Translating Hugh Howey: No Hugh, Self-Published Authors Don't Treat Readers Like Dirt. If You Do, That's Between You and Your Readers.

I'm Robert Stanek, a pro author since 1994 and an indie since 2001. Normally, I wouldn’t comment one way or another about Hugh Howey. We swim in different oceans and our paths rarely cross. In truth, I didn’t know the guy existed until he made several direct responses to me in online discussions I participated in last November/December.

Clearly, based on these posts, Hugh Howey wanted me to know he existed. The fact I didn’t have a clue who he was seemed to wound him deeply and a fisticuffs ensued with several of his online associates. I had no clue why Hugh Howey would care so much whether I knew who he was until I learned later he had been taking shots at me for quite a long time.

Over the past year, Hugh Howey seems to have been waging war against traditional publishing, a long string of a-list authors, and anyone who supports traditional publishing. To give you an idea of some of the things he’s been saying, here are his thoughts on David Streitfeld of the New York Times:

David Streitfeld of the New York Times has now cemented himself as the blabbering mouthpiece for the New York publishing cartel, and while he is making a fool of himself for those in the know, he is a dangerous man for the impression he makes on his unsuspecting readers.

Recently, I chanced upon a discussion in response to Hugh's blog post entitled, “Are Indies Treated Like Second Class Citizens?”. As you can see from the screen shot (at the end of this article), there’s some simple discussion and then Hugh Howey appears out of the blue saying:

How am I bashing Amazon? I'm guessing you just read the first line or two? Really asking.

The only bashing I see is from the usual suspects and aimed at me. Thinly veiled, of course.

Read the posts from the screen shot. If Hugh thinks he's being bashed somehow by that, he really needs to get out more or at the least learn how to take some simple criticism. 

Intrigued by his hubris, I decided to read “Are Indies Treated Like Second Class Citizens?” Knowing what I know about publishing from over 20 years in this business, I want to translate a few things Hugh says in the article.

Based on my read of the article, it seems Hugh Howey has recently learned that trad publishers not only get higher royalty rates than him but also get more money for borrows in KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited than he does—and he wants to figure out how to get the same pay day. A few choice quotes:

[A KU author gets] $1.30-ish for a borrow. A $9.99 ebook borrowed from a trad publisher, meanwhile, will pay 70%, which comes to $6.99. It’s worth pointing out here that the trad-pubbed author of that ebook will only receive around $1.48 for that same borrow of a $9.99 ebook.

Hugh bases the $1.48 on a 21% royalty rate from the publisher. In actuality, the royalty rate paid for ebooks by trad publishers to their authors can be anywhere from 10% net to 25% net, so in the range of .70 to $1.75.

Hugh also states:

indies aren’t just treated like second class citizens by Amazon — self-published authors treat Amazon’s customers like second class citizens.

Um, speak for yourself, Hugh Howey. Most authors, whether self-published or traditionally published, don’t treat their readers (who are Amazon customers) poorly. If you do, then that’s between you and your readers.

Next, Hugh tries to figure out a plausible way to get more money for himself and authors like him. His words in bold italics. The translation of his words in normal type.

The same freedom to publish that has changed the lives of thousands of authors also brings a wild west where others take advantage and try to game every system in every way possible. A handful of rotten apples spoils the entire bunch. The only way to prevent this is heavy curation, which I certainly don’t want. I want freedom, but with freedom comes the need to curb abuses. The logical step (and many have argued for this, some with compassion, some out of spite) is a tiered system. Classes of treatment for publishers based on the class of treatment given to customers.

What Hugh's really saying: Authors like me who sell lots of books and have thousands of rave reviews should get paid more than authors who don’t. After all, in the class system I'm proposing, I'm in the top tier (and the rest of you aren’t.) Also, while we’re at it, let’s make sure there’s real incentive to take down any author who tries to climb the class ladder.

