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‘Handbook for Mortals’ Author Fires Back After Book Removed From Best Sellers List

Did someone buy the YA novel’s way onto the New York Times list?

A new young adult novel, “Handbook for Mortals,” which rose to the top slot on the New York Times Best Sellers List for YA hardcover, has been removed thanks to claims that the book was bought onto the list.

Author Lani Sarem, who is also an occasional actress with uncredited roles in movies like “Jason Bourne” and a former music manager, is firing back at the accusations.

“I’m super frustrated. There has been no official explanation to what happened other than they reported inconsistencies. Nobody talked to us,” Sarem told The Hollywood Reporter.

“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,” she said. “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?”

“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,” a Times spokesperson told TheWrap in a statement Friday. “We’ve issued an updated ‘Young Adult Hardcover’ list for September 3, 2017 which does not include that title.”

Currently, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas is #1 on the list. Literary agent Michael Bourret posted an email he got from the Times about the change.

The story was first reported on by pop culture site Pajiba based on a string of tweets by young adult writer Phil Stamper, who noticed the anomaly. Stamper said he found it “strange” that Geeknation, a site that hosts a number of nerd-friendly webseries and podcasts, decided to jump into publishing and then, seemingly out of nowhere, its first book took the top slot while also being out of stock at most major retailers.

Kayleigh Donaldson at Pajiba continued to follow the story, posting updates after multiple sources — including people who worked at bookstores that NYT takes into account when compiling their bestseller lists, distributors and others with connections to Sarem — seemed to confirm Stamper’s concerns.

Stamper also got some messages from sources who wish to be left anonymous saying that somebody tried to buy “Handbook for Mortals” onto the bestsellers list.

Twitter user Jeremy West also received some confirmations.

According to distributor Itasca Books, roughly 18,000 copies were distributed to bookstores, which Donaldso said was considered outlandish for a book with no pre-sales. Other distributors, such as Ingram, has massive amounts of the book on order but no copies.

Pajiba received more information from sources who said that Sarem admitted in multiple meetings to the plan to buy the book’s way onto the list.

Donaldson also speculated that somebody was hoping to option the book for a proposed film and wanted to buy their way into a “#1 New York Times best-selling novel” label.

A “Handbook for Mortals” movie is in the works. “American Pie” star Thomas Ian Nichols is set to produce and act in it, which he said would come out after the first book in the series was released. Sarem said that Clare Kramer (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and her husband Brian Keathley, who founded GeekNation, are also set to produce. The movie is said to be “in development” on IMDB.

Sarem and Nichols were frustrated how the articles failed to recognize they had been doing press tours and public appearances about the book since earlier this year.

“Everyone that got down today in this witch hunt only said the things that made sense for them,” Sarem said.