An interview of Author Glenn G. Thater, by blogger Spuds Malone.
S. Malone> Mr. Thater, as you know I’ve been writing a series of articles focusing on Independent Authors. One of the themes that I’ve been exploring is a troubling trend that “Indies” have been receiving fraudulent reviews of their work posted on various internet sites with the apparent intent to sabotage their reputations or that of their books. Word is, you’ve experienced some of this.
G. THATER> Unfortunately, I have.
S. Malone> Before we delve into that, let’s talk about “Independent Authors” or “Indies” in general. That phrase means different things to different people. How do you define it?
G. THATER> To me, an ‘Indie’ is a published author that hasn’t signed away their rights to their books to a publishing house. When you’re published through a traditional publishing house, or a small press, or even most vanity publishing outfits, you sign over your rights to your book, effectively selling the publisher the book to do with as he will. Nowadays, an author can maintain the full rights to their books by foregoing the traditional publishing route and instead publishing through certain ebook or print-on-demand (POD) publishers or by becoming a publisher themselves and printing their own books through a printing service.
S. Malone> What route did you take with your fantasy novel, Harbinger of Doom? And why?
G. THATER> I went with CreateSpace, a POD publisher for softcover books and I use Amazon Kindle and Mobipocket to publish my work in electronic format. I chose this path because I wanted to maintain full control and ownership over my work.
S. Malone> How many Agents and traditional publishing houses did you send your work to before deciding to go Indie?
G. THATER> None. Not one. Your question highlights part of the problem. People seem to think being an Indie is what you do if you can’t get traditionally published. The implication being, if you’re not good enough to get published ‘the right way’, then Indie is an alternative. That thinking is just plain wrong. Many authors today choose to be an Indie because they don’t want to sign away their rights and don’t want to give up the lion share of their royalties to others.
S. Malone> So what’s the downside to being an Indie?
G. THATER> There’re two downsides. First, the burden of producing the book is on the author – having the book properly edited and proofread, designing the cover, and all the marketing/promoting. These are time-consuming and potentially very costly tasks. The second downside is that there’s a stigma against Indies.
S. Malone> How so?
G. THATER> Going back to your earlier question, many people presume that all Indie books are inherently inferior to traditionally published books. They presume that the book wasn’t traditionally published because it wasn’t ‘good enough’.
S. Malone> Why do you think people think that?
G. THATER> I’ve seen many, many ‘reviews’ of Indie books where the reviewer writes in all CAPS something like, “Beware - this is a self-published book”. It’s written as if it was an expletive, as if Indie books were not real or some kind of ripoff. Some people seem to think it’s their civil duty to ‘out’ Indie books and try to make sure others don’t buy them. This is a crazy mentality, but a lot of folks seem to think that way.
S. MALONE> And you’ve been a victim of this?
G. THATER> I have and so have a number of author friends of mine. I’ve had people post ‘reviews’ of my book on various websites stating, ‘Don’t buy this book – it’s self-published trash,’ or words to that affect. Oftentimes, the ‘reviewer’ goes on to say that they haven’t even read the book, but they can tell it’s self-published (and therefore, ‘trash’) because they noticed that the publisher is not one of the big publishing houses.
S. MALONE> Why do you think people react that way?
G. THATER> That’s hard to say. The best case scenario would be that they read a couple of Indie books that they didn’t like, and presume that they’re all lousy, so they really think there’re performing some public service by warning off people. I tend to think it’s more than that, though, as the quality of Indie books out there these days is pretty good, though there is a wide variation in quality from one book to another. The same can be said of traditionally published books, though. Sometimes I think that there are a handful of folks out there that work within the traditional publishing field that are intentionally trying to sabotage Indies. That theory seems wild, but it goes a long way in explaining the large number of attacks against Indies, attacks that take on a consistent pattern.
S. MALONE> A pattern?
G. THATER> Yeah, in almost every case the Indie attacks go like this: 1) “it’s a self-published book”, 2) “it sucks, and in fact, it’s the worst book I’ve ever read”, 3) “don’t believe all those good reviews of the book, they’re all fraudulent – posted by the author or his family/friends”, and 4) “you should not buy it and tell everyone you know not to buy it”. That same pattern, in that order shows up time and again in these 1-star reviews of Indie books. Almost no information of substance is mentioned in the reviews, leading one to believe that the ‘reviewer’ hasn’t actually read the book. If I were a conspiracy theorist, well, I’d say it was a conspiracy.
