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9.15.2014

Speaking Out About Ugliness in the Publishing Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragons of the Hundred Worlds
Breath of Fire
Living Fire

A Daughter of Kings
Betrayal
Deliverance
Rebirth
Discord

Magic Lands
Journey Beyond the Beyond
Into the Stone Land

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

Thank you for reading,

Robert Stanek

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