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Monday, November 17, 2014

Indie Plus: A Distribution Service for Indie Authors, Allowing Indie Authors to Reach the World in New Ways

For those authors who want to keep their rights, be able to manage their own Amazon KDP accounts, but have someone else distribute everywhere else you may like Indie Plus.

The first thing you need to know about Indie Plus is that the service is free. All work performed on behalf of authors, publishers and agents is done at no cost, including:
  • Document conversion to industry standard formats, such as Epub and PDF
  • Document optimization as required for various retailer and library platforms
  • Cover optimization, sizing and format conversion as required for various retailer and library platforms
Thus, with Indie Plus, you submit your formatted document (.doc/docx) and image (.jpg) files and the service creates the .EPUB, .PDF and other book files needed for submission.

Indie Plus earns based on commissions from the actual royalties you receive, which depend on the retailer or library where the purchase is made. The top retail royalty rate is 70%. The top library royalty rate is 70%.
Indie Plus gets a 20% commission on the net proceeds. With a 70% royalty rate, this means Indie Plus gets 14% (20% of 70% = 14%). With a 35% royalty rate, this means Indie Plus gets 7% (20% of 35% = 7%).

Unlike other services, Indie Plus distributes print, ebook and audio. When you submit your work, you can specify the formats to distribute. Ebook is the primary format and Indie Plus must elect (optionally) to handle your print and audio.
Indie Plus requires a minimum 2-year commitment, with automatic renewal unless you cancel within 90 days before or after the renewal period. Why? Many of the retailers and libraries to which Indie Plus delivers print, ebooks, and audio are only available to established publishers and/or expect stability in their product offerings. Established publishers don’t make constant changes to their data and this is what these retailers and libraries expect.

Indie Plus is a good service to use with titles that you want to continue to have available in Amazon KDP but no longer want to use with Kindle Select, Kindle Unlimited or Kindle FreeTime.
Indie Plus distributes to the following retailers:

CreateSpace
Barnes & Noble / Nook Press

iBooks / iTunes
Kobo Books

Oyster
Scribd

Google Play

& Many, many more.

Indie Plus distributes to the following library aggregators:

Baker & Taylor
OverDrive

3M
BookWire

TXTR
Gardners

& Many, many more.

Indie Plus also works with national retailers and library organizations in many countries.

With audio, Indie Plus allows you to continue to manage your titles that are enrolled in Audible / ACX services while distributing your works to dozens of other retailers and library aggregators. This allows you to manage titles in Audible / ACX while opening many new opportunities.

Video options are in process and the distribution chain is being developed. With video, Indie Plus will allow you to continue to manage your titles in Netflix while distributing your works to select retailers and library aggregators.

Indie Plus is a service of RP Media. For those who don't know RP Media, this is RP Media:

RP Media includes three primary operating companies:

RP Books
RP Audio
RP Video

The key RP Media imprints by operating location are:

RP Books

Olympia:
    Reagent Press
    Reagent Press Signature Editions
    Reagent Press Echo
    Reagent Press Large Print
    Ruin Mist Publications
    RP Classics
    Pequena Imprenta
    Reagent Press Books for Young Readers

Seattle:
    Bugville Learning
    Bugville Publishing

Seattle:
 - Stanek & Associates


RP Audio
    Reagent Press Audio
    RP Audio Publishing
    Classroom-To-Go
    RP Audio Kids

 RP Video
    Bugville Kids
    My World Video
    Wonderful World Video

Reagent Press itself is one element of RP Media. Indie Plus fits in as a new branch in the RP Media family. There are independent RP Media operations out of Concord and Boston as well with their own imprints. These imprints are managed separately.

Hope you’ll consider Indie Plus for your publishing needs!

Thanks for reading,


Robert Stanek

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Amazon’s Broken, Unfixable, Rotten Core: Time to Salvage the Parts to Save the Cancerous Whole

Many of America’s inner cities are food deserts. They don’t have grocery stores, corner stores or any type of store really, excepting the occasional fast food establishment. If Amazon has its way, America itself will be a vast shopless desert where our goods come from massive automated, virtually workerless warehouses with our goods delivered by pilotless drones. That’s not science fiction, that’s Amazon.com’s vision for our future. Remember that this holiday season and beyond before you buy any physical product from Amazon.com that can be readily bought in your local community.

But the recent Amazon – Hachette debacle is a discernible symptom of something far worse: Amazon.com’s broken, unfixable, rotten core. The end of the public brawl makes no difference. As Douglas Preston stated in The New York Times, “If anyone thinks this is over they are deluding themselves. Amazon covets market share the way Napoleon coveted territory.” In “Amazon May Get Ubered,” a Newsweek columnist went even further, stating: “Hegemony never lasts in technology. The day the first pundit calls a tech superpower a dangerous monopoly, start looking for whatever is coming to overthrow it.”

Amazon.com was founded the same year I became a professional writer: 1994. I was an exuberant public supporter of the company in my bestselling books and high-profile articles read by millions from the start. I was even stupid enough to drive many millions more to Amazon.com through my popular websites, including Internet Daily News, the Writer’s Gallery, and Internet Job Center. Why? I was taken in hook, line and sinker by the way Amazon.com positioned itself as a righteous David in a world of unethical goliaths. How na├»ve I was, how wrong I was, for Amazon.com has developed into a heartless, soulless, unethical goliath that has demonstrated repeatedly and publicly it answers to no one—not investors, not employees, not partners, not even governments.

Worse, Amazon.com has a strangle-hold over an industry beloved by people around the world: publishing. This dangerous strangle-hold threatens the livelihoods of millions: authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, and others.

Not only is Amazon.com’s proximate monopoly control of the publishing industry untenable, but Amazon.com should be under investigation by governments worldwide for its many unfair labor and business practices. Although Amazon.com's exploitive labor and business practices have been the subjects of headlines around the world, no government has stepped in, taken action, and demanded that exploited workers and business partners, which include content creators, developers, publishers, authors and others, be made whole.

At Amazon.com’s broken core are its sales systems which reward those who see publishing as a zero sum game in which they lose out if another succeeds. Many in publishing will recognize the widespread use of malicious reviews and commentary as well as vicious attacks designed to sabotage sales and careers.

As many authors and industry pundits have stated publicly, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that many of these reviews, comments, and attacks come from other authors and persons related to other authors. Other nastiness comes from certain authors’ fans who see anyone else’s success as a threat to those authors, as well as those who just get off on attacking strangers in public.

The effect of spurious negative reviews is to undermine the reader’s confidence in making a purchase, to damage a book’s ranking, and to destroy an author’s sales. The flood of negativity isn’t about helping readers avoid a bad book—it’s about ruining careers and livelihoods.

How books are ranked on Amazon.com determines not only where they appear in search results, but whether they appear at all. Ranking also controls overall visibility throughout Amazon.com websites with regard to specials, lists, categories, features, promotions, and more.

How books are ranked on Amazon.com is dependent on several factors, including: how positive a book’s reviews are and how well a book is selling. Amazon.com looks not only at recent sales, but also at sales history and sales trends. Amazon.com looks not only at overall ratings, but also at review and rating trends, up/down voting of reviews, and how recently a book has been reviewed.

Those with destructive intent know how the sales systems work and they use the systems to cause harm. They do this in many ways, including by ensuring negative reviews stay visible, where they are most effective and cause the most harm. Thus, not only do they often ensure recent reviews are negative, they often vote up past negative reviews while voting down any positive reviews. They do this to torpedo an author’s sales.

Amazon.com’s rotten core doesn’t just affect the publishing industry—it affects the entire entertainment industry and other industries as well. The same nastiness that occurs with books, ebooks and audiobooks also occurs with other products sold on Amazon.com, including music, movies, video games, apps, and more. Amazon.com’s rotten core does, in fact, extend to every part of its operations.

As I wrote about in Selling Your Soul to the Company Store: Amazon’s Mistreatment of Its Employees, Amazon.com’s unfair labor and business practices have been widely documented, but no one is doing anything about them. As a public company, Amazon.com has been funded by starry-eyed investors who, like me, believed the Rumpelstiltskin-spinning-straw-into-gold stories coming out of Seattle. Stories that don’t hold water in the face Amazon.com’s epic failure to become a consistently profitable company.

