Saturday, April 28, 2018

First Round to Patrick Rothfuss, Who Knew Being a Children's Book Writer Was So Fraught with Peril

It's no secret Patrick Rothfuss and I are both from Wisconsin or that we knew each other as "kids" or that I live in Washington state where Rothfuss did his graduate studies. What's not so well known are the lengths Rothfuss and persons associated with him have gone to to try to push my fantasy novels down while propping Rothfuss's up. 

Fifteen years into this, I can hardly believe it's still going on. That every day Rothfuss Adjacent persons "work" the search engines to ensure the anti-Stanek sites and pages they created appear high in the search results on Google, Yahoo, beyond then subsequently prop up their pro-Rothfuss sites and pages. That every day these persons do similar work to push down my status while pushing up Rothfuss. As a computer expert with over 20 years as one of the world's leading technologists, it's easy enough to see this handiwork and identify the sources.

It's almost as if it's these persons' full time job--because it pretty much is and has been since at least 2007. Since Rothfuss got friends to take down the Robert Stanek wiki page and post a full ready-to-go Rothfuss wiki page on 8 May 2007. I guess when you have friends who are Wiki editors and fantasy bloggers you, your brother, your "wife", can do whatever you want to whomever you want without fear of repurcussion.

I guess if your book was a book written for adults that had special appeal to young adults (the Alex awards criteria) you'd be glad if your book wasn't one that could have possibly competed against Rothfuss in 2008. If your  book had, you might have been the one on the receiving end instead of me (or alongside me). Things with Rothfuss kind of go llike that. My first fantasy work was published in 2002--the year Rothfuss won his writers of the future award, the L Ron Hubard contest, meanwhile Rothfuss spent the next four years trying to get published while my Keeper Martin (adult) and Kingdoms and the Elves (YA versions of the same) books climbed the bestseller charts. Amazon SciFi/Fantasy Top 50, 26 weeks, Audible #1 Fiction, 12 weeks. Audible #1 Kids & YA, 20 weeks. Audible Kids & YA Top 10, 180 weeks.

That had to kind of really suck for Patrick Rothfuss (and those close to him who were eager for his success). But unlike normal people who would have focused on something positive, these folks focused on lashing out at those who were doing and achieving what Rothfuss couldn't at the time. Then instead of moving on when Rothfuss finally got his work published, they continued to lash out. Like when Rothfuss/Adjacents told friends/fans/followers in an official entry in the Rothfuss blog and then in an official entry on the Rothfuss facebook page that I was a self-published fraud and asked them to trash my books and flood my book review pages with negative reviews.

Odd considering I had been a successful, bestselling author since 1995. Odd because I had over 100 books to my credit at the time. Odder still because not only had those many, many books been read by millions but they were also published/distributed by some of the most highly regarded publishers of the day: Macmillan, Pearson, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Time Warner and others.

In the age of Trump, Rothfuss's kind of fake news might not have taken on a life of its own. But a decade ago when this kind of news came from an otherwise trusted source like Patrick Rothfuss, people listened and didn't question or bother to check the facts.

With GRRM and JK Rowling becoming  billionaires, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why so much time and effort has been spent to harm fun, family-friendly books like "Keeper Martin's Tale" and "Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches". All I can do is urge you to read the  books for yourself and decide whether they are for you. Read the books if for no other reason that certain parties have spent thousands of hours trying to get you not to.

Thank you for reading,

Robert Stanek  
Author of 250+ books  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Amazon Still Has a Review Problem. A Solution That Could Actually Resolve It.

A visit to Amazon will take you to lots of products with oodles of reviews and the problem is that it's extremely likely most of these reviews are bogus. What percentage? Estimates vary widely, but my research says about 60% or so. Simply mentioning this fact, as I have for many years, makes me a target for those who make their living at this—whether they are merchants selling products or those who make a living by writing product reviews.