The other odd thing that the Indie attackers do is to return to an Indie’s book page, on various websites, time and again and write comments criticizing good reviews and, if they can get away with it, writing multiple bad reviews. I’ve seen some folks write a series of nasty comments over the course of 6 months or more. Why would any reasonable person do such a thing?
S. Malone> Is there any reason that Harbinger of Doom might be a target for these folks?
G. THATER> I think most or all Indie books are targets, but there may be some things about Harbinger of Doom that make it a bigger target than most. For one, last I checked, Harbinger of Doom was the top-selling novel in the Science Fiction / Fantasy genre from CreateSpace, a major print-on-demand (POD) publisher – thus, it’s a particularly successful Indie book. Secondly, but in my view, more importantly, Harbinger of Doom delves into themes that trouble some people. At its core, harbinger of doom is about the struggle between good and evil – and how it’s not always easy to tell which is which. Within the framework of a sword and sorcery story, I delve deeply into core religious beliefs and political and social views. Those folks that see past the sword and sorcery trappings (which is far far from everyone) and grasp the real themes I’m exploring, sometimes don’t like the message. From reading the book, some folks conclude that I’m on the opposite side of the political or religious spectrum from them and want to shut my message down, and essentially suppress the book by telling others not to read it.
S. Malone> Wow, powerful stuff. What specifically are these issues you’ve woven into the plot that cause so much controversy?
G. THATER> For that, my friend, you’ll have to read the book. And you’ll have to read it carefully. If you come away thinking all you’ve read is a sword and sorcery tale, you’ve missed it completely.
S. Malone> I’ve heard that Indies have also experienced problems with people objecting to their marketing. Have you seen that? What’s that about?
G. THATER> I’ve seen it first hand. There’s a segment of the population that believes any author that markets their book is doing something immoral or dishonest. If you recommend your own book to someone, you often will get attacked, viciously attacked by people. To me, that’s crazy. When your favorite TV show gets interrupted by some commercial for a product you have no interest in, do you throw a fit? Do you call up the company that sponsored the commercial to complain? Of course not, that would be nuts. But these same people will tear apart an author who recommends their own book to people on some book website. My brain’s just not wired in a way that that makes any sense to me.
S. Malone> Any specific personal experiences with this come to mind?
G. THATER> Yeah, I’ve got one that happened a couple of months ago. This is just one example, and as such, the particulars are unimportant, but it’s the pattern of behavior on the part of some folks that’s troubling. Anyway, one book site that I belong to allows you to send an email book recommendation to your ‘friends’ on the site. The site is frequented by many authors, and some of these authors routinely send out such emails to their friends recommending their own books. On this particular book site, such is standard practice. I decided to give it a try myself, back in December, hoping to boost sales during the holiday season. So I sent out a book recommendation for Harbinger of Doom to all my ‘friends’ on the site.
I’ve always felt that saying your book is ‘great’ or words to that effect has little value, so I limit my marketing to quoting from the back cover of harbinger of doom and/or quoting reviews posted by readers on various websites. That’s just what I did in December. I sent this email, which said, “hi, below are some reader reviews of harbinger of doom”. Then I quoted a bunch of 4 and 5-star reviews that I’ve received, including some from some fairly well-known authors.
A day or two later I get this email from some woman, let’s call her ‘Amy’, which said that sending recommendations for my own book is “tacky” and that I needed to “tone down my promotions on the site” or I’d start to “piss people off”. As I mentioned before, many authors frequent the book site in question, and recommendations of your own book is considered standard practice there. I really didn’t appreciate receiving that email. I felt it was insulting. All she had to do was not read my recommendation or delete it and move on with life. Alternately, she could have sent me a one line note asking me to remove her from my list, which, of course, I would have done. Instead, she felt a need to send me a nasty note.