So you have a class of authors who make their deadlines and a class of authors on probation for not meeting their deadlines. You have a class of authors who get regular feedback from readers about typos and a class of authors who rarely get this feedback (or who act on it promptly when they do). You have authors whose ebooks are read in a few days and authors whose ebooks are read in a few weeks, a reflection, perhaps, on the quality of the customer experience but not on the quality of the work.

What Hugh's really saying: Sorry the rest of you authors are fuck ups. In the class system I'd like to build, you'll be at the bottom anyway and guys like me will be at the top. 

I think we should have the same opportunities... but I don’t think we have the right to expect the same outcomes. That’s where the classes start sorting themselves. Should authors who sell a lot of books get better treatment than authors just starting out?

What Hugh's really saying: My success isn't something you'll ever achieve and the class system I want to build will help ensure this by making sure none of you get paid anywhere close to what a guy like me gets paid. The class system has worked so well throughout history. Peasants should not mix with us nobles and royals. I've been an author for 5 years now. If you haven't, you shouldn't have any of the same rights as I do.

Of course, it will be impossible to prevent abuses by the untoward and impossible to agree on metrics of quality (an exercise that I abhor). But now we can ask again whether Amazon should pay indies — as a whole — the same way they pay trad publishers. ... do I think indies as a whole should get paid the same as trad publishers as a whole? I do not.

What Hugh's really saying: Indies as a whole don't deserve the same pay as someone like me. Authors like me who sell lots of books should get paid more than authors who don’t. Although I abhor having to be the one to determine metrics of quality, I will as it'll help ensure the class structure I want to build remains top light and bottom heavy. I want to control the class ladder to make sure it's impossible to climb to the same lofty heights as me.

The authors who respect Amazon’s customers by providing high quality reads with professional covers at a great price should be treated better than those who upload short error-riddled rough drafts at high prices. And the latter should be treated better than those who break Amazon’s TOS, like having KDP Select books available elsewhere. And this group should be treated better than those who break the law by uploading stolen material (or by profiting from open-source or crowd-sourced material).

What Hugh's really saying: You must overlook the fact that the rules don't apply to me. My books are in KDP Select and also available everywhere else. Further, even though I became a success by cutting my books into parts and selling them in as many pieces as I wanted, that's not something anyone else should be able to do. In a class system, guys like me will make the rules anyway and they'll only apply to the rest of you. Also, while we're at it, let's find ways to make sure that everyone recognizes that everything I produce is a flawless gem and that everything the rest of you produce is flawed crap.

I am biased. I think Amazon should tweak their KU payout system to make it more fair among us indies. 99 cent short stories and novels should pay the same 35 cents that they do on KDP. The payout should also come at higher than the 10% read range (maybe more like 50%). Works priced from $2.99 – $6.99 should pay $2.00 per borrow.

What Hugh's really saying: Take a look at the price of my books. Since my work is better and costs more, I should be getting $2 a borrow and the rest of you shouldn’t. Further more, no one should be able to price their books at .99 like I did. That approach to success is only reserved for people like me at the top of the class structure I'm building.

The fairest thing I can think of is escalators. Amazon’s self-publishing audio book program, ACX, used to employ earnings escalators. The payout rate might start at 40%, but it can go up to 90% with enough sales. This puts the job of rewarding customer experience where it belongs, and that’s with the customer. Keep them happy and coming back for more, and the payout goes up.

What Hugh's really saying: Authors like me should make more than everyone else. After all, in a class system, we’re the top tier (and the rest of you aren’t). Also, while we’re at it, as authors like me start to earn 90% royalties, it’s highly likely the payout for the rest of you will go down closer to 0%, but don’t worry about that. I’ll spend my millions wisely and I encourage you to help me fight for my pay raise. I earned it. I'm Hugh Howey.

