Can authors and publishers fake how popular a book is?

Short answer: Yes. Yes they can. And they do, quite frequently.

I’m writing this post in the fall out of the Handbook for Mortals scandal that had rocked YA twitter and bookstagram in the last couple of weeks. I’ve actually been taking a bit of a break, but you can imagine my surprise today when I logged back on and saw a tidal wave of tweets about this one book.

To simplify matters- Handbook for Mortals by Lani Salem is a book no one had ever heard of, from a publisher no one had ever heard of that jumped to the top of the NY times YA bestseller’s list last month. And I mean JUMPED, it came in a massive 12,000 sales over the second best seller at 18,000 copies sold.

But unfortunately for Lani the sales seem to have been faked, or at least manipulated*. The way the NYT Bestsellers List (the most respected published list of popular books) works is by complying a list from certain bookshops which report to the NYT how many copies they’ve sold that week of new books (backlist books don’t count, or else Potter would always come on top).

People have speculated that Lani and her publisher, GeekNation (which had never before published a book before), had found out the bookshops that do report and bulk brought copies from them. Other people have even said the numbers are fakes entirely as only 3,000 copies were ever printed (pure speculation, but seeing as hardly anyone has seen one of these books in person, it’s not impossible to believe).

Either way, the NYT has retracted Lani’s position on the list, confirming that some kind of foul play was at fault here, though Lani still denies any wrong doing and blames YA twitter and bloggers for the retraction.

It seems unlikely that something on this scale has ever been done before- after all you’d need a LOT of money lying around to decide to buy up 18,000 copies of your own book (which rumor has it Lani is now reselling, at a mark up. Hope that works out for her, otherwise it was a pretty stupid investment (obviously this is still speculation)). But lying about how popular your book is is a pretty common occurrence.

I’ve been blogging about YA books, on numerous blogs now, for 5 years and believe me, I know about a lot of books. I’m not saying I know ALL books, but I keep a strong eye on all upcoming releases from publishers and gossip from fellow bloggers and bookstagrammers so I always have an idea whats going on- but sometimes things seem to slip through the cracks.

Have you ever seen a Facebook advert for a book series, advertised to you because you’ve liked Harry Potter, the Hunger games or Twilight which boldly declares it has more then 5,000 five star reviews? I’ve been seeing these adverts more and more, and for more and more cheaply written, badly edited trash (sorry, not sorry) with the worst plots I’ve ever read.

All of these books are books I’ve never heard of. The majority of them (and I’m not saying this to blast self published books or authors, because you guys are amazing and there are so many books I love which are self published) are only available as an ebook, and yet they have a ridiculous amount of reviews.

I definitely believe the majority of these reviews have been paid for.

When you are looking for your next book, take a look at the NYT list (which is normally reliable) and at the people who are leaving reviews on amazon and on twitter. Look for book reviewers, the majority of good books will have reviews from people with blog titles in their names, and if things don’t add up with anything- be careful, it could be fake.

Also a reminder that you can return an ebook within three days on amazon if you realise it’s actually just 75 pages of hogswash. You’re welcome.


*speculation.

I am not being sued today, no sirree.

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The Bookstagram/Blogger Bible- Advice posts to help you start up and thrive!

I’m writing a series of posts about starting bookstagramming/book blogging and how to make the most of the experience!

I will be updating links as posts are uploaded, so you can check back for more (or follow me to see them when I post!)

Bookstagram

Blogging

  • How to start a book blog! (coming soon!)

General

My 2017 Most Anticipated Read (and book buying ban).

Foreword: This blog post was written almost entirely in January, ten days into January to be precise. Like most things I left it in my drafts, and now I’ve come along and finally finished it. Yay! I don’t see much point in rearranging my original text to make it seem like I wrote all this in March (when this was so obviously supposed to be a start of year post) so expect some differences on time zones throughout. Enjoy!

I start this year with 35 books sitting on my shelves yet to read- and I am excited about all of them. Because of this, and believe me I wish I didn’t have to do this, I am going on a book buying ban. For a year. Starting now.

Actually, we are now 10 days into this ban, and I can confirm I have not *technically* brought any books yet. Technically, because I built in a few rules that will help me get through this long long year.

First of all, I am allowed to buy my most anticipated releases. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a list of all the books I am dying to read in 2017, and I then preordered them all, so I don’t have to worry about missing out. I also am allowed to buy a few sequels, because 99% of the unread books I own are firsts in a series, and I know never getting further then the first book in some of these will kill me.

So, without further ado, here comes my most anticipated books of 2017 up to May (aka. the ones I have allowed myself to preorder)(I will be planning my rest of year anticipated releases in late May, so I don’t miss any out).

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Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir!

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

(That line was totally stolen from the goodreads synopsis, but it got your attention, didn’t it?)

An Ember in the Ashes follows the stories of Laia, a slave, and Elias, a soldier. Laia’s life is turned upside down when soldiers arrive at her house in the middle of the night, kill her grandparents and arrest her brother for treason against the Empire, a roman like regime that has kept her people, the scholars, in repression for generations. Laia has no one to turn to, so hunts down the resistance, a group of people fighting against the Empire, in hopes they will help her get her brother back.

Elias is training to become a full fledged mask, a soldier for the Empire who wear silver masks that meld to their faces like second skins. Only Elias’ mask has never fully attached. Elias’ attends Blackcliff academy, a terrifying school for soldiers which has put students through questionably moral (and downright evil) tasks on numerous occasions, and is probably the third scariest place I’ve ever read about (the first being Aragog’s cave in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (spiders give me the creeps) and the second being the chokey in Matilda, that cupboard with spikes that naughty children get put in). All of this considered, it’s no wonder Elias wants to run away.

The resistance offer to help Laia on one condition- she become their spy at Blackcliff.

You can see where this is going, right?

Our two storylines collide.

And I love it when that happens in books.

There is also an amazing cast of characters in AEITA, such as Helene, Elias’ best friend and the only female candidate in their graduating class. Literally I don’t even know how much more I can say, because of spoilers, but she is so badass. Just wow. And equally the villain was so instantly hateable, it was amazing. Like the Commandant is on a par with Umbridge in my mind, which is incredible seeing as Umbridge has held top gun for a long time now.

And the relationships and storylines and everything were just URRGH. SO. GOOD.

I don’t even have words.

The story is set in some sort of alternate universe Roman Empire, in world that does have magic (though that doesn’t play too heavily on the story). There are multiple race dynamics and cultures and languages interplaying throughout the book, making the world infinitely richer and more believable.

There was action, romance, drama and tears and I literally couldn’t have asked for more.

I’m giving this one 4.5 ice creams!

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Even writing this review has me so hyped for A Torch Against the Night, the second book in this series, which came out in August (I really need to get my hands on it, asap!)

This review is mildly incoherent because I’m finding it hard to put into words how much I liked it. Go read it! NOW!

Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass!

I want to start this off by saying, for some odd reason, I liked this book. Now watch while I tear this book apart, bullet point by bullet point.

The Selection by Kiera Kass follows 35 girls as they are picked in a lottery to compete in a Bachelor style TV aired competition for a Prince’s hand in marriage. In particular we follow the story of America Singer, a girl who is a 5 (everyone in this book belongs to a numbered caste, with 1 being the highest and 8 being the lowest) so she’s not too well off. Her mother makes her enter the Selection in the hopes of moving her family up the ranks, so they can be in a better place financially and socially.

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Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell!

Ironically (I know now, anyway) I first brought this book a whole year ago, almost to the day, in my first week of university. I was confining myself to my room, only leaving to eat and go to class. Unfortunately I didn’t ever get further then 9 pages in because, even more ironically, I joined the Harry Potter society and met more fangirls who don’t like to leave their rooms so we could not leave our rooms together. It was unfortunate that I didn’t read this book back then because then Cath have been overwhelmingly like me.

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Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas!

This review was written in August 2015, back when I had first read Throne of Glass, and was one of my first book reviews. I’ve left it untouched, seeing as these were my original thoughts after Throne of Glass, but it’s a bit cringeworthy. Ignore baby-review-writing Katie.

Ok so I am going into this knowing that everyone and their mother has read this book, I am so late to this party. I had unusually high expectations as a result and was almost ready to be disappointed. I wasn’t.

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Whats going on?

Hi guys,

So I have been cross-platform blogging for like 3 years now, and I have reviews all over the place. Literally, all over the place.

I’m trying to create a centralised system for all my reviews, and I’m using this wordpress to host it all.

What does that mean? I’m going to posting a TON of reviews over the next couple of days, and I sincerely apologise for the spam.

Once it’s all done we (*I) will never have to worry about where to find one of my reviews again!

Thanks for your patience,

Katie

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo!

Once again I have left writing a review for a first book until after I have read all the books. Sigh. I’m going to have to try and channel past-Katie for this review, let’s see how it goes.

There are no spoilers in this review!


 

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is the first book in her Grisha trilogy, a series I have long been unhurried about starting because of the plethora of mixed reviews. Some people love it, some people hate it, everyone seems to agree it’s not as good as Six of Crows. But I’m a stickler for the rules, and when everyone started raving about Six of Crows, a spin-off duology series which takes place in the same universe as the Grisha trilogy, I knew I had to read these first. In case, you know, I was spoiled or something.

Shadow and Bone follows Alina, a girl who lives in a world were there are normal humans and then there are the Grisha, people with special abilities who always seem to be beautiful and graceful and wealthy. Alina and Mal, her best friend (who is a guy, yes, you can tell where that storyline is going) are in the first army, the normal human one, whereas the Grisha inhabit the second army (and are altogether more cool, with their matching outfits and what-not).

Our story starts when Alina is readying to cross the fold, or the Un-Sea, a rip in the land the separates West Ravka from East Ravka, and is crawling with nasties and darkness. Many people don’t make it through, and sure enough Alina’s friend Mal is attacked. Only when he is she explodes with light, driving the monsters away and saving her friend.

It turns out Alina is Grisha afterall, and a special unheard of kind of Grisha at that. A sun summoner. The opposite to the Grisha’s ruler, the Darkling.

I’m trying to convey as much sarcasm as I can, even though I’m not entirely sure how much I was underwhelmed by this first book when I first read it. I know I was disappointed though. There was something about the characters, and I just didn’t connect at all.

I’m saying all this now, in complete honesty, because it all changed after I read the second book. There was something missing with Shadow and Bone that Leigh completely fixed in Siege and Storm, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Overall I gave Shadow and Bone three ice creams when I first read it, so I’ll stand by that now.

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Well, there you go. I had to be honest about Shadow and Bone though it killed me to put this series down. If you are thinking about reading Grisha DO IT! It’s an amazing series, seriously one of the best fantasy series I’ve read. It doesn’t pick up, at least for me, until the second book, but the first one is so short it’s definitely worth it!

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard!

Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard, has been a massive success. Lots of my friends love it. It’s a bestseller. There must be some reason for this, but I can’t quite work out what it is.

It follows the story of Mare, a red. In this dystopian fantasy there are two races of people, the reds and the silvers, defined by the colour their blood runs. The silvers, who have all sorts of special powers, rule over the reds. Mare, like all reds on their 18th birthday’s, is about to be conscripted to the army to fight a war against the ‘lakelanders’, a neighbouring nation, just as three of her brothers were before her. Then she manages to get a job at the silver palace, saving her from the war. There she manages to shock the silvers with the fact she, a lowly red, can wield lightning abilities.

There are two guys as well. Well, maybe three. Most of my problems come from how predictable this book was. It wasn’t an boring read, nor a badly written book. It was enjoyable enough, but utterly predictable. Until the end. But even that couldn’t redeem it for me. The back of the book says ‘fans of divergent, the hunger games and graceling will love this’ and it was literally like a mash-up of these books. It has unique elements, like the idea of a dystopian book in which human kind has actually regressed with technology because of a nuclear war, but these background points, which I actually found rather interesting, were glossed over.

And the romance was so unnecessary to me, I just wanted to ignore that it was even happening. I would have preferred strong friendships, which would have sufficed for the plot if you ask me.

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Overall, I’m giving it 3 ice creams. I definitely enjoyed elements of this book, but others were very much the norm for YA books; the love triangle, the sacrifice, the face of the rebellion. It was all a little much for me. Maybe 5 years ago when I had just finished the Hunger Games, not now when I have become jaded at the amount of YA dystopian that follow the same paths. Give it a try, a lot of people obviously love this book series. I’m not sure that I am curious enough to continue on to Glass Sword, only time will tell.