Amazon.com is no longer a 2-year-old startup that can make empty promises and deliver empty air. What is there to show investors after 20 years in the business? What is there to show for endless promises that someday Amazon.com will start making a consistent profit? Billions upon billions of investors’ hard-earned money poured down a toilet drain, and a company whose parts are worth more separately than the cancer-ridden whole.

In tech years, Amazon.com is an octogenarian who can’t decide what he wants to be when he grows up. Does he want to be a product company, a hosting company, a device company, a services company, a streaming company, a shipping company, a publishing company, or a Hollywood movie producer? All of which, Amazon.com is currently trying to be—and all of which are bleeding the company of much needed operating cash.

Regarding cash on hand, financial analysts have stated the company doesn’t have enough cash on hand at any one time to pay what it owes its business partners: you know, the people whose products are sold on its site, including authors, developers, publishers, and other content creators. Instead, Amazon.com keeps itself afloat by relying on the fact that it generally has up to 90 days to pay its partners.

The emperor has no clothes. It’s time for investors to call Amazon to account. It’s time for business partners to demand prompt payment. It also may be time for a breakup of Amazon.com to salvage the remains of a cancerous whole. Like the breakup of the Bell System in 1982, the breakup of Amazon.com would effectively take a damaging monopoly and split it into entirely separate companies. Companies that would no longer have monopolistic controls. Companies that could start anew and rid themselves of their unfair labor and business practices roots. Companies that might even become consistently profitable.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Supporting Veteran Authors Who Support Veterans, Veterans' Issues and Veterans-related Charities

On Veteran's Day 2014, 50 veteran authors pledged 100% of their print, ebook and audio book royalties to their favorite veteran's charity. In most cases, these are organizations that assisted the authors personally and they are trying their best to give back.

 Veterans from each service branch and every conflict period, from Vietnam to even one author currently deployed to Afghanistan, pledged. This diverse collection of works includes New York Times and USA Today Bestsellers and covers most genres. From romance to action-adventure to sci-fi and everything in between.

 Readers helped raise money for the sponsored charities by buying the books of the participating authors. The ultimate goal of this event was to raise at least $10,000 for the 15+ veterans charities the authors supported.

 Participating books and authors included:

 1. This Mortal Coil (After the Machines) by Robert Stanek

 Robert Stanek is a US Air Force veteran who served from 1985 to 1996. An Iraq vet with two tours of combat, Robert Stanek is the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, Air Force Commendation medal, Humanitarian Service medal, and other awards for his combat service. Robert is donating to Wounded Warrior Project.

 2. Fallen Out: Jesse McDermitt Series I by Wayne Stinnett

 Wayne Stinnett is a veteran of the US Marine Corp and served from 1977 to 1981. Wayne is donating to Homes for Warriors in Brevard County, FL.

 3. The Perseid Collapse by Steven Konkoly

 Steven Konkoly is a US Navy veteran who served from 1993 to 2001. Steven is donating to Wounded Warrior Project.

 4. Darkness Haunts by Susan Illene

 Susan Illene is a US Army veteran who served from 1998 to 2009. An Iraq vet with tours in 2003 and 2004-2005, Susan is donating to the Wounded Warrior Project.

 5. Pigeon River Blues by Wayne Zurl

 Wayne Zurl served from 1967 to 1988 in the US Army and is a Vietnam veteran. Wayne is donating to Army Emergency Relief Fund.

 6. Into Darkness by Richard Fox

 Richard Fox is a US Army veteran who served from 2001 to 2011. An Iraq vet with two tours, Richard is the recipient of the Bronze Star and is donating to Battle Buddy Foundation.

 7. Pale Horseman by C.E. Martin

 C.E. Martin is a US Air Force veteran with four years of military service. Martin is supporting Fisher House Foundation.

 8. Nefarious (The Blackwell Files Book 1) by Steven Freeman

 Steven Freeman is a US Army veteran with seven years of military service. Steven is donating to Wounded Warrior Project.

 9. What Now, Knucklehead? by Raymond L. Jones

 Raymond Jones is a US Army veteran with 25 years of service. An Iraq vet with three tours and an Afghanistan vet with two tours, Raymond is the 3-time recipient of the Bronze Star. Raymond is donating to American Fallen Soldiers Project.

 10. Hamfist Down! by George E. Nolly

 George Nolly is a US Air Force veteran with 20 years of service. A Vietnam vet with two tours, George is a 3-time recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. George is donating to Air Warrior Courage Foundation.

 11. Forgotten Soldiers by Warren Martin

 Warren Martin is a US Army veteran. Warren is donating to the Wounded Warrior Project.

 12. Combat and Other Shenanigans by Piers Platt

 Piers Platt is a US Army veteran who served from 2002 to 2006. An Iraq vet, Piers is donating to the Wounded Warrior Project.

 Other participating authors and books included:

 * Cherries – A Vietnam War Novel by John Podlaski
Pledged Charity: Vietnam Veterans of America – Chapter 154

Service: US Army, Vietnam Vet (1970-1971), Awarded Bronze Star

* To Iraq and Back by Jessica Scott
Pledged Charity: Project Sanctuary
Service: US Army with 19 years service, Iraq Veteran (09-11), Awarded Bronze Star

 * Say Goodbye by Robert Capko
Pledged Charity: That Others May Live Foundation
Service: Air Force (1989-1990)

 * Escaping the Dead by W. J. Lundy
Pledged Charity: Wounded Warrior Project & Lone Survivor Foundation
Service: Army/Navy, 14 years, Afghanistan Vet (’12-’13)

 * Origins of the Outbreak by Brian Parker
Pledged Charity: Wounded Warrior Project
Service: US Army 1995 to present, Currently Deployed, Awarded Bronze Star

 * The Fine Art of Keeping Quiet by Charity Tahmaseb
Pledged Charity: Veterans in the Arts
Service: US Army, 1988 to 1993, Desert Storm vet, awarded Bronze Star

 * Power Games: The Second Civil War by Richard Peters
Pledged Charity: Operation Home Front
Service: US Army 5 years, Iraq Vet (03-04, 05-06)

 * The Acolytes of Crane by J. D. Tew
Pledged Charity: Wounded Warrior Project
Service: US Army 4 years, Iraq Vet (03-04), four Army Commendation Medals w/valor

 * At Hell’s Gates by Stephen Kozeniewski
Pledged Charity: Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund
Service: US Army 4 years, Iraq Vet (2007 – 2008), Awarded Bronze Star

 * Another Day Another Name by Clark Chamberlain
Pledged Charity: On Purpose Journey CFC #97433
Service: US Army 7 years, Iraq Vet (2010-11)

 * Fast Men, Slow Kisses: 7 Romances Supporting Military Veterans edited by Sandy Loyd
Pledged Charity: Wounded Warrior Project
Service: US Army, Vietnam Vet (1973-1976)

 * Frustration Unleashed by Tammy Lacey
Pledged Charity: Wounded Warrior Project
Service: Florida Air National Guard, 5 years

 * True Surrender by Tracey Cramer-Kelley
Pledged Charity: Tribute to the Troops & Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund
Service: US Army National Guard Combat Medic 1988-1993

 * The Private War of Corporal Henson by E. Michael Helms
Pledged Charity: Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
Service: US Marines, Vietnam Vet (1967-68), Awarded Purple Heart

 * Service, A Soldier’s Journey by Dennis Nappi II
Pledged Charity: Stop Soldier Suicide
Service: US Army 6 years, Bosnia Vet (2002)

 * Ages Past by Casper Parks
Pledged Charity: Fisher House Foundation
Service: US Navy 1976 – 1978

 * Never Forget: Love in The Fleet Series 3 by Heather Ashby
Pledged Charity: Fisher House Foundation
Service: US Navy

 * Amy Lynn by Jack July
Pledged Charity: Pets for Vets
Service: USN, ATAN 4.5 years

 * Gods of Chicago by AJ Sikes
Pledged Charity: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Service: US Army, 1989-1991, Operation Just Cause (89-90)

 * Believing in Horses, Too by Valerie Ormund
Pledged Charity: Casisson Platoon Equine Assisted Programs
Service: US Navy, 25 years (1984-2009),

 * Battling the Storm Within by Stephanie J. Shannon
Pledged Charity: Women’s Wisdom house
Service: US Army 8 years, Operation Desert Storm Vet

 * Angel of Death and Angel of Light by Gary Tate
Pledged Charity: Veterans Outreach Ministries
Service: US Army retired, Vietnam Vet (’69-’70)

 * Blue Eternal by G D Morris
Pledged Charity: Wounded Warrior Project
Service: US Navy, 3 years

 * Lyovitalis by Julie Kirton Chandler
Pledged Charity: National LGBT Veterans Memorial
Service: US Army, 10 years

 It was a wonderful event to support and help spread the word about. Readers, hope you'll continue to support the books of these authors.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Showcasing You, the Author, and Your Books at Trade Shows, Book Fairs, and Genre Cons

I'm Robert Stanek and today I'm talking about trade shows, book fairs, and genre cons. As a successful author whose works have been showcased around the world, I often get questions from other authors about how to effectively use these events to sell books. Previously, I blogged about selling your rights at trade shows, taking your work to Hollywood, and other related topics.

