The young-adult novel Handbook for Mortals by Lani Sarem has been pulled from New York Times best-seller list after a brief stay at the top. The novel’s removal from the Times’ young adult hardcover list for Sept. 3 came after some investigative work from Book Twitter, the part of Twitter where publishers, authors, readers and journalists discuss the industry and its literature.

YA author Phil Stamper was one of the first to notice that the newcomer to the best-seller list, Handbook for Mortals, knocked out Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give. Thomas’ novel, about a young black girl whose friend is killed by the police, has occupied a spot on the list for 25 weeks. When the top spot was snatched away by a relatively unknown novel, suspicions were sparked throughout Book Twitter.

Stamper pointed out 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 (the number of copies, agreed by authors, a book needs to sell to crack the list). On top of that unlikely statistic, Handbook for Mortals was the debut novel from both its author and its publisher, GeekNation.

After some investigating, it became apparent that Sarem’s novel benefited from “bulk sales,” where hundreds or thousands of copies are ordered by a single buyer.

Communications Director for the Times, Jordan Cohen, issued a statement on the topic. “After investigating the inconsistencies in the most recent reporting cycle, we decided that the sales for Handbook for Mortals did not meet our criteria for inclusion,” Cohen said. “We’ve issued an updated ‘Young Adult Hardcover’ list for September 3, 2017, which does not include that title”.

The novel’s sudden and explosive popularity seems highly suspect. As of Friday afternoon, Handbook for Mortals ranked No. 34,765 on Amazon, but recorded enough sales at independent stores to reach No. 2 on the American Booksellers Association’s young adult list. Dan Cullen, spokesman of the ABA, said that the association was reviewing the book’s rankings.

With the help of Book Twitter’s sleuthing, the New York Times has released a revised list that excluded Handbook for Mortals and brought The Hate U Give back to its rightful place at the top.


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