times list wasn't "bulk-buying is fine" until Mark Dawson did it.

    As for shady - he knew this would manipulate the list. He did it anyway. He publicly congratulated himself for getting on the list but didn't mention it only happened because of his bulk-buy and then after he talked about it, was stripped from the list.

    If you were cynical it was a marketing move, controversy to get attention. Or it's hubris and cheating.

    But not innocence. Not benefit of the doubt.

    And how is this creating an atmosphere on the sharing of information? If people cheat in some way they get called on it.

    The fact is that if Mark mass purchased his own titles on Amazon and it moved his chart position, they'd ban him.

    Offline MMSN

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    Yeah, Nielsen's trying to list what the top ten most popular selling books are, but then has a rule that to be on that list books actually have to be top ten most popular bestselling books.
    UNFAIR!!

     ???

    Offline isaacsweeney

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    I am amused ast how some people try and minimize what Mark did. In instances like this, I default to a comment made by a US Supreme Court Justice regarding pornography -- "I know it when I see it." The degree of his mistake can be debated. But did Mark proactively do something wrong? It's pretty obvious he did. That he boasted about it as well merely seals the deal.

    So many here claim to know right and wrong as if it's black and white, crystal clear. As writers, don't we understand that everyone has a story? Truth is a matter of perspective.

    Offline ........

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    So many here claim to know right and wrong as if it's black and white, crystal clear. As writers, don't we understand that everyone has a story? Truth is a matter of perspective.


    Well, seeing as you appear be having trouble:

    Bulk-buying your own books to manipulate a bestseller list is wrong.

    There we go, nice and clear.

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    So many here claim to know right and wrong as if it's black and white, crystal clear. As writers, don't we understand that everyone has a story? Truth is a matter of perspective.

    That's BS. A bestseller list is a measurement of how many readers are buying a book. Not how many of their own books an author can buy. That's not a matter of perspective.

    And honestly, even if there wasn't a rule about it, we as writers (and presumably intelligent people) should be able to understand the spirit of the rule and follow it, and not buy our way onto a list. Because if you don't play by the rules, the game -- and the bestseller status -- means nothing.


    Well, seeing as you appear be having trouble:

    Bulk-buying your own books to manipulate a bestseller list is wrong.

    There we go, nice and clear.

    That seems pretty obvious to me.
             

    Offline IndieEuroAuthor

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    Apparently some posters here don't really know how lists work and desperately trying to defend an objectionable behaviour. To the certain poster running around saying it is not against the rules to buy your own book....yeah it is against the rules to buy a sh*t ton RETAIL COPIES of your own book to push it up the list. LIST GAMING IS EXPLICITLY AGAINST THE RULES, BOTH AT AMAZON AND OFFLINE.

    I would like to see a no-name author with lots of inherited wealth release 10 ghost written romance novels on Amazon (both ebook and paperback), buy a ton of copies of his own work and ensure that the TOP 10 lists only consists of his books.

    Oh boy, oh boy the incredible meltdown will be worth seeing.  :P

    Anyway this would have died down already if MD just acknowledged his mistake, apologized and moved on. Instead he now trying to come up with bizarre excuses and spins to justify his actions. Yeah he is not fooling anyone.

    Offline Redgum

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    Re: The danger of buying your own books.
    « Reply #110 on: July 26, 2020, 04:59:03 am »
    A very interesting thread. My immediate observations seem to be roughly the same as most on here. An author with Mark's obvious intelligence, business acumen and knowledge of both trad and indie publishing cannot then invite people to believe this was an innocent mistake. This is why the explanation he posted is obviously a cover-up and just adds insult to injury. I also note that this explanation was in fact from his publisher and not from himself personally and now he seems to have deleted his Twitter account, maybe because I believe this is where it first came to light.

    Buying a full quarter of the books required to get your title into the Top Ten is obviously dishonest but I'd imagine the author's general attitude it along the lines of "there's no such thing as bad publicity" because he seems to be a marketeer first and an author second (despite the fact he's actually a very good author IMO).

    Tactically he has made the mistake of Nixon. Gaming the system so overtly is bad and insulting to regular writers who can't find $7000 to buy into the charts - BUT - the cover-up after the crime is worse. In this case, the wretched display of mock-ignorance about how buying from a bookshop and not direct from the publisher would have such an impact on the bestseller list.

    All very disappointing from someone who is a quality writer and already extremely wealthy. Plus is reinforces the notion that when all is said and done, even the most successful indie authors will do literally anything to be endorsed by the trad world and get trad recognition, even it it means cheating.

    Offline Redgum

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    Re: The danger of buying your own books.
    « Reply #111 on: July 26, 2020, 05:50:37 am »
    One of the big misconceptions is that the Big 5 publishers out there are the only  threat to honest independents. The other are the "big brand" independents who behave exactly like the Big 5 and BUY their way onto lists and game the system.