Many authors seem to think trade shows, book fairs, and genre cons are all about selling. But in reality, these events aren't necessarily about selling anything at all. You, as an author, should be there mostly to build relationships and industry connections.

In the early 2000s, my books and I were at nearly every regional, national, and international show for a number of years. A steady, multi-year investment landed numerous rights and distribution deals:

My William Stanek books have been translated into 34 languages and counting
My Robert Stanek books have been translated into 15 languages and counting

It took a great commitment of time, capital, and resources to make those deals possible. The publishing landscape has changed considerably since the early 2000s, however.

Today, I would, and do, approach trade shows, book fairs, and genre cons very differently. For starters, you're going to have better luck at these types of events if you have several creative works, rather than a single published work.

As an independent with several works available, you're going to have the most success at regional shows, including the regional shows from:

California Library Association
New York Library Association
New York State Reading Association
Michigan Reading Association
Texas Library Association
Connecticut Library Association
Pennsylvania School Library Association
Florida Library Association
New Jersey Library Association
National Education Association
Pennsylvania Library Association
Illinois Library Association
California Library Association
New York State Reading Association
New England Library Association

Note that most of these regional shows are either "library associations" or "reading associations". Here, you are connecting with library staff, school library staff, teachers, school administrators, readers, and others. If your books aren't available to libraries or schools, you'll want to approach the library shows very differently than you would otherwise.

Regional shows can be expensive, so you may want to stick with ones in your area before you try anything outside your local area. Don't spend money on tables or booths without first getting as much information as you can. You also may want to attend one or more of these events beforehand.

An even better idea? Build up to something like this before you spend any money. My recommendation: regional independent bookseller organizations and shows.

Regional independent bookseller organizations are excellent resources, and it's good to get to know the organization in your area to see if it and you are a fit. Regional indie bookseller organizations include:

Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA)
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)
New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA)
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association (GLIBA)
Midwest Independent Booksellers Association (MIBA)
New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA)
Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association (MPIBA)
Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA)
Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA)

These organizations also host book shows. Attend the shows hosted by these organizations, learn how they work, and see if you think they might work for you and your books.

With some experience at regional shows and with regional organizations, you might want to look to national and international shows. Shows of this type, I recommend include:

American Library Association Midwinter
Bologna Children's Book Fair
London Book Fair
BookExpo America
American Library Association Annual
Beijing International Book Fair
American Association of School Librarians

International shows have the most potential, especially the London, Beijing, and Frankfurt shows. At these international shows you can have tremendous success selling translation and other rights to your works.

Attending trade shows, book fairs, and genre cons can be expensive. Don't spend a dime before you take the time to research the aforementioned options to determine whether any of them are for you.

With any of these shows, whether a regional, national or international trade show, you don't have to attend personally. There are many organizations that will host and showcase your books for you. Thus, rather than spend $250 for a table and $625 on travel expenses to attend one show, you could pay one of these hosting organizations a flat fee to showcase you and your books at multiple shows for around the same amount of money. For example, it may cost $125 to showcase one book at one show or $350 for a shelf in a display that allows you to showcase 5, 6, or 7 books.

Hope this helps!

Robert Stanek

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Selling Your Soul to the Company Store: Amazon’s Mistreatment of Its Employees, Partners, Developers, Publishers, and Content Creators

Tens of thousands of current and former employees of a prominent Fortune 500 company know the deal they made with the devil—a smiling faced devil named Amazon.com. And you may already know the lyrics to the “Devil Went Down To Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band, but just in case you don't here's a verse for you:

Well the Devil went down to Georgia; he was lookin' for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind 'cause he was way behind; and he was willin' to make a deal.

Although the song has a happy ending with Johnny besting the devil, the devil in Seattle continues to steal souls. As for my part in the devil’s rise, I regret being one of the movers and shakers who helped put the company on the map when I featured Amazon.com in my bestselling books and high-profile articles read by millions throughout the 1990s. I regret it because Amazon has become a heartless, soulless beast whose primary mission is not to create but rather to disrupt and destroy. The Amazon executive team states such things openly, that what they disrupt and destroy are marketplaces and outdated models, but what they’re really disrupting and destroying are livelihoods, careers, lives, and families.

There’s a reason Amazon offices and distribution centers are referred to as Meat Grinder by those who work there. It is a meat grinder, and at times it is akin to a sweatshop too. Many of Amazon’s own employees have come forward over the years to decry poor working conditions, substandard wages, and mistreatment at the hands of greedy company executives.

News outlets, including BBC Channel 4, have been telling the story of overworked, underpaid, and exploited Amazon workers and their extreme anger over timed toilet breaks, punishments for talking in the workplace, zero-hour contracts and more. Business Insider and others have reported on the miserable working conditions inside Amazon. Labor strikes in Germany have exposed Amazon’s dependence on exploitive labor practices. A BBC investigation into a UK-based Amazon warehouse found conditions that could cause mental and physical illness.

Meanwhile, Amazon management is greedily snapping up stock-based compensation, enriching themselves and lining their pockets with extreme wealth they are unwilling to share with the rest of their own workforce. As Amazon’s valuation remains lofty, however, public good will toward the company and its management team is beginning to wear thin. Over the past 52 weeks, Amazon has lost nearly $50 billion of its market cap and yet the company remains vastly overvalued given actual return on investments over its life as a publicly traded company. Whether this overvaluation is 300%, 500%, or 1500% is up to the stock markets to decide today, tomorrow or some day in the future.

What is up to the public decide is whether the human cost—the toll in livelihoods, careers, lives, and families—is much too much and whether any consumer with any sense of a moral conscience wants to continue to make purchases from such a company.

Employees aren’t the only ones being mistreated by Amazon. Amazon also mistreats those who do business with the company, including its partners, developers, publishers, and content creators. If you think this is where I’m going to dive into the recent Amazon – Hachette debacle as an example of Amazon’s mistreatment of its business partners, including publishers and authors, you’d be right and wrong.

Amazon does use its marketplaces as blunt instruments to achieve its goals, no matter the impact on livelihoods, careers, lives, and families. Amazon does use its proximate monopoly position to force partners, developers, publishers, and content creators to accept less than palatable terms. Amazon does want the buying public to believe that it has the right to set prices and that such price fixing is actually good for consumers.

What Amazon doesn’t want anyone to know is that the consumer public has already spoken, that the $9.99 price point for fiction ebooks is functionally irrelevant. Many fiction ebooks are, in fact, already priced well below $9.99. Why? Publishers have been lowering prices to stay competitive in a hyper-competitive industry. This trend of lower prices has been ongoing for years and it’s why you often can pick up last year’s bestseller for not $9.99, $8.99 or even $7.99 but often $6.99, $5.99 or even $2.99.

While we’re talking about how irrelevant $9.99 as a price point is for fiction ebooks, let’s look at list price and sale price. To Amazon.com, list price is the price set for a product by a business partner, such as a publisher. Sale price is the price a product actually sells for and that price is set by Amazon itself.

