Author Topic: The danger of buying your own books/Mark Dawson buys 400 copies of his own book  (Read 14788 times)  

Offline Rachel Anne

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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.

Just to state (and I don't know if this was also directed at my comment) but I in no way condone what he did nor feel it was appropriate. I've never agreed with the 'everyone cheats so it's okay' reasoning. It's not okay.

I just don't think the situation needs to be exaggerated by bemoaning that all of us have been ruined because of this.

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    Offline nail file

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    Yeah, I'm not on the whole vilifying MD issue. So he did something shady. It happens. His reasoning was weak and his hand was smacked. He took a chance and it didn't play out like he had hoped.

    I'm still surprised that anyone would defend him considering he was supposed to be this marketing/ad genius and created this gold standard course. So can we expect another module out now under that brand on how to buy our way onto curated lists?

    His reasoning and excuses aren't holding water. If he wanted that many books to sell to readers for reasons, then why not buy them at cost (as he was supposedly able to do) and make a profit on that end? Oh, because it wasn't about the money and about getting a bump onto the list? Okay, then. Shady but whatever.

    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.

    Exactly.

    To many minds it casts a shadow on his courses efficiency if he can't trust his own advice that he's been making money on for years.

    "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

    Offline Indy Strange

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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.

    Why do you keep being dramatic about pitchforks and saying we're trying to tar and feather him? He may be the sun and moon to you, but it's perfectly okay to say that what he did was wrong. That's what's annoying me the most about this. If it was anyone else, some of y'all wouldn't be making so many excuses for him.
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    Offline R.U. Writing

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    Why do you keep being dramatic about pitchforks and saying we're trying to tar and feather him? He may be the sun and moon to you, but it's perfectly okay to say that what he did was wrong. That's what's annoying me the most about this. If it was anyone else, some of y'all wouldn't be making so many excuses for him.

    He's not the sun and moon to me. I don't know the man at all. I'm simply someone who is aware of the situation and I don't like seeing a mob overreact. (And when I say "mob" and "pitchforks" I don't just mean here on Kboards--I mean the whole reaction to the situation since this is a public forum). Thanks to social media, this kind of mentality and attack happens WAY too often in our culture and I've decided to say something about it.

    Offline Jena H

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    He's not the sun and moon to me. I don't know the man at all. I'm simply someone who is aware of the situation and I don't like seeing a mob overreact. (And when I say "mob" and "pitchforks" I don't just mean here on Kboards--I mean the whole reaction to the situation since this is a public forum). Thanks to social media, this kind of mentality and attack happens WAY too often in our culture and I've decided to say something about it.

    What many people here are saying is that MD shouldn't get a pass on this simply because he's a successful, well-known author.  As has been mentioned, other instances of "buying into the list" have created a storm of criticism for those involved... and rightly so, since the deliberate, purposeful act of "gaming the system" is something we should all discourage.  So there should be no double standard, and MD's action should be criticized and disavowed the same way it is for others.  Again, rightly so in those cases as well.

    I don't know what's happening about this in social media.  I only know the conversation here on KBoards.  I don't think reaction that is being expressed elsewhere is relevant to the comments expressed here.
    Jena

    Offline R.U. Writing

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    Just to be clear, I'm not giving him a pass. I'm not saying that what he did is right. I'm simply saying it isn't wrong. A poor choice, sure, but not wrong, and I don't want to see someone's reputation and career ruined due to an overreaction.

    Offline Eskimo

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    Got an email from MD today, and as hard as it is to believe, he is now making matters worse. He is informing his fan base as to what happened, and putting his own spin on things, not bothering to mention he admitted to jonesing sales to push himself higher on the bestseller list.

    As they say, it's often the coverup, not the actual crime, that does the most damage. Strange....



    Edited to remove quote, pending verification that it came from a public site. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
    « Last Edit: July 25, 2020, 08:43:57 am by Becca Mills »

    Offline mike h

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    mechanics of the game
    « Reply #82 on: July 25, 2020, 08:56:55 am »
    After reading the back and forth of the Mark Dawson controversy, what surprised me was the lack of interest in the mechanics of how one actually achieves gaming the system like he did. Did he buy hardbacks? Softback? E-books? (400 e-books would be an interesting accomplishment). Where did he advertise the books for sale? How did he advertise them for sale? Who were the people who bought them? How much was actually at risk from a monetary stand point if he couldn't dump the books?
    Or....Is he like AG Riddle who has pallet loads of books he ships off to Amazon to sell for him... or are all his paper books POD? If he takes the AG Riddle approach, does he log in the books as sold, pay royalties to whatever distributor he uses (without actually shipping the books) and then ultimately sell the books through that distributor or other distributors?
    Just curious about these types of things.

    Offline Kathy Dee

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    Re: mechanics of the game
    « Reply #83 on: July 25, 2020, 09:05:22 am »
    I seem to remember reading that he ordered and bought them from a physical store, so it's likely they were paperbacks.

    Offline Triceratops

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    From Mark Dawson's newsletter, emailed July 25:

    Edited to remove quote. In general, material that is not, or was not at one time, publicly available cannot be quoted here. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

    Then it goes on to the regular newsletter stuff.

    Does anyone have the full transcript of what Dawson originally said on his podcast? The Guardian says

    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.'"

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

    Which doesn't really seem to jibe with what Mark is saying in his newsletter today.

    Nielsen runs the chart that appears in the Sunday Times. The statement from Nielsen was

    Nielsen told the Bookseller that after initially believing that the sales had been part of a virtual book signing, it had concluded that they "did not meet its criteria". It will now recalculate the charts for the week ending 4 July, and the Sunday Times will also issue a correction.

    "With current circumstances calling for alternative ways to achieve sales we are having to monitor and judge many cases on an individual basis and we apologise that on this occasion we misunderstood the intentions of this sales transaction," Nielsen said.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jul/22/author-loses-spot-in-top-10-bought-400-copies-of-his-own-book-mark-dawson-the-cleaner

    It sounds from that like Nielsen is apologizing to the public for Nielsen's not having corrected the list sooner? Nielsen first thought the copies were for a digital book signing, whatever that is; but then they changed their minds and issued the list correction. Right?

    Mark on his Twitter a couple days ago had been claiming that Nielsen apologized to him, not to the public. But, Mark's now deactivated his Twitter.

    So, it doesn't sound like Nielsen at all apologized to Mark Dawson. And it doesn't sound, according to Mark himself on his podcast, like he originally had simply wanted to buy a few copies to sign and sell to overseas readers. He wanted all along to bump the book up in the list. That's why he bought the copies.

    Nothing's lining up.

    edit: formatting.
    « Last Edit: July 25, 2020, 10:54:06 am by Triceratops »

    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Ego makes us do crazy things like selling our soul to be on a historically presitigious list.

    Why not just come out and say "All my life I wanted to be a top ten author and I lost my head." or something similar.

    If he really wanted the books for overseas readers...why the rush to buy on a certain date WHEN coincidentally it would affect the rankings. So his story crumbles and the more he  and his "allies" argue that it was okay...or whatever...the more they make it worse...

    Mark

    Offline unkownwriter

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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.

    After you've been around for a while, you won't be surprised. The usual folks come along and chide us for saying anything bad about people like Dawson, who are looked up to and respected. And other people do bad things too (it was a common excuse for padding books, as to compete it simply had to be done), and it was a mistake, and it didn't hurt anybody (ask that person who theoretically should have been #10 how they feel about it). and it won't make the rest of us look bad (keep an eye on what readers start saying once they get wind of it).

    The thing is, it wasn't a mistake. It was deliberate and calculated to manipulate ranking. Sure, he asked about people buying the book from him, but he bought the books to move up in rank. He went to a store and bought retail, because it's not just the amount of books, but the speed at which they sell. Another author might have sold 400 copies in a week, he did it in one day. We know this is how it works after watching certain people making/encouraging massive buys in a short period to hit a list.

    Offline alawston

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    I seem to remember reading that he ordered and bought them from a physical store, so it's likely they were paperbacks.

    They were hardbacks.

    This isn't a particularly important point in the grand scheme of things, but it's a certain fact, so let's cling on to it.


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    Offline Triceratops

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    Maybe the reason why Mark disclosed his bulk purchase of his own book was because: Nielsen was already on to him?

    Nielsen, the ones who curate the Sunday Times list, must have data that indicates book sales at particular venues. If they saw Dawson's book jump from #13 to #8, and then they saw that that had been the result of 400 copies being purchased at one single bookseller--a children's book shop no less--Nielsen would certainly have said, "Hang on."

    Nielsen calls the children's book shop in Salisbury, book shop says "Oh yes, our own local Mark Dawson himself bought those!", then Nielsen calls Mark.

    After the phone call Mark thinks, "Right, I'd better get out in front of this. I'd better control the messaging." So, he casually (he believes) lets drop in his next podcast that he purchased 400 hardbacks of his own book. Except he also admits the truth, that he had wanted to bump the book to the top 10.

    And then things go off the rails.

    Offline MMSN

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    They were hardbacks.

    This isn't a particularly important point in the grand scheme of things, but it's a certain fact, so let's cling on to it.

    And he was resurrecting a book that was seven years old (published in 2013).