I’d love to see that 70% payout creep up to 85% with enough titles sold. Maybe 1,000 sales moves the peg up to 71%. 5,000 sales gets you 72%. Perhaps reaching 85% requires selling ten million ebooks (something no single self-published author has yet done on Amazon). I don’t dream of ever reaching that sort of level, but I would applaud those who do for being rewarded for it.

What Hugh's really saying: I’m on track to get to 10 million sold in a few years. Authors like me who sell lots of books and have thousands of rave reviews should get paid more than authors who don’t. After all, in a class system, we’re the top tier (and the rest of you aren’t). Also, truth be told, no one is going to get a raise after 1,000 sales or even after 5,000 sales, but those of us with 1,000,000 or more sales will. When we do, it’s highly likely the payout for the rest of you will go down considerably, but don’t worry about that. We’ll spend our millions wisely, so keep fighting for our pay raises.

As I said in the original post, it is cosmically unfair for all KDP users to be lumped together. That’s the conundrum. I don’t see an easy answer to any of this, just more problems.

What Hugh's really saying: I really hate the fact that I get paid the same royalty rate as everyone else. It’s not enough that I get perks and privileges the rest of you don’t, like having my books in KDP Select while they’re also on sale everywhere else. I’m supposed to be paid more than everyone else. I’m Hugh Howey. It's cosmically unfair that I don't get 90% royalties.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek


Translating JA Konrath Translating John Sargent: Are Subscription Models Bad For Authors?

I'm Robert Stanek, a successful indie author since 2001 and a successful pro author since 1994. Joe Konrath is quite outspoken about his dislike and disdain for traditional publishing. Some would even say Joe is quite angry. I don't blame Joe for his anger considering he labored for many years as a traditionally published author, barely making a living, until he went indie and finally found true success. In past blog posts, Joe has angrily tore apart trad published authors like James Patterson and others, including the Authors Guild, for their defense of traditional publishing. (For the record, this is not meant as a dis on Joe.)

Personally, I think Joe should be more angry about the broken state of publishing and many of the things I've been blogging about right here: runaway ugliness in publishing; Amazon's broken system; Amazon's unfair business practices; etc.

There is no doubt Joe's an unfettered champion of Amazon, but Joe has much to learn about the heartless, soulless company in Seattle that puts smiley faces on its boxes while working to destroy everything we love about books and reading. If Joe really thinks any executive at Amazon gives a damn about his loyalty, my advice is this: wait a few years and see how they repay your loyalty when you're not making $1 million a year.

I became a pro author the same year Amazon became a company: 1994. I was one of the guy's who put Amazon on the map. My bestselling books, widely read articles, and highly popular websites all told readers about Amazon. I brought millions of new customers to Amazon's doorstep. My reward for years of steadfast loyalty? A handful of shit from a company that could care less about years of loyalty or the millions brought to their doors. And when they use you up, Joe, and shit you out on the pavement, there'll be a thousand guys in line to take your place who all will also think their loyalty means something.

Recently Joe's war against traditional publishing has taken him in new directions. He posted a tirade as a  response to Macmillan CEO John Sargent’s open letter to authors regarding tactics the company is taking to preserve market share in these difficult times for publishing (and books in general). Personally, I think John should have posted such a letter on Macmillan's site and not a Tor.com blog, but that's neither here nor there as I'm sure the letter went out in printed letters, email, etc as well.

As my books have been published by Macmillan, Random House, Pearson, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, etc, John's words were of particular interest. One of the biggest takeaways from the letter is that Amazon sells 64% of Macmillan's ebooks (meaning all other markets represent only 36%). I was not surprised to learn Macmillan was going to begin trials of subscription-based services. I had just done the same in September/October with my ebooks and audio books going into several subscription services.

I was surprised that Joe, whose books are all in Amazon's subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, was suddenly telling Macmillan authors that they should be screaming their heads off about Macmillan's potential use of subscription services. Is not what's good for the goose, good for the gander?