    This is something I've considered for a long time, and in fact I would say they the "mega indies" are in fact a greater threat than the big 5. It's no coincidence that many of them were very wealthy before they started self-publishing and use their wealth to push regular indies out of the way on advertising platforms. But... that's business, unfortunately.

    After I read the articles...I asked myself, what else did this guy do before that maybe was not caught. This type of behaviour is usually not a one-off.

    Mark

    *If* there was anything else, it'll all come out in the wash now. He's enraged so many indie authors that some might be inclined to start leaking like an old sieve.


    Offline mike h

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    One has to wonder how much of a difference it makes in sales to bump a book up in the ratings from the number 16 slot to the number 10 slot. $1,000? $10,000? What makes it worth the cost of buying the books in the first place?

    Offline Jena H

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    One has to wonder how much of a difference it makes in sales to bump a book up in the ratings from the number 16 slot to the number 10 slot. $1,000? $10,000? What makes it worth the cost of buying the books in the first place?

    I assume it's the presumed 'prestige' of being able to claim "top ten on the _____ best-seller list."  For some people that claim is worth a lot.
    Jena

    Offline Rick Gualtieri

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    It seemed to me that the people who always made out the best were the ones that just said Sorry, I had a terrible lapse in judgment,

    ALL OF THIS ^^^ 

    Someone admitting they did wrong effectively turns an on-the-fence situation into a non-event.  Doubling down is what causes these things (ie threads like these) to keep going and going.  We have seen it time and time again here in the author world, ego keeping something in the headlines long after its expiration date.

    In the words of George Clooney from Dusk Til Dawn, "It's not a problem until you make it one."


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    Offline CassieL

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    One has to wonder how much of a difference it makes in sales to bump a book up in the ratings from the number 16 slot to the number 10 slot. $1,000? $10,000? What makes it worth the cost of buying the books in the first place?

    When I worked at an independent bookstore back in the day every Sunday we'd take a copy of the New York Times, cut out the top 10 list, pull all our copies of those titles, slap a 30% off sticker on the covers, and put them on the center front display. Which meant that those top 10 titles got added visibility and a leg up on the competition due to the price discount. (That the bookstore swallows, not the publisher.)

    I have no idea how this UK list compares to the NYT list in the States or how many bookstores over there do the same using this list, but if that does happen over there and at enough bookstores it could be a decent amount of additional sales just for being in the top 10 as opposed to the top 15.

    These are print sales we're talking about in this scenario which are more impacted by the actions of physical bookstores so it's different from most self-pub scenarios.

    8 Pen Names. Genres: Non-fiction, Speculative Fiction, Romance.

    Offline alawston

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    Offline VisitasKeat

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    Offline Eskimo

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    So many here claim to know right and wrong as if it's black and white, crystal clear. As writers, don't we understand that everyone has a story? Truth is a matter of perspective.


    Unless you believe in alternative facts, no, truth is not a matter of perspective.

    Offline Patrick1980

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    Remember the John Locke review scandal of 2012?
    « Reply #119 on: July 26, 2020, 10:22:56 am »
    I remember John Locke claiming in his book for writers that he got his initial boost from crafting a heartfelt blog post about Michael J. Fox, or something like that. People were so moved by his sentiments, that they decided to buy his books!

    Uh, right.

    Then it turned out that John Locke was buying reviews. (This happened in 2012, when Locke was one of the all-stars of the indie revolution.)

    Which brings us to Mark Dawson: What Mark Dawson did was a minor lapse in judgment compared to that.

    One thing to keep in mind about Dawson: He obviously has some chops and some fans. But he's also the JP Morgan of indie publishing. He has an entire organization behind him. He isn't just some guy writing solo in his den anymore.

    At this point, he seems to make about as much money from selling advice to authors as he does from selling books to readers. (Surely the profit is higher on the courses for authors, if not the gross.) This doesn't make him bad, or dishonest. (I took one of his video courses, and the quality was top-notch.) 

    But keep in mind, Dawson is (probably) not you. He revealed in a previous podcast that he spent $500K on AMS ads in 2019. Did any of you spend that much on Amazon ads last year? I sure didn't. He sees himself more as the indie writer version of Coca-Cola than one of us. (Again, that doesn't make him bad.)

    Dawson probably heard that the big publishers routinely buy their way on to bestseller lists. And he thought, "why don't I give that a try?"

    And if the trad publishers do it, and it's legal, then why shouldn't he? In the SEO world, this would be the equivalent of a "gray hat" method (marginally shady) but not a "black hat" method (definitely shady).

