Welcome back everyone for Part II. I wanted to make a brief announcement! This month’s topic is so damn convoluted that I will have to split it again into a third part. Because of the length of November’s Monthly Tea, I will not be writing a post for December. A new Monthly Tea will drop in January!
Anyway, in the last post, Lani Sarem was a failed actress and screenwriter turned music manager wrote a screenplay that thanks to the encouragement of Author Skye Turner was turned into the book ‘The Handbook for Mortals’. The book was very quickly signed to Geek Nation (a geek entertainment hub) as it flagship for its new publishing branch.
Then to everyone’s surprise, one day ‘The Handbook for Mortal’s’ shoved the then 25-week #1 book ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas off ‘The New York Times Best Seller’s List’. Everyone was immediately suspicious of this very unknown book and author’s sudden success and Phil Stamper Author of ‘The Gravity of Us’ started to do digging and it didn’t take long to find pay dirt.
The Wholesale Fuck Up
At this point, Phil Stamper knew something wasn’t right, and he didn’t mince his words at all about it on Twitter. He suspected that there was bulk book buying going on. For those who don’t know, “bulk buying” is exactly what it sounds like: when an author, corporation, or an organization mass buys a book to inflate an Author’s numbers so they can get on the NYT Best Seller’s list. Nothing makes people want to buy a book more than the little tag line of ‘The New York Times Best-Selling Book’ attached to it.
Recently, Donald Trump Jr. was raked over the coals when it was discovered that his lackluster book ‘Triggered’ was bulk bought by The Republican Party and was given as prizes to people who donated over $50 or more. This practice has been happening since the jump. Usually, when this happens the NYT will simply put a dagger symbol next to it to denote that the book was a bulk buy.
Phil Stamper started to call around from to NYT reporting book stores and started to hear that there was a guy going around ordering 30 or fewer copies of ‘The Handbook for Mortals’. Why stop at 30? Well, Barnes and Nobles report those type of sells as ‘corporate buys’ aka bulk buys if they are more than 30 books sold.
Then people started sliding into Phil Stamper’s DMs and anonymously dropping tips that a guy was bulk buying copies of ‘The Handbook for Mortals’. Phil wasn’t the only one investigating. Jeremy West, Freelance Writer and formerly from Scholastic books got some interesting DMs as well.
However, this tweet exchange between Jeremy and Phil the most interesting because it reveals that the mystery book buyer is buying books because he’s “making a movie”.
And wouldn’t you know the Producer and the person who initially brought ‘The Handbook for Mortals’ to Geek Nation is no other than Thomas Ian Nicholas?
Well, let me clarify this so Mr. Nicholas’s attorneys won’t go after me for libel. I STRONGLY SUSPECT that it was Thomas Ian Nicholas. There is no concrete proof that it was him.
And he would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for these meddling kids!
Then the Librarians got into the ring and let me tell you, folks, Librarians are not to be fucked with! An anonymous Librarian split some illuminating tea: not only didn’t order ‘The Handbook for Mortals’, their preferred book vendor Edelweiss which according to Kayleigh Donaldson, “Is a key source of review copies and promotional material for bloggers and librarians”. Yet the shadiest part of the anonymous Librarian’s information was the numbers that were listed with the self-publishing platform Ingram:
“Our source notes, ‘I did find it available from Ingram and was really surprised by the on-order numbers— they have 19,055 book on-order and no copies on hand. For comparison, the perennially popular James Patterson’s latest novel The Store, which came out 10 days ago, has 5,262 copies on hand.’” — Kayleigh Donaldson (Pajiba)
Phil also kept digging and his source at Barnes and Nobles said that all of those orders at Barnes and Nobles by a mystery buyer were not fulfilled because there is nothing in stock.
And again not unlike Donald Trump Jr, Resultsource which is famous for gaming the system for right-wing religious assholes such as Steven Furtick, Mark Driscooll, and Perry Noble. These fuckers paid top dollar to get on top of the best seller’s list of NYT, Amazon, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.
As the fire of The Book Community was stoked and higher and higher The New York Times finally responded to the outrage and did their own investigation. It took them less than 23 hours to realize that they all have been had and they put ‘The Hate U Give’ back at the top of the list.
The Cover Controversy
Just on the top of Lani’s and Geek Nation’s fuckery. The cover for the book is not only a blatant younger and prettier version of Lani, but it was a complete rip-off of Australian Artist Gill del Mace’s famous painting ‘The Knife Thrower’. According to the book cover artist, Ryan M. Kincaid he was told that the cover was to create an homage to Del Mace’s painting.
Now, I will put my book cover artist hat on. I have been a book cover artist off and on for three years. I mostly do it for a hobby and occasionally as a paid commission. However, I can tell you that it would have been a HUGE red flag for me. I would have backed out immediately the moment that Lani Sarem and Geek Nation came to me with the design specs.
Any artist or creative will tell you straight up that there is a difference between “Inspired by” and “Wholesale Rip Off”. This was obviously a rip off of Del Mace’s “The Knife Thrower.”
Kayleigh Donaldson got in contract with David Sears ‘CEO of Eastbourne Fine Arts and Del Mace’s Agent said this:
Agent for Gill del Mace, the artist whose work Handbook for Mortals' cover rips off, responds. pic.twitter.com/BErUu9Wqrh
— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) August 27, 2017
Now, from my research Gil Del Mace never sued, and although I’m not an attorney, I personally think that Gil De Mace had a damn good case of copyright infringement.
Behind The Music
The thing about this scandal that it didn’t stick to the insular world of the online book community. It actually expanded into mainstream news. However, no one ever suspected that people from her music career would pile on to her. It started with ‘Blues Traveler’ who started to spill tea via a thread on Twitter. Jeremy West once again came with the receipts with screenshots of the tweets that told a whole lot of shade on Lani Sarem and told the world that this was far from her first stunt. Unfortunately, John Popper member of Blues Traveler deleted those tweets, but he later came out in an interview double downing on what they said they regretted deleting those tweets.
“Then I heard about this book and I started to read about it and I was kind of reading along like everybody else, what had happened. I found it fascinating. And I know Lani, so I commented, and then somebody from the project actually called me, and they’re a friend of mine — somebody other than Lani — and they asked me to please, please just [stay] out of it. I decided I would do that, because you know, they said they had some money involved in this and they wanted me to stay out of it. So I withdrew my comments, but I really wished that I could have kept my comments in, because I thought I was being funny.”
Apparently, the band got so sick of her shit that they eventually fired Lani Sarem. Then no one suspected that the final humiliating blow would come from Jackson Rathbone (Twilight).
On Thursday, Blues Traveler posted these since deleted tweets stating that they fired Lani as manager due to "these kinds of stunts." pic.twitter.com/uBKbAbfp17
— Jeremy West (@JeremyWest) August 26, 2017
The 2017 Whine Tour
The one thing I can say about Lani; she didn’t take her being dethroned laying down. Actually, she went to every publication that would take her trifling ass. Starting with Billboard (those music connections came in handy), Rolling Stone, The Huffington Post, Hollywood Reporter, etc.
“She believes The Times caved to social media pressure. “My personal opinion: I’m a first-time author; I did some great numbers,” Sarem says. “They put me on the list. The list is curated. They didn’t have to put me on the list despite how many books I sold. When these people made a big issue, they were like, ‘This is too much effort.’ “—The Hollywood Reporter
Then Lani Sarem tried to act like she was the next E. L. James and just like E. L. James her book ‘The Handbook for Mortals’ was being unfairly maligned because it was breaking the rules of conventional publishing.
“She particularly relates to the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James, who was also side-eyed by literary insiders. “The questions came up at one point with E.L. James’s book. Whether you like it or not, she sold 100 million copies,” she pointed out. “And everyone in the book world was like, ‘Holy crap … we would have never picked up her book. This would have never happened.’ But clearly she had an audience.”
Aww, isn’t that cute? Lani Sarem really thought she was the next E. L. James. I can say many things about E. L. James but she may have ripped off a lot of shit (including her fellow Twilight fanfic writers) but E. L. James did not need to bulk buy her books. Actually, her readers were more than happy to buy her books in droves. No, Lani Sarem thought she could run roughshod over the YA book community like many a fool before her and realized to her horror that she underestimated how fucking intelligent and petty the book community can be when crossed.
I know this is a tangent, but I have to say something. People think the trope of the meek bookish people is a real thing and don’t seem to realize that bookish people (ESPECIALLY the YA and Romance genre communities) do not fucking play! The book community are mostly filled with intelligent, accomplished folks who will swarm on you like a swarm of pissed off hornets. Yet, it amazes me that fools like this still try it.
Back to the story! Journalists asked her if this wasn’t her plan to game the system from the get-go? Lani Sarem lied out of her ass that she was promoting the books on the comic convention circuit and most recently at Wizard World events.
From interview to interview, Lani Sarem’s story changes and she started letting shit drop. Lani eventually admits that she was bulk buying, but according to her, it was only to sell at Wizard World events.
“Sarem says quantities of the book were simply purchased from stores for sales at Wizard World events, not an unusual practice for an author. But reports from booksellers painted a more calculated picture. Anonymous booksellers tipped off Stamper and Donaldson that they’d received large orders ― some for just one book under the official number that would trigger a bulk-buy designation ― from a phone buyer who asked if they were Times-reporting stores, and who wanted to complete the order even if the book wasn’t in stock and the delivery date was uncertain.”
Then Lani Sarem starts to publically admit that both she and Geek Nation would indeed start production on a movie and that was the whole point of the writing the book in the book in the first place. But Lani was adamant the scam wasn’t sure about getting enough financial backing for the upcoming movie production.
“What’s funny is people keep saying ‘Oh, they’re trying to get a film deal,’” she told HuffPost. “We have the film financed.”— The Huffington Post
A movie by the way, that had listed Lani Sarem as playing the lead character on ‘The Handbook for Mortals’ IMDB page
This makes me laugh, because it was obvious from both the book cover and the way she described her main character “Zade Holder” that Zade is the author’s self-insert. Another YA trend we all can collectively thank ‘Twilight’ for.
“It also spun about the chunky pieces on the lower half of my long hair, which I had dyed to be a multitude of fun colors. Today they were pink, purple, blue, and turquoise green, but I have a habit of changing colors frequently.”
Not only that, Lani Sarem said that the publishing industry needs to take a note from the music industry about ranking new releases. Because the music industry is not notorious for doing insidious things to cheat their way to the top of bestseller’s lists. Lani was vehement that they should count those books she sold at those cons but Lani has yet to show individual receipts for those books at all.
Unfortunately, Lani Sarem was very clear that she would not take the NYT decision laying down, and she didn’t. Lani fought tooth and nail but all of her efforts seemed to go nowhere. People thought, that Lani would fade into obscurity now that she had yet another failure to add her long list of bad life decisions.
When in reality, it was then that Lani decided that she was done with playing nice and things really started to get ugly!
To Be Continued In Part 3