That's how I see it -- larger scale advertising to get people to notice your books. Shonky to me, who couldn't afford this (and it wouldn't work for me, buying from Australia -- we don't count!).We can break this down, if you like. Anything that you can applied the word "cheating" to is some kind of contest. Contests are designed to compare two or more individuals on some scale. For the scale "how good is a writer" we want to measure "how many people would enjoy reading my book(s)?"
As with most scales, the moment you apply points, you start diverging from the pure scale. Money is points. The first thing that disrupts this measurement is advertisement. When you advertise, you multiply the "good writer" scale by "how many people can I get my book in front of". Since that isn't what you are actually trying to measure, advertising is a form of socially acceptable cheating. Even worse, it's a form of cheating that completely overwhelms the original scale in the short term.
Purchasing a few copies of your own book is also cheating, but you could also call it advertising.
This is actually a good case study. He purchased a bunch of copies for a virtual book signing, to be distributed in another country. This was misconstrued by the powers that be to be normal sales until he announced the purchase and book signing on his podcast. It tromps all over the gray line.The biter bit!
Author loses spot in Top 10 after buying 400 copies of his own book
What Mark Dawson has done is to show how easily the sales charts are manipulated. It reminds me of the payola scandals in the music industry in the 1950s. Also, record companies forced their new releases into the charts by getting their couriers to buy multiple copies from different shops while out on deliveries.
Mark Dawson said: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.)”