Author Topic: The danger of buying your own books/Mark Dawson buys 400 copies of his own book  (Read 14790 times)  

Offline VisitasKeat

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 377
  • Following my characters. Wherever they take me.
    • View Profile
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.
Good observations.

What if one person buys from 20 different shops, each located in different towns? Say he commutes in train or even a truck for that purpose.

And this method is repeated by the other 19 street team members.

So, all the 400 sales would appear normal not only to the algorithm but also to the shopkeepers.

Say, shopping hours are 10AM till 9PM. So, that's 11 hours solid.

Assuming, one person shops only in a particular shop in any given hour, we have 11 pigeon holes.

So, total possibilities for manipulating a shop

= (20C11) * (11P11)

= (20!/(9!*11!) * (11!/0!)

= 20!/9! ways

Therefore, total ways for manipulating sales using 20 shops =

20 * (20*19*18...*10) ways.

Jeez, that's a hell lot of ways to organise this manipulation. Which is why probability of detection is so less. Which is why customer's SSN needs to be taken into consideration for checking purchases of same title in a day or in a sequence of days.

KBoards.com

  • Advertisement
  • ***

    Offline markpauloleksiw

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 218
    • Gender: Male
    • Canada
      • View Profile
      • Mark Paul Oleksiw's Website
    When you think about the whole sordid tale...I wonder...what else has been going on before this?

    People don't suddenly try to game the system for the first time after..."success"

    Mark

    Offline CassieL

    • Status: Arthur C Clarke
    • *****
    • Posts: 2395
      • View Profile
    Which is why customer's SSN needs to be taken into consideration for checking purchases of same title in a day or in a sequence of days.

    Yeah, no. This is where the trade off between personal privacy and need to know comes in. We're not talking about buying plutonium here. If someone and their street team wants to waste that much of their time and energy on going to twenty different stores to buy up enough books to make a list that will make them a sad and pathetic person who craves external validation to an unhealthy degree but their being that person does not mean that every single person who buys a book must therefore give up their personal identifying information in order to make a book purchase just to prevent this from happening.

    And honestly book availability is very likely to thwart that plan anyway. Bookstores stock books they think will sell and absent an elaborate scheme to generate an appearance of demand so that physical copies are actually on the shelves available to be bought, there wouldn't be 400 copies of the book at those stories to be purchased in the first place.

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

    Offline Rick Gualtieri

    • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
    • *******
    • Posts: 5132
    • Gender: Male
    • NJ
    • Renaissance Geek
      • View Profile
      • RickGualtieri.com
    Yeah, no. This is where the trade off between personal privacy and need to know comes in. We're not talking about buying plutonium here.

    Anyone asking me for my SSN so I can buy a book can go pound sand (except less politely).

    I mean, seriously, if someone decides to devote hours upon hours of Bond-villain level planning to book purchases, then I'm willing to give them that one.  Pretty sure Interpol has better things to do with their time.


    Making fantasy fun again, one corpse at a time
    Rick Gualtieri | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Bill The Vampire on FB | YouTube

    Offline VisitasKeat

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 377
    • Following my characters. Wherever they take me.
      • View Profile
    Yeah, no. This is where the trade off between personal privacy and need to know comes in. We're not talking about buying plutonium here. If someone and their street team wants to waste that much of their time and energy on going to twenty different stores to buy up enough books to make a list that will make them a sad and pathetic person who craves external validation to an unhealthy degree but their being that person does not mean that every single person who buys a book must therefore give up their personal identifying information in order to make a book purchase just to prevent this from happening.

    And honestly book availability is very likely to thwart that plan anyway. Bookstores stock books they think will sell and absent an elaborate scheme to generate an appearance of demand so that physical copies are actually on the shelves available to be bought, there wouldn't be 400 copies of the book at those stories to be purchased in the first place.
    From one of your recent posts I understand you used to work in a bookstore. So, you speak from experience which I give due weightage.
    But a small correction...
    Not 400 copies available per store but just 20. This is the simple case study I took up in my previous post based on what Redgum posted before that. In fact, the higher an author is on the list, the lesser the copies each street team member needs to buy.

    Without unique identification methods, we would have more Dawsons... and we had God knows how many thousands of them in the past. SSN is just one suggestion but including any similar methods is paramount to address the issues raised in this thread.

    Offline VisitasKeat

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 377
    • Following my characters. Wherever they take me.
      • View Profile
    When you think about the whole sordid tale...I wonder...what else has been going on before this?

