Self-publishing star Mark Dawson ousted from Sunday Times bestsellers Top 10 after print book bulk buy

Thriller author Mark Dawson bought 400 copies of his own print book to boost the title into the Sunday Times bestsellers Top 10 in the UK but Nielsen BookScan, which supplies the figures for the list, has now rejected the bulk buy and is recalculating the list.

Last week, Dawson’s hardback edition of The Cleaner hit No 8 on the ST bestsellers after the bulk purchase lifted it from 13th place in the previous week.

Dawson revealed his strategy on his popular podcast, The Self Publishing Show, saying he had sent an email to subscribers and around 400 people in the US said they would buy the book if he bought the copies himself first.

He bought the 400 hardbacks from a local bookshop in Salisbury at a cost of £3,600 and said, ‘I loaded the car up with about 35 boxes of books and very carefully drove the car home again. They are all in the galleries now waiting to be sent out.’

The book is not available as a hardback in the US, so would have to be bought and shipped from the UK.

The sales shown on the bestseller list with The Cleaner at No 8 were 1,760, so presumably Nielsen will be stripping out 400 copies to take it down to 1,360 which would put the book in 14th place (it actually ended up at 15th).

Dawson has had great success with self-publishing his series of ebook thrillers featuring John Milton and signed up last autumn with new publishing company Welbeck Publishing in a print-only deal for his titles.

The Cleaner is the first book in the Milton series and is scheduled to be followed by around four print books a year. At present, The Cleaner is at a bargain price of £5 on, down from the recommended retail price of £12.99. Nielsen BookScan does include Amazon print book sales in its bestseller calculations.

The Guardian reported that other authors have expressed concerns over the bulk-buy tactics while Dawson points out that he was just fulfilling orders for the book and if he had been trying to ‘game the system’ he wouldn’t have revealed the buy on his podcast.

The newspaper also reported that Nielsen BookScan had initially thought the sales had been part of a virtual book signing, but had since concluded they ‘did not meet its criteria’.

Dawson’s publisher Welbeck Publishing has backed the author and says on Dawson’s Facebook page, ‘After announcing the book, Mark was inundated with queries from fans around the world asking how they could get copies. Welbeck discussed options with Mark and one of the options was to try ordering copies from his local bookshop, which he did. Copies of The Cleaner are now being dispatched by Mark’s team to readers in the US, Australia and throughout Europe.

‘Mark discussed this on his podcast and, subsequently, the fulfilment of these orders to his fans has been misconstrued and the morality of this action called into question, as has the veracity of the UK Book Chart. These actions were purely in response to requests for copies from his fans around the world, but we respect Nielsen’s decision to issue a correction to the book’s chart placement if this was in any way a violation of its terms.’

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