I recently read in the daily online newsletter Publishers Lunch about a carefree cheat that brought British thriller writer Mark Dawson to the market Sunday Times Bestseller list. Not only did the author admit that he bought hundreds of copies of his book to make it on the list, but he also expressed no shame about it.
With just 400 copies of his book, he made his way onto the most important bestseller list in his country. In a Twitter thread he wrote, he cheated just a little, not much: “If I wanted to play the system, I would have bought 10,000 copies, sat on it forever, and was number one. (I wouldn’t have discussed it on a popular podcast, either). “
As a result of its approval, Nielsen Bookscan recalculated the top 10 table to remove Dawson’s book Sunday Times issued a correction. Nielsen reported that they initially believed the purchase would involve a virtual book signing. He’s still promoting his “Top 10” list on Dawson’s Twitter page.
Not a new idea
Best seller lists should reflect the purchases made by readers. When a writer makes a significant purchase of his book to ensure it appears on a list, it skews the ranking of the list. Building the list also leads to more sales of the title. It really does play the system.
It’s not like Dawson, a successful self-published writer, broke new ground. We don’t know how regularly it happens; We only know when an author is found out – and that happens more often than you think.
A few years ago, the pastor of a mega-church proposed to the church that copies of his newly published title be purchased for all parishioners, with the intention of ensuring his appearance on the church New York Times Bestseller list. If the Times discovered the pastor’s interference in the list, his book was removed. He lost his position in the mega-church he founded.
What’s the big deal?
So why all the punishment? Because there really is no such thing as “a little” cheating. You either cheated or you didn’t. In both Dawson and the pastor’s cases, they knowingly did so.
Not every author realizes that buying hundreds of copies of his book from retailers reporting to the bestseller lists is a scam. I remember one of my clients who mentioned to me that they were considering buying copies of their book from retailers so that she could make the list. Author friends of hers had done that.
When I explained to her that this was against the protocols drawn up by those who keep the lists, she immediately withdrew from such a step. The idea that buying these copies was a scam was new to her.
How we all may have cheated a little
- Use photos from a Google search. It’s easy to google the kind of image you want to use on your blog or as the perfect background for a meme. So many images pop up that you can efficiently find exactly what you had in mind. But the photo you choose is copyrighted even if you don’t see an associated copyright symbol. Indeed every photo you have ever taken is automatically covered by Copyright Act as soon as you grab it.
- Borrow a great copy from someone else’s blog post. So much material is available to us and it’s easy to literally copy and paste from your post into yours. Or in your newsletter. Laura Christianson, a website designer and online marketer, wrote an excellent one blog entry on why it’s illegal to copy and paste someone’s blog post into yours – and what to do if someone steals your post or part of it.
- Use more than one line of song and two lines of poem. That is, unless the song or poem is particularly short. If you then use a line or two, it could mean that the offer no longer falls under the fair use clause of copyright. Some poems went into the public domain if they were published before 1923, but bequests can renew copyrights so this is not a hard and fast rule.
Or cheated a lot
- Borrow someone’s great copy from their book and include it in your manuscript without appropriate attribution or permission. And yes, that’s done. Sometimes unintentionally.
I remember a few years ago Doris Kearns GoodwinA presidential historian, best-selling biographer, and political commentator was found to have extracted copious amounts of copies from a source for a manuscript of her. After the discovery of the copy was made public, Ms. Goodwin stated that she was hiring many researchers to do her work, and one of the researchers had committed the plagiarism. Ms. Goodwin said she unwittingly put it in her book.
We will never know if Goodwin knew the content was not original. But she was the one who paid a heavy price for it. She banned news broadcasts on which she appeared regularly as a commentator. And their reputation in the publishing industry was tarnished.
This will prevent you from fleeing with other people’s material
A pretty simple rule is to ask permission when in doubt. Or ask if your behavior is appropriate, e.g. B. Buying copies of your book at full price. Yeah i know this is a pain But given the social censorship and the potential legal action you might face, it’s worth it.
What other actions could writers find who say, “I just cheated a little”? Have you ever found your material being used without your permission?
How Writers Can End Up In Legal Hot Water – And How To Avoid It. Click here to tweet.
When a writer ends up saying “I’ve just cheated a little” and other pitfalls with writers. Click here to tweet.
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