    Offline alawston

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    Maybe the reason why Mark disclosed his bulk purchase of his own book was because: Nielsen was already on to him?

    Nielsen, the ones who curate the Sunday Times list, must have data that indicates book sales at particular venues. If they saw Dawson's book jump from #13 to #8, and then they saw that that had been the result of 400 copies being purchased at one single bookseller--a children's book shop no less--Nielsen would certainly have said, "Hang on."

    Nielsen calls the children's book shop in Salisbury, book shop says "Oh yes, our own local Mark Dawson himself bought those!", then Nielsen calls Mark.

    After the phone call Mark thinks, "Right, I'd better get out in front of this. I'd better control the messaging." So, he casually (he believes) lets drop in his next podcast that he purchased 400 hardbacks of his own book. Except he also admits the truth, that he had wanted to bump the book to the top 10.

    And then things go off the rails.

    "Truly, yours is a dizzying intellect." Sorry to drop a Princess Bride quote on you, as I genuinely like the way you're thinking, but this requires Monsieur Dawson to be both a Machiavellian genius obsessed with controlling his messaging... and also an absolute clown shoe when it comes to delivering a podcast over which, let's be clear, he has absolute editorial control. Reading the original Guardian piece, it seems as though the journalist was tipped off by the podcast, and that Nielsen scrutinised their data in response to the growing furore. If MD hadn't bragged about it all in the podcast, it's very unlikely this story would ever have broken. That's why the Schadenfreude is so strong for me.


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    Offline Eskimo

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    After you've been around for a while, you won't be surprised. The usual folks come along and chide us for saying anything bad about people like Dawson, who are looked up to and respected. And other people do bad things too (it was a common excuse for padding books, as to compete it simply had to be done), and it was a mistake, and it didn't hurt anybody (ask that person who theoretically should have been #10 how they feel about it). and it won't make the rest of us look bad (keep an eye on what readers start saying once they get wind of it).

    The thing is, it wasn't a mistake. It was deliberate and calculated to manipulate ranking. Sure, he asked about people buying the book from him, but he bought the books to move up in rank. He went to a store and bought retail, because it's not just the amount of books, but the speed at which they sell. Another author might have sold 400 copies in a week, he did it in one day. We know this is how it works after watching certain people making/encouraging massive buys in a short period to hit a list.

    I agree. And I've seen a number of authors do some marginal things. I recall a few years ago when an author got a few bad initial reviews when their latest book was released, and they sent around an email to their readers, pleading with them to go and write some good reviews to offset the bad ones. Not exactly a big crime, but hardly ethical. We can debate forever just how large or small MD's transgression was, it certainly doesn't come close to the stuff RH pulled, but it's not nothing either.

    Offline Triceratops

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    "Truly, yours is a dizzying intellect." Sorry to drop a Princess Bride quote on you, as I genuinely like the way you're thinking, but this requires Monsieur Dawson to be both a Machiavellian genius obsessed with controlling his messaging... and also an absolute clown shoe when it comes to delivering a podcast over which, let's be clear, he has absolute editorial control. Reading the original Guardian piece, it seems as though the journalist was tipped off by the podcast, and that Nielsen scrutinised their data in response to the growing furore. If MD hadn't bragged about it all in the podcast, it's very unlikely this story would ever have broken. That's why the Schadenfreude is so strong for me.

    Merci, monsieur! I'm not saying it did happen that way, only that it might have. True, Dawson would have been monumentally club-footed if he goofed up as much to confess his true motives when trying to paper things over. But, just maybe he was rattled/tired/nervous, and didn't really think his story through before he started talking. At any rate the Nielsen-was-on-to-him hypothesis is the only rational explanation why Dawson in the first place would have blabbed about buying 400 of his own hardcovers. If that's not true and he really did just feel like volunteer-bragging on the fly during his podcast, that makes him even dumber, and to date Dawson has been anything but dumb. It's possible also that Nielsen both got wise to him with their own data, and then after Mark's podcast, got a lot of calls/emails about the matter too. At any rate if I'm Hercule Poirot, I'd like a first-class sleeper on the Orient Express!

    Offline Crystal_

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    Asking readers for reviews is unethical now? Really?

    People are defending Mark because he's built goodwill over the years. Other people, myself included, are explaining that he did not cheat.

    This is a game thing. The game had rules. He technically followed those rules. The rules are not fair or good but they are the rules. He was unsportsmanlike, but he did not cheat.

    As a person who plays games, I will not stand by while people misuse these terms.

    You can dislike the rules--I do--but that doesn't change them.

    This is an argument people have had again and again, usually with the same people on the side of clarity and the same people on the side of I don't like it so it's cheating. (Remember bonus books?)

    Offline Indy Strange

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    Being a gamer doesn't give you ownership over a word. The dude manipulated 'the Game' to get a higher ranking, and once he announced what he did, that ranking was taken away. This is why I don't get into the whole author worship thing. Folks are trying to change the definition of words in order to defend him. I get it, he's some of y'all's hero, but like I said, y'all aren't doing him any favors by feeding his ego and encouraging him not to ever admit when he's done something wrong.
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    Offline MMSN

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    Neilsen stripping Dawson of his rank is quite a clear declaration that it IS cheating --seeing as how it's THEIR game and THEY make its rules, not anybody else.

    Offline LostWriter

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    There's no way to get to the top of this game without doing something shady. Just ask Alexa Riley.

    Offline ........

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    The throbbing infected toenail question at the heart of it that Mark Dawson refuses to answer despite being asked, that the Guardian article authors didn't ask is this: Did he have the option to buy wholesale copies direct from his publisher?

    The answer to that question is almost certainly yes. Almost all traditional publishing contracts have options for authors to directly buy copies at wholesale prices. His publisher hasn't answered the question either.

    To say he didn't have the option to buy direct is almost impossible to believe. When authors go on book signing tours this is how it's done.

    For him to admit he did have the option destroys the entire extremely shaky narrative we're being fed, like we're fools.

    Mark Dawson openly admits he was looking for ways to push himself to the top ten of the hardback bestseller list.

    He claims he had the idea to ask people overseas if they wanted copies (so at this point he is fully admitting he knew that a bulk buy order would manipulate the list. He's not innocently doing anything here).

    He claims he spoke with his publisher and they said him going to buy it at FULL RETAIL at a bookshop would be the best course (hmm... really? They, a large publisher, didn't have any contract clause allowing him to buy wholesale copies from them? Hard to believe).

    Then, with full knowledge that bulk buying is the way authors have manipulated bestseller lists in the past, he goes to that bookshop and buys 400 copies of his book.

    This bulk-buy slips by Nielson who now have egg on their face because it shows how easily their list is manipulated.

    This bulk-buy forces the author at #10 off the list, harming that author and taking away their genuine list position they worked hard for.

    Mark Dawson then publicly self-congratulates himself and brags about his position on the chart. He knows DIRECTLY at this point that he only got there due to his own bulk-order.

    To believe that he did this innocently is impossible. He openly admits he was looking for a way to get more copies sold. He's the one who went to that bookshop.

    The story has giant gaping holes in it. I hope that every time Mark Dawson shows up in a forum, in a facebook group, on a podcast, or in person, he is directly asked: did you have the option to buy wholesale copies?

    I think he won't admit the truth: he did have that option. His publisher would have happily sold him 400 copies at wholesale price to ship to his overseas fans.

    But those copies wouldn't have manipulated the list and so he chose to buy the 400 copies at full retail price, knowing exactly what it would do.

    It's list manipulation pure and simple. To pretend that Mark Dawson, a former lawyer, and someone who has been deeply involved in publishing for many years had NO IDEA that bulk-buying copies was wrong, is not credible on any level.

    I got his newsletter too and I agree - he's trying to hedge around it, pretending the Guardian has whipped up a storm in a teacup. He has directly claimed that he'd arranged copies for overseas readers who wouldn't have been able to get one. He even says that some see a bombastic headline and draw a negative conclusion on that alone. What he doesn't say at all is that he openly discussed how to manipulate the list and then walked to that shop to plunk down his money and bulk-buy 400 copies. He's hoping that his readers will just say "newspapers, always whipping up lies over nothing!" and continue to support him.

    I don't support him. He has thrown authors out of the private facebook groups they paid to be in because they have called him on his deeply unethical behavior.

    I'd put money on it that he had the right to buy wholesale copies and his publisher won't talk about it, the Guardian article authors didn't think to ask and Mark Dawson won't answer when asked directly by anyone now. He's hoping no one will focus on that giant gaping hole in the story. He won't even come out and say he didn't have the right to buy wholesale copies.

    It's just untruth compounding on untruth. I wish I'd never given him a cent and if I could get all my money back I would.

    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    Just to be clear, I'm not giving him a pass. I'm not saying that what he did is right. I'm simply saying it isn't wrong. A poor choice, sure, but not wrong, and I don't want to see someone's reputation and career ruined due to an overreaction.
    If his career or reputation are ruined, it will be because he tried to do something underhanded and was stupid enough to admit it, not because people overreacted.
             

    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    People are defending Mark because he's built goodwill over the years. Other people, myself included, are explaining that he did not cheat.

    This is a game thing. The game had rules. He technically followed those rules. The rules are not fair or good but they are the rules. He was unsportsmanlike, but he did not cheat.

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

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