If subscription services devalue authors' works and are bad, why are 100% of Joe's works in Amazon's subscription service? Also, with current payouts for Kindle Unlimited not being far off from what Joe earns in KDP Select, isn't KDP Select devaluing his work and bad as well? As far as I know, Joe has been fine with the ~$1.70 payout of KDP Select, making north of $1 million from borrows, so what makes the ~$1.50 payout of Kindle Unlimited any different?

Joe's questions for John Sargent on behalf of Macmillan authors. My responses in normal type.

1. Can I opt out of this new subscription idea?

Likely, many/most authors are excited about these opportunities, especially with dwindling sales for most, increasing competition and decreasing market relevance. Recently, another publisher (Pearson/Microsoft) did allow me to opt out no questions asked from a new plan I didn't like.

2. My books aren't available in print anymore, or the print sales are minuscule. Can you give me my rights back?

Regarding reversions of rights, there's not a whole hell of a lot authors can do. Joe was fortunate to get his rights back from Macmillan. Many others won't be as fortunate. 

Macmillan made a huge amount of money from my books, north of $50 million, give or take. In the early days when I was writing for Macmillan, I worked hard to make my contracts more fair and balanced, but rights were something they held fast to. A lucky few might get back their rights, but may have to wait a decade or two until Macmillan believes the rights no longer have any value.

There are worse things than publishers holding onto rights. Ever heard of the Creative Commons? The Creative Commons basically is a set of rules for putting an author's work in public domain before copyright expires. In plain language, Creative Commons makes the work freely available to all.

In and of itself, Creative Commons is not a bad thing and was in fact created with the best of intentions. However, some publishers have turned those good intentions to their favor. As an example, O'Reilly Media's standard contract puts an author's work into Creative Commons automatically when it goes out of print or sells fewer than X copies a year (and then also grants O'Reilly Media a perpetual grant to use the work for free). 

For many O'Reilly Media authors this has meant that in 2 - 5 years after publication, their hard work is suddenly in the public domain and O'Reilly Media is free to start using it however they want in perpetuity. Now that's something to be outraged about.

Questions 3 - 17 are all pretty much the same: Why a subscription service? What does this mean to me when you went to war with Amazon over prices?

The fight with Amazon wasn't about price at all. It was about who gets what share of the royalties. See Selling Your Soul to the Company Store.

Joe's further comments in bold italics. My comments in normal type.

Macmillan supporting Oyster and withdrawing titles from Amazon is going against what the majority of the world is doing. That isn't kicking Amazon in the nuts. That's throwing away potential money, and pretty stupid. At this moment in time, competing with Amazon isn't wise. Look for markets Amazon doesn't care about.  Throwing support behind one of Amazon's competitors--when Amazon has the same program--is like starting a fire by burning piles of cash. Yeah, you get heat, but at what cost?

Um, earlier, you said this:

I'm unclear: are you only pursuing this subscription model with Amazon's competitors? Or are you going to also enroll my ebooks in Kindle Unlimited? If so, doesn't that negate everything you've done previously? If not, and you put my ebooks into Scribd or Oyster or wherever, will my ebooks still be sold on Amazon? Or will you pull them from Amazon?

I think a test of the subscription model will be exactly that. A test to determine viability. Likely, Macmillan will use Oyster and possibly Scribd as well for this test. Further, John states exactly this: We plan to try subscription with backlist books, and mostly with titles that are not well represented at bricks and mortar retail stores.

And can someone answer how any author, other than a big bestseller, would ever sign with Macmillan knowing their books are going into a subscription plan?

One could ask the same of any author who has considered or used subscription plans. Joe, you currently do this, and you also use KDP Select for all of your titles. As far as I know, the ~$1.70 payout of KDP Select and the ~$1.50 payout of Kindle Unlimited aren't much different.

The reason most writers sign legacy deals, other than getting an advance, is legacy's ability to get paper books onto retail shelves.

