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NYT pulls book from best-seller list over suspicious sales

NEW YORK (AP) — A novel called “Handbook for Mortals” had a very brief reign at the top of a New York Times best-seller list.

The paper confirmed Friday that it had pulled Lani Sarem’s book from its young adult hardcover list for Sept. 3 because of “inconsistencies” in the reporting of sales. The announcement came after online complaints that “Handbook for Mortals” had benefitted from so-called “bulk sales,” when hundreds or thousands of copies are ordered by a single buyer. On Twitter, young adult author Phil Stamper and others had questioned how a book they knew little about could reach No. 1 on the Times list.

“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,” the Times said in a statement issued through communications director Jordan Cohen. “We’ve issued an updated ‘Young Adult Hardcover’ list for September 3, 2017, which does not include that title.”

Published Aug. 15, “Handbook for Mortals” is billed as the first of a fantasy series about a young woman with supernatural powers. It’s also billed as the first release through the publishing arm of a Los Angeles-based web site, geeknation.com, which calls itself “an online entertainment destination serving up a fresh, daily dose of news, opinion, lifestyle and community.” Requests for comment from Sarem and from her publisher were not immediately returned Friday.

Placement on a Times best-seller list is highly valued by authors and publishers, and efforts to manipulate sales through “bulk” purchases have occurred over the years. An “About the Bestsellers” note on the paper’s web site reads that “Institutional, special interest, group or bulk purchases, if and when they are included, are at the discretion of The New York Times Best-Seller List Desk editors.”

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