Sure, there are sites that purport to help you determine whether a product’s reviews are legit. Generally, these sites use automation and a series of algorithmic rules to try to spot fake reviews. Try is the operative word because such rules wrongly identify real reviews as fake quite frequently. Why? Because if you can write an automation rule to identify a fake review, the cheats have already worked around it and changed their tactics. What’s left then are real customers who get flagged for no reason. Just ask anyone who’s had their account removed for simply saying in their reviews something like: “Good. I liked it.” over and over.
Years ago, Amazon unveiled Verified Purchase as a way to determine whether a customer actually purchased a product before reviewing it. Amazon wants so very much for customers to believe this tag confirms that a review is genuine, so much so that a product review click now only shows verified reviews by default. Amazon also limits the number of unverified reviews a person can write on any given day.
The problem is the professional cheats were already ensuring review writers were buying products well before Amazon even unveiled Verified Purchase. And after that? Even the amateurs started making sure as many reviews as possible had Verified Purchase. Whether pro or amateur, those who do this know verified reviews sell more products than unverified reviews and they buy products just so they can review them.
It’s important to point out that reviews, whether real or fake, are written by real people and generally speaking real people can be robotic and repetitive just like cheats can. Real people can be creatures of habit too, meanwhile cheats can actively seek to work around detection by avoiding repetition or doing whatever else it takes.
After misidentifying so many real reviews as fake, causing substantial harm and alienating customers for so long, Amazon decided to take the fight directly to paid review writers, a key source of questionable reviews. Hence, the big announcements and legal actions in 2015 against several thousand paid reviewers who advertised at a site called Fiverr.
NOTE: Fiverr is a site where anyone can sell a service for $5 and up, and a service performed for a buyer is called a gig.
Before related gigs were pulled from the site, a simple search for “amazon reviews” would have displayed links that brought you to pages where you could see the gigs being offered for review writing and the sellers. There were thousands, some with hundreds of orders in the queue, as fake reviews were big business at Fiverr. Based on orders in queue, reviews from purported buyers, etc, it was easy to see that collectively these sellers were responsible for millions of paid reviews.
Clearly, the action was a big statement for Amazon. The problem is there are hundreds of millions of fake reviews, not just a few million. Most come from individuals, not professional review writers. These amateur fakes are written by regular people for a variety of reasons. They can be people a product seller knows personally, whether family, friends or simply a bunch of Facebook acquaintances. They can be other product sellers who are working together to help each other sell more. They can be complete strangers incentivized by gift cards or something else. Hate seems to work very well as a motivator.

NOTE: My opinion on paid reviews is here at In a nutshell, who cares if a book has ONE paid review, whether a $5 one from Fiverr or a $575 one from Kirkus. Why is one not okay and the other okay? The real problem all along was and is this: paid reviews are being purchased by the TENS and HUNDREDS for ONE product; friends & fam reviews are being written by the TENS and HUNDREDS for ONE product too.
Head over to Facebook on any given day or any other site where sellers talk in forums and you’ll find groups of people using these tactics to get reviews of their products written. Why do they do this? Because reviews sell products. It’s that simple. Products with few or no reviews don’t sell, even though those products with few or no reviews likely represent the only honest ones you’ll ever find at Amazon or anywhere else online.
A simple solution that could actually resolve the review problem once and for all:
1.   Let all product sellers create rich product pages like Amazon has for its own products. The best products will then sell themselves.
2.   Separate the rich product page from the related reviews by moving related reviews to a separate page.
3.   Make the related reviews page accessible by clicking a “Customer Reviews” link at the top of the main product page. Otherwise, show only the star rating and the number of reviews/ratings on the product page.
Now gramma Sally and her knitting circle can write all the reviews they want of granddaughter Emma's epic folk operetta, the trolls who hate it can go nuts 1-starring it, and those who are actually shopping for a related product can use the rich product page to determine whether they want to do so without all the noise and drama.
In closing, did anyone see the movie Joy? Was I the only one aghast by the fact Joy's success was largely built on a relative calling in and giving a glowing product testimony on live television? In fact, if the movie version is true to life, Joy would have failed miserably otherwise and her entire empire would then never have happened. Something to think about should you want to chastise gramma Sally and her knitting circle friends.

Thanks for reading,
Robert Stanek

Thursday, June 2, 2016

27 Years Ago I Met the Most Beautiful Girl in the World

27 years ago I met a woman in a bar. No, not my wife. Her sister. She was tending bar in Tacoma when I stopped in for some beers. It was my first day back to the states after being overseas in Japan for a few years.  I was taking a few days R&R on my way to Survival Training and then Air Combat School. Since it was a slow night, the bartender and I talked on and off for hours. As I was getting ready to leave, she said, You leaving already, thought you’d be here for a while longer, you should stay. At my hesitation, she popped open a beer, put it on the bar and said, This one’s on me.

