Author Topic: The danger of buying your own books/Mark Dawson buys 400 copies of his own book  (Read 14798 times)  

Offline wearywanderer64

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No, criminal fraud can be non-financial. As the Code says, what must be lost is a 'thing of value.' (For example, the parents who paid Rick Singer to get their kids into college committed criminal fraud.) In Dawson's case (IMLO) it was Nielsen who lost a thing of value (their business reputation).

See e.g. this article entitled "Non-Financial Frauds Growing Threat."

https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2013/may/15/non-financial-frauds-growing-threat/#:~:text=However%2C%20a%20type%20of%20fraud,the%20public%20or%20regulatory%20body.&text=Far%20from%20being%20victimless%20crimes,serious%20havoc%20throughout%20the%20economy.

Just try defrauding the taxman out of a dollar and see how long you'll last.


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    Offline Triceratops

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    The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) put out a statement yesterday, July 27:

    Bulk Purchase of Mark Dawson's The Cleaner


    As per above, ALLi operates a code of standards for our members and a voluntary ethical code for the wider author community. We do not normally comment on individual author choices. However, Mark Dawson's bulk self-purchase of The Cleaner has been reported in the press, discussed on social media and on author forums, including our own. Self-Publishing Formula, of which Mark is CEO, is a respected author-education company that has helped many indie authors to succeed in book advertising, promotion, and selling more books, and an ALLi partner member. The two organizations have been mutually supportive and many ALLi members and advisors have asked for a specific response.

    As a highly successful author, and CEO of Self-Publishing Formula, Mark Dawson is an industry leader who has always expressed an interest in behaving ethically and fairly. He has consulted the ALLi Watchdog numerous times on ethical questions and inquiries about service providers, retailer rules, and ethical codes. With regard to buying
    The Cleaner, he openly described on his podcast and elsewhere how he went about what he believed was a legal strategy for registering sales and moving his book up the Sunday Times bestseller list: emailing overseas fans and inviting them to make advance purchases which he would personally fulfill through bulk buying the book in a qualifying UK bookstore.

    However, in order for such purchases to count towards his book's bestseller ranking, those sales would need to be trackable UK purchases and independently verified. In the absence of such assurances, we consider it right and reasonable that Neilsen Bookscan corrected the count.


    https://selfpublishingadvice.org/statement-from-the-alliance-of-independent-authors-re-author-in-store-bulk-purchases/

    It's interesting that ALLi is choosing not to weigh in on whether Mark did anything wrong. ALLi also does not mention some of the more controversial aspects of the Mark Dawson "bulk purchase," as they call it. Namely, that

    - before he got caught, Mark tweeted a braggy thanks to his readers for putting his book in the Top 10, which to appearances made Mark seem like he, Mark, had had nothing to do with the Top 10 landing;

    - after he got caught, Mark's uncorroborated excuse that before his bulk purchase he had asked his trad publisher if he, Mark, could buy his hardbacks direct from the publisher, and that the publisher said no--I find that that strains credulity;

    - Mark's sorry-not-sorry attitude after he got caught and him bullying questioners and demanding apologies on Twitter;

    - and, most of all, Mark's open admission on his own podcast that his intent with his purchase of 400 hardbacks was to bump his book up into the Top 10.

    I guess as ALLi says, ALLi has done a lot of business with Mark and they also presumably want to keep doing business in the future. So it's prudent for them not to address the shadier aspects of the episode, and sidestep passing judgement on Mark, and for ALLi to only say that Nielsen did the right thing.

    But if the "ALLi Watchdogs" are not going to address the ethics... it makes one wonder why ALLi made a statement at all.

    edit: formatting.
    « Last Edit: July 28, 2020, 12:31:29 pm by Triceratops »

    Offline Corvid

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    Using terminology to describe what's happened here as: "Nielsen Bookscan corrected the count" is weasel-wording akin to: "mistakes were made".


    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    I am not a member of ALLI. Why? Look at who thier advisors are...they are all service providers who make money in the industry AND they charge for membership.

    So their press release is basically PR to protect one of their own.