Consumers buy products based on sale price, not list price. Sale price is often a discount to list price. When you buy an ebook at Amazon you may not pay list price. That’s because many products are sold at a discount from list price. For example, instead of paying the list price of $12.99 for an ebook, you pay $8.88. Amazon, however, wants the publisher to list the ebook at $9.99 so they can sell you the ebook for $9.99, or even $8.88 in a pinch.

Why? Amazon has to pay traditional publishers 45% of the list price. When an ebook has a list price of $12.99 and sells for $8.88, Amazon has to pay the publisher $5.85 and keeps only $3.03. When that same ebook has a list price of $9.99 and sells for $8.88, Amazon has to pay the publisher $4.50 and keeps $4.38—a profit for Amazon that is 145% of what it was previously.

It’s worth noting also that Amazon typically only discounts $9.99 ebooks when a competitor’s site lists that ebook for less. Thus, the ebook with a list price of $9.99 is more likely to sell for $9.99. If so, Amazon keeps $5.49 and pays the publisher $4.50—a profit for Amazon that is 182% of what it was previously.

So is the consumer really saving anything? No. For the consumer, there’s no difference. For Amazon, there’s a major profit incentive.

Additionally, with the continued introduction and adoption of subscription services that let consumers read as many books as they want for $9.99, $8.99 or $7.99 a month, the list price of books will have decreasing relevance as well. With a subscription service, the list price and sale price of a product are irrelevant. The consumer pays a flat fee every month. Publishers and Amazon split this flat fee, with Amazon typically getting 55% and publishers sharing the remaining 45%.

Like a fight with your spouse that begins with a disagreement over whose turn it is to take the family dog for a walk, the fight for $9.99 isn’t really about the price and helping consumers at all. It’s about profits and who keeps what share of them.

Don’t ever forget that it’s Amazon that controls the sale price. Anytime Amazon wants to sell a $12.99 ebook for $9.99 or even $8.88, it can do so and does do so. The company would just prefer to keep more money for itself while leaving less for those who create a product in the first place.

Okay, so that’s a lot about a fight between two corporate heavy weights that you may or may not care about. Odds are anyway, if you’re a content provider, developer or publisher, you’ve made up your mind about this particular debacle one way or the other.

While public fisticuffs like this make headlines, you likely won’t be reading anytime soon about the tactics Amazon uses on those who don’t have public relations teams, corporate lawyers, and celebrated media connections. I’m talking about the little guys. Small developers, small publishers, individual content creators. Small businesses and people that Amazon crushes every single day simply because it wants more complete control over the content creation industry and those who work in it.

You won’t hear from these little guys because they are the voiceless, and just as often these days, the ones who have had their voices, livelihoods, and lives taken away by Amazon. Speak up for your rights, say something Amazon doesn’t want to hear, and you risk becoming one of the voiceless too.

Speak out and you’ll be told you don’t have to work with or for Amazon. You’ll be told to go somewhere else. You’ll be told many other things that anyone who ever cried out for what’s right and just has been told.

In the old days of corporate robber barons, a company like Amazon would have just sent crooked cops or hired goons with billy clubs to break legs and bash in skulls, promptly putting an end to any public outcry. These days, Amazon seems to do the virtual equivalent with as little care. 

Do you really think anyone who works in a sweatshop wants to work in a sweatshop? Do you really think teachers or machinists or engineers or anyone else want to work for substandard wages? Do you really think any Amazon employee wants to have a stopwatch tracking how long it takes them to pee?

Is it appropriate for a single company to have proximate monopoly control over the livelihoods, careers, and lives of millions? When will the US, UK, German and other governments step in and do what’s right and what’s needed. What’s needed not only for the employees of Amazon, but for content creators and everyone else who has no choice and no voice.

Amazon supporters don’t confuse your passion for ebooks, your love of the new opportunities of the digital age, or even your fondness for kindle, with a sense of loyalty to Amazon. Amazon didn’t invent ebooks, eink or even ereaders. Amazon doesn’t empower this social, connected age. We, the people, empower this social, connected age. We, the people, have earned the right to our voices. And we, the people, have earned the right to decry injustice and mistreatment.

As for me, you can consider me an Amazon expat if you want. I was for twenty years one of Amazon’s strongest supporters. But my support, your support, the support of your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and associates means nothing to a company that operates the way Amazon operates. Amazon controls public opinion with public relations teams, corporate lawyers, and media connections. What Amazon can’t control it buys, as was the case with the purchase of the Washington Post and as is the case with Amazon’s many political contributions to curry favor with governments around the world.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek

Monday, September 15, 2014

Speaking Out About Ugliness in the Publishing Industry

Indie authors continue to get a bum rap from traditional publishers and authors. Read about the dirty tricks trad publishers and authors have used over the past decade.

I’m Robert Stanek, author of over 150 books, read by more than 7.5 million readers and translated into 34 languages. I’m speaking out about ugliness in the writing industry that has to end. Society gives this ugliness many names because it has many ugly faces. Whether you want to call it character assassination, mudslinging, railroading, a hatchet job or a frame up, the Internet gives these shameful acts new meaning and new ease. On the Internet, the court of public opinion can destroy you simply because someone points a mob in your direction—or in my case, keeps pointing mobs in your direction again and again over a period of more than decade.

Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” But I bet he never imagined the Internet where a lie can travel millions of times around the world before the truth even remembers it has shoes. In this highly connected online age, it seems all someone needs to do is write hateful nonsense about someone else, point back to their own handiwork while writing more hateful nonsense and enlisting others to do the same, then rinse and repeat as they work their way across the Internet. That’s been the tactic used to trash my reputation since 2002 by a group of competitors I call the architects of hate. I’ve been blogging about what these despicable persons have been doing for years and years, recently in the posts titled “Unethical Competitors,” “Authors Who Trash Competitors,” “Authors Who Are Trolls,” “Speaking Out About Haters,” and “The Internet Isn't the New Wild West” as well.

Their latest hatchet job? On Sept 2 2012, The Telegraph wrote an article on RJ Ellory titled “RJ Ellory, Author, Caught Writing Fake Amazon Reviews For Books.” On Sept 4 2012, a Huffington Post blogger picked up the story added some additions regarding other authors who’d been doing the same and posted the story with the title “RJ Ellory, Author, Caught Writing Fake Amazon Reviews For Books.” (And to be clear, anyone, actual credentials or not, can blog for Huffington Post and post just about anything they want. The author of this particular entry is a self-published author and blogger with a single book to her credit at the time.)

The blog entry was posted at 1:26 PM on Sept 4 2012 and a regular member of Go Indie posted a link to the article shortly afterward. I read the original article at that time but not the article as updated several times afterward (with final edits at 2:44 PM on Sept 4 2012). As part of the edits, the following was slipped into the article along with a link to an i09 post which was itself a post from a message forum:
“Science fiction and fantasy authors also found that frustrated writer Robert Stanek was sock-puppeting in 2009.”