    People don't suddenly try to game the system for the first time after..."success"

    Mark
    Yeah, this could be the tip of the iceberg. And even more shocking is the fact that he used to be a lawyer. Nice role model, huh?!

    But I still feel that the question I raised upthread still holds merit.

    Who screwed Dawson?

    Who influenced him and convinced him?

    Was he terribly drunk the previous night (say while partying) so that he still had a big hangover and a clouded mind when he went to the store? Was he convinced while being terribly drunk?

    What food did he eat previous night? Was he drugged and blackmailed?

    Offline CassieL

    • Status: Arthur C Clarke
    • *****
    • Posts: 2395
      • View Profile
    Not 400 copies available per store but just 20.
    Go walk through a bookstore (if it's safe for you where you live) and see how many titles there are where the bookstore actually has 20 copies of a specific hard cover title on the shelves to buy. It won't be many even at a large store like a Barnes & Noble. And if it is it'll be new releases in that type (hard cover, mass market) that are expected to sell well. So maybe at a typical B&N you'd walk in the door and see two center displays with say fifteen titles each that are in hardcover with that many copies available. Otherwise there's maybe a copy or two of each hard cover shelved in the genre section of the store.

    I worked at an independent bookstore so we'd have maybe ten copies of the most popular hard cover titles and if an unexpected title made the list probably fewer copies than that. Especially if it wasn't around the holidays.

    I think it's pretty common now to find an author who is very active on social media and well-known within their genre but whose books aren't even on the shelves at a local bookstore. I know I've run into that more than once when I heard of someone and wanted to buy their book. I could order online just fine, but they weren't stocked at all in physical bookstores.

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

    Offline Blocked Writer

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 154
    • re-starting a new adventure...
      • View Profile
    If someone wants to buy 4 copies of a book, one for each grandkid, is that ok?

    If someone wants to buy 20 copies of a book, one for each employee, is that ok?

    If someone wants to buy 400 copies of a book, one for each client, is that ok?

    If the list rank is meant to be indicative of a books quality, then each of those purchases would be legit, because the purchaser thought so highly of the book that she was willing to even buy them to give to others.

    The issue here is not the quantity of books purchased, but the intent behind the purchase. Dawson didnt buy 400 because he thought it was a great book. He bought 400 to give other people the impression that it was selling better than it was (i.e. a better book).

    Offline Doglover

    • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
    • *******
    • Posts: 5620
    • Gender: Female
    • Huntingdon, United Kingdom
    • If you want real love, buy a dog.
      • View Profile
      • Margaret Brazear Author
    If someone wants to buy 4 copies of a book, one for each grandkid, is that ok?

    If someone wants to buy 20 copies of a book, one for each employee, is that ok?

    If someone wants to buy 400 copies of a book, one for each client, is that ok?

    If the list rank is meant to be indicative of a books quality, then each of those purchases would be legit, because the purchaser thought so highly of the book that she was willing to even buy them to give to others.

    The issue here is not the quantity of books purchased, but the intent behind the purchase. Dawson didnt buy 400 because he thought it was a great book. He bought 400 to give other people the impression that it was selling better than it was (i.e. a better book).
    He bought them to sell on to overseas readers who had requested them.


    The past is another country; they do things differently there
    Margaret Brazear | Website | Blog | Facebook | Newsletter

    Offline VisitasKeat

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 377
    • Following my characters. Wherever they take me.
      • View Profile
    Go walk through a bookstore (if it's safe for you where you live) and see how many titles there are where the bookstore actually has 20 copies of a specific hard cover title on the shelves to buy. It won't be many even at a large store like a Barnes & Noble. And if it is it'll be new releases in that type (hard cover, mass market) that are expected to sell well. So maybe at a typical B&N you'd walk in the door and see two center displays with say fifteen titles each that are in hardcover with that many copies available. Otherwise there's maybe a copy or two of each hard cover shelved in the genre section of the store.

    I worked at an independent bookstore so we'd have maybe ten copies of the most popular hard cover titles and if an unexpected title made the list probably fewer copies than that. Especially if it wasn't around the holidays.

    I think it's pretty common now to find an author who is very active on social media and well-known within their genre but whose books aren't even on the shelves at a local bookstore. I know I've run into that more than once when I heard of someone and wanted to buy their book. I could order online just fine, but they weren't stocked at all in physical bookstores.
    Just because you couldn't find books of certain authors doesn't mean it's the same disappointment for others.

    Moreover, your bookstore's (where you worked) marketing strategies need not be consistent with other bookstores. So, some stores may stock more than 10. Who knows?

    Offline Blocked Writer

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 154
    • re-starting a new adventure...
      • View Profile
    He bought them to sell on to overseas readers who had requested them.

    As others have noted above, he could accomplish the same without buying them at retail.

    Re. his intention, it's quoted in one of the earlier linked articles: "We'd like to get to the top 10 ... we've been trying to think of ways we can do that that would count those sales as sales for the chart," he said.

    So, he purchased at retail so that his purchases would impact the chart.

    By the way, if the "retail" side of each of these transactions was actually meant to be in the US, then the sales figures don't belong in the UK chart. Nielsen made this clear by removing them.


    Anyway, the point of my earlier post was that people ought to be able to buy any number of books that they want to without privacy invasions designed to protect the integrity of a third party's list (although in retrospect I did not make that clear).
    « Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 11:03:47 am by Blocked Writer »

    Offline Jena H

    • Status: Emily Dickinson
    • *******
    • Posts: 7982
    • North Carolina
    • Desperate character
      • View Profile
    Let's keep in mind that the book in question is NOT a new release--or even a recent release--but was in fact published six years ago (2014).  If I walk into a random bookstore, I may be lucky to find two or three copies of a six-year-old book.  I have no idea if the sudden order of 10 or 20 or 50 copies of the same (not new) book would raise any eyebrows.
    Jena

    Offline Corvid

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 279
      • View Profile
    I may not like a certain thing this author did, but he's hardly Hannibal Lecter. Some of the posts in this thread are way off in Cloud Cuckoo Land. I don't usually advocate for the locking of threads where there's still meaningful discussion to be had, but reading some of this stuff... maybe it's time to move on?


    Offline Becca Mills

    • Global Moderator
    • Status: Jeffry S. Hepple
    • *****
    • Posts: 9948
    • Gender: Female
    • California
      • View Profile
    I may not like a certain thing this author did, but he's hardly Hannibal Lecter. Some of the posts in this thread are way off in Cloud Cuckoo Land. I don't usually advocate for the locking of threads where there's still meaningful discussion to be had, but reading some of this stuff... maybe it's time to move on?

    Some posts over the last few days have been speculative, but I'm not seeing anything worthy of shutting the thread down, at this point. We do try to keep threads open unless the level of conflict therein makes management too difficult, given the moderation resources at hand. This one has required very little intervention and has stayed pretty well focused on the Dawson event and the larger issue of list manipulation.

    Welcome! :)
    Read about using the Writers' Cafe here. Our larger "forum decorum" is here. The site's overall terms of use are here. Please be aware of this material.
    Troubleshooting: If you're having difficulties with advertising on KBoards, the contact email is [email protected] You can also use our PM system to contact the site's owners via the vsAdmin account. The Link-Maker and Author Signature Tool long longer function. There's a manual version of the former here and a workaround for the latter here.

    Offline Corvid

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 279
      • View Profile
    Some posts over the last few days have been speculative, but I'm not seeing anything worthy of shutting the thread down, at this point. We do try to keep threads open unless the level of conflict therein makes management too difficult, given the moderation resources at hand. This one has required very little intervention and has stayed pretty well focused on the Dawson event and the larger issue of list manipulation.

    Fair enough. I do think some of the Cloak & Dagger stuff runs fairly far afield, but I'll be the first to admit in any given situation that even though I'm freely spouting an opinion, I also don't know nothin' from nothin'.


    Offline Redgum

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 262
      • View Profile
    He bought them to sell on to overseas readers who had requested them.

    Is this right, though? I follow Mark on FB and I watched the 400 copy thing unfold in real time. Unless I missed something, I'm not sure he had 400 specific orders for those books up front and waiting. I think he bought them, signed them, and then people could request them. Apologies if this is not correct, but I think they were bought speculatively. I also agree very much with the contributor who made the comment about there being a limit to what we can do to stopping list manipulation, and if someone is really that obsessed with success they will find a way, I suppose. I'm not having a fingerprint scan to buy a book, or even showing ID!

    Have any of the podcasts gone out yet? I know a lot of indie authors are very interested to hear how they will deal with this issue. It is, after all, pretty much the biggest "scandal" in indie fiction for a long time, and if it just gets papered over and shut down people will draw negative conclusions about why that has happened. For now, it stands as a solid warning to other indies (and trads, I guess) to stay on the right side of the rules and play fair.

    Offline Redgum

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 262
      • View Profile
    When you think about the whole sordid tale...I wonder...what else has been going on before this?

    People don't suddenly try to game the system for the first time after..."success"

    Mark

    Interesting, and while possible, I'm not sure we can deduce earlier skulduggery from this incident, however tempting. I might be giving Mark more credit than he deserves but I think his success is down to three factors, all honest. 1) He writes solid, page-turning thrillers. 2) He got a rapid understanding of how to use social media advertising very ruthlessly. 3) He got into self-publishing fairly early when indie writers still stood a fair chance of making it, unlike today (ironically, partly because of success stories like him). Now, post-success, he can lay out huge sums of money on FB and Amazon Ads (as he has publicly admitted) and guarantee the visibility required to reach lots of potential readers.

    So why cheat now? Because of the lingering feeling that somehow success only counts if it's "trad" held by many authors. This was a chance to get an indie book into paperback, into the mainstream, and then by Jove, right up in the grille of trad publishing by hitting the Sunday Times Top Ten. As Romeo once said, O mischief, thou art swift to enter in the thoughts of desperate men!

    Offline VisitasKeat

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 377
    • Following my characters. Wherever they take me.
      • View Profile
    Yeah, this could be the tip of the iceberg. And even more shocking is the fact that he used to be a lawyer. Nice role model, huh?!

    But I still feel that the question I raised upthread still holds merit.

    Who screwed Dawson?

    Who influenced him and convinced him?

    Was he terribly drunk the previous night (say while partying) so that he still had a big hangover and a clouded mind when he went to the store? Was he convinced while being terribly drunk?

    What food did he eat previous night? Was he drugged and blackmailed?
    Transferring 400 books from bookstore to his truck or whatever is tedious.

    So, were the books home delivered?

    Or, did a group of people accompany him to the store? If so, how many?

    Or, could it be the case that someone else represented him at the shop?

    After all things said and done, could it be that Dawson is innocent if it can be proven that his mental state was altered the previous night?

    Offline Triceratops

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 44
    • Cinderella story.
      • View Profile
    He bought them to sell on to overseas readers who had requested them.

    But did the readers write Dawson first, or did Dawson write the readers first and solicit the sale from them?

    The month of May offers a clue.

    In May, Mark Dawson wrote to his newsletter fans and said that the hardback of his old book The Cleaner was going to hit brick-and-mortar book shelves in late June. He said that every hardback purchase would get him closer to the Sunday Times bestseller list. He said that if the book placed on the Sunday Times list, that that would in turn ensure the book buyers who decide placement in the brick-and-mortar stores would pay more attention to the subsequent paperback edition, which will arrive later this year. Dawson then promised that anyone who pre-purchased the hardback via his link would be entered in a drawing to win, as he called it, some John Milton goodies.

    He wrote openly of his desire to reach readers beyond Kindle, readers who prefer brick-and-mortar book stores.

    Dawson had made a connection between landing high on the Sunday Times hardback bestseller list, and a future economic benefit for himself. It wasn't just vanity. Hitting high on the list would influence the book buyers who could help him reach new readers, the ones who preferred physical books. A strong showing out of the gate with the hardback would make the chain bookstore buyers take him seriously.

    The whole reason Dawson signed with Welbeck, a trad publisher, in the first place was to try to break into the brick-and-mortar world. He has said that on a number of occasions. The The Cleaner hardback was the first one to arrive. If it did well, it would set up The Cleaner paperback to be positioned better in the stores when it arrives later this year. And from there all the other Dawson paper books that will be arriving down the line.

    It's momentum. The more juice out of the gate, the better.

    It is not a stretch to believe that the reason Dawson had been repeatedly plugging The Cleaner hardbacks to his fans--signed hardbacks, for which he would charge no more than ten pounds sterling (about $12), with free overseas shipping no less--was because Dawson wanted to hit the Sunday Times bestseller list, hard.

    Dawson was trying to drive the sales. Nothing wrong with that.

    However, it conflicts with his story after he was caught. His story now is that he was simply trying to respond to all the readers who were badgering him for a signed copy of the hardback, and so he felt obliged to fulfill the demand, personally; he lifted the burden upon his shoulders, took one for the team.

    But in fact to a large extent he himself had created the demand. He wasn't responding to readers who unsolicited had wanted a signed hardback. He had been plugging the hardback for weeks. The tail was wagging the dog.

    Offline VisitasKeat

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 377
    • Following my characters. Wherever they take me.
      • View Profile
    But did the readers write Dawson first, or did Dawson write the readers first and solicit the sale from them?