    Just because something is non-for-profit does not mean they represent the greater good for all authors.

    Mark

    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Maybe Alli should read their own documents...the part about misleading about ranking on book lists....

    https://selfpublishingadvice.org/alli-campaigns/ethical-author/

    Offline MMSN

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    Maybe Alli should read their own documents...the part about misleading about ranking on book lists....

    https://selfpublishingadvice.org/alli-campaigns/ethical-author/

    I took a look: "I do not promote my books by making false statements about... their position on bestseller lists..."

    Offline IndieEuroAuthor

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    I took a look: "I do not promote my books by making false statements about... their position on bestseller lists..."

     ;D ;D

    As they say, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...".

    Offline Becca Mills

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    Please keep this thread focused on the book-buying scandal. Material that strays too far afield will be edited out, as just happened with a post. Thanks, and carry on.


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    Offline Redgum

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    The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) put out a statement yesterday, July 27:
    The two organizations* have been mutually supportive

    That explains everything, and in covering up the fraud ALLi have now brought themselves into disgrace, too. What he did clearly breaks their written rules.

    *Alli and Mark's SPF company. 

    Offline IndieEuroAuthor

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    The thing is - I still can't believe why he even did this.

    1) Ruined his good reputation in the indie author community when a significant portion of his earnings came directly from the indie author community thanks to his courses. Compared to other authors, he had much more stake to maintain his good reputation among fellow authors.

    2) Proceeded to boast about his wrongdoings in his podcast!!!

    3) After getting caught, instead of just acknowledging his mistake, apologizing and moving on he proceeded to launch a gaslighting campaign to put his spin in this event and to clear his name....which clearly didn't work.

    4) Deleted his twitter account, banned people from his FB group which people have paid good money to access and from behind the scenes roped in ALLi to put out sh*tty excuse laden statements on his behalf.

    He found himself in a hole and decided that the only way to get out is to keep digging deeper.
    « Last Edit: July 29, 2020, 01:28:20 am by IndieEuroAuthor »

    Offline VisitasKeat

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    Well, this thread has definitely highlighted that anyone who wants to buy a bunch of their own books to manipulate a bestseller list had better buy only a few from each of many stores. I bet there are people willing to do that, although getting to say a hundred stores in one day might take a gang. Let's call them Street Team gangs.
    Very good point. Street team gangs are tough to crack as they easily beat the red signals. But the chances of whistleblowing is very high too. And the risk of backstage extortion and blackmails.

    Offline ShaneCarrow

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    No, criminal fraud can be non-financial. As the Code says, what must be lost is a 'thing of value.' (For example, the parents who paid Rick Singer to get their kids into college committed criminal fraud.) In Dawson's case (IMLO) it was Nielsen who lost a thing of value (their business reputation).

    See e.g. this article entitled "Non-Financial Frauds Growing Threat."

    https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2013/may/15/non-financial-frauds-growing-threat/#:~:text=However%2C%20a%20type%20of%20fraud,the%20public%20or%20regulatory%20body.&text=Far%20from%20being%20victimless%20crimes,serious%20havoc%20throughout%20the%20economy.

    This is an example from the US, a country with far more permissive litigation laws.

    By all means attempt to sue Mark Dawson but I imagine it will be a pretty quick day in court.

    Shane Carrow

    Offline ........

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    Well, ALLi sold themselves out with that statement.

    It seems the new position is: bulk-buying is okay if you can come up with a good excuse.

    So all those people who scammed the NYT list in the past just had to say "I was filling overseas orders!" and apparently it's all good?

    In some alternate world perhaps ALLi is releasing an actual statement on ethics more like "bulk-buying for the purposes of list manipulation is wrong and members engaging in such behaviors will be banned from the organization".

    It really is unbelievable the degree of mental gymnastics some people, and now organizations, are engaging in.

    Is bulk-buying to manipulate a bestseller list ethically wrong? Yes.

    How about we claim it was to fill overseas orders? Oh, well, that's different!

    I so so so wish the original Guardian article author had asked Mark Dawson the simple and easy question: did you have the right to buy author copies direct from your publisher?