I thought about it for a while and decided that if I ignored her email, that would probably be the end of it. But why should I? I did nothing wrong. Why should I accept and absorb someone’s nasty remarks without retort? I shouldn’t have to. So I replied. It was short. The exact quote is, “And i think sending me a message saying that i'm being 'tacky' is more than a bit insulting and quite unneccesary.” That was my email in its entirety. Well, wacky Amy couldn’t let it end there. She began posting several nasty messages about my book on that website, including a 1-star review (even though she stated in her ‘review’ that she hadn’t read the book). She proclaimed to the world that she innocently asked me not to ‘spam’ her, and I replied “with an insult”. The insults were hers of course, not mine. Soon, another woman jumped in suggesting that I apologize to Amy. Then another person piled on criticizing me and proclaiming they would never read Harbinger of Doom after what I had done. Of course, I don’t care much for what a few random people think or read, it’s the strange mentality of these people that I don’t understand and that is troubling. And the consequence is, there now stands this 1-star ‘review’ of my book which comes up at the top of the page whenever someone pulls up my book on that website. One random person decides to go on the attack, and it can have a real impact on an Indie’s sales.
S. MALONE> I understand that you just experienced another incident with a fraudulent review. Can you tell us about that?
G. THATER> Sure. This one troubles me even more than the Amy incident. The wife (and publicist, let’s call her ‘Mary’) of a fantasy author contacted me recently asking to do a book swap. The idea being, I’d send them a free copy of my book, and they’d send me one of theirs. Such exchanges amongst authors are pretty common. Standard practice is, if you like the book, you post a nice review of it; if you don’t like it, you post no review. The thinking being if we can honestly help each other’s marketing endeavors, we should, and if we can’t honestly help each other, then be silent. Like I said, this is standard practice, and I happen to agree with it.
S. MALONE> How did ‘Mary’ come across your book for this book swap?
G. THATER> I’ve encountered her and her husband’s book on numerous book sites as I’ve been marketing my own book. Basically, Mary’s husband’s book is a competitor of my book.
S. MALONE> So you did the book swap?
G. THATER> We did. Then Mary started posting her thoughts about harbinger of doom in various discussion groups on one book site. The things she was saying were critical and inappropriate in that she hadn’t even read the whole book yet. A few days later, she posted a very misleading and critical 2-star review of Harbinger of Doom on one website. Many of the assertions she made were factually inaccurate.
S. Malone> How so?
G. THATER> Well, for one, she asserted that my novel was not a novel at all, but rather two unrelated novellas, - actually, she called them two “snippets”. It’s one thing for someone to tell me that they don’t like my book, I can deal with that. Writing is a form of art, and as such, the value and quality of it are completely subjective. So, while it’s disappointing to hear someone doesn’t like it, it’s to be expected, as even the best books have 20%+ poor reviews. But when someone starts telling the world, don’t buy Thater’s novel, because it’s not really a novel at all, just some random ‘snippets’, well that’s too much. Just completely out of line and untrue . After I posted a comment on the website clarifying that HOD is not some random ‘snippets’ she went in and massaged some of the wording of her review so it was not an outright lie, but the damage was already done, as many folks had already viewed the original review.
S. Malone> Was that the end of it?
G. THATER> Nope. Mary went on to post a 1-star review of harbinger of Doom on a major bookseller’s site.
S. Malone> How could she do that? She didn’t even buy the book, you gave her a copy.
G. THATER> Exactly. She had no business posting a bad review on such a site. Her second review was now very aggressive and much more critical. It asserted again that HOD is not a novel at all, that it sucks, that I’m a ‘new author’(my bio in the book clearly states I’ve been writing for over 20 years and am widely published), and that HOD isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, etc., etc.
S. Malone> Sounds like perhaps Mary was intentionally trying to take HOD down a notch.
G. THATER> That’s the same conclusion that I reached. The intentional misleading statements and outright lies in Mary’s reviews can only be explained if she has ulterior motives.
S. Malone> So, she thinks that by attacking a competitor’s book and trying to drag it down, it somehow helps her husband’s book?
G. THATER> Yes, that’s what I think. It’s the only way to account for the insulting tone and intentional falsehoods in her reviews. On top of that, shortly thereafter, another 2-star review has shown up on one of the book sites that I frequent – no actual written review, just a 2-star rating. I went to that ‘readers’ profile, and I found that that person only has 5 ‘friends’ listed. Guess who 2 of them are?