The link that they used to make this nonsense seem legitimate? It’s to the following io9.com post from June 23 2009 made by Adam Whitehead or an associate of his (http://io9.com/5300748/how-much-damage-can-a-maniac-and-his-army-of-sock-puppets-do-on-amazoncom):
How Much Damage Can A Maniac And His Army Of Sock Puppets Do On Amazon.Com? Science fiction and fantasy authors, including Pat Rothfuss and David Louis Edelman, have started noticing a rash of one-star reviews of their books on Amazon.com, all at once, The reviews seem to come from newly created profiles, and often say the same thing in slightly different words over and over. And now, observers think they've fingered the culprit: frustrated fantasy author Robert Stanek. In the past, Stanek has had the habit of posting tons of "anonymous" one-star reviews of people's books which all said, "This guy is rubbish, if you want to read real fantasy, go read Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin and Robert Stanek!" The new batch of reviews don't mention Stanek by name, but do suggest that the authors should try serving in the armed forces to build character (a Stanek bugaboo.) And if you look at their profiles, the anonymous accounts have all tagged Stanek as a favorite author. All of this raises the question: How much damage can one anonymous maniac with an army of sock puppets really do to an established author on Amazon? [SFF World]
Which is itself from a message posted on the forums at Sffworld.com made by Adam Whitehead on June 18 2009:
Okay, now this was pure surrealism.
Last week Pat Rothfuss made a comment on his Facebook about how THE NAME OF WIND suddenly started getting a rash of one-star reviews over on Amazon.com. Whilst the book has gone down quite well, it is understandable that, even on just a purely statistical level, some people out there don't like the book and are vocal about it, especially given the 'hype' it has received in some quarters. Fair enough.
But what was odd was that all of these one-star reviews were written one after another in a very similar tone by newly-created profiles and all seemed to be making the same, highly questionable, claims that the book was 'objectively bad' and that all of the 500+ positive reviews on Amazon had been written by Pat himself, his friends or family. They ignored the fact that the book has been an international bestseller, is published in multiple languages by reputable publishers, and just continued making questionable claims about the author's moral character. It was very weird. They then tried to get the Rothfuss' Wikipedia page eliminated and also made a very half-hearted effort to level similar complaints against Abercrombie, although I get the impression this was solely to make it look like they weren't just picking on Rothfuss.
All of this smelled like a rat, most notably when one of the reviewers started saying that Pat Rothfuss should go to Iraq to get the 'moral character' that only comes from serving in the armed forces. This was VERY familiar. Then I remembered that the legendary self-published, alleged author Robert Stanek kept making a huge fuss about how serving in the armed forces had been an important character-building exercise.
I dismissed the idea it could be Stanek though, as the critics weren't using Stanek's normal MO of ripping into the author and going "This guy is rubbish, if you want to read real fantasy, go read Robert Jordan, George RR Martin and Robert Stanek!"
Then today one of the other commentators following the situation on Amazon pointed out that almost all of these suspect reviewers had started 'tagging' Robert Stanek's books (you could see this on their profiles). By the time I checked them out, only three had them left, the rest having apparently removed them when they realised they were rumbled.
So there you have it, it appears that self-published, low-selling author Robert Stanek, infamously responsible for one of the biggest scams in SF&F history on Amazon (which Amazon still hasn't sorted out), is using his multitude of alias accounts on Amazon to tear down a new, fresh and critically-acclaimed author for petty and disturbing reasons.
Honestly, you could not make this up.
One of the same reviewers concerned has gone on to rip into David Louis Edelmen and Jim C. Hines' books as well. For those not in the know, both of these authors have posted blog entries about Stanek's activities in the past. Astonishing.

As I blogged about previously, Adam Whitehead is of course one of the original architects of hate and he actually did make it all up as he was one of the perpetrators who created the hate in the first place. He, David Langford, and others having started all this idiocy about me going all the way back to 2002. Incidentally, the "rash of reviews" on Patrick Rothfuss's book was exactly two reviews -- two reviews created by Adam himself and/or his associates, as I blogged about here.

I've blogged about what actually happened with Patrick Rothfuss here and what actually happened with Wikipedia here. In January 2007, Patrick Rothfuss's first book "The Name of the Wind" was published in hardcover and Rothfuss came out fully formed with an army of online friends and associates who were talking up his book. His associates, which included Adam Whitehead (Wertzone) and Patrick Dennis (Pat's Fantasy List), quickly enlisted him in the public trashing of my books and my reputation and used this as a platform for his success.

Of note, is that Adam Whitehead created Patrick Rothfuss's Wikipedia page in May 2007 (posting as Werthead). Knowing the furor caused on Wikipedia when they trashed my Wikipedia page previously, I'm certain Adam Whitehead and his associates made the scurrilous edits to the Patrick Rothfuss page. Why? They used this stunt as a vehicle to rally support and boost book sales for Rothfuss while once again using me as a scapegoat.

In April - May 2007, when Adam Whitehead, Andrew Gray, Urpo Lankinen and others were editing misinformation and lies into the Robert Stanek page, their primary focus was on destroying any positive impact such a page has. They were also desperate to get Wikipedia to remove related Ruin Mist pages and they got Wikipedia to do so by spreading misinformation about me and how according to them, I wasn't an author of note. Odd, considering I had more than 100 published books to my credit at the time and not only had those books been read by millions but they'd been translated into several dozen languages. Odder still when you look at the unquestioned basis for the Rothfuss page in May 2007, which was created and posted in its entirety with a single edit at 21:25 on 8 May 2007 by Adam Whitehead:

Biography
Patrick Rothfuss was born in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1973. According to his website, he became an avid reader after growing up in an area lacking cable television. At university he harboured plans to be a chemical engineer, but then changed his mind to puruse a career in clinical psychology. He finally declared his major as 'Undeclared' after three years and continued to study any subject that caught his interest, whilst working odd jobs and working on an extremely long fantasy novel called The Song of Flame of Thunder.
He finally left college with a degree in English, returning two years later to teach. After completing The Song of Flame and Thunder, Rothfuss submitted it to several publishing companies, but it was rejected. In 2002 he won the Writers of the Future competition with The Road to Levinshir, an excerpt from his novel. After chatting to Kevin J. Anderson at a subsequent writer's workshop, Rothfuss secured a deal with his agent, Matt Bialer, who subsequently sold the novel to Betsy Wollheim at DAW Books. The Song of Flame and Thunder was split into a three-volume series entitled The Kingkiller Chronicle, the first installment of which, The Name of the Wind, was published in March 2007.
Bibliography
The Kingkiller Chronicle
1.The Name of the Wind (March 2007)
2.The Wise Man's Fear (working title, scheduled for March 2008)
3.The Doors of Stone (working title, scheduled for March 2009)
This trilogy was originally one very long novel with the working title The Song of Flame and Thunder. It was split in three for publication due to its length. The series is essentially the biography of a famous warrior, wizard and musician named Kvothe. After gaining notoriety at a young age, he disappears from public life and is eventually tracked down to a backwater inn by Devan Lochees, who goes by the name 'Chronicler'. After some persuasion, Chronicler convinces Kvothe to tell him his life story. However, the story is punctuated by interludes, during which it becomes clear that something is looking for Kvothe, and Kvothe's friend Bast is unwilling to let Chronicler tell all of Kvothe's story. The story thus proceeds on two levels, as we learn how Kvothe came to be the man he is now, whilst other events take place in the present hinting at a greater story to follow.
Rothfuss has confirmed that The Kingkiller Chronicle will provide the backstory for Kvothe. Further books will follow taking Kvothe's story forward in the present day.
External Links
Patrick Rothfuss' homepage
Writers of the Future winners' bio
Interviews
Interview with Patrick Rothfuss conducted by SFFWorld.com, 26 March 2007.
Interview with Patrick Rothfuss conducted by Fantasy Bookspot.com, Spring 2007.
It's no surprise the page, like the author, arrived fully formed.

Here is the Robert Stanek page which was created over a period of weeks by devoted fans and subsequently destroyed and later removed because I supposedly wasn't noteworthy:
William Robert Stanek (born January 3, 1966) is an American author best known for his international best-selling how-to books and his work as a columinst for PC Magazine and Dr. Dobbs Journal.
   Stanek is the author of more than 100 books. His books have been successful, and have been featured on bestseller lists. He served in the United States Air Force from 1985 to 1991, and is the recipient of the United States highest flying honor the Distinguished Flying Cross.
   In addition to his non-fiction work, he is the author of many popular works of fiction, including The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches books and the sequel series In the Service of Dragons, which are set in his fantasy world of  Ruin Mist. King's Mate is a game Robert created for the books.

 Biography
Robert Stanek was born on January 3, 1966 in Burlington, Wisconsin. His father was an entrepreneur who immigrated to America from Budapest, Hungary. His mother is the granddaughter of French and Norwegian immigrants.
    He became interested in writing as a child and was creating stories virtually from the time he was able to read and write. He started work as a journalist and editor – with a school newspaper – at the age of nine!
    He joined the United States Air Force in 1985 and server in the Persian Gulf War from 1990-1991. He earned many medals for his wartime service, including the United States of America's highest-flying honor, the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross.
   At age thirty-one, he decided to devote most of his time to full-length works of fact and fiction. Since then has written more than fifty books, many of them international best sellers, and his work has been published in more than fifty countries, including the United States, Britain, Japan, Korea, Canada, France, Australia, Germany, India, Spain, Italy, Turkey and various Latin American countries.
    Today he works as a full-time author with an interest in, among other things, technology, computers, and the outdoors! He has broadcast and lectured about his work throughout the United States.