Strongly disagree. The reason most writers sign legacy deals is because of the worldwide reach of traditional publishers coupled with the belief that there is more potential for sales success. I'm not saying this is true any longer, but it is a long-held perception.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek


Avast Ye Matey: What to Do if Your eBook is Pirated

Lots of talk about piracy these days and much discussion about whether it's worth the effort to try to take down pirate copies or whether it's simply a whack-a-mole undertaking. IMHO, I think the answer as to whether trying to reduce or eliminate piracy of your work is worth the effort depends on the author and his/her body of work.

For an author starting out or with only a relative few books to his or her credit, piracy likely will not cause harm and may actually be a net benefit. Yes, you read that correctly: a net benefit. Some authors spend a considerable amount of time, money and resources giving away free copies of their books and a limited amount of piracy could be seen as one way to get free copies of a book into the marketplace.

For other authors, such as those with many works or some modicum of success, some piracy is part and parcel with being an author. However, too much piracy can derail success.

I've been a professionally published author since 1995 and have over 150 books to my credit (William Stanek for technical works, William Robert Stanek for learning books and compilations, and Robert Stanek for everything else I write). My books have generated well over $100 million in sales at retail. Or put another way over 7.5 million people have purchased my works, $59.99 at retail x 2 million = ~$120 million and the other 5.5 million+ sales at other price points were gravy.

I've been researching the impact of piracy on sales of my books for many years. Part of this research has been tracking the number of illegal downloads, which runs into millions of copies, and the sites where these downloads are/were available. Many of my most valuable properties were made available for illegal downloading, including audiobook and book products that retailed for $29.99 to $59.99. The total value at retail of the stolen: $100 million+.

I have no illusions that my sales would have been twice what they were if my work hadn't been illegally downloaded by the millions. I do, however, believe a considerable portion would have. The exact portion is unknowable, but even if only 10% that's tens of millions of dollars in sales.

How many content creators have been impacted similarly? My thoughts are that thousands have been. Maybe not as considerably as myself, but certainly collectively this pirating represents billions of lost sales annually.

For authors concerned about piracy, there are an increasing number of tools. You can try sending a DMCA Takedown notice to the site owner, such as the following:

VIA Email at [[ISPHosting[at]YourIsp.com]]
Re: Copyright Claim
To [[ISP Hosting Company Where Your Work Is Being Infringed]]:
  I am the copyright owner of [[BOOK] in contract with [PUBLISHER]] being infringed at:
 [[http://www <list the exact link or links to where the infringement is taking place>]]
 This letter is official notification under the provisions of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") to effect removal of the above-reported infringements. I request that you immediately issue a cancellation message as specified in RFC 1036 for the specified postings and prevent the infringer, who is identified by its Web address, from posting the infringing photographs to your servers in the future. Please be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to "expeditiously remove or disable access to" the infringing book downloads upon receiving this notice. Noncompliance may result in a loss of immunity for liability under the DMCA.
 I have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of here is not authorized by me, the copyright holder, or the law. The information provided here is accurate to the best of my knowledge. I swear under penalty of perjury that I am the copyright holder. Please send me at the address noted below a prompt response indicating the actions you have taken to resolve this matter.
 [[Your Name]]
 [[Your Email]]
 [[Publisher and Publisher email <if you have a publisher> ]]

Several services also have been started recently to help authors fight piracy. One of those services is www.Muso.com. Muso.com offers a free trial period and then acts as a paid monthly service.

I've tested out the Muso service for some time to see how it worked and whether it was useful to me. For me, the free trial was the most useful aspect of the service as it quickly identified all the locations where my books were being pirated (as opposed to me manually performing searches of all my titles, variations of title names, my name, variations of my name, etc).

If you use the monthly service, you can have them send out takedown notices for you. Once you have these locations, you also can send your own DMCA Takedown Notices where there were instances of actual piracy. However, you still need to check each location. For example, about 1/3 of the sites identified weren't actually pirating my work and about 1/3 weren't actually full pirate copies of my work--they were simply samples. For those remaining that were actually pirated copies, I could have specified that I wanted the service to send automated take down notices.