    It really doesn't matter what any of us thinks about it, at the end of the day. Forget about the "indie writer community". There is no such thing. There are only thousands of individual writers, trying to get ahead in a competitive and saturated marketplace. I'm not sure that what Dawson did was any worse than permanently selling entire box sets for $0.99  (thereby accelerating a "race to the bottom").

    I'm much more concerned about the inflation in PPC ad costs (which Dawson had a part in, by selling all those "Facebook ads for authors" courses) than about people buying their way on to constantly changing and quickly forgotten bestseller lists.

    Offline Corvid

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    So many people focus on the 'how' or the 'what' behind what this person did to get on that list, they forget or gloss over the 'why' - and what it means for authors who work their butts off but don't have near the savvy or wealth to do what they did, and to me that makes what they did to get there even worse.

    Imagine, you're solidly middle class, or perhaps poor, and you study and you work hard and you score perfect on your SATs. But, you cannot penetrate the Ivy League because children of wealthy donors have been paid into these institutions.

    Many will say, hey, that's capitalism - that's how the system works, don't hate the player, hate the game. But, that's clearly terrible. Think about the differences we're talking about here. Quite plausibly, the kid that did everything right, academically-speaking, but didn't have the knowledge and/or ability to buy their way into a prestigious school winds up with a completely different career and potentially a completely different life, and not for the better, than they would've had if those wealthy kids hadn't supplanted them with cash instead of actual academic merit.

    Sure, you could say that a kid who winds up at State Tech could plausibly wind up with a 'better' life than the kid of a mogul who paid for them to graduate Yale, yes, it could play out that way, but that's not really the point. Public perception and perception among those who could make or break your career and potentially make all the difference in your life is such that attending the Ivy League versus attending State Tech is seen as a difference in one's academic 'quality' or acumen for lack of better terms. Buying your way in is taking advantage of this perception, knowing the huge potential, and what it could mean for you in the bigger picture.

    Same thing here with this author or others who attempt to pull off this trick. If you are buying your own books knowing that doing so gets you high enough on the list that you'll have your name and book published in view of many prospective customers who are largely unaware of how these lists work and take them as actual signifiers of quality, or symbolizing what's actually - LEGITIMATELY - popular, you are purposefully buying visibility while knowing what general public perception of being on that list is, and the knock-on effect which can make all the difference in one's career.

    Which means by buying your way there, you are doing it fully acknowledging you could be knocking someone off of that list who may not be already as successful as you, and to whom that level of visibility likely would have made all the difference in their career, and worse knowing you could potentially be knocking someone off that list who'd actually earned their spot, and earned their shot at a real career through their own sweat equity.

    That is just completely gross, no matter how you spin it. It is doubly so when we're talking about someone, who quite frankly, is and could be doing just fine thank you very much in terms of their writing career without resorting to this kind of slimy tactic while also refusing to own up to what they were doing at the same time. And, then the way they tried to spin it in their newsletter? Honestly, this whole thing - given who it is - has me pretty disappointed, and yet I admit given the ins and outs of this industry, not all that surprised.


    Offline Patrick1980

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    What about the podcasts?
    « Reply #121 on: July 26, 2020, 04:24:07 pm »
    It will be interesting to see if the podcasts like 'The Creative Penn' and 'The Sell More Books Show' cover this, or ignore it. My guess: They won't mention it. But I could be wrong.




    So many people focus on the 'how' or the 'what' behind what this person did to get on that list, they forget or gloss over the 'why' - and what it means for authors who work their butts off but don't have near the savvy or wealth to do what they did, and to me that makes what they did to get there even worse.

    Imagine, you're solidly middle class, or perhaps poor, and you study and you work hard and you score perfect on your SATs. But, you cannot penetrate the Ivy League because children of wealthy donors have been paid into these institutions.

    Many will say, hey, that's capitalism - that's how the system works, don't hate the player, hate the game. But, that's clearly terrible. Think about the differences we're talking about here. Quite plausibly, the kid that did everything right, academically-speaking, but didn't have the knowledge and/or ability to buy their way into a prestigious school winds up with a completely different career and potentially a completely different life, and not for the better, than they would've had if those wealthy kids hadn't supplanted them with cash instead of actual academic merit.

    Sure, you could say that a kid who winds up at State Tech could plausibly wind up with a 'better' life than the kid of a mogul who paid for them to graduate Yale, yes, it could play out that way, but that's not really the point. Public perception and perception among those who could make or break your career and potentially make all the difference in your life is such that attending the Ivy League versus attending State Tech is seen as a difference in one's academic 'quality' or acumen for lack of better terms. Buying your way in is taking advantage of this perception, knowing the huge potential, and what it could mean for you in the bigger picture.