Family Life
Robert Stanek was the fourth child of five and the only boy. He spent his early years in Racine, Wisconsin. As a child, he attended Janes School Elementary, a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse. The same school his grandfather attended.
   As a child, he loved reading. In an interview form Robert Stanek: Candid Conversations (2003), he states he was fascinated with the Ripley's Believe It Or Not books and Guinness Book of World Records. He read classics like Treasure Island, The Swiss Family Robinson, Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, and The Three Musketeers. When he got absolutely hooked on Jules Verne, he read Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. He through a Sherlock Holmes phase and read every Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book and then discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs's The Martian Tales got him hooked on the genre and he went on to read Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and liked it so much he read The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Fahrenheit 451.
   Later in his childhood, he started reading Herman Melville, Jack London, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe. Of that he says, "Edgar Allan Poe can be pretty bleak and dark, especially when you're ten years old. But I remember being fascinated with his stories. To this day, I can still remember parts of The Raven, The Tell Tale Heart, and The Murders in the Rue Morgue." Quote from Robert Stanek: Candid Conversations (2003).

Writing Life
Robert Stanek wrote his first novel in 1986 when he was stationed in Japan. He spent a large part of the next twenty years perfecting the story and developing a history of the world he called Ruin Mist. His first Ruin Mist novel was Keeper Martin's Tale, which was simultaneously released in adult and children's editions. He designed the original covers for the Ruin Mist books.

Languages
Robert Stanek entered the United States Air Force in 1985 and worked as a cryptologic linguist. His military training includes more than 3 years of language training. His linguistic background extends to Russian, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, and German, though in interviews he professes that much of his language skills have "dulled and rusted" since he hasn't used them. His strong background in multiple languages helped him develop the world of Ruin Mist. The names of people and places in this world are very distinct according to historical origins, and have roots in the romance and eastern languages he has studied.
 The languages of the peoples of Ruin Mist have roots in slavic, native American indian, and far eastern languages.

 Bibliography (Fiction)
...Adult Fiction Series...
 ''Ruin Mist Chronicles''
 1. Keeper Martin's Tale (2002)
 2. Elf Queen's Quest (2002)
 3. Kingdom Alliance (2003)
 4. Fields of Honor (2004)
 5. Mark of the Dragon (2005)

 ...Young Adult Fiction Series...
 ''Keeper Martin's Tales''
 1. The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #1 (2002)
 2. The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #2 (2002)
 3. The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #3 (2002)
 4. The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #4 (2003)
 5. In the Service of Dragons #1 (2004)
 6. In the Service of Dragons #2 (2005)
 7. In the Service of Dragons #3 (2005)
 8. In the Service of Dragons #4 (2005)

 ''Magic Lands''
 Journey Beyond the Beyond (2002)
 Into the Beyond (2005, international edition)
 Into the Stone Land (2006, forthcoming)

 ''Ruin Mist Tales''
 1. The Elf Queen & The King (2002)
 2. The Elf Queen & The King #2 (2002)
 3. The Elf Queen & The King III (2006, forthcoming)
 ...Novels...
 At Dream's End (1996)
 Sovereign Rule (2003)
 The Pieces of the Puzzle (2006)
 Stormjammers (2006)

 ...Collections...
 Magic Lands & Other Stories (2002)
 Ruin Mist Heroes, Legends & Beyond (2002)

 ...Short Fiction...
 Absolutes (????)
 August Rains (????)
 Silence is Golden (????)

Books About William Robert Stanek
Magic of Ruin Mist (2003)
 Robert Stanek: Candid Conversations (2003)
 Teacher's Classroom Guide to Ruin Mist (2003)
 Student's Classroom Guide to The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches (2004)
 Teacher's Classroom Guide to Magic Lands (2005)
 Student's Classroom Guide to Magic Lands (2005)

 Bibliography (Non-fiction)
Electronic Publishing Unleashed (1995)
 FrontPage Unleashed (1996)
 Peter Norton's Guide to Java Programming (1996)
 Web Publishing Unleashed (1996)
 FrontPage 97 Unleashed (1997)
 Increase Your Web Traffic in a Weekend (1997)
 Learn the Internet in a Weekend (1997)
 Netscape One Developer's Guide (1997)
 Web Publishing Unleashed Professional Reference Edition (1997)
 FrontPage 98 Unleashed (1998)
 Increase Your Web Traffic in a Weekend 2nd Edition (1998)
 All-in-One Java 2 Certification Guide (1999)
 FrontPage 2000 Unleashed (1999)
 Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Administrator's Pocket Consultant (1999)
 Netscape Mozilla Source Guide (1999)
 SQL Server 7.0 Administrator's Pocket Consultant (1999)
 Windows NT Scripting Administrator's Guide (1999)
 Increase Your Web Traffic 3rd Edition (2000)
 Exchange 2000 Server Administrator's Pocket Consultant (2000)
 SQL Server 2000 Administrator's Pocket Consultant (2000)
 Windows 2000 Administrator's Pocket Consultant (2000)
 Windows 2000 Scripting Bible (2000)
 All-In-One Java 2 Certification Guide 3rd Edition (2001)
 FrontPage 2002 Unleashed (2001)
 Windows 2000 and IIS 5.0 Administrator's Pocket Consultant (2001)
 Windows XP Professional Administrator's Pocket Consultant (2001)
 XML Pocket Consultant (2001)
 Effective Writing for Business College & Life (2002)
 Essential Windows XP Commands Reference (2002)
 Essential Windows 2000 Commands Reference (2002)
 Windows 2000 Server Administrator's Pocket Consultant 2nd Edition (2002)
 Windows .NET Server Administrator's Pocket Consultant (2003)
 IIS 6.0 Administrator's Pocket Consultant 2nd Edition (2003)
 Faster Smarter FrontPage 2003 (2003)
 Exchange Server 2003 Administrator's Pocket Consultant (2003)

Columns
Robert Stanek was a tech columnist from 1995-1997.
PC Magazine
Dr. Dobbs Journal.

See Also
The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches
In the Service of Dragons
Ruin Mist
Ruin Mist Chronicles

References
Magic of Ruin Mist (2003)
 Robert Stanek: Candid Conversations (2003)
 The Complete Idiot's Guide to Elves and Fairies

External Links
The Official Robert Stanek web site
The Official Magic Lands web site
The Official Ruin Mist web site
Reagent Press Robert Stanek's publisher
Robert Stanek fan directory
The real MO here is how the people in the same core group keep working their handiwork forward. It’s how a 2009 message forum post by Adam Whitehead gets re-posted to io9.com by Adam Whitehead or an associate, cross-referenced in a 2012 a Huffington Post blog entry and then worked forward.

The Huffington Post blog entry was re-posted in its entirety to the Oh No They Didn’t blog at 2:39 PM on Sept 4 2012 by an anonymous blogger, the basis of a BoomTron post on Sept 5 2012 by Matthew Funk, and the basis of an Oct 14 post on Philly.com by David Griesing.

Matthew Funk said: “And if Locke isn’t enough to prove a trend, there’s Stephen Leather, thriller writer, and Robert Stanek, sci-fi writer, and Orlando Figes, historian.”
David Griesing said: “Writers such as John Locke, Stephen Leather, and Robert Stanek have all been exposed for submitting bogus reviews.”

Note how my name is worked in without context and as if fact. And it’s how a message forum post by an architect of hate works its way across the Internet. That’s how these people operated in 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2009 when they spread other nonsense around in big ways as well.

It’s interesting to note that in 2009 when Adam Whitehead and the architects of hate were spreading that particular nonsense at Sffworld and many other sites, I had over 120 published books to my credit. Those books had been read by over 6 million people and translated into over 30 languages. Today, I have over 150 published books.

As a point of fact, I’ve had 7 or more books published every year since 1995 when my first book was published. My body of work encompassing many millions of words and many thousands of published pages should speak for itself. As anyone who’s written a few books can tell you, writing that many books for that many years is a full-time occupation and then some.

