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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead of obsessing with street team gangs and their practices, I think we need to ponder upon how an algorithm needs to be designed so that it takes care of bulk purchases that has resulted due to different street team members buying from different shops or from the same shop. Nielsen and others need more robust signalling algorithms.
Heh, no indeed, authors - let alone indie authors - aren't comparable to K-pop stars. But K-pop sales numbers are also on another level compared with the numbers required for bestselling book charts. I'm sure there are authors out there who have 400 or 1000 rabid fans who might organise something like this. I just wonder whether the author's ranking would be disqualified if the author himself isn't the one doing the bulk-buying.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bestseller List Controversy: "The Cleaner"

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


Now it reads like this:

Sales figures for "The Cleaner"

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


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

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

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

Bestseller List Controversy: "The Cleaner"

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


Now it reads like this:

Sales figures for "The Cleaner"

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


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

Replaced with

"Dawson mentioned placing the order on his podcast."

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

Also, name of podcast is mentioned for added credibility.
 

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MMSN said:
I think the important change was 'fulfill overseas orders' to 'find overseas readers'.
Yes, this is important, which is odd. The revision up to this point looks like someone is trying to run cover for Mark, but this last sentence is much more honest and damning because it implies clearly he bought them without having any buyers.
 

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Redgum said:
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.
 

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Discussion Starter #171
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
 

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VisitasKeat said:
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.
 

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CassieL said:
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.
 

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CassieL said:
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.
 

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markpauloleksiw said:
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?
 

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VisitasKeat said:
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.
 

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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 book’s 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 didn’t 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).
 

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Blocked Writer said:
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 book's 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 didn't 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.
 

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CassieL said:
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?
 

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Doglover said:
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).
 
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