    That's the question that needs answering. I hope every time Dawson shows up anywhere, that question does too until he tells the truth.

    Offline MMSN

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    This is an example from the US, a country with far more permissive litigation laws.

    By all means attempt to sue Mark Dawson but I imagine it will be a pretty quick day in court.

    You are confusing criminal law with civil law.

    Offline ShaneCarrow

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    You specifically characterised Dawson's actions as criminal fraud.

    Shane Carrow

    Offline Brian D. Anderson

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    Unethical behavior that's admitted, perpetrated without shame, and there for all to see is still unethical behavior. That he announced it on a podcast is irrelevant and doesn't absolve him. Best seller lists are not ads to be purchased. I wonder what author was bumped because Dawson had the cash to buy his way up the rankings? He wasn't in the top ten because his book didn't sell enough copies. Therefore he didn't deserve the spot. Someone else did.
    Defending this sort of behavior is what has kept a perpetual stain on indie for the entirety of my ten year career. It's bad enough to scam your way to the top. But when you're at the top and you scam to stay there, that's just grimy.
    I don't know Dawson. I've never met him. And I don't know anything about his self-publishing methods other than the commercials I've seen pop up on occasion. But I do know I'll avoid him should I find myself at the same conference. I have kept myself clean for a long time despite temptations and opportunities to wallow in the mud. I won't be seen associating with people who think "gaming the system" is nothing more than a method to sell books.

    Brian D. Anderson

    Offline Loelia

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    I'm rather surprised it didn't occur to anyone involved - either Dawson himself or the bookseller - that the optics of something like this aren't good.

    Still, as a (casual) K-pop fan I'm curious about something. In K-pop fandoms (which are, as you may know, very committed) it's not at all uncommon for fans to engage in bulk-buying and chart manipulation. People in different countries gather money and send it to a party that bulk-buys the album at a particular time, in a particular place, in order to boost the album's ranking on a particular chart. The sums they gather are at times huge, and often in effect donations; many of the donors don't even want a physical copy of the album, or else they already own one (or several). They're still real people, though. Real buyers, real fans. But the bulk-buying is 100% strategic rather than organic.

    I doubt many book fandoms would be that committed, but still. Would something like this disqualify an author's ranking if the author themselves weren't buying the book in bulk?

    If not, I don't understand why Dawson didn't get someone else to organise something like this for him, but what do I know.

    Offline VisitasKeat

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    I'm rather surprised it didn't occur to anyone involved - either Dawson himself or the bookseller - that the optics of something like this aren't good.

    Still, as a (casual) K-pop fan I'm curious about something. In K-pop fandoms (which are, as you may know, very committed) it's not at all uncommon for fans to engage in bulk-buying and chart manipulation. People in different countries gather money and send it to a party that bulk-buys the album at a particular time, in a particular place, in order to boost the album's ranking on a particular chart. The sums they gather are at times huge, and often in effect donations; many of the donors don't even want a physical copy of the album, or else they already own one (or several). They're still real people, though. Real buyers, real fans. But the bulk-buying is 100% strategic rather than organic.

    I doubt many book fandoms would be that committed, but still. Would something like this disqualify an author's ranking if the author themselves weren't buying the book in bulk?

    If not, I don't understand why Dawson didn't get someone else to organise something like this for him, but what do I know.
    Good reasoning. I understand from what angle you're coming. That's why I said street team gangs are tough to crack. You cannot compare Mark with k-pop stars. I mean, indie publishing is a very small community even when taking publishing as such at a global level. Amazon has leverage only in certain countries. So authors like Dawson are not really famous in the actual sense. He cannot be compared with k-pop superstars and their street team gangs. I always think twice when someone approaches me for donation cos God knows in what channels they would be diverting the surplus.

    Instead of obsessing with street team gangs and their practices, I think we need to ponder upon how an algorithm needs to be designed so that it takes care of bulk purchases that has resulted due to different street team members buying from different shops or from the same shop. Nielsen and others need more robust signalling algorithms.