Writing that many books for that many years required a tremendous dedication to the writing craft and a tremendous dedication of time. But I loved the writing craft and that love of the writing craft kept me going, even if it meant working 80 to 100 hours a week.

For those who seem to have never done good, honest, hard work like that in their lives, let me be the one to tell them that when you work 12- to 16-hour workdays 7 days a week you don’t have time for anything. The only thing you want to do at the end of the day is collapse into a heap and maybe spend a few minutes with your kids before you tuck them into bed.

It’s also interesting to note that while screaming about sock puppets and fake reviews for the past 12 years, the authors responsible for all this, their blogger buddies and their associates had no qualms whatsoever about creating sock puppets, writing fake reviews, spreading misinformation, and threatening anyone who stood up to them. Over the years, they’ve created hundreds of sock puppets to spread this idiocy and spreading this idiocy is something they’ve worked tirelessly to do using every dirty tactic you could ever think of from hiring lawyers to send notices to paying off distributors to drop listings.

Those who have been active participants in these hateful activities include:

David Langford (author)
Stephen Leigh (author)
Jim C. Hines (author)
Victoria Strauss (author)
David Louis Edelman (author)
Patrick Rothfuss (author)
Tim Spalding (Library Thing)
Maureen Johnson (author)
Melissa Foster (author)
Adam Whitehead (Wertzone, Best Fantasy Books)
Patrick Dennis (Pat’s Fantasy Hot List, Best Fantasy Books)

As the victim of these hateful activities, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time investigating the motivations. David Langford (author), one of two originators of this, is one of several high-profile influencers who made Harry Potter Harry Potter. David Langford also is highly connected into Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and related fantasy franchise.

In 2002, when all this started, Harry Potter wasn’t the Harry Potter we know and love today and the franchise could have gone another way: limited success or failure. I’ve no doubt the sudden rapid success of Ruin Mist Chronicles and The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches put fear into Bloomsbury/Scholastic, as both Bloomsbury and Scholastic made contact with me personally multiple times during the years 2002 to 2007. On separate occasions, Bloomsbury and Scholastic requested reading copies of all the books, related marketing materials, sales history, and other promotional backgrounders. More than once, under the pretense of using the books in their book clubs; more than once under the pretense of possibly publishing the books.

In these years, I was also contacted several times by Gollancz, David Langford’s UK publisher. Once was under the pretense of publishing the books in the UK, and as with Scholastic, requesting reading copies of all the books, related marketing materials, sales history, and other promotional backgrounders. Gollancz, Orbit and several other UK publishers were particularly interested in my approach to publishing separate adult and children’s editions of my books, and this was something they would later do with the books of a number of authors, including with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. I mention this because having separate adult and children’s editions of my books has been a particular bone of contention for the parties involved with trashing my reputation.

Adam Whitehead (Wertzone, Best Fantasy Books, etc), the second of two originators of this, is an associate of George RR Martin and like Martin a conscientious objector. In 2002, when all this started, A Game of Thrones wasn’t the A Game of Thrones we know and love today and the franchise also could have gone another way: limited success or failure. I’ve no doubt the sudden rapid success of Ruin Mist Chronicles and The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches put fear in Adam and others as they started writing trash reviews of my books that kept mentioning George’s books and using the public trashing of my books as a promotional platform for George’s books has been a constant with them for the past 12 years.

The fact that Adam is a conscientious objector is of note as his associates were particularly hateful when it came to my military service. I am a distinguished combat veteran. When my nation called upon me to serve in dark hours, I did so without hesitation. Duty, honor, and country mean a great deal to me, and they always have.

For these despicable persons to try to claim that I wasn’t a combat veteran, hadn’t even served in the military or earned my military honors was the deepest of insults. Worse, was enduring years of threats and harassment from those who listened to this idiocy and accused me of stolen valor.

As I’ve written about previously, here, in fall 2001, Reagent Press and I tested the market by publishing my first fiction book as a serial ebook. The test was hugely successful and we released ‘Keeper Martin’s Tale’ as a single volume in February 2002, where it quickly became a Science Fiction & Fantasy bestseller.

With the phenomenal sales, the book started getting reviews. First, two short supportive reviews from readers who liked the book, then a strange one-star review that said, among other things, “I’ve been had. This is nowhere near a 5 star book like all these reviews claim.” Another of my books, published shortly after my first, got a similar strange ranting one-star review—the second review ever for that book.

This continued. An anonymous one-star review soon asked “Is it just me, or what?” before trashing the book and me personally. A series of one-star reviews followed, one in mid April 2002 stating “For those who enjoy a great fantasy read, no one comes remotely close to George R. R. Martin's ‘A Song of Fire and Ice Series’. Stanek has the initial makings of a good storyteller, but he's still a long, long way off. Don't waste your time with this one...”

This was followed by an anonymous one-star review on April 19 2002 stating “There's no way it even begins to compare to the works of authors such as George R.R. Martin.”

Another one-star review, written in an identical style, with the title “What book are the rest of you reading?” soon followed in late April 2002. This review said, among many things, “After reading him for an hour, I had to go pick up Lord of the Rings just to confirm to myself that Tolkien's writing wasn't that bad. I don't see how Stanek can even be close to Robert Jordan or George RR Martin, its like comparing a high school english paper with War and Peace.”

The flow of one-star reviews from anonymous (and sometimes from someone using pseudonyms and newly created accounts that typically had only reviewed my book the day the account was created) continued into May 2002 when David Langford / Adam Whitehead wrote the following in Ansible:

“Amazon Mystery. Authors of fantasies on sale at Amazon.com have noticed a rash of oddly similar customer reviews that rubbish their work and instead recommend, say, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Robert Stanek. The number of Big Name commendations varies, but not the plug for self-published author Robert Stanek. Who could possibly be posting these reviews (many since removed by Amazon) under a variety of names? It is a mystery, but Ansible is reminded of how Lionel Fanthorpe's pseudonymous sf would often mention those great classic masters of the genre, Verne, Wells and Fanthorpe.”

After this appeared in Ansible, for whatever reason, I was suddenly being trashed all over the Internet by other authors, SFF bloggers, anyone with a bone to pick. Suddenly, authors, bloggers, others, who had never even read my work were writing hateful reviews and commentary, and just as often as not, they used sock puppets to do it. 
It didnt matter to anyone that what was written wasnt true, or that I was actually the one on the receiving end of the negative reviews.

Move forward to the present and the same core group is still doing the same dirty work and they’re just as active at it as they were in 2002. Why? Many are employed to do so, and by employed, I mean paid, as these types of activities are their full-time/part-time occupations. They are paid to be influencers, to be franchise makers and breakers.

Entertainment franchises are big business. The Harry Potter franchise has earned billions. The Game of Thrones franchise has surpassed a billion in earnings. With billions and hundreds of millions at stake, it’s no wonder why some organizations employ “actors” to do dirty work. And for relative peanuts, those “actors” will tirelessly work their social and online contacts to break some while making others.



While we’re talking about fakery, why don’t we look at sales of Rothfuss books compared to ratings. During the period January 2007 to present, Kingkiller Chronicle has sold approximately 2.5 million copies. As examples, according to Publishers Weekly for 2012 ebooks sales, The Name of the Wind sold 53,097 copies and The Wise Man's Fear sold 49,731.

Amazon US & UK have 3705 reviews for The Name of the Wind currently (3157 + 548) and 2852 reviews for The Wise Man's Fear (2364 + 488). Barnes & Noble has 2076 reviews for The Name of the Wind and 1570 for The Wise Man's Fear. Add in other book sites like Booksamillion and elsewhere, and the total reviews tops 25,000. Goodreads has 361,152 ratings and 26,050 reviews for Rothfuss. Other book sites, bring the total well over 500,000 ratings. Or in other words, approximately 20% of readers supposedly wrote a review or rated.

How many Robert Stanek ratings were Rothfuss and associates screaming about for over a decade? Out of over 200 Robert Stanek titles on Amazon US & UK, only 14 ever had 12 or more reviews.

Those 14 books were primarily my Ruin Mist books. In 2002 when they began screaming about fake reviews, Keeper Martin’s Tale had exactly two positive reviews, Elf Queen’s Quest had one positive review, and The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches had zero.

