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How twitter took down a YA novel that scammed its way onto the NYT Best-seller list

WrenchNinja

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May 29, 2009
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http://ew.com/books/2017/08/24/handbook-for-mortals-pulled-new-york-times-bestseller-list/amp/

On Thursday, Book Twitter — the part of Twitter where publishers, authors, readers, and journalists discuss the industry and its literature — inspired the New York Times to revise its upcoming best-seller list. If you didn’t happen to be following along all day, you were probably confused, especially since each new fact that emerged was more astounding than the last. Here’s what happened.
When the Times released its young-adult best-seller list for the week of Sep. 3, it came with a huge surprise. Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, a story about a young black girl whose friend is killed by the police, had been on the list for 25 weeks — but was knocked out of the top spot by a newcomer: Handbook for Mortals, by Lani Sarem. The problem, as Pajiba first reported, was that no one had ever heard of this book.

YA author Phil Stamper was one of the first to point out on Twitter that the placement would mean a book that’s out of stock on Amazon had somehow sold about 5,000 copies in its first week (authors agree that’s about the number a book needs to sell to crack the list). On top of that, Handbook for Mortals was the debut novel from both its author and its publisher, GeekNation. Originally established as a pop culture website in 2012, GeekNation only launched its book publishing arm in July. Something smelled fishy, and it only got weirder from there.

It didn’t take long before multiple obscure celebrities from the early-2000s were linked to the mystery. Sarem is apparently the cousin of former ’N Sync member J.C. Chasez, who tweeted his encouragement when Handbook was published earlier this month. When another Book Twitter detective uncovered that Sarem was once a music manager who worked with bands like Blues Traveler, the official Blues Traveler account weighed in, tweeting that “yes this is weird but not surprising…We fired her for these kind of stunts. Her sense of denial is staggering!” The tweet has since been deleted.

On top of that, GeekNation was co-founded by Clare Kramer, who portrayed Glory on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Actor Thomas Ian Nicholas (American Pie, Rookie of the Year) was also involved — he’s planning to star in an eventual movie adaptation. This movie seemed to be the ulterior motive behind whatever was happening.

More in the article. Hilarious and fascinating. Mock and lock if old.
 

Vyer

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May 21, 2006
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that placing orders at NYT reporting bookstores thing....I wonder how many times and on what books that's been abused for in the past.
 

Fuchsdh

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Jan 14, 2012
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I'm sure it happens a lot the same away with music, DVDs, and so on.

I'd say it's less likely just because the NYT book list is far more important for helping generate sales than home video lists, as well as (in this case) apparently being used as a nudge to sell movie rights.

I had to laugh about this part, though:

Chibber placed an excerpt from Handbook for Mortals beside a passage from ”My Immortal," and they do share certain similarities — both protagonists obsess about their appearance and have multicolored hair.

You know, I think image-obsessed YA characters with multicolored hair isn't a slam-dunk authorship indicator. Those would be some of the first things I'd throw into my YA satire.
 

Random Human

They were trying to grab your prize. They work for the mercenary. The masked man.
Nov 24, 2016
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that placing orders at NYT reporting bookstores thing....I wonder how many times and on what books that's been abused for in the past.

This is common practice with non-fiction titles.
 

Einchy

semen stains the mountaintops
Jun 21, 2010
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Jesus, what is up with that layout? I thought I was on the mobile version.
 

FlyinJ

Douchebag. Yes, me.
Sep 22, 2005
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that placing orders at NYT reporting bookstores thing....I wonder how many times and on what books that's been abused for in the past.

This is what Milo's benefactor did to get his book to chart on Amazon. They just put an order in for 5,000.

Which is a bit easier than calling up stores to get on the NYT list, but yeah it happens.
 

kris.

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Jun 17, 2013
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That My Immortal except is worse than anything from the cringe yourself to sleep thread, jesus christ.
 

Slayven

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Dec 10, 2004
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I always felt like the NYT best sellers list didn't mean a whole lot especially with some of the titles that would show up there.

Man people will craft dr.doom type plots to get over
 

lightskintwin

Banned
Mar 3, 2016
10,152
1
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I always felt like the NYT best sellers list didn't mean a whole lot especially with some of the titles that would show up there.

Man people will craft dr.doom type plots to get over

It definitely means a lot in the Young Adult section, because it's still trending for movie studios to option their book for movie adaptations, and making the brand more well known and more books will get sold as a result.
 

Slayven

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Dec 10, 2004
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i pretty much assume every book that advertises it's on the NYT list has bought their own copies
Not my book
It definitely means a lot in the Young Adult section, because it's still trending for movie studios to option their book for movie adaptations, and making the brand more well known and more books will get sold as a result.

They still doing that? I thought Divergent killed the YA movie for the moment?
 

Einchy

semen stains the mountaintops
Jun 21, 2010
23,747
2
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I honestly did not expect to see a hodgepodge of "famous in the 90s" people involved, even tangentially, in a New York Times YA Fiction Bestsellers list conspiracy. I was not prepared.

On a related note, apparently YA book twitter is nuts.

But a growing number of critics say the draggings, well-intended though they may be, are evidence of a growing dysfunction in the world of YA publishing. One author and former diversity advocate described why she no longer takes part: “I have never seen social interaction this fucked up,” she wrote in an email. “And I’ve been in prison.”

Goddamn.
 

PhoncipleBone

Banned
Apr 12, 2005
51,229
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that placing orders at NYT reporting bookstores thing....I wonder how many times and on what books that's been abused for in the past.

This is common practice with non-fiction titles.

Yup. It is very, very common. Part of it is that some companies or stores agree to buy X amount of a title and push it before it even releases, so the publisher shows they "sold" so many copies of a book and can claim a bestseller.

Then, you have other instances where some publishers or agents contract with stores or companies to literally buy copies of the book. Part of the marketing budget is to contact several individual stores across the country and pay for X copies of a book to show it is selling across the nation, and look more legitimate.

It is all bullshit in the end.
 

WarLox

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Aug 26, 2005
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Yup. It is very, very common. Part of it is that some companies or stores agree to buy X amount of a title and push it before it even releases, so the publisher shows they "sold" so many copies of a book and can claim a bestseller.

Then, you have other instances where some publishers or agents contract with stores or companies to literally buy copies of the book. Part of the marketing budget is to contact several individual stores across the country and pay for X copies of a book to show it is selling across the nation, and look more legitimate.

It is all bullshit in the end.

but isn't part of the deal is to have book signings at those retailers to make sure the books are sold and drive revenue for the retailer?
 

lightskintwin

Banned
Mar 3, 2016
10,152
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Not my book


They still doing that? I thought Divergent killed the YA movie for the moment?

That book they referred to in the Article that's #1 in the YA list and had been on there for 25 weeks titled "The Hate U Give" which initials is T.H.U.G is currently getting made into a movie directed by George Tillman Jr. with an ensemble cast of black actors that include Issa Rae, Regina Hall, Amandla Stenberg, Common, Lamar Johnson, and Russell Hornsby.

Nothing will top "Save the Pearls", or at least I hope it won't

Is that the one where Blacks are referred to as "coals"? LOL
 

PhoncipleBone

Banned
Apr 12, 2005
51,229
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but isn't part of the deal is to have book signings at those retailers to make sure the books are sold and drive revenue for the retailer?

Not always. Sometimes it is literally calls or emails from agents/PR people in coordination from corporate level to ring up X copies of a book to pad the stats. There is no author event or anything else involved. It is just to make it look like it is selling, and the publisher is literally buying their book back. The stores make their money, the publishers look like they are selling books, and everybody wins. And they win dishonestly.
 

Wulfric

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Nov 17, 2014
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What a strange story. I guess you can't pull one over the all the YA authors who probably all know each other in some capacity.
 

lightskintwin

Banned
Mar 3, 2016
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It killed the YA Dystopia movie. There's still others getting made.

Yeah, I meant to add that. Smaller YA films are getting made like the 10 million production budgeted "Everything, Everything" that came out earlier this year or hell, even the TV series adaptation of "13 Reasons Why".
 

jason10mm

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Didn't the comic "Cowboys and Aliens" pull a similar stunt of "selling" thousands of copies to stores and then just buying them back in order to create the illusion of a widely popular and best selling comic?
 

Sesuadra

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Mar 20, 2014
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On a related note, apparently YA book twitter is nuts.

that's frightening to read.

She also scrapped a work in progress that featured a POC character, citing a sense shared by many publishing insiders that to write outside one's own identity as a white author simply isn't worth the inevitable backlash. ”I was told, do not write that," she said. ”I was told, ‘Spare yourself.'

o_O
 

liquidtmd

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Jun 10, 2012
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he’s planning to star in an eventual movie adaptation. This movie seemed to be the ulterior motive behind whatever was happening.

Hahaha RLM skewered this practice for the Last Vampire of Earth review they did recently

Did anyone have super cancer / super AIDS in the book?
 

Palette Swap

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May 13, 2009
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That place there.
So, it's basically washed out entertainment C-listers looking to make a comeback (or a quick buck) by boosting a new YA property and overvaluing the rights?


I honestly did not expect to see a hodgepodge of "famous in the 90s" people involved, even tangentially, in a New York Times YA Fiction Bestsellers list conspiracy. I was not prepared.

On a related note, apparently YA book twitter is nuts.
Yeah, we had a thread about it. I half expected this story to somehow segue into that one.
 

mclem

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Jan 16, 2007
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Finest tweets:

 

Keasar

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Apr 1, 2010
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On a related note, apparently YA book twitter is nuts.

Holy shit. I am reading Warhammer 40.000 novels about the grim dark future of humanity locked in a state of perpetual war against hell and nightmare combined itself, total biomass eating intergalactic aliens, fungus hellbent on war and destruction and a elven race made of all the darkest and fucked up desires and pleasures incarnated and even that universe isn't this freakin' savage.
 

Dali

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Jan 2, 2007
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I'd say it's less likely just because the NYT book list is far more important for helping generate sales than home video lists, as well as (in this case) apparently being used as a nudge to sell movie rights.

I had to laugh about this part, though:



You know, I think image-obsessed YA characters with multicolored hair isn't a slam-dunk authorship indicator. Those would be some of the first things I'd throw into my YA satire.
That book quote was like a tween writing a dating site profile. "People say I'm like totally pretty and stuff but I think I'm more like just cute. I mean I'm skinny, but not like hot girl skinny..."
 

BreezyLimbo

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Jul 11, 2014
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Holy shit. I am reading Warhammer 40.000 novels about the grim dark future of humanity locked in a state of perpetual war against hell and nightmare combined itself, total biomass eating intergalactic aliens, fungus hellbent on war and destruction and a elven race made of all the darkest and fucked up desires and pleasures incarnated and even that universe isn't this freakin' savage.

That's apt. Yeah. I can agree with that, and I know all about Exterminatus. Atleast Exterminatus would spare you the pain of reading twitter.