You also can set up Google Alerts for your books and your name to help you track where your books are appearing online. Notifications from Google Alerts will include information about all locations the tracked books appear, including those that are legitimate and those that are illegitimate. Because of this, you'll need to go through and identify which are legitimate and which are illegitimate. Once you've done that you can issue takedown notices as appropriate.

Hope this information helps you,

Robert Stanek


Oh the Choices! Choosing Between Ingram Sparks, Create Space & Nook Press

For authors, there are many choices for printing your own books, including Ingram Sparks and Create Space. Also, Barnes & Noble just announced a print-on-demand service. However, there's not a whole lot here yet. My guess is Barnes & Noble is testing the waters to see if the service is viable.

For Nook Press, looks to me like there's a starter set of options for standard B&W and color:
5" x 8"
5.5" x 8.5"
7.5" x 9.25"
7" x 10"
8" x 10"
8.5" x 8.5"

With B&W, you have the book printed on 50# white or 55# crème paper. With full-color, you can have the book printed on 70# white paper.
Since Nook Press allows you to print without even having an ISBN and it's only for printing and sending books to you, this service is best for hobbyists, who want to:

A) Print up their own copies of a particular book as gifts
B) or Sell books from home.

I've use both Ingram and Create Space since they started operations years ago. Both are good options for self-publishers.
Here's my .02 and hope you find it useful:

Ingram Sparks is part of Ingram Digital, which also has Lightning Source Inc. Ingram Digital / LSI have invested heavily in printing machines and continue to update their machines. When it comes to full-color, they have premium and non-premium options as well with the premium being of exceptional quality. Their investment in machinery has always put them ahead of Create Space in terms of overall quality, but Create Space is working hard to catch up.
The relative quality and thickness of paper depends on the type of paper. Generally, for non-color, I believe Ingram Sparks uses #50 paper stock with both white and crème, while Create Space uses #50 white and 60# crème. Either way, the quality of paper stock is comparable.

Overall quality of the resulting product, also depends on how well the binding is glued, how the cover is fitted and more. Here, in my opinion, Ingram Sparks has always beat Create Space when it comes to overall quality, but again Create Space is catching up.
For me, the choice on whether to use Ingram or Create Space depends on the sales potential of the book.

With books where you expect low sales, you'll find Create Space can't be beat. Create Space has no setup costs and no annual fees for distribution. This makes it a low-cost choice. Create Space also gives you options for a free ISBN (for that specific print edition), $10 for a custom ISBN or using your own ISBN. Create Space staff is exceptional and you have many expanded distribution options that will get your books not only into online retailers but libraries and international markets as well.

With books where you expect better and continuing sales or want to do print runs of 20, 50 or 100 copies, you're better off using Ingram. With Ingram, you have to pay setup costs and annual fees for distribution. This is offset by the generally lower cost per printing (particularly with expanded distribution options). If you do print runs, you often can get discounts depending on the size of the print run, such as 10%, 20%, or even 30%.
Ingram staff also is fantastic to work with.

Both good Create Space and Ingram Sparks are good choices -- and better choices than Nook's service for self-publishers.
Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek


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:

Barnes & Noble / Nook Press

iBooks / iTunes
Kobo Books


Google Play

& Many, many more.

Indie Plus distributes to the following library aggregators:

Baker & Taylor



& 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

    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

    Bugville Learning
    Bugville Publishing

 - Stanek & Associates

RP Audio
    Reagent Press Audio
    RP Audio Publishing
    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


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 naïve 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


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.


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


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 may wear thin. 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


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:

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.
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
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.

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.

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)
 At Dream's End (1996)
 Sovereign Rule (2003)
 The Pieces of the Puzzle (2006)
 Stormjammers (2006)

 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)

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

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

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