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Too bad to be true: How “Handbook for Mortals” fell from the NY Times Bestseller list

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The fiction section of the Mercer Bookstore.

The fiction section of the Mercer Bookstore.

Marianna Bacallao

Marianna Bacallao

The fiction section of the Mercer Bookstore.

Marianna Bacallao, Photo Editor

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“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas had topped the New York Times Young Adult Bestseller list for six consecutive months, until an unknown author’s debut novel bumped Thomas down to number two. The only problem? No one had even heard of “Handbook for Mortals,” a supernatural romance about a Las Vegas magicians love triangle.

“Handbook for Mortals” is a first for both author Lani Sarem and publishing company GeekNation. It currently has a 1.2 out of 5 on Goodreads and 10 percent on approval rate by Google users while “The Hate U Give,” a politically charged novel about a black teen witnessing a police officer murder her friend, has a 4.6 out of 5, a 94 percent approval rate and a movie deal in the works.  

Young Adult writer and freelance editor Phil Stamper first noted the suspicious circumstance around the book’s ascension on the New York Times’ list.

“I find it… strange that a mediocre website can decide it wants to be a publisher, and one month later hit #1 on the NYT Bestsellers list,” said Stamper on Twitter.  

Stamper also went on to say that several bookstore employees had direct messaged him on Twitter, telling him that people had been calling their stores, claiming that it was being adapted into a movie and ordering large quantities of the book—5,000 copies to be exact—the goal that most books on the New York Times’ Bestsellers list hit.

Sarem used to be a music manager for the band Blues Traveler. Once news of Sarem allegedly fabricating sales broke, their official twitter spoke out about it and then deleted the tweet soon after.

“We fired her for these kind of stunts. Her sense of denial is staggering,” said Blue Traveler’s tweet.

The actual book was compared to excerpts of “My Immortal,” a 2008 Harry Potter fan fiction that gained notoriety for its typos, plot holes and all around terrible writing. There was enough speculation that Lani Sarem wrote “My Immortal,” that it forced the actual author out of hiding.

“Because I’ve received several messages asking this, and predict I may receive more, I’ll answer it here. No, I am not Lani Sarem. Really bad fiction simply tends to read the same,” she posted on her old LiveJournal account.

“Handbook for Mortals” has since been retracted from the New York Time’s Bestseller list.

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5 Comments

5 Responses to “Too bad to be true: How “Handbook for Mortals” fell from the NY Times Bestseller list”

  1. John Rap on October 4th, 2017 4:18 pm

    I think it is horrible that Lani’s moment in the sun was spoiled. This other book already had months at the top, why couldn’t Handbook for Mortals have one week? People need to stop being so greedy. If all of us peasants keep knocking each other down it just helps the already rich and powerful to crush all of us. There is some kind of analogy about crabs in a bucket that explains this point better than me. It’s basically, like crabs are idiots, but humans are supposed to be smarter, but we don’t act like it.

    [Reply]

    Really Reply:

    LOL, really John Rap? Have you read Sarem’s “book”? It’s a slapped together self-insert abomination. It would have never made it to the top without the blatant cheating by Sarem and her co-conspirators.

    So “The Hate U Give” being at the top for weeks was the author being greedy? It was Lani Saerm’s turn? Do you extend the same logic to her stealing the cover imagery for Handbook? I mean the original artist already used that art, it’s Lani’s turn!

    All of this is beyond sad. The book is terrible. The movie would be worse. You can’t substitute cheating and shady practices for hard work. Eventually someone is going to see through it.

    [Reply]

    Drea C Reply:

    Are you serious? Are you truly claiming that a bland book by a woman who worked with celebrity bands and movie stars, who had the money to buy her way to the top of the NYT YA list, somehow deserved her ‘moment in the sun’ at the cost of a first-time author who wrote a book that people actually wanted to read?

    Not to mention, all the other books on the list that have been working their way up through promotion and sales. Or other writers who dream of (legitimately) getting on the list.

    I assume you’re a troll, but yuck. Just yuck.

    [Reply]

    JDavid Reply:

    If you look in the five-star reviews of this book, there’s a review by a “John Rap” as well, one of the earliest ones. Forgive me if I’m skeptical, but I’m willing to bet that if this isn’t Lani Sarem herself, this is one of the fake account/bots made by the company they hired to bulk buy her books. Pathetic and ignorant.

    [Reply]

  2. Samantha on October 6th, 2017 11:21 pm

    Lmao looks like Lani is going by John Rap now. She couldn’t have her “moment in the sun” because a) she scammed her way onto the list, unlike The Hate U Give and the other authors on the list, and b) her writing is the most terrible writing to ever exist. It makes Fifty Shades of Grey read like Shakespeare. Get over it.

    [Reply]

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Too bad to be true: How “Handbook for Mortals” fell from the NY Times Bestseller list