Author Topic: The danger of buying your own books/Mark Dawson buys 400 copies of his own book  (Read 14775 times)  

Offline jb1111

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I don't know who Mark Dawson is, aside from what little I read about him here on KB.

He isn't a competitor in my genre, so I really have little stake in this issue.

That said, this reminds me of a post a mysterious poster placed on another thread a couple weeks ago, where that poster stated that the big publishing houses have ways of gaming the bestseller lists, and various ranking systems -- and it was hinted that there is a fair amount of buying one's own books, through various means, to accomplish that task.

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    Offline ........

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    Mark is kicking people out of the private facebook groups you get access to with the SPF courses if you say anything bad to him about what he did. Saw it happen two days ago and after I commented my feelings about it, I got kicked too.

    So, if you're a course member and want to stay in those groups, tread carefully.

    Online Patty Jansen

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    Mark is kicking people out of the private facebook groups you get access to with the SPF courses if you say anything bad to him about what he did. Saw it happen two days ago and after I commented my feelings about it, I got kicked too.

    So, if you're a course member and want to stay in those groups, tread carefully.

    This is just a rumour-mongering badmouthing post. Not that it wouldn't happen, but it fails to understand the reason people get removed from groups. I run several FB groups, and would kick someone out for doing this, too. Probably without warning (because they can read the group's T&C and life's too short to argue).

    Why?

    Because it's outside the purpose of the group.

    Those groups are for discussing ads, not for gossiping about stuff that goes on in the community. If you want to gossip, use your own real estate: your own groups and circle of friends.

    Offline ........

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    This is just a rumour-mongering badmouthing post. Not that it wouldn't happen, but it fails to understand the reason people get removed from groups. I run several FB groups, and would kick someone out for doing this, too. Probably without warning (because they can read the group's T&C and life's too short to argue).

    Why?

    Because it's outside the purpose of the group.

    Those groups are for discussing ads, not for gossiping about stuff that goes on in the community. If you want to gossip, use your own real estate: your own groups and circle of friends.

    It's not a rumor.

    Mark put up posts discussing the two Guardian articles, and people are discussing it but if you say it was ethically wrong, out you go. Booted from the group.

    These groups, by the way, are advertised as part of the SPF101 course. Not a privilege but a core part of what you are buying. So you speak up, like people have in this thread, and get thrown out of something you paid to have access to.

    There's no need to defend him Patty. He opened up the posts to discuss what he did and the articles. They are extremely relevant to the group's core purpose of being a successful author - ethics being key to that.

    To put it bluntly, most of the people in this thread would have been kicked out for what they said here. From a group they paid to be in.

    I'm putting it up here so people who might enroll know what they're getting into. My review of the course would now be: course material is good, creator tried to buy his way onto a bestseller list and if you criticize him, you'll be thrown out of the groups he sold access to.

    This isn't WHOA - it's direct experience. A course creator tossing people out of a group they paid to be in after revelations about bulk-buying on to a bestseller list is very much relevant to indie authors.
    « Last Edit: July 24, 2020, 02:28:49 am by ........ »

    Offline R.U. Writing

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    When I heard about it on his podcast, I rolled my eyes and thought, "must be nice to have enough money to experiment like that."

    Is it a little cringey? Yeah. Are the optics of it bad? Yeah? But what Mark did is in no way unethical. He had a hunch about the way the lists work, he experimented, he was open with it, and he proved that you can get onto the list by buying your own copies.

    It's not cheating. It's getting onto a list of the books that have sold the most. And Mark's book sold enough. Plain and simple. If the lists want to be "pure" (whatever that means) then they need to disregard those kind of sales. He placed a large order with a single bookshop which is easily traceable. In designing the lists, I can't imagine that anyone with half a brain didn't see the ability to buy your own book to make the list as a potential issue with the "integrity" of the list.

    So instead of being critical of Mark, be critical of the lists. If you didn't know it before, you now know the lists can't be trusted to report anything more than actual sales--regardless of where they come from.

    This whole thing smacks of schadenfreude. People are delighted to see a successful writer get hurt and they are piling on.

    Knock it off and get back to writing.

    If you think publishing (or life for that matter) is anything close to a meritocracy, you are going to end up very bitter and disappointed.

    Offline Highbodycount

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    Knock it off and get back to writing.
    What's the point, when wealthy people can skew the rankings? We write because we're driven to do it, but we also have to eat.

