I know everyone is upset that Mark Dawson has publicly admitted to buying his way on to a best-seller list, but I for one was surprised to learn that the bar was so low.
From The Guardian:
Take the case of Mark Dawson, a British writer who just over a week ago hit No 8 on the Sunday Times hardback list with his thriller The Cleaner, released by the independent publisher Welbeck at the end of June. This is a great achievement for any author or small publishing house, but Dawson had done something remarkable: he bought 400 copies of his own book, at a cost of £3,600, to push his sales high enough to make the top 10.
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.
I’m sorry, but I just can’t get past the fact that the book in the #8 spot on the Sunday Times best-seller list sold fewer than 2,000 copies in a week. That is a very low bar for making the list.
If that is really all it takes to make the list then the list is not actually a sign of popularity or quality. The best-seller list doesn’t mean anything, and if the list doesn’t mean anything then buying your way on to it doesn’t mean anything, either.
The reason why this is possible is that The Times’s has several lists, including separate lists for hardback and paperback. As we see in the photo Mark posted, almost the entirety of the paperback list outsold the hardback list:
If you bought a copy of The Cleaner, thank you. Its hardback debut, even after being out for five years, placed it at number eight on the The Sunday Times Bestseller List. More where that came from. pic.twitter.com/PawwvIXuul
— Mark Dawson (@pbackwriter) July 11, 2020
In short, folks, making the top ten on the “Original Fiction” list is about as meaningless as the best-seller lists for the niche categories on Amazon. The books on that list aren’t actually best-sellers.