    Same thing here with this author or others who attempt to pull off this trick. If you are buying your own books knowing that doing so gets you high enough on the list that you'll have your name and book published in view of many prospective customers who are largely unaware of how these lists work and take them as actual signifiers of quality, or symbolizing what's actually - LEGITIMATELY - popular, you are purposefully buying visibility while knowing what general public perception of being on that list is, and the knock-on effect which can make all the difference in one's career.

    Which means by buying your way there, you are doing it fully acknowledging you could be knocking someone off of that list who may not be already as successful as you, and to whom that level of visibility likely would have made all the difference in their career, and worse knowing you could potentially be knocking someone off that list who'd actually earned their spot, and earned their shot at a real career through their own sweat equity.

    That is just completely gross, no matter how you spin it. It is doubly so when we're talking about someone, who quite frankly, is and could be doing just fine thank you very much in terms of their writing career without resorting to this kind of slimy tactic while also refusing to own up to what they were doing at the same time. And, then the way they tried to spin it in their newsletter? Honestly, this whole thing - given who it is - has me pretty disappointed, and yet I admit given the ins and outs of this industry, not all that surprised.

    Offline Redgum

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    That is just completely gross, no matter how you spin it. It is doubly so when we're talking about someone, who quite frankly, is and could be doing just fine thank you very much in terms of their writing career without resorting to this kind of slimy tactic while also refusing to own up to what they were doing at the same time. And, then the way they tried to spin it in their newsletter? Honestly, this whole thing - given who it is - has me pretty disappointed, and yet I admit given the ins and outs of this industry, not all that surprised.

    I fully agree with this. Some of those defending Mark on here seem to be making a case that we're all indie writers in it together fighting the evil corporations. The comments that we're just individuals in a saturated marketplace is completely correct. If there really were a proper functioning "community" of indie writers, we would have got our stuff together a long time ago and set up a proper platform for indie writers which did not allow professional publishers to use it. This way the reading public could get genuinely independent writing at low prices without Big 5 or "Mega Indies" (who are more like mini trads than genuine indies) buying up all the visibility on a platform like McAmazon.

    At the end of the day, writers like Mark (and one or two others I could mention but will not) can devote significantly more time, money and marketing resources to themselves than many big trad houses can to their hundreds of authors (on an individual level). This is why I get mildly irritated when I hear these writers talking about how they're "indie" - technically yes, but not de facto, they're not. In reality they have more power and sway and cash than a regular writer published by a trad. Being in this exalted and enviable position and then abusing the system to grasp at even more glory is unedifying.

    In Mark's case what is more disappointing than anything else is that he is clearly a very talented businessman and also (IMO) a skilled thriller author. He would have been remembered for those things, but now he's going to be remembered as the guy who cheated the system to get ahead and then lied to cover it up.
    « Last Edit: July 26, 2020, 05:30:05 pm by Redgum »

    Offline ........

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    It will be interesting to see if the podcasts like 'The Creative Penn' and 'The Sell More Books Show' cover this, or ignore it. My guess: They won't mention it. But I could be wrong.

    Good point. There is a whole ecosystem of podcasts, blogs, training courses and facebook pages that he has utilized to promote his courses. Will they comment or stay silent now?

    I think one of the big things that happens as you climb the ladder of success is that you really need brutally honest outside sources to check your actions against. If you only have people who work for you or with you then soon a really bad idea can sound just fine.

    That's what happened with all that trademarking of ordinary words that broke out last year. Came from a small entwined group with no outside voice to say "hey, that's bad".

    Wonder if those podcasts and websites will have Mark Dawson on again in the future? Will they interview him honestly or will it be just trying to continue the narrative he's promoting that it was all innocent and this is a storm in a teacup whipped up by bad newspapers and angry authors who only read headlines (apparently)?

    Offline VisitasKeat

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    When this site's ownership changed, Bryan left the podcast show to Jazzy, to comment on revised t&c. Apparently he had gone fishing.

    Joanna along with the subject of this thread was terribly upset as to how they and another big name, Nick, weren't recognised in England inspite of their fame. "Who cares if they don't recognise us?" she said in that show.

    Nothing wrong with aspiring for national fame or going for fishing, but one cannot help but observe what wealth, fame, and ego can do to a person.

    These are only small examples of dodgy behaviour, weasel words, and arrogance, I have noted from these shows.

    Initially I thought it was irrelevant to this thread to talk about podcasts and the people who run them, but now I feel they are also responsible as positive proponents of all the news -- not just about books -- that happens in the indie author community. In this context, I'm also wondering why several celebrity indie authors on this forum are not commenting on this thread. Of course, they all are not obliged in anyway but it would be interesting to see their take on this matter. Even Mark is on these boards!

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