It’d been a long flight, a long day, but I sat back down. I knew she wasn’t interested in me. She was a newlywed with a baby at home. As I started drinking the beer, she said, You see, I called my sister over an hour ago and told her she had to come here to meet you, then I called her a few minutes ago and told her if she wasn’t here soon, I wasn’t going to speak to her for a week. That answered my immediate question but only created more. I was about to ask why she wanted her sister and I to meet, but the answer was obvious. Some sort of blind date or something. I hated blind dates/fix ups.

The bartender saw my hesitation, said, Trust me, you want to stay, you two were meant for each other. Things got a little awkward between us after that because I was thinking how could she possibly know that or anything else about me. She’d only known me for a few hours, and I wasn’t that interesting. But the question answered itself almost immediately when the most naturally beautiful woman I’d ever seen entered. She lit up the room, turned every head, in nothing more than faded blue jeans and an old t-shirt.

From the first glance between us, there was a connection. I felt it and I was sure she did as well. It was electric. Within ten minutes, I knew she would either irreparably break my heart or be the love of my life. She was smart, funny, sexy, and refined. Sitting beside her at the bar, I couldn’t look away from her gaze. There was something in her eyes that I saw in my own eyes every time I looked in the mirror. It was perhaps a longing, perhaps something else.

She wasn’t just a beautiful woman or one of the most beautiful women. Truly, she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in my life. It was a natural beauty. One that radiated from within on a face painted with nothing but red lipstick.

We talked until closing. At the end of the night, we exchanged numbers. This was before cell phones, so this was the number to her sister’s place and my room at billeting. I asked her if she wanted to go to Seattle with me the next day as I was going to do some sightseeing before I went on to training. She said she couldn’t go, would call me, that we should try to meet the next evening before I left for Spokane.

I didn’t expect to see her the next evening, or possibly ever again, so I was crestfallen when we parted ways. The next day was agony. By luck or chance, I had just returned to my billet when a call came in. It was her. She asked what plans I had for the evening. I didn’t have any and we decided to meet.

I took her to dinner and dancing. Her sister and friends chaperoned later when we went for drinks afterward. We parted ways with nothing more than a kiss, but it was like a lightning strike. I knew I was falling in love with her, and she with me.

When I went to Survival Training in Spokane, she visited a few times and I drove to visit her in Tacoma a few times. At the end of those few short weeks, I asked her to come with me to Air Combat School in Arizona and be my wife. For her it meant leaving everything and everyone behind. It also meant having to move with me to Germany a few months later. She said yes without hesitation. She’s been my wife and best friend ever since.

The chemistry and electricity between us have never faded. She’s the one person I can’t wait to see when I open my eyes in the morning; the last person I want to see when I close my eyes in the evening. She’s the one person I talk to for hours every day about everything and nothing at all. She’s my heart, my compass, my North. The person whose hand I can’t wait to feel in mine.

My only regret in 27 years of marriage is that I haven’t asked her to marry me again. This is something I plan to do.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lifetime Achievement Award – 30+ Years of Books

Huge THANK YOU to readers and others who submitted me for an award for distinguished contributions in writing & American Letters. As a past recipient of awards for excellence in writing, merit and distinguished accomplishments, I'm honored to be nominated. I’ve written nearly 200 full-length works since I completed my first novel in 1986, but it wasn’t until 1995 that I had a breakout hit that established me as a bestselling author.

I wrote those early books for Macmillan and have since had books published and/or distributed by Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Microsoft, O’Reilly, McGraw Hill, Pearson and others. My books have sold nearly 10 million copies worldwide and been translated into 34 languages, with well over $150 million in sales.

That type of success is the stuff of Willy Wonka’s wildest dreams. Still, as I wrote about in “How I Made This Crazy Thing Called Writinga Career”, wild success doesn’t always mean riches for the writer. Although bookstores, publishers, agents, Uncle Sam and others got the Lion’s share of the wealth, I remain tremendously grateful to my publishers and everyone else in the business who made the dream possible.

In my career one of the things I’m most proud of is my work to give back and to support my fellow writers. Giving back to communities across America and the world is something I’ve written about in “It’s GivingTuesday!”. It took 20 years but my goal to give away $1 million in books to libraries and schools was finally achieved in 2015.

In the early days, I gave back to writers through Writer’s Gallery and other outlets I maintained online, including Internet Daily News (one of the earliest online dailies). In 2007, I launched Go Indie to support independents (writers and bookstores). Other resources include #AmBlogging #FreeToday and the Read Indies blog.