S. Malone> mary and her husband?
G. THATER> Yup.
S. Malone> Was that the last you heard of Mary?
G. THATER> I wish I could say it was, but no. A few days after her 1-star review, she posted another 1-star review on the same major bookseller’s site.
S. Malone> How could she get away with two reviews of the same book?
G. Thater> I’m not sure, but on the second review she changed her ‘screen name’. Although the review was very different, I knew it was Mary, because the new name was a variation of her other screen name, and when I looked up her profile, she had posted only two reviews. The 1-star for my book, and a 5-star review for her husband’s book. In this second review of HOD, Mary pretended to be a different person – she indicates that the book wasn’t worth the money she paid for it, and she goes on to fall into the usual pattern of Indie attack reviews that I described above – it’s a ‘self-published’ book, worst book in the world, all the good review are fake, don’t buy. Same pattern all the indie attackers use.
S. Malone> So how about telling us the name of Mary’s husband’s book? I bet many of my readers would love to look these folks up and give them some feedback.
G. THATER> Thanks, Spuds, but despite her attacks, I’m not real comfortable with that. I’m hoping Mary will decide to move on and leave the Harbinger of Doom alone. If she continues to poke the sleeping dragon, well… you and I will have to talk again.
I want to emphasize that the details of these anecdotal stories – about Amy and Mary, are not important. What’s important is the fact that Indie authors, in particular, successful or controversial Indie authors, are targets of various folks with various agendas. The nature of the attacks against us, leave us little room to defend ourselves, as doing anything beyond ignoring/absorbing the attacks tends to make things worse. We should not have to be anyone’s punching bags, and we should not have to tolerate lies about us or our work. Indie authors need to find a way to unite, and to defend ourselves against the haters. If not, they’ll pick us off, one by one.
S. Malone> Somehow, I think you’re not going down without a fight.
G. THATER> I’m not going down at all, Spuds.
S. Malone> Below is a copy of Mr. Thater’s Bio , a copy of the backcover blurb for Harbinger of Doom, and a sampling of reader reviews of harbinger of doom. The amazon.com webpage for harbinger of doom can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/bfhpz6 where it can be purchased in trade paperback or kindle format.
For over twenty years Glenn G. Thater has written works of fiction and historical fiction focusing on the genres of heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery. Mr. Thater holds degrees in Physics and Engineering, and is a practicing licensed professional engineer specializing in forensic investigations of building failures and other disasters. He’s an author of numerous scientific papers, magazine articles, technical reports, and engineering textbook chapters. He’s presented papers at engineering congresses throughout the United States and internationally on such topics as the World Trade Center collapses, bridge collapses, and on the construction and analysis of the United States Capital Dome in Washington D.C.
In Harbinger of Doom, Glenn G. Thater transports you to a time of legendary heroes, spectacular duels, courtly intrigue, otherworldly evils, and ancient forbidden magics. This first volume in an epic series is certain to delight fantasy fans everywhere. When mad sorcerers open a gateway to the very pits of hell, releasing demons of darkest nightmare upon the world, only the intrepid knights of House Eotrus stand in their way. Claradon Eotrus recruits Angle Theta and Gabriel Garn, mysterious knights of mystical power to stand with him against the tide of chaos that threatens to engulf the world and destroy mankind. Theta and Garn take up their swords one last time against the coming darkness - a darkness from which only one will emerge. But Claradon has bought far more than he’s bargained for, when his comrade Ob discovers the terrifying secret of Angle Theta. A secret so horrifying as to shatter a man's mind and call into question the very nature of good and evil.
Reader Reviews of Harbinger of Doom
--- Storytelling is an ancient and sacred tradition, and as an avid reader and author, I recognize right away when an author has penned something truly great. Harbinger of Doom is such a story, and Glenn G. Thater is such an author. This is a fantasy novel about events, people, and places that are most ancient and highly colorful. Mr. Thater's writing style suits this time-honored genre to perfection. Harbinger of Doom is flawless storytelling about an ancient time where good people are threatened by an unspeakable evil. This is a time of brave knights, skilled wizards and sorcery, dark spells, and all manner of curious creatures. An evil so malevolent that it breaks all bounds of sanity befalls a good people. They must summon the courage and strength, and forge uneasy alliances to face a foe immensely terrifying and strong, one that is not of this world, and should they fail, all will truly be lost. There are scenes so frightening, I would caution younger readers, and after reading them, I thought twice about going to sleep right away. The story verily delivers the armies of hell and pulls no punches in describing the horror of war that must be waged between the forces of good and evil.
Harbinger of Doom is a tale of ancient myths and legends, and is populated by one of the most intriguing, diverse, interesting, and entertaining cast of characters in memory. Chief amongst these is the enigmatic and deeply mysterious Lord Angle Theta. This story is graced with sharp, clever, highly sophisticated writing peppered with humorous moments. Its scope is vast; its lessons eternal, and you will recognize parallels to many other well-known legends, even those biblical. To quote some excerpts from the story: "The stories of many religions oft have a common basis...there is some kernel of truth contained...Though the truth may be twisted by the tellers." Harbinger of Doom has all the hallmarks of such a story, it is as good as any fantasy tale you will read, it honors the tradition, and adds to our lore a story so good, so well told, I hope it will be remembered forever. In fact, if there came a day when all the great storytellers of the ages would be called to be seated at the same table, I would shout out that Glenn G. Thater be granted a place for this novel. Harbinger of Doom is fantasy most excellent and is a story for the ages...
-- Rai Aren, co-author of Secret of the Sands
(Reposted from Amazon.com)
--- I'm not normally a fan of stories of knights and sorcery, but Harbinger of Doom blew me away. Glen G. Thater has an uncanny way of writing in an ancient prose that matches the period. His vivid description of all the characters allows the reader to vision them in their minds. The author paints each scene and battle so clearly that I felt I was in the middle of the action. Curious ideas were brought about regarding our present day thoughts of Good vs Evil as opposed to earlier days. I'm still in a trance attempting to unravel the mysterious revelations in the final pages. I will not give it away, so buy this book and decide for yourself. Do we have Good and Evil reversed?
--- Mike Monahan, Author of Barracuda
(Reposted from Amazon.com)
--- An amazing tale of swords, sorcerers, and more!...In the foreword, Thater has introduced the legend of Angle Theta. He is a character that has been cited in a number of ancient writings, and is the stuff legends are made of. ... Thater's writing has you in the heat of the battle, and leaves you wanting more of this epic story. ...[Angle Theta] reminds me a little of Moorcock's Lord Elric of Melnibone, who struggles with issues in the fight of good and evil. Cannot wait to read more of this saga from Glenn G. Thater. For those of us who love to read of demons and dragons, knights in armor and legends of long ago.
--- "Ellen in Atlanta", Amazon Top 500 Reviewer
(Reposted from Amazon.com)
--- …now I have something I can reread over and over again. Harbinger of Doom has just shattered everything I knew of the epic fantasy realm and created a sub genre all of its own. With a masterful craft of writing with sly wit you are pulled into an epic tale of dark portions. If you are like me, you will scream at the book, and several characters in certain parts as they become like kin folk. The characters own the pages, the story never disappoints, and thank God for this author! In addition, if you are a Brian Lumley fan, I would suggest you give this book a try. A must for fantasy fans!
(Reposted from Amazon.com)
--- I find Mr. Thater's book, Harbinger of Doom, to be an excellent foray into dark story adventure, … good story, good action. Excellent flow of the story line to hold the attention. Overall very well done.
--- Jacamo Peterson, Author of "A Hard Place: A Sergeant's Tale"
(Reposted from Amazon.com)
--- Who can resisit a good sword and sorcery book? Not me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Harbinger of Doom. It plunges you into a magic fog right at the start, and the action never stops! Fast-paced and exciting, it's a page turner. The characters are interesting folk. I loved the twist of the weak-kneed wizard, and the gnome was highly entertaining. I also smiled at the references a true sci-fi fan would appreciate. Clever nods to Dr. Who and Star Trek, to name but two! There are dark secrets and many mysteries in this tale of good vs. evil. I hope it continues!
--- “Susan Jane”
(Reposted from Amazon.com)
--- …Thater takes his fantasy and places it inside your brain. I wasn't reading a book, I was standing in the middle of the action, looking to pick up a sword and jump in…
--- "George T"
(Reposted from Amazon.com)