So here’s a weird story. The New York Times recently published its best-seller lists for the week of 9/3, and the Young Adult Fiction list had a surprise. In recent weeks, the runaway juggernaut on that list has been Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, a novel about a black girl whose friend is killed by police. But this week, a book that nobody had heard of came out of nowhere and dethroned it. Something weird seemed to be going on, and something weird was going on.
As Entertainment Weekly points out, the book that dethroned The Hate U Give was Handbook For Motals, the debut from one Lani Sarem. That book was out of stock at Amazon and at most major bookstores, so it didn’t seem possible that it could’ve sold enough books to top the chart. The book, the first from the publishing arm of the website GeekNation, turned out to be the beneficiary of a list-scamming operation. According to the young adult writer Phil Stamper, people from bookstores were DM’ing him to report that someone was calling their stores, claiming that Handbook For Mortals was being adapted for a movie, and putting in bulk orders of the book.
Here’s where the music connection comes in: Handbook For Mortals author Sarem has connections within the business. Her cousin is former *NSYNC member JC Chasez, who tweeted his encouragement when the book came out:
— JC Chasez (@JCChasez) August 16, 2017
And Entertainment Weekly also reports that Sarem used to be a music manager, working with bands like Blues Traveler. And in a since-deleted tweet, the ’90s jam-band hitmakers wrote, “yes this is weird but not surprising…We fired her for these kind of stunts. Her sense of denial is staggering!”
There are other strange pop-culture connections, too. Claire Kramer, the actress who played Glory on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, co-founded GeekNation. And Thomas Ian Nicholas, the kid from Rookie Of The Year who also played Kevin in the American Pie movies, was planning to star in the movie adaptation of Handbook For Mortals.
It makes sense that Sarem would come from music. There are all kinds of rumors of this sort of thing going on in the music business over the years. I have heard many unconfirmed stories, for instance, about boxes of CD copies of Jay-Z’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia sitting in warehouses, collecting dust, because Jay wanted to make sure he’d debut at #1 over OutKast’s Stankonia. But in publishing, that kind of thing apparently doesn’t work. After the Twitter fury surrounding Handbook For Mortals, the Times revised its bestseller list, publishing a new version with The Hate U Give back on top and Handbook For Mortals excluded entirely.
You can read the whole fascinating story, including a possible connection to an apparently-notorious piece of Harry Potter fan fiction, here.