The YA community is shaking its head after a writer uncovered what appears to be a scam going on within the New York Times’ YA Bestsellers list.
Update (August 25): Lani Sarem has responded to the allegations. She doesn’t necessarily deny that she or her publisher made huge orders to make it jump up the NYT list. Via The Hollywood Reporter:
“I’m super frustrated. There has been no official explanation to what happened other than they reported inconsistencies. Nobody talked to us. Because some people in the YA community weren’t aware of it doesn’t mean that there weren’t plenty of people out there that were excited about it. Its disheartening that someone I don’t know decided to attack me today basically because he had never heard of my book. I’ve never heard of his book either. It’s probably great, but I’ve never heard of it. Does it mean I would question it, if he had some level of success?
Original Story (August 24): Author and publisher Phil Stamper spent Thursday investigating how a book that just premiered at the #1 spot on the NYT’s Young Adult Bestsellers list, titled Handbook for Mortals by Lani Sarem, could get there so quickly with no promotion and very little availability at Amazon and brick and mortar stores like Barnes & Noble.
How, he wondered, could a YA book that no one in the YA community was talking about be at #1?
This is what I'm referencing. A book that's out of stock on Amazon and is not currently in any physical B&N in the tri-state area. pic.twitter.com/HV9l0neRgG
— Phil Stamper (@stampepk) August 24, 2017
Pajiba did a great job following the story as Stamper quickly discovered that the book’s success was a hoax. In a nutshell: Over the past week a mystery person made huge orders for Handbook for Mortals at various NYT-reporting book stores across the country, according to anonymous booksellers who spoke to Stamper. The person who made the orders would only tell the book stores that the huge purchases were for upcoming “events.”
These big orders, made specifically at stores that report their sales to the New York Times, pushed the novel up to the #1 spot. There wasn’t a high hurdle to clear: Nielsen’s Bookscan reports that just over 18,000 copies were “sold.” That may not sound like a lot, but according to Pajiba it takes only about 5,000 sales to crack the NYT’s YA Bestsellers list.
Until Handbook for Mortals took over the #1 spot, the book that was sitting at the top for the past 25 weeks was the legitimately successful novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. But here’s where the happy ending comes in: The New York Times took notice of Stamper’s investigation, and by Thursday evening they announced they were removing Handbook for Mortals due to “inconsistencies in the most recent reporting cycle,” according to Vulture.
That means Hate U Give is back at number one.
Why would Lani Sarem and GeekNation do this? A press release published on The Hollywood Reporter notes that the intention is to turn Handbook For Mortals into a book and film series. In my opinion, they faked this book’s success so it looks like it’s adaptation-worthy.
The YA community’s reaction
Thanks to Hypable’s Ariana Quiñónez for rounding up some of the best reactions from the YA community today:
Now I know what I need to write if I want to hit* the NYT Bestsellers list.
*buy my way to pic.twitter.com/83uGo5ZMdW
— Kosoko Jackson (@KosokoJackson) August 24, 2017
CSI: YA is my new favorite show
— Kay Taylor Rea (@kaytaylorrea) August 24, 2017
Shoutout to the Young Adult #NYT bestsellers who pour blood, sweat, tears, years & soul into their books, ESPECIALLY WOC. You inspire me.
— Sabaa Tahir (@sabaatahir) August 24, 2017
All right, this is full on genius level Slytherin. I'm in awe. https://t.co/8RO9NABEAG
— Justina Ireland (@justinaireland) August 24, 2017
In my head, this entire Handbook scam was cooked up by a some washed up child actors and a few one hit wonders, Ocean's 11 style. pic.twitter.com/4zHE7MhTax
— Justina Ireland (@justinaireland) August 24, 2017
I, too, have many-hued hair & enjoy gazing into mirrors.
However, unlike a certain other book, I have not bought my way onto the NYT list.
— Brooding YA Hero (@broodingYAhero) August 24, 2017
when they think it'll be easier to pull a fast one if it's on stuff for teenagers: pic.twitter.com/O7sy4XsKtY
— emery lord (@emerylord) August 24, 2017
To pull this heist off, we'll need the ultimate crew. Get me JC Chasez's cousin, Glory from Buffy, and the kid from Rookie of the Year.
— Andrew Shvarts (@Shvartacus) August 24, 2017
I need all these YA Twitter people to use their skills and get the truth out about Russia. It'd be all over in a day.
— Elle Keck (@ElleKeck) August 24, 2017
Wait… am I correct in reading that YA Twitter basically ran a crowd-sourced investigation that took down a scam artist in like, 12 hours??
— S. A. Chakraborty (@SChakrabs) August 24, 2017
Lani Sarem, who is evidently the cousin of former NSYNC member JC Chasez, has yet to comment on the ordeal, but we’ll keep you updated.
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