Every aspiring writer out there hopes to have a bestseller one day, and many established, professional authors are also still aiming for the bestsellers list. We hope that many people will buy our books to ensure we end up in the Literary Charts, but is the accolade quite the same if you bought all the copies yourself?
The pride in having a bestseller is a career high for any other. In the UK this is counted on the Nielsen BookScan, but it’s the Sunday Times bestseller list that has become the gold standard for literature. Surely there is no greater proof of your prowess as an author than a place on one of these lists, but let’s look at author Mark Dawson and a story that just broke in the British media.
Last week, Mark Dawson hit No 8 in the Sunday Times hardback list for his psychological thriller, The Cleaner. The novel is a new release and was released via the independent publisher Welbeck last month. To get to No 8 on the bestsellers list is an amazing achievement for any author but it soon transpired that Mark Dawson had done something quite unheard of, as he’d purchased 400 copies of his own book to push his sales into the top 10.
The author paid £3,600 for the copies, which in itself is ironic when you consider that the median wages for authors in the UK is £10,500, and certainly not something the average struggling talent could afford to do. However, it turns out that what he has done is not illegal, or against any rules, even if it could be considered unethical.
Dawson wasn’t caught out in any way, he openly admitted on the latest episode of his self publishing show podcast that he had done it, and why. When Nielsen released the midweek chart Dawson realised that The Cleaner was sitting at No 13 and had sold around 1,300 copies in the previous half week, just outside the top 10. Then he struck on the idea of purchasing the copies himself and went to a local bookshop in Salisbury to order 400 hardback copies of his own book.
Several other authors and readers alike have been discussing the situation on Twitter and social media with many expressing concern for Dawson’s methods. Thriller writer Clare Mackinstosh stated that it was ‘disingenuous’ that the author was celebrating his top 10 spot on Twitter when he had bought a quarter of the stock himself. In his defence Dawson stated he had asked US customers to buy the book, and therefore was fulfilling orders, but actuallt all he had really had from the US customers was a specification of interest.
It seems like a pretty odd story but it’s not even the first time that an author has been suspected of similar tactics. In 2017 a YA novel was stripped of its No 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list after it was discovered that a series of huge pre-orders for Lani Sarem’s Handbook for Mortals had been placed in specific bookshops that report their sales to the NYT.
In a similar move Donald Trump Jr’s book Triggered made the top spot when the Republican National Committee spent $94,800 on a bulk order a week before release.
What is clear is that the move is not illegal. We’ll let you decide if it’s immoral.