In 2005, when they kept screaming about fake reviews, Keeper Martin’s Tale had 140 reviews, Elf Queen’s Quest had 56 reviews, Kingdom Alliance had 20 reviews, Fields of Honor had 1 review and Mark of the Dragon had 1 review. The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #1 had 79 reviews, The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #2 had 45 reviews, The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #3 had 31 reviews and The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches #4 had 19 reviews.

So what was years of negative noise about? Less than 400 reviews in total for books that had sold collectively over 350,000 copies at that time (2005). Or put another way, approximately 1/10th of 1% of readers had written a review.

In fact today, if 1/10th of 1% of my readers wrote reviews there’d be nearly 10,000 reviews of my works. But there aren’t 10,000 reviews of my work or even 1,000 because these competitors and paid actors have made sure there isn’t.

Let’s also look at the percentage of positive ratings, as that’s something these competitors howled about for years as supposed proof of fakery. Here’s what these competitors were saying when my Ruin Mist books had an 85% positive rating: “No real book has such a high positive rating. It’s all fake and fraud.” 

Well, during the period January 2007 to present, Kingkiller Chronicle has an astonishing 99% positive rating from Amazon US & UK to Goodreads. Is it a real boy too or just a wooden one with a long, long nose? I don’t know Pinocchio. I don’t know.

The online world is like High School that never ends, where the cool kids do anything it takes to make sure they stay the cool kids. And by anything, I really do mean they do anything it takes, because they have and likely will continue to do so.

At the end of the day, it’s the words on the page that matter. The books that matter. I encourage you to read my Ruin Mist books for yourself to see why they matter and why certain competitors have spent 12 years trying to get you not to read them. Currently, there are 18 books set in Ruin Mist:

Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches
Winds of Change
Seeds of Dissent
Pawn of Dragons
Tower of Destiny

In the Service of Dragons
A Clash of Heroes
A Dance of Swords
A Storm of Shields
A Reign of Dragons

Guardians of the Dragon Realms
The Dragon, the Wizard & the Great Door
A Legacy of Dragons

Dragons of the Hundred Worlds
Breath of Fire
Living Fire

A Daughter of Kings
Betrayal
Deliverance
Rebirth
Discord

Magic Lands
Journey Beyond the Beyond
Into the Stone Land

Read the books if for no other reason than my competitors are desperate for you not to. If you enjoy the books, wonderful. If you don’t, there are plenty of other books out there.

Thank you for reading,

Robert Stanek

Monday, May 5, 2014

Being a Solo Flying Writer Can be Scary As Hell. Being a Pro Writer Offers Grounding. Being an Indie Author Too Gives the Best of Both Worlds.

My first published works appeared in the Janes' School Gazette in 1976, a grade school newspaper where I wrote columns and was a junior editor. (Yes, that was when I was in the 4th grade. :-)

Ten years later though, in 1986, I finished my first full-length novel. In 1991, I won my first writing award--an award that sat on my desk for some 20 years, reminding me where I got my start in this crazy business called publishing.

But it wasn't until 1994 that I signed my first contract with a publisher, which makes 2014 officially my 20th year as a published professional writer.

Between 1994 and 2001 were a lot of good and great writing years. In 2001, I went independent and straddled the so-called hybrid-author line between published pro and indie writer.

Of all the things I've done in my life, going indie was one of the scariest. Why? Independent writers fly solo. They rely on no one and nothing. It is refreshing. It is releasing. It is renewing. And yet it also can be scary as hell.

ABOUT EBOOKS AND AUDIOBOOKS

Many people think ebooks are something fairly new, but an interesting fact about ebooks is that they've been around since the mid to late 1990's when there were several very popular ebook programs that helped writers produce books on floppy disk and later CD-ROM. The first really big ebook push was around the fall of 2001. Back then, Amazon carried ebooks distributed by Ingram Digital. 

Ingram Digital's initial ebook distribution program went to websites all around the world. The first Ruin Mist novel was released as a serial ebook in 2001 as part of Ingram Digital's early ebook service, as well as other early ebook services, and was very successful. Reagent Press and I followed the successful ebook launch with a print release in February 2002 and the Ruin Mist books quickly became bestsellers on Amazon and elsewhere. 

In 2005, Reagent Press and I brought the Ruin Mist books to audio, focusing particularly on digital audio which was something fairly new at the time and available from sites like The Audio Book Store, Emusic, and Audible. Upon their release, the Ruin Mist audiobooks quickly dominated bestseller lists, especially at Audible. 

Like Harry Potter, Narnia, and many other popular books, the original Ruin Mist books are available in editions for adults and young adults. For adults, there are 'Keeper Martin's Tale', 'Kingdom Alliance', 'Fields of Honor', and then 'Mark of the Dragon'. For young adults, there are the four 'Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches' books and the four 'In the Service of Dragons' books.

The world of Ruin Mist is expansive and there are many other related novels. 'Journey Beyond the Beyond' and 'Into the Stone Land' are Ruin Mist: Magic Lands novels. 'Breath of Fire' and 'Living Fire' are Ruin Mist: Dragons of the Hundred Worlds novels. 'The Dragon, the Wizard & The Great Door' is a Ruin Mist: Guardians of the Dragon Realms novel. Companion guides like 'Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ruin Mist', 'Keeper Martin's Guide to the Fantastic', and 'Art of Ruin Mist: Heroes and Villains' are also available.

About all this, I am certain of one thing and it is this: If the Ruin Mist books had been published only in print or only in print in standard markets, the books never would have sold over 1 million copies. Just as the availability of the Ruin Mist books in print beyond standard markets created new opportunities, so did the wide availability of ebooks and audiobooks. As you plan your author platform, you too should be looking at releasing your books in formats, editions and markets that make the most sense for you.

ABOUT MY DAY JOB

An industry joke by and between writers is "Don't quit your day job." Of course, I wrote the Ruin Mist books and many other fiction books while also working a day job. My day job from 1985 to 1996 was in the military. From 1996 to the present, my day job is as a technology journalist and writer.

After high school, I joined the military to see the world--and really did. I was stationed in Japan, and toured Asia. I was stationed in Germany, and toured Europe. I saw what hell is like during two combat tours in the Persian Gulf War. I was stationed in Hawaii, and toured the Pacific.

After the military, I began work full-time as a writer. My writing though was primarily focused on nonfiction. I wrote articles for PC Magazine, Dr. Dobbs, and other journals, and I wrote technical manuscripts and other nonfiction works for publishers like Macmillan, McGraw Hill, Pearson, Microsoft, and O'Reilly. This work paid the bills, the mortgage and kept the lights on, but I also kept dreaming of things beyond.

Lessons and experiences from all my military service and traveling spill over into my writing like water over Niagara Falls. When my children were young, I started writing the Bugville Critters books in the 90's and over the years finished dozens of illustrated picture books featuring a little bee called Buster, a little lady bug called Lass, and their friends. My children have always been big Bugville fans and they're the ones who urged me to get the books published. 

When I started the journey to get the Bugville books published in 2004, I decided to bring the books to audio first and then print. Audio seemed a natural fit as my children loved hearing the stories as much as they loved reading them. At the time, I also was starting work on the Ruin Mist audio books.

The first Bugville Critters audiobooks were released in 2007. The print books followed in 2008. After releasing the original books starring Buster and Lass, I realized I also had a wealth of early learning books. These books became part of my Bugville Jr and Bugville Learning product lines. About all this, I am certain of one thing: If I had not expanded the Bugville Critters into new product lines, the books never would have sold over 1 million copies. It was the wide selection and diverse product offering that helped the books become successful.

As an author, your books are your brands and you too should be looking for ways you can expand. Expand into areas that make sense based on what you are writing.

I've sold 2.5 million Robert Stanek books, but I don't know if I'd have been able to continue as a writer without also having sold 7.5 million William Stanek books. Selling 10 million books over 20 years is a solid success, but one without the other? I'm not sure that would have worked, and it's one of the reasons I decided to be both a pro and an indie author. 

I hope my insights from 20 years in this crazy writing business help you in your writing.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek