A book inspires safety. If we think of books, this evokes the image of an academic and rigorous environment. Only a few are aware of the scandals, scams and editorial intrigues that still occur today.

The scandal analysed in this article concerns with a sensational case that occurred in the United States in 2017.

The book is a young-adult fantasy novel titled “Handbook for Mortals” and written by Lani Sarem.

The novel received numerous negative reviews to the point of being rated as the most hated book of the year. Despite this, it managed to climb the list of the best-selling books of the New York Times Bestseller in a short time (this ranking has the sales records of US bookstores as main sources), surpassing a young-adult phenomenon such as “The hate you give“, which has been ranked for 25 weeks on the day of the release of “Handbook for Mortals“.

How did a book with questionable stylistic features, written by an unknown author and published by an emerging publishing house spring to the headlines?

The book was totally unknown and many wondered how it could achieve such a result. There were many who suspected it was a scam, especially after the novel became unavailable.

Many booksellers said they did not have the book in the catalogue and that they didn’t receive any copies. However, many claimed to have received anonymous phone calls from buyers requesting abnormal quantities of copies of the novel. Since there weren’t any copies and all bookshops had to order it directly from the publishing house, many tried to refuse the requests, explaining that they could not accept empty orders, but customers insisted, saying that they could wait.

The result of the investigation: an unfair marketing move. A member of the book’s team purchased all 18,000 copies available, making sure that the bookstores contacted provided the data to the New York Times, in order to reach the top of the ranking and achieve greater visibility.
Soon after the book disappeared from the chart.

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Maria Francesca Ficarra


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