    Offline Loelia

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    Good reasoning. I understand from what angle you're coming. That's why I said street team gangs are tough to crack. You cannot compare Mark with k-pop stars. I mean, indie publishing is a very small community even when taking publishing as such at a global level. Amazon has leverage only in certain countries. So authors like Dawson are not really famous in the actual sense. He cannot be compared with k-pop superstars and their street team gangs. I always think twice when someone approaches me for donation cos God knows in what channels they would be diverting the surplus.

    Instead of obsessing with street team gangs and their practices, I think we need to ponder upon how an algorithm needs to be designed so that it takes care of bulk purchases that has resulted due to different street team members buying from different shops or from the same shop. Nielsen and others need more robust signalling algorithms.

    Heh, no indeed, authors - let alone indie authors - aren't comparable to K-pop stars. But K-pop sales numbers are also on another level compared with the numbers required for bestselling book charts. I'm sure there are authors out there who have 400 or 1000 rabid fans who might organise something like this. I just wonder whether the author's ranking would be disqualified if the author himself isn't the one doing the bulk-buying.

    Offline VisitasKeat

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    Heh, no indeed, authors - let alone indie authors - aren't comparable to K-pop stars. But K-pop sales numbers are also on another level compared with the numbers required for bestselling book charts. I'm sure there are authors out there who have 400 or 1000 rabid fans who might organise something like this. I just wonder whether the author's ranking would be disqualified if the author himself isn't the one doing the bulk-buying.
    Does it matter if the author manipulates or his fans manipulate? Wrong is wrong. Upthread some posters discussed grey areas that cloud the question you are pointing to. Which is why I proposed more robust algorithms. Dawson would have got away in all probability had he asked some fans to do bulk purchases. Moreover, the timing of the purchase is important too. The way it's orchestrated and executed. So, it must be pre-planned with extreme caution and accuracy. God knows how many authors have got away with a well-trained street team. In this sense, Dawson would have been wary of backstage blackmails and extortion in case he had a street team in place. Or perhaps he didn't have a street team? The difference between a fan and a follower: A fan is a fanatic. It's derived from 'fanatic'. The fan will blindly obey the instructions of the author. But a follower is very discriminating as to what is right and what is wrong. To be a fan is to be stupid but to be a follower is to be intelligent. I think the author's ranking would be disqualified if it becomes known that his street team screwed the list.

    Book shops must provide unique customer ids. This will greatly help the new robust signalling algorithm. Social Security Number, Face recognition, and fingerprint scanning may help in this regard.

    Offline Redgum

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    Does it matter if the author manipulates or his fans manipulate? Wrong is wrong. Upthread some posters discussed grey areas that cloud the question you are pointing to. Which is why I proposed more robust algorithms. Dawson would have got away in all probability had he asked some fans to do bulk purchases. Moreover, the timing of the purchase is important too. The way it's orchestrated and executed. So, it must be pre-planned with extreme caution and accuracy. God knows how many authors have got away with a well-trained street team. In this sense, Dawson would have been wary of backstage blackmails and extortion in case he had a street team in place. Or perhaps he didn't have a street team? The difference between a fan and a follower: A fan is a fanatic. It's derived from 'fanatic'. The fan will blindly obey the instructions of the author. But a follower is very discriminating as to what is right and what is wrong. To be a fan is to be stupid but to be a follower is to be intelligent. I think the author's ranking would be disqualified if it becomes known that his street team screwed the list.

    Book shops must provide unique customer ids. This will greatly help the new robust signalling algorithm. Social Security Number, Face recognition, and fingerprint scanning may help in this regard.

    Going into a local bookshop, possibly owned by someone you know, and buying 400 copies cannot be done unless you explain why you are doing it. In this case, we don't know if that explanation was "because I want to manipulate the bestseller list" or "because I want to send books to readers in the US". These options depend on how well you know and trust the owner, but either one sounds plausible. Street teams are harder. First you have the possibility of blackmail, especially with a big name who has a lot to lose, and second, how many are on your team? 400 who buy one copy each? 4 who buy 100 copies each? Let's go down the middle and say you have 20 trusted people, so in this case they each have to buy 20 copies. I think a bookshop owner would be suspicious of someone coming into a shop and buying 20 copies of one book at the same time and might contact Nielson - and this has to happen 20 times across the country - so 20 bookshop owners each have to not be suspicious of 20 copies being bought buy one person. Chances are, several if not all, would smell a rat.

    When you break it down, street teams are not an easy way to manipulate lists. Buying from your publisher also does not work. A good way to manipulate the list is to do precisely what happened here, and know that even if you're caught out you're getting international publicity. As for fingerprints and face scans etc. I know I would never buy a book under such circumstances and I love books more than most.
    « Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 05:29:23 pm by Redgum »

    Offline Triceratops

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    On Mark Dawson's Wikipedia page, different editors this past week have revised back-and-forth over the episode, with different versions.

    A couple days ago, the scandal was addressed like this:

    Bestseller List Controversy: "The Cleaner"

    In 2020, Dawson's book "The Cleaner" reached number 8 in the Hardback Fiction section of "The Sunday Times" bestseller list. This was after Dawson bulk purchased 400 copies of "The Cleaner". Before the purchase, "The Cleaner" had been in position number 13. However, the book's chart position was recalculated by Nielsen BookScan after Dawson mentioned the bulk purchase on his podcast. Dawson has denied any wrongdoing; instead, he stated his intention was to fulfill overseas orders for "The Cleaner".


    Now it reads like this:

    Sales figures for "The Cleaner"

    In 2020, Dawson's book "The Cleaner" reached number 8 in the Hardback Fiction section of "The Sunday Times" bestseller list after he purchased 400 copies of the book, seeing it to have previously been in position number 13. Nielsen BookScan initially approved the sales, believing them to have been part of a virtual book signing. The book was removed from the list and the list was recalculated after Dawson mentioned placing the order on his podcast "The Self Publishing Show", his stated intention being to find overseas readers to purchase the book copies from him.


    https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mark_Dawson_%28writer%29&type=revision&diff=970173954&oldid=970166643

    Offline VisitasKeat

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    On Mark Dawson's Wikipedia page, different editors this past week have revised back-and-forth over the episode, with different versions.

    A couple days ago, the scandal was addressed like this:

    Bestseller List Controversy: "The Cleaner"

    In 2020, Dawson's book "The Cleaner" reached number 8 in the Hardback Fiction section of "The Sunday Times" bestseller list. This was after Dawson bulk purchased 400 copies of "The Cleaner". Before the purchase, "The Cleaner" had been in position number 13. However, the book's chart position was recalculated by Nielsen BookScan after Dawson mentioned the bulk purchase on his podcast. Dawson has denied any wrongdoing; instead, he stated his intention was to fulfill overseas orders for "The Cleaner".


    Now it reads like this:

    Sales figures for "The Cleaner"

    In 2020, Dawson's book "The Cleaner" reached number 8 in the Hardback Fiction section of "The Sunday Times" bestseller list after he purchased 400 copies of the book, seeing it to have previously been in position number 13. Nielsen BookScan initially approved the sales, believing them to have been part of a virtual book signing. The book was removed from the list and the list was recalculated after Dawson mentioned placing the order on his podcast "The Self Publishing Show", his stated intention being to find overseas readers to purchase the book copies from him.


    https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mark_Dawson_%28writer%29&type=revision&diff=970173954&oldid=970166643
    "Dawson mentioned the bulk purchase on his podcast."

    Replaced with

    "Dawson  mentioned placing the order on his podcast."

     "Bulk purchase" is missing in the new writeup. How strange!

    Also, name of podcast is mentioned for added credibility.  

    Offline MMSN

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    I think the important change was 'fulfill overseas orders' to 'find overseas readers'.

    Offline Redgum

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    I think the important change was 'fulfill overseas orders' to 'find overseas readers'.

    Yes, this is important, which is odd. The revision up to this point looks like someone is trying to run cover for Mark, but this last sentence is much more honest and damning because it implies clearly he bought them without having any buyers.

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