As I look back at my career, I’m also very glad that from the beginning I did something for myself by starting a publishing company. That company began operations in 1995 and I used it to learn about the publishing side of the industry, which is very different from the writing side. By 2004, I knew enough about the industry and was ready to spread my wings and go into self-publishing. I hired a great team and put them to work running my business.
In the beginning, we had quite a large team, that team has whittled down to a few core members, but remains in the business of bringing my works, and the works of a select group of other writers, to the world. They've helped get dozens of translations for my fiction works, which are now available in nearly 100 countries around the globe.
I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much my traditional publishers and those I worked with in the industry hated (loathed, really) my self-publishing efforts. But my efforts were wildly successful from the start with Keeper Martin's Tale quickly becoming a bestseller at (2002) and The Kingdoms & the Elves of the Reaches rocketing to #1 in Fiction at (2005) where it remained a Top 10 Kids & YA bestseller for over 180 weeks (2005 - 2008). 
Today, the industry has changed so much that without self-publishing I don’t know where I’d be. Strange how things can turn around so dramatically. What was once forbidden fruit has now become one of the best ways for writers to earn a living.
Thanks for reading,
Robert Stanek

Monday, January 11, 2016

Ruin Mist Turning 15 Soon: 15th Anniversary Ahead.

The 15th anniversary of Ruin Mist is fast approaching. It was on August 7, 2001, that the first installment of Keeper Martin’s Tale as a serialized novel was released in e-book format through Ingram Digital, with the full-length novel arriving in print on January 9, 2002. For 26 consecutive weeks after release, Keeper Martin’s Tale was a Top 50 SciFi & Fantasy at Amazon. Keeper Martin’s Tale was followed by Elf Queen’s Quest, Kingdom Alliance, Fields of Honor, and Mark of the Dragon.

In February 2002, illustrated children’s editions of the books were released as The Kingdoms  & the Elves of the Reaches. With The Kingdoms  & the Elves of the Reaches #1, #2, #3 and #4 quickly becoming children’s / YA top sellers. When The Kingdoms  & the Elves of the Reaches books were released on in 2005, the first book became  a #1 Fiction bestseller. After 14 weeks a top the fiction list, it became one of Audible’s all-time top grossing audiobooks to that date with The Kingdoms & the Elves of the Reaches #2, #3 and #4 also becoming bestsellers in Fiction and Kids & YA. 180 weeks later The Kingdoms  & the Elves of the Reaches books were still topping Audible’s Kids & YA Top 10.

To date, the Ruin Mist books have sold well over 1 million copies and select books have been translated into multiple languages. The Ruin Mist universe encompasses 22 core books and a number of companion works, including a graphic novel, several full-color books celebrating the extensive artwork featured in the books and more.

Ruin Mist Chronicles Books for Adults
Prequel  - Dragons of the Hundred Worlds
Keeper Martin’s Tale
Kingdom Alliance
Fields of Honor
Mark of the Dragon
Guardians of the Dragon Realms
Dark Path - Elf Queen’s Quest

Kingdoms & Dragons Books for Children’s / Teens
Breath of Fire, Living Fire (Prequels)
The Kingdoms & the Elves of the Reaches #1 - #4
In the Service of Dragons #1 - #4
The Dragon, the Wizard & the Great Door
A Legacy of Dragons
Memories of Fire

Battle for Ruin Mist Comics & Graphic Novel
A Daughter of Kings

Ruin Mist Companion Books
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ruin Mist
Ruin Mist Heroes, Legends & Beyond
The Art of Ruin Mist: Heroes & Villains
Teacher’s Classroom Guide to Ruin Mist
Student’s Classroom Guide to Ruin Mist
Magic of Ruin Mist
Ruin Mist Journal: The Kingdoms
Ruin Mist Journal: The Alliance
Battle for Ruin Mist: RPG
Keeper Martin’s Guide to the Fantastical Beasts and Faerie Peoples of Ruin Mist

Ruin Mist: Magic Lands
Journey Beyond the Beyond
Into the Stone Land

Ruin Mist: Magic Lands Companion Books
Teacher’s Classroom Guide to Magic Lands
Student’s Classroom Guide to Magic Lands