    Offline nail file

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    The spin is bad, the bullying for apologies on twitter equally bad, but not the first time MD has acted like that.

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned this. And not just bullying for apologies but then trying to say what form those apologies should take.

    Offline Jena H

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    Uh...it looks like he deleted his Twitter account. Other than the Guardian article being retweeted and a handful of writers being snarky, the response to this has been tepid, so I don't even understand the need to do that. I swear, people would rather be dramatic than just post a sincere apology and promise not to do things like this in the future. Times like these make me grateful I got my thick internet skin from hanging around in the Supernatural fandom on Tumblr during the height of its popularity. That was a dark experience.

    You mean Supernatural isn't that popular anymore??  :o  (Although it's hard to sustain popularity momentum during these times, when the final season was interrupted.)
    Jena

    Offline R.U. Writing

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    What's the point, when wealthy people can skew the rankings? We write because we're driven to do it, but we also have to eat.

    If the only reason you are writing is for money, then you need to make peace with the fact that most things in life are out of your control. And most of the things that "seem" to be in your control, aren't in your control either.

    It has always been this way and it always will be.

    Since you believe that you are "driven to it," then you must agree that you didn't choose to be a writer. That is probably true. The same for me.

    In the same vein, wealthy people didn't choose to be wealthy. They were born under the right circumstances at the right time with the right genes and along the way, they received the right lucky breaks.

    That's life.

    Knowing this, and under the illusion that we have any control over our lives, we do our best to treat each other the best we can. Mark Dawson didn't set out to harm anybody. He was open about what he was doing and he took a shot. Would I have done the same thing? Not sure. It would depend on that day's mindset under similar circumstances.

    Who exactly has Dawson's actions hurt? Other people who are trying to make the list by other means? People who have been lucky enough that their manuscript landed on the right desk at the right time and got a traditional contract and now have big publishers pulling the monetary strings? Or other indie writers who were already selling a crapton of books and already making a lot of money since they happened to write something that lots of people wanted to read?

    One might say, "no, there are 'pure' indies who aren't making much money but are spending all their money on advertising to make the list." But how is buying all that advertising any different, in essence, than what Mark Dawson did? It's using money to buy visibility. Obviously, those who can afford to spend enough money on advertising to make the list are the same "wealthy people" you seem so concerned about "skewing" the rankings.

    Yes, every now and then, a book takes off on its own. But again, the writer has no control over this.

    So what does that leave us with? Write, if that's what you love do to. Play the business game if you want to try to compete with wealthy people--but know what you're getting yourself into. Mark Dawson has provided that business knowledge in more ways than one.


    Offline Rick Gualtieri

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    But how is buying all that advertising any different, in essence, than what Mark Dawson did? I

    I've seen a lot of people saying or asking similar things the last few days, i.e. "how is this any different than any other marketing."

    The answer is direct vs. indirect. 

    Most marketing is indirect (in fact an argument can pretty easily be made that all LEGIT marketing is indirect): i.e. we put out graphics, send newsletters, buy slots on AMS, etc, to try and convince others to buy our product.

    What happened here is direct, in that he directly affected his own ranks by purchasing those books. This is the sort of thing that Amazon could, in theory, give someone the boot for, basically directly manipulating their rank.

    Obviously we're not talking about Amazon here. We're talking about the Lists, and the lists are well known to pretty much not give a fig about this unless they get bad press (which happened here). 

    Mark didn't technically break the letter of the law, but there's also the spirit of the law - which is the impartiality these Lists don't have, but very much prefer they're perceived as.

    Which brings me back to what I said in my comment yesterday about getting a slap on the wrist, since we're not exactly talking high treason here.

    What we SHOULD be doing now, is turning our attention to those lists and giving them that negative publicity they don't want so that maybe, just maybe, they take efforts to clean up some of the behind the scenes shenanigans.

    « Last Edit: July 24, 2020, 08:01:15 am by Rick Gualtieri »


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    Offline Highbodycount

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    If the only reason you are writing is for money
    I literally said we're driven to write; I am anyway. And I'd love to eventually be able to make a living this way, I'd say most writers would. I'm afraid I don't agree with your metaphysical views on life being outside our control and wealthy people not choosing to be wealthy, but that doesn't matter here.

    Mark Dawson damaged all of us, and I'm really shocked that other writers choose not to see that. But I'll be very specific about my own position: I write thrillers, and I'm just starting out with the marketing, so I'm nowhere near the financial league Dawson was even before this incident. But I spent years working on a thriller and now four months doing nothing else except learning about self-publishing, screwing up Amazon ads, destroying my Goodreads profile with bad covers, and watching Facebook ads die within minutes. But it's worth it. I wouldn't have a chance on the Sunday Times Bestseller list today, but maybe I would in the future. And maybe you would. And beyond that, ALL of us are competing against someone who bought copies of their own books, and who would definitely have placed the words 'Sunday Times Bestseller' on the cover of their book, and that's what potential buyers would have seen when it showed up in the Amazon search.

    That's not fair. I can't afford to buy hundreds of copies of my own books, and tbh, I wouldn't do it because it'd make me feel really sh*tty. I think the most disheartening thing about all this is that his fans can't see that he did anything wrong - or made a mistake, whatever - or that they won't admit it.
    « Last Edit: July 24, 2020, 10:47:26 am by Highbodycount »

    Offline Highbodycount

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    getting a slap on the wrist, since we're not exactly talking high treason here.
    I do think this is sensible.

    Offline Eskimo

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    Mark Dawson damaged all of us


    I agree that Mark made a mistake, then compounded that mistake. But to say he damaged us all is nonsense. In whose eyes are we damaged? Certainly not in the eyes of most readers. I'd venture a guess that 99% have not heard about this episode, and most of those who have could care less.
    « Last Edit: July 24, 2020, 09:31:06 am by Eskimo »

    Offline Highbodycount

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    I agree that Mark made a mistake, then compounded that mistake. But to say he damaged us all is nonsense. In whose eyes are we damaged? Certainly not in the eyes of most readers. I'd venture a guess that 99% have not heard about this episode, and most of those who have could care less.
    I just said how in the post. I suppose at the end of the day, the damage was prevented because Nielsen stepped in.

    Offline Rachel Anne

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    Mark Dawson damaged all of us, and I'm really shocked that other writers choose not to see that.

    I'm surprised by this comment. Do you really think Mark Dawson was the first to do something like this?
    Most of the bestseller lists are filled with completely shady tactics. Box sets and tactics used to get on those lists are at the height of it. It's easy to do some digging on most of those books to see just how they got their 'titles.'

    It's heartbreaking, absolutely. It had been a dream of mine to be on those lists once upon a time, and honestly, it still would be. Do I think Dawson did some shady things for it? Yep. But I can also appreciate how open he was about it. But those lists were damaged long before this, so I fail to see how it could possibly 'damage all of us.'

    Offline VisitasKeat

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    It's not about the lists were damaged long before that or not.

    It's not about the subject of the discussion being "open" about it.

    The fact of the matter is he did shady things.

    Nobody is above the law or bigger than the community for that matter, that too after winning the trust of thousands of them and appearing respectable before them all along.

    Announcing in the podcast in the first place is how a wolf in sheep's skin hopes to get forgiven for it's "silly eccentricities". Nice subtle weasel tactic, by the way.

    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Here is the problem as I see it.

    This just signals to other authors who are ambitious that this is the game you have to play. We are talking about a guy who  teaches authors how to get ahead.

    There really was no punishment. Other than some shame on message boards. Readers will mostly be oblivious. Plus he got a boatload of free publicity. Got his book mentionned in the Guardian.

    We are not talking about someone clueless and a baby in this industry. 

    I just think the ethical bar just got set even lower. That is a shame.

    Mark

    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    When I heard about it on his podcast, I rolled my eyes and thought, "must be nice to have enough money to experiment like that."

    Is it a little cringey? Yeah. Are the optics of it bad? Yeah? But what Mark did is in no way unethical. He had a hunch about the way the lists work, he experimented, he was open with it, and he proved that you can get onto the list by buying your own copies.

    It's not cheating. It's getting onto a list of the books that have sold the most. And Mark's book sold enough. Plain and simple. If the lists want to be "pure" (whatever that means) then they need to disregard those kind of sales. He placed a large order with a single bookshop which is easily traceable. In designing the lists, I can't imagine that anyone with half a brain didn't see the ability to buy your own book to make the list as a potential issue with the "integrity" of the list.

    So instead of being critical of Mark, be critical of the lists. If you didn't know it before, you now know the lists can't be trusted to report anything more than actual sales--regardless of where they come from.

    This whole thing smacks of schadenfreude. People are delighted to see a successful writer get hurt and they are piling on.


    It is cheating. And it's unethical. Because it's not getting onto a list by selling the most (implication there is selling the most to other people -- it's getting onto a list by buying your way onto it.

    Buying your own copies isn't a metric of anything beyond how much money you have in your bank account. The whole point of the bestseller list is to allow people to see what are books are popular, with the assumption that if a book is popular and people like it, there's a reasonable assumption that other people will, too. Buying one's own books doesn't do that. And being open about cheating just says that you think you're above the rules.

    There was probably some other author who was about to be #10 on that list, who got bumped off just because Mark wanted to buy his way onto it. That's some BS, that is.

    And maybe it is schadenfreude, but it's not about seeing a successful author get hurt. It's about seeing a cheating author who thinks he's above the rules be shown that he's not.

             

    Offline Crystal_

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    Is it a little cringey? Yeah. Are the optics of it bad? Yeah? But what Mark did is in no way unethical. He had a hunch about the way the lists work, he experimented, he was open with it, and he proved that you can get onto the list by buying your own copies.

    It's not cheating. It's getting onto a list of the books that have sold the most. And Mark's book sold enough. Plain and simple. If the lists want to be "pure" (whatever that means) then they need to disregard those kind of sales. He placed a large order with a single bookshop which is easily traceable. In designing the lists, I can't imagine that anyone with half a brain didn't see the ability to buy your own book to make the list as a potential issue with the "integrity" of the list.

    So instead of being critical of Mark, be critical of the lists. If you didn't know it before, you now know the lists can't be trusted to report anything more than actual sales--regardless of where they come from.


    I agree. People are upset because this shows how BS lists are. They should be upset about the lists, not about Mark.

    I can't agree with any stance that starts from a premise of the lists are fair and pure and it's only Mark who is unfair and impure.

    The lists are unbalanced. He took advantage of an unbalanced rule. That's not sportsmanlike, but it's not cheating either.

    (And Mark only spent about 5k (USD). It's not a small amount of money, but it's not the epic wealth people are suggesting. Even if it was, it came from his author earnings. Mark is upfront about his income and ad spend. Five grand isn't a huge amount for him. And it's not a huge amount in terms of advertising either. Plenty of people spend 5k they don't get back on advertising just to hit lists).

    Offline MMSN

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    Who exactly has Dawson's actions hurt? 

    1. The authors on the top ten list that got there by making legitimate sales who each had their ranks lowered by Mark's buying/pushing his way in.
    2. The author who was #10 on the list who got booted off the list by Mark's buying/pushing his way in.
    3. The owner of the list, who is trying to create/maintain a believable bestseller list so readers will buy his/her media but lost credibility by  Mark's buying/pushing his way in. (File this under "Why we can't have nice things.")
    4. Readers who shelled out their money believing they were getting a top ten bestseller but who were tricked by Mark's buying/pushing his way in.

    Offline CassieL

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    Funny how all these "blame the lists not the tactics used" arguments were never trotted out on behalf of RH's list-aiming shenanigans.

    I personally hate the "everyone cheats so it's okay" line of reasoning because I think it cumulatively leads to worse and worse behavior as people keep moving their ethical lines based on what they assume everyone else does when the percent of those who are actually cheating in most societies is much lower than perceived.

    And in this particular situation I wonder how an acknowledge ad guru was incapable of spending $4,000 on advertising to generate 400 sales of his own books in the relevant market and in one of the largest genres and instead had to resort to buying those books at retail instead.

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    Offline Crystal_

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    Funny how all these "blame the lists not the tactics used" arguments were never trotted out on behalf of RH's list-aiming shenanigans.

    I personally hate the "everyone cheats so it's okay" line of reasoning because I think it cumulatively leads to worse and worse behavior as people keep moving their ethical lines based on what they assume everyone else does when the percent of those who are actually cheating in most societies is much lower than perceived.

    And in this particular situation I wonder how an acknowledge ad guru was incapable of spending $4,000 on advertising to generate 400 sales of his own books in the relevant market and in one of the largest genres and instead had to resort to buying those books at retail instead.

    They were. People debated the merits of lists all the time. I remember many, many arguments about the legitimacy of box sets hitting lists. Including plenty that defended or didn't defend RH. I wouldn't defend her, as she's a bully, but I'd also never rec David G's books, no matter how useful they might be, for the same reason.

    Offline Indy Strange

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    I agree. People are upset because this shows how BS lists are. They should be upset about the lists, not about Mark.

    I can't agree with any stance that starts from a premise of the lists are fair and pure and it's only Mark who is unfair and impure.

    The lists are unbalanced. He took advantage of an unbalanced rule. That's not sportsmanlike, but it's not cheating either.

    (And Mark only spent about 5k (USD). It's not a small amount of money, but it's not the epic wealth people are suggesting. Even if it was, it came from his author earnings. Mark is upfront about his income and ad spend. Five grand isn't a huge amount for him. And it's not a huge amount in terms of advertising either. Plenty of people spend 5k they don't get back on advertising just to hit lists).

    I think most of us know that the lists are kinda bogus, but that's because of people like Mark Dawson. Call me old-fashioned but just because a bunch of people or publishers cheat, it still doesn't make it okay. He has the money to create countless opportunities for himself, so doing things like this that could affect other authors who may not have those same opportunities, is not cool. And if it was so above board, Dawson wouldn't have been hounding people on Twitter for apologies, temporarily/permanently deleting his Twitter account in a huff, or from what I've seen from multiple sources, booting people from Facebook groups who dare to say his actions were unethical. He's acting just like other authors called out for behaving badly because people are letting him get away with it. The fans caping for him aren't doing him any favors either. By excusing his behavior while he's already reached the point of arrogantly announcing he's going to cheat, he has less incentive to make sure he doesn't mess up like this again in the future.
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    Offline Jena H

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    Funny how all these "blame the lists not the tactics used" arguments were never trotted out on behalf of RH's list-aiming shenanigans.

    I personally hate the "everyone cheats so it's okay" line of reasoning because I think it cumulatively leads to worse and worse behavior as people keep moving their ethical lines based on what they assume everyone else does when the percent of those who are actually cheating in most societies is much lower than perceived.

    And in this particular situation I wonder how an acknowledge ad guru was incapable of spending $4,000 on advertising to generate 400 sales of his own books in the relevant market and in one of the largest genres and instead had to resort to buying those books at retail instead.

    Blue highlights:  yes, this does seem to have some odor of double-standard; we've had this conversation before for different authors.  And with considerably less 'benefit of doubt.'

    Red highlights:  good point... would be money better spent to achieve the same result.  (And allow the writer to sleep better, too.)
    Jena

    Offline R.U. Writing

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    Good grief, people. Put the pitchforks away.

    Publishing is not a meritocracy. Nor is life.

    I wish it were. But it's not. People with greater resources have more influence. People with bigger brains, the same. Nothing will change this.

    Just because you believe the opposite, doesn't make it true.

    Thankfully, in an unfair world, some human institutions and some individuals try to make things as fair as possible. This is a good thing.

    However, these lists are not one of them. There are no rules stating that you cannot buy your own books. The lists are simply a list of the bestselling books  in a certain time frame as reported by certain institutions (ignoring others, of course). That's it. Plain and simple.

    The lists are welcome to define themselves in a way that might address the "integrity" that people (namely indies) are desperately craving. They could say "These are the bestselling books as purchased by individual consumers," or whatever.

    But they don't. And they won't. Why? Because that would defeat the purpose of the list in the first place. Which is to give advantage to those who already have the advantage: i.e. the major publishers.

    This is NOT a defense of "everyone cheats so let's just all cheat." Not even close. Dawson didn't break any rules. The only "rule" that was broken is the erroneous one in your head that believes that the lists are pure.

    To even suggest that Dawson is in the same category as RH is utterly absurd--and frankly alarming. If you can't see the difference between the two situations and can't see that life is full of shades of gray, then we can't even begin to have a civil argument.

    RH clearly broke Amazon's TOS and sold a rule-breaking product to authors who didn't know she was breaking the TOS. That is unethical. Full stop.

    Dawson did not break any rules other than the one that you wish was there, but isn't.

    I find it funny (and sad) that the same people who are arguing for ethics are trying to publicly tar and feather a man who objectively didn't do anything wrong.

    Should Dawson have done what he did? Probably not. As I said before, the optics are bad. What he did may feel wrong, but it doesn't make it wrong. Beyond that, leave the poor man alone. This holier-than-thou garbage has to stop.

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