    The month of May offers a clue.

    In May, Mark Dawson wrote to his newsletter fans and said that the hardback of his old book The Cleaner was going to hit brick-and-mortar book shelves in late June. He said that every hardback purchase would get him closer to the Sunday Times bestseller list. He said that if the book placed on the Sunday Times list, that that would in turn ensure the book buyers who decide placement in the brick-and-mortar stores would pay more attention to the subsequent paperback edition, which will arrive later this year. Dawson then promised that anyone who pre-purchased the hardback via his link would be entered in a drawing to win, as he called it, some John Milton goodies.

    He wrote openly of his desire to reach readers beyond Kindle, readers who prefer brick-and-mortar book stores.

    Dawson had made a connection between landing high on the Sunday Times hardback bestseller list, and a future economic benefit for himself. It wasn't just vanity. Hitting high on the list would influence the book buyers who could help him reach new readers, the ones who preferred physical books. A strong showing out of the gate with the hardback would make the chain bookstore buyers take him seriously.

    The whole reason Dawson signed with Welbeck, a trad publisher, in the first place was to try to break into the brick-and-mortar world. He has said that on a number of occasions. The The Cleaner hardback was the first one to arrive. If it did well, it would set up The Cleaner paperback to be positioned better in the stores when it arrives later this year. And from there all the other Dawson paper books that will be arriving down the line.

    It's momentum. The more juice out of the gate, the better.

    It is not a stretch to believe that the reason Dawson had been repeatedly plugging The Cleaner hardbacks to his fans--signed hardbacks, for which he would charge no more than ten pounds sterling (about $12), with free overseas shipping no less--was because Dawson wanted to hit the Sunday Times bestseller list, hard.

    Dawson was trying to drive the sales. Nothing wrong with that.

    However, it conflicts with his story after he was caught. His story now is that he was simply trying to respond to all the readers who were badgering him for a signed copy of the hardback, and so he felt obliged to fulfill the demand, personally; he lifted the burden upon his shoulders, took one for the team.

    But in fact to a large extent he himself had created the demand. He wasn't responding to readers who unsolicited had wanted a signed hardback. He had been plugging the hardback for weeks. The tail was wagging the dog.
    Desperate people do desperate things.

    The thing is, he can publish those e-mail letters of proof on his site. But still, it won't help his case. Wrong is wrong.

    Offline Eskimo

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 893
    • Gender: Female
    • Anchorage, Alaska
    • Eskimo
      • View Profile
    But did the readers write Dawson first, or did Dawson write the readers first and solicit the sale from them?

    The month of May offers a clue.


    What did Mark know -- and when did he know it?  I'll have to check Mark's age and see if he was in Dallas on 11/22/1963. You never know....

    Offline markpauloleksiw

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 218
    • Gender: Male
    • Canada
      • View Profile
      • Mark Paul Oleksiw's Website
    THe mechanics of the how just confuse the basic fact...

    BUYING YOUR OWN BOOK TO MANIPULATE RANKINGS IS WRONG!

    When you try to rationalize it, you lower the bar and anyone with financial means will do the same.

    Mark

    Offline Triceratops

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 44
    • Cinderella story.
      • View Profile
    Long post. Apologies for the eye fatigue.

    Mark Dawson talked about his own purchase of 400 of his hardcover books yesterday, July 31, in his podcast. (He has also discussed it before, but he said that this would be the last time.)

    Full and unedited transcript follows. Any comments or questions from me are in brackets []. Of note, this was not a live podcast but a prerecorded and edited show that is owned and run by Mark. As they mention in the transcript, episode was recorded Monday July 27 and premiered Friday July 31.

    The Self Publishing Show, episode 237: Self Publishing Sisters: Keeping it in the Family
    youtube.com/watch?v=xXDTQEsKGRw

    Transcript begins around 00:02:25. Mark was joined by James Blatch, his regular co-host.

    James Blatch
    Right, well, my holiday was a little bit interrupted, as yours was, by us dealing with a little bit of firefighting. Uh -- these things happen occasionally, and they happened to you and to SPF
    [Mark Dawson's The Self Publishing Show podcast] last week so we are going to talk about that. I should say if you've been following some of the things that have been in, ah, in the social media and the mainstream press as well, you may have found it odd that we didn't refer to it at all last week, that's because we prerecorded a couple of episodes, so that I could go away. Er, but we are back, live in the room as it were, recording on the Monday for the Friday's episode. So we can talk about what happened! To you! Which was, I hesitate to use the word exciting, but it was definitely interesting, um, as the uh curse [?] goes.
    So this all began with the hardback version of your book The Cleaner. And some of you, I think a lot of you have probably followed this one way or another. However, some of you might not know what we were talking about at all, so we should probably set it out and explain, a sort of learning experience that we've been through over the last 10 days or so. Perhaps you should start, really Mark, by explaining, I mean The Cleaner is an older book of yours, but this was a new version of it.

    Mark Dawson
    Yeah, so it is above me on the shelf up there. So, yeah it is a brand new hardback edition, the first that's been published in that format by Welbeck, who are my absolutely awesome publishers who I'll be saying something else about in a moment. And um yeah it's in the stores, it's in the supermarkets and ah all kinds of places. And has been really really exciting. And even though you know we are going to talk about some stuff, it has the potential to be, it has been a difficult week, no two ways about it, but it hasn't taken a shine off, a really exciting experience I've worked with some great people, and you know it's, it's one of those things, we'll deal with it, but I don't want people to think that this has been an ordeal, because that wouldn't be true at all.

    James Blatch
    ... So you have this lovely hardback edition... And one of the things I know that you were doing, is basically sending out these bespoke copies to people, you were signing it, trying to get them in the hands of readers. Um. Different ways of doing that, er, so that was the starting point of where things did get a little bit tricky down the line. So just explain about your role, which is part indie author, part trad author here really. Because you were doing kind of indie stuff, in doing a bit of fulfilling uh sales.

    Mark Dawson
    Yeah, so UK's readers were pretty easy, we had, WH Smith's were fantastic they, they um got on board really early and they were the, I signed several hundred copies for Smiths to um, to post out to ah UK readers. And that as far as I know went really really well, ah so they, they had a good number of, so uh I told my list if you're in the UK and you'd like a signed copy, here's where you go to get it and, and they all, you know, readers went to do that and they got their copies. Which was great. But in the course of sending that email out, um, I got lots of emails from non-UK readers who asked how they could get a signed copy too, so, we, obviously now, have to, you know completely honestly I wanted those sales to count, and as many sales as possible to count um towards the chart, just as I would for an Amazon launch, or any other kind of situation, I wanted to get those um sales to register. So um I, we spoke, I spoke to, to Welbeck and we tried very very hard or they tried very hard to find some ah way that those sales could be fulfilled to um the readers. And, we had, you know Smiths wouldn't ship abroad so we couldn't do it that way, um, we tried a couple of other options and, and you know not from want of trying they just didn't pan out in a way that was economically viable for most readers. So, I kind of did the indie thing I suppose, and I thought, well, maybe perhaps I can do it. So, um, that was, you know that was kind of the genesis of it, I wanted to make sure that readers could get the books, and of course I wanted, you know I wanted those sales, those sales to count towards the chart. I, I don't think, and I still don't think, there was anything wrong in that at all.

    James Blatch
    So what do you actually did, er was you sourced the books yourself, made sure it was a little independent book shop. Actually that was a deliberate choice, to get a bit of cash going over their desk as well, and then you fulfilled the orders, literally envelope-stuffing on the kitchen table. Now, the suggestion is, that it was wrong of you to do that at the time when you were trying to chart, ahm, that using those sales to try and chart was wrong. That was the suggestion, right?

    Mark Dawson

    [pause] Ahm. Well I mean I've seen that kind of, we can get on to what exactly the suggestion was in a minute, but yeah I've seen people suggesting that it was devious, or nefarious, or all of those kinds of things and it really really wasn't, and now I again we'll get onto this, I, those sales have been removed. There were about 400 um orders that were placed by non-UK readers and that was the number of books that I bought to fulfill those orders. And those sales have now been taken away, discounted by Nielsen. I am completely fine about that --

    James Blatch
    -- Yeah --

    Mark Dawson
    -- I am, I mean I've been very very impressed with Nielsen throughout this, and the, I mean again we'll touch on this in a minute but there was a single rule, um in their, in their rulebook, which is what I wasn't aware of and you could make the case that I should've been aware of that, um, I, you know I, I'm not going to argue that too strenuously. But they found that those books were, um, they shouldn't have counted, the reason being that they went to non-UK consumers so they were effectively exported. Um, so again I have absolutely no problem with that at all and those 400 sales, I mean originally it charted at 8, we got to number 8
    [* in fact the book first arrived at number 13 on the chart; Dawson then bought his own copies; see note below] which was wonderful, um, those, those sales then were discounted and the book dropped to 13, which, let's be honest that is still wonderful. I am very pleased with that. And, and the good news is that the book is selling strongly even after all this kerfuffle has taken place.

    James Blatch:
    Yeah, it is a shame that this has distracted, has distracted from the, the main you know the achievement here of Welbeck and yourself is to get a book into number 13 in the hardback charts in the UK is fantastic, and a very prestigious list that is. Organized by Nielsen. Um. And something, I really want to make this point that should be obvious and this is a point lots of people have made to us in emailing us their support, is that you have been completely transparent about this all the way through. This is not an underhand tactic to try and game a system, it is not an underhand tactic to do in the dark, to try and manipulate anything, this is you doing what indies do, which is maximizing your marketing efforts and telling people about it and how to do it.
    But, maybe, and, can I use the word naive? Would you take that? Cause it was a bit naive of you, to think, or to not stop and think, and actually, do you know what? My BBC background, I should've stopped to think as well when you were talking to me about it a couple of weeks ago, but anyway. That, that was the mistake.

    Mark Dawson
    Um. Yeah, so, it was, I mean we have been obvi-, been very transparent about it, we have podcast on, on this point twice, um and um you know we've been going into lots of detail on that. Obviously also I have also been emailing my, my readers. Now I know that lots of authors are on my, my, my reading, my reader mailing list. I know that, that to be a fact. And so it isn't something that I have kind of been whispering about, it's been, I've been, you know kind of I suppose in some ways I'm like the crash test dummy, I've been trying to find ways to, to you know maximize the launch and this felt like a good one for me. Um, I mean the next thing that happened, I'll just quickly rattle through the rest of it. This came on a Monday. I was in Lowestoft on Tuesday, my dad is ill, and I'd actually gone down to be with him in hospital. So I was actually with the kids at a zoo in Lowestoft so, had lots of phone conversations with Welbeck and then with Nielsen. And so I spoke to the MD
    [managing director?] of Nielsen who I have to say was fantastic, a really nice guy, um and we had a very good, two very good discussions, um where I explained what happened, he explained his position from where, you know from Nielsen's point of view. Um, and you know his, his view was, and you know they put out a statement to, to kind of codify this and also we had some discussion um beyond that, and, and they concluded that it was an innocent error. And, which is absolutely correct, and they didn't, he didn't feel that I acted unethically, or that I tried to game the system, which is kind of what the, the, the article [one of the two Guardian articles?] was suggesting. So, I mean his view was that it was like a virtual book signing, so, I had, the readers wanted signed copies, I signed them, I, I sent them off. And, you know the only rule as we said, the only rule that was broken was that those books in this instance went to non-UK, non-UK readers. Um, if it wasn't for that, um, I think, those books, those sales would all have been counted. So, you know I know that now, that's not a mistake I'll make twice.

    James Blatch
    Right, so we do actually have the perfect antidote to a little bit of a dip in an author career which is an interview with a fantastic pair of authors, they are sisters...
    [introduces podcast guests]

    After the guests, excerpt around 01:07:00:

    Mark Dawson
    ...As someone once said, it has never been a better time to be a writer.

    James Blatch
    Someone once did say that and --

    Mark Dawson
    Don't believe what The Guardian
    [newspaper] tells you.

    James Blatch
    (Laughs) No. You cancel that subscription.

    Mark Dawson
    I have done.

    James Blatch
    And just to underline -- I'm sure you have -- we talk about Amazon from time to time...
    [discussion about Amazon]

    Excerpt around 01:09:50:

    James Blatch
    ... Good! Well, that was the week that was.

    Mark Dawson
    (Long pause) Mm. Yeah. It was.

    James Blatch
    (Laughs) Long pause.

    Mark Dawson
    I'm done. I'm not mentioning it
    [his purchase of 400 hardbacks] ever again.

    James Blatch
    No, no, we're done on that one. Thank you very much to those of you who have supported us and supported Mark in particular with your comments. Every single one of those supported comments has meant something and I think probably enabled Mark just to live from one minute to another at various points last week, so also a huge thank you, to you. Be those people. Who are helping. A rising tide raises all ships, hey, so let's try to be a bit more like that and a bit less like the person who goes to a national newspaper, er, to maximize and inflict damage on people, rather than perhaps being helpful. Right, that is it, I promise, that's the last thing we're going to say about it, thank you very much indeed...
    [wrap up]

    * one of the articles about Mark Dawson's purchase of 400 hardbacks in The Guardian claimed that the book initially hit the 13 spot on the chart, and then after that Dawson made the decision to try and boost it higher:

    An author bought his own book to get higher on bestseller lists. Is that fair?
    Monday 20 July 2020
    https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/jul/20/an-author-bought-his-own-book-to-get-higher-on-bestseller-lists-is-that-fair

    On the latest episode of his Self Publishing Show podcast, Dawson explained why he did it. When Nielsen released its midweek chart, Dawson had realised that The Cleaner was sitting at No 13, having sold around 1,300 copies that week -- just outside the coveted top 10. He hit on the idea of buying the book himself in the UK, to sell to readers overseas. "We'd like to get to the top 10 ... we've been trying to think of ways we can do that that would count those sales as sales for the chart," he said.

    After sending an email to gauge interest, around 400 people in the US said they would buy the book if he bought the copies himself first. So Dawson went to a children's bookshop in Salisbury. "I said, 'would you be interested if I placed an order for 400 hardbacks of my own book?'," said Dawson on the podcast. "They were like, 'Yes, of course.'"

    Several authors on social media have since shared their concerns over Dawson's strategy, including thriller writer Clare Mackintosh, who said it was "disingenuous" that Dawson, when celebrating his top 10 spot on Twitter, had not also shared that he had personally bought almost a quarter of the books that got him there. Dawson maintained he was just fulfilling orders, though on his podcast he specified that he had expressions of interest from abroad rather than firm sales.


    edit: formatting.
    « Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 12:50:01 pm by Triceratops »

    Offline Corvid

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 279
      • View Profile
    Have to say, after listening, and reading the transcript of the podcast, I'm feeling much more willing to give Mark the benefit of the doubt here. It is entirely possible that the timing just coincided for him rather poorly, in that, the time he'd decided to take upon himself to fulfill those non-UK orders also was within the window of time which would have seen his chart position rise from 13 to 8.

    Yes, he'd also mentioned he did want those self-generated orders to count towards sales for the benefit of the chart, but it's also possible he did that knowing those kind of self-generated buys are standard industry practice in the trad world, and therefore he wouldn't have thought he was doing anything unethical in the least.

    I think there's enough gray area here that I'm not as comfortable casting aspersions as perhaps I had been. I think I might've been too quick to judge, and maybe been to harsh on Mark previously. Yes, I do understand that people can and will be less than honest, especially in those times where they've been caught with their hand in the cookie jar - but, I've had positive experiences with Mark's business in the past, and he always came across as an honest broker (which is why I'd said I was disappointed in a previous post).

    Of course, I could be wrong about what's really what, but in my estimation, listening/reading this latest podcast... he comes across as genuine to me.


    Offline VisitasKeat

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 377
    • Following my characters. Wherever they take me.
      • View Profile
    Have to say, after listening, and reading the transcript of the podcast, I'm feeling much more willing to give Mark the benefit of the doubt here. It is entirely possible that the timing just coincided for him rather poorly, in that, the time he'd decided to take upon himself to fulfill those non-UK orders also was within the window of time which would have seen his chart position rise from 13 to 8.

    Yes, he'd also mentioned he did want those self-generated orders to count towards sales for the benefit of the chart, but it's also possible he did that knowing those kind of self-generated buys are standard industry practice in the trad world, and therefore he wouldn't have thought he was doing anything unethical in the least.

    I think there's enough gray area here that I'm not as comfortable casting aspersions as perhaps I had been. I think I might've been too quick to judge, and maybe been to harsh on Mark previously. Yes, I do understand that people can and will be less than honest, especially in those times where they've been caught with their hand in the cookie jar - but, I've had positive experiences with Mark's business in the past, and he always came across as an honest broker (which is why I'd said I was disappointed in a previous post).

    Of course, I could be wrong about what's really what, but in my estimation, listening/reading this latest podcast... he comes across as genuine to me.
    It's not what you or I think about  the case. Or anybody else's opinion, for that matter.

    He may be a great guy in personal life. He may have helped a lot of authors. He may have rendered a great service to the indie community. His courses and his novels may be world-class. And he may be showered with sympathy waves while a hungry kid sticking a finger into a candy jar gets whipped with a cane...

    But...

    Wrong is wrong.

    No amount of rationalization would help justify his act.

    So, no use in creating "100% rationalizing, blackhole-like, quicksand-like circles."

    There is only one escape door out of the mousetrap. And that is to medically prove that his mental state was altered prior to committing the heinous act. In that case, he can boldly attend writing conferences in the future.

    KBoards.com

    • Advertisement
    • ***