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6.27.2013

Speaking Out About Haters


I’m William Robert Stanek and I’ve been a professionally published author since 1995. Over my long, distinguished career, my books have been translated into 34 languages and purchased by 7.5 million people. All my life I’ve been a writer—well most of my life anyway, as I really got my start in the 4th grade when I wrote two regular columns for the school newspaper.

I’m a successful writer by any standard and yet bigger success has been derailed time and again by despicable competitors—competitors who I call the architects of hate. For years they’ve been at work trying to destroy my good name and reputation in the industry. I’m rather sick and tired of it. I’m also sick and tired of running into people almost daily who seek to harass and intimidate me regarding these matters. So here goes, the Wall of Shame by name:

David Langford
Stephen Leigh
Jim C. Hines
Victoria Strauss
David Louis Edelman
Patrick Rothfuss
Tim Spalding

This isn’t by any means a complete list. It is, however, a list of the most egregious offenders (along with the blogger friends of these persons who I've talked about previously like Adam Whitehead and Patrick St. Dennis). These are the ones who got the mobs riled up intentionally. Primarily, these also are professionally published competitors who have been at this nonsense for years. Some since at least 2002. Some who continue the nonsense to this day.

These persons are primarily authors of science fiction and fantasy, and as such, direct competitors. How all this nonsense began is with ignorance and arrogance. These competitors blindly believed  that they were the gatekeepers who determined whose books could be talked about and whose couldn’t. They were largely unsuccessful at the time and very frustrated with their failure, as evidenced by many of their posts during this period of time. They spent much of their free time in forums and discussion boards, as evidenced by their posts by the hundreds in various message forums over many years. Some working their hustles and making connections; others setting up places where they could show their teeth and attack others under the guise of trying to be the Internet police.

They had not a clue about the changing state of publishing then or how independent authors were about to take center stage. They were simply bitter and angry and hateful and frustrated. Disillusioned, disgruntled, maybe they watched books like Harry Potter take off into the stratosphere and careers of unknowns like teen author named Christopher Paolini blast off on rocket ships while they were left behind to hustle on the message boards only to become increasingly bitter.

Along came another book from another author they’d never heard of, a book from an independent press and what seemed an easy target for all that bottled up anger, rage and resentment inside them. It was my bad timing to be in the wrong place when there was blood in the water, especially as these competitors saw people start to talk about my books when they and their works were rarely, if ever, mentioned except perhaps when they worked themselves into discussions, even after having spent endless hours trolling about the Internet.

Nobody ever deputized these persons to determine whose works could be talked about and whose works couldn’t, whose works could sell and whose works couldn’t, but that didn’t stop them from appointing themselves as judges, juries and executioners. So they and their friends went out to places where my books were being discussed and told people they knew in these places: this guy’s a fraud, no one but the author himself would be discussing this book, no one but the author himself would be writing reviews of this book and on and on. That was, of course, was likely their experience as they had largely failed after months and years of trying to get people to talk about them and their works and/or months and years of trying to break in to publishing in a meaningful way.

They never stopped to think for a moment and consider that thousands of people were buying and reading my books at the times they were shouting the loudest, that the books had debuted very successfully in e-format months earlier or that Reagent Press had given away numerous advanced reading copies before ever releasing the first printed books for purchase. Instead, these competitors stoked the flames of hate, filed bogus complaints and enlisted others to do the same. Not only did they get forum moderators to remove discussions of my work and ban users who were discussing my books, they then more often than not got others to start hateful discussions of my work and me personally, turning positive word of mouth into negative word of mouth. 

But it wasn’t just message forums they went to. They and their friends went to Amazon and other places where my books were available for purchase and began filing bogus complaints while enlisting others to do the same. In their complaints, they told these places this guy's a fraud, that any positive reviews or discussions about my books were written by me, etc, etc. They backed up their bogus claims with bogus statistics about how many reviews the customers had or hadn’t written, how many votes a review did or didn’t have, how positive reviews were supposedly being used to push negative reviews down the page, how a reviewer had or hadn't written reviews of several of my books, and it went on and on. They continued to complain and stomp their feet until the sites took action. They did this time and again.

As sites like Amazon evolved, so did the gorilla tactics used to damage my reputation and sales. If they and their friends deemed too many people had written Listmania lists or So You Like It guides with my books in them, they went to the message forums and ranted about fake lists, fraud and sock puppets, etc, etc until they stirred people up and got them angry enough to run rampant on Amazon, file bogus complaints, etc. They kept it up until the lists and guides were removed or they simply No voted the lists and guides into oblivion. If they saw a discussion about my books on Amazon, they went to the forums to whine about how that guy was using sock puppets to talk up his books, how that guy was a fraud, and more until they stirred people into action to file complaints, report posts, vote No on posts to make the posts disappear and more. If my books got positive reviews, they used similar tactics to get people to report the reviews, vote No on the reviews and/or to ensure negative reviews appeared at the top of book pages instead of positive ones. If they couldn’t cajole Amazon or other sites into removing positive reviews, they added hateful comments. Often they organized these “hate-ins” as I call them in public message forums, which is how I tracked these activities to their sources. They had no fear of getting caught as they blindly believed, and largely continue to believe, they had/have a right to do whatever they want without consequence whatsoever. Anyone who dared to question what they were doing? Well, they got the same treatment as anyone who dared to talk about my works.

So at times when my career should have taken off and soared, it instead was being derailed, like when my books were #1 on Audible and being bought and read by thousands of people every single day. Here, these competitors and their friends were out en masse at Amazon and other sites, getting the sites to block and/or remove any positive reviews, discussions or mentions of me and my work while simultaneously posting negative reviews, discussions and comments about my work and me personally and enlisting others to do the same. It was the changing nature of publishing that largely made this possible and the fact that willing participants worked at some of these sites.

Imagine how my readers felt, and I’ve heard from many of them over the years. These readers were fans of my work, yet they found that if they discussed my work that not only would sites remove the discussion posts, reviews or whatever regarding my work they’d written, the sites often would go in and remove and/or block their entire accounts. These fans were literally bullied into silence and made to feel they had done something wrong simply by discussing me and my works in the first place.

The net effect was these competitors, and the sites that participated, were ensuring I lost my most ardent fans as fast as I gained them. For anyone working in the entertainment industry, word of mouth is critical to success and sales. Equally important are ardent fans who are far and few between on the whole. My competitors absolutely knew this and that’s why they worked so hard to not only block any and all positive commentary regarding my works but to get positive commentary removed and replaced with negative commentary.

The architects of hate are still out there. Some still at it more than a decade after all this nonsense started. They've never had to answer to any one for what they've done, meanwhile I continue to get hate and anger thrown in my face almost every single day. Amazing world we live in when a guy who has dedicated his life to the written word, with over 150 published books to his credit, has to endure such nonsense daily because of unethical competitors.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for telling your story. I'm sorry about what they did to you. It is so unfortunate that an author would do this to another author. I have had a similar experience with Ms. Strauss and company. I believe she got my reviews removed as well. I think her issue is jealousy, because she is such an atrocious writer. I have decided to publish my future work under a pen name.

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