Author loses spot in Top 10 after buying 400 copies of his own book

Mark Dawson’s purchase pushed his thriller The Cleaner up the Sunday Times chart, but the sales monitor Nielsen has now revised its figures

Author Mark Dawson has lost his Top 10 position in the Sunday Times bestseller charts for his thriller The Cleaner after revealing that he bought 400 copies himself to get a higher position.

Book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan began investigating after Dawson revealed on his podcast, The Self Publishing Show, that he had placed an order for 400 hardback copies of The Cleaner with a children’s bookshop in Salisbury, for a cost of £3,600. Dawson said he was motivated to do this after seeing he was in 13th spot on Nielsen’s midweek chart, and that he contacted readers overseas to see if they would purchase the novel from him if he bought the books. The purchase meant the novel, published by independent press Welbeck, moved up to eighth place in the Sunday Times hardback fiction list.

Dawson’s actions were criticised by other authors for gaming the system.

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.

Welbeck said that while it “respect[ed] Nielsen’s decision to issue a correction to the book’s chart placement if this was in any way a violation of its terms”, Dawson’s “actions were purely in response to requests for copies from his fans around the world”.

“The fulfilment of these orders to his fans has been misconstrued and the morality of this action called into question,” said the publisher. “Copies of The Cleaner are now being dispatched by Mark’s team to readers in the US, Australia and throughout Europe.”

On Twitter, Dawson wrote: “If I was intent on ‘gaming the system’ I would have bought 10k copies, sat on them forever and been number one. (I wouldn’t have discussed it on a popular podcast, either.)”


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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