The Kingdoms & the Elves of the Reaches Omnibus
In the Service of Dragons Omnibus
Magic Lands Omnibus
Guardians & Dragons: Breath of Fire, Living Fire, The Dragon, the Wizard & the Great Door, A Legacy of Dragons, Memories of Fire
Complete Ruin Mist Chronicles:  Keeper Martin’s Tale, Kingdom Alliance, Fields of Honor, Mark of the Dragon, Elf Queen’s Quest
6-Book Boxed Set Ruin Mist Chronicles: Guardians of the Dragon Realms, Keeper Martin’s Tale, Kingdom Alliance, Fields of Honor, Mark of the Dragon, Elf Queen’s Quest
7- Book Boxed Set Ruin Mist Chronicles: Guardians of the Dragon Realms, Keeper Martin’s Tale, Kingdom Alliance, Fields of Honor, Mark of the Dragon, Guardians of the Dragon Realms, Elf Queen’s Quest

Learn more about Ruin Mist at http://www.ruinmist.com, and Learn more about the author, Robert Stanek, at Look for more 15th anniversary news and fun ahead.

Thank you readers!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It’s Giving Tuesday! A Goal Finally Reached After 20 Years… A Time for Change

Giving Tuesday is a time to show support for favorite causes and charities. Most people who know me know that I’m a vocal advocate of veterans and people with disabilities. As a veteran with disabilities, related causes and charities are something I support unabashedly whether it’s the Wounded Warrior Project ( or Special Olympics ( 

My daughter Sapphire has Downs, so it’s another reason that giving back, supporting related causes and charities for people with disabilities, is so important to me personally and my family. One of my daughter's favorite causes is Day of Champions. She's participated in every Day of Champions from the first to the most recent one, the 13th, in May 2015 and my family has been there as well. This year the Kiwanis Club stepped in to help and provide assistance, making the event an even better one for the nearly 600 kids with special needs who participated.

Another cause that I support are books for schools, libraries and families. Anyone who knows me probably knows this too. 

What you may not know is that every year since my first book was published in 1995, I’ve quietly been giving away books to schools, libraries, communities, charities and other organizations. It started with the publication of my first book Electronic Publishing Unleashed, which was quickly followed by Web Publishing Unleashed.

As part of my contracts and payment, I received 25 copies of each book from my publisher. This was written into my contracts. So a few days before publication I suddenly had box after box of these big, doorstopper books. Weighing in at around 1000 pages, there were 5 or 6 books to a box and I had no idea what to do with all those boxes of books.

Each book had a cover price of $49.95 so 25 books was $1250 at retail. Selling them probably would have been a great way to generate cash and pay my bills, especially as these boxes of books were quickly followed by other boxes of books, like my books FrontPage Unleashed and Windows NT Pocket Consultant.

I didn’t want to sell the books, however. I kept two copies for my library, gave away 2 or 3 copies to readers, and donated the rest to organizations where the books would be put to good use whether these were schools, libraries, learning centers or whatever.

Over the years, I expanded the book giving to include my fiction works and other works by RP Media authors. As I have about 100 or so professionally published books and even more published through RP Media, this has meant giving away thousands and thousands of copies of my books to schools, libraries, learning centers and other places where the books could be used to help others. As year by year RP Media matches my giveaways with the books of other RP Media authors and has a library of over 1,500 titles, the total reach is even greater.

I’ve received lots of heartfelt thanks from those I donated books to but none more so than from students in classrooms in Puerto Rico who never before had books of their own. Entire classes wrote their individual Thank Yous and it made all the hard work worthwhile.

Digital has opened up entirely new ways to ensure everyone has access to books. Through Ripple Reader, Epic and others, I’ve been able to participate in programs to provide free access to books for classrooms and teachers, but one of the most unique efforts I support is Project eShelf, which provides free access to hearing and speech impaired children in Scotland including St. Columba's Girls National School in Douglas, Cork.

My goal when I began this work was basic: simply to give back in a meaningful way. Over the past 20 years, these efforts have meant giving away over $1,000,000 in books to schools, libraries, communities, charities and other organizations worldwide. 

When I started this work all those years ago, a $1,000,000 goal was unfathomable. It seemed a great reach, but it was accomplished one step at a time. Baby steps at first, then larger steps and new paths opened. The goal reached and with less means to provide support, I will quietly step away from the effort now, though my books will remain available in specialized free access programs for schools and libraries.

My hope though is that I’ve inspired you who are reading this to pick up where I leave off. Want to give back and support books and reading? There are many ways you can do this right now:

First Book (
Books for Kids (
Reading is Fundamental (

These organizations are nonprofits that provide books to children. There are many others as well, and much you can do if you want to forge your own path as well.

I also encourage you to support Wounded Warrior Project ( and Special Olympics (

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek