I don’t know if you’ve noticed (okay, people with actual social lives probably haven’t) but there’s been a storm brewing over on Amazon for some time now. It concerns the prolific writer Stephen King, who has sold somewhere in the region of 350 million books since his first novel Carrie came out way back in 1973, and another writer, also called Stephen King, who hasn’t sold quite that many.
The thing is, he’s sold a few. Probably a few thousand. Mainly to people who think they are buying books written by the other Stephen King. The famous one. Or, as they like to call him, the ‘real’ one. People are upset. Some call bullshit, others throw words like ‘fraud,’ ‘charlatan’ and ‘fake’ around. Some have even alluded to some kind of Amazon conspiracy geared to selling more books. As if the ‘real’ Stephen King didn’t sell enough for them as it is. The vast majority of these readers feel they have been duped and leave scathing reviews mostly centred around the fact that they didn’t receive what they thought they would be receiving, i.e. a book by the right Stephen King. Some sample review headlines include: Buyer Beware! NOT the real Stephen King! Beware of Imitation! Why Try and Fool the public?! Fake! Outright Lie! And my own personal favourite… Muck from a Loser!
I think it’s fair to say this guy is really suffering at the hands of the buying public. There have been masses of complaints, a lot of discussion, and it’s a hot topic on various forums and message boards. Even one on the ‘real’ Stephen King’s website, which was forced to issue a response.
Even other well-known writers are having their say.
It probably doesn’t help that when you search Amazon for Stephen King books you get a selection from both blokes, and a lot of the ill-feeling seems to stem from the fact that Amazon ‘recommend’ books by both blokes to readers, based on their buying and search history. This begs the question, would you buy a Morris Minor just because it had a Rolls Royce badge on it? Of course you wouldn’t. Unless you either wanted a Morris Minor with a Rolls Royce badge on it, or are just dumb as fuck. Amazon as an organization are very strict when it comes to fraud and other such matters, and rightly so. You can bet after they received the first batch of angry complaints they investigated the issue thoroughly.
Now, here’s what I think happened…
Amazon approached the ‘fake’ Stephen King and demanded he prove his identity. And you know what? He did. Because his name really is Stephen King. It’s quite a common name, believe it or not.
I might be in the minority here, but I can’t help feeling a bit of sympathy for the guy. Imagine his delight when his book suddenly started selling by the proverbial truckload, then his dismay when he realised most, if not all, those people who bought his book did so accidentally. And then blamed him for their mistake. It’s hardly his fault he was given the same name as one of the greatest writers on the modern age. It might not even be his intention to try to ride the ‘real’ Stephen King’s coattails. We don’t know, because he hasn’t broken his silence yet. He’s probably in hiding because of all the people who want to string him up by his balls.
Of course, he might just be trying to make a fast buck. Maybe he doesn’t even like writing. Judging by most of the reviews, he isn’t very good at it. In which case he deserves everything he gets, but let’s err on the side of caution and go with ‘innocent until proven guilty.’
I can’t help thinking most of the fault lies with the people who allowed themselves to be ‘duped’ then kicked up a storm over it, probably because they are angry with themselves. I mean, any release by the ‘real’ Stephen King is big news. You hear about it all over the mainstream press. His books don’t just slip into the Kindle Store unannounced. And if people had enough common sense to do the most basic research before hitting the ‘click to buy’ button, none of this would have happened. How about checking the ‘real’ Stephen King’s website, or doing a quick Google search to see if there are any new releases?
The more savvy might note that the ‘fake’ Stephen King’s books aren’t put out by Simon & Schuster, the ‘real’ Stephen King’s publisher. Or, indeed, any publisher. On top of all that, the covers are amateurish. At least, they aren’t what you’d expect from a major publishing house. And any self-respecting ‘real’ Stephen King fan should be able to smell a rat just from reading the book description. To make it REALLY easy for the dullard consumer, Amazon even post a disclaimer next to fake’ Stephen King’s books.
Please Note: If you are looking for books by Stephen King, bestselling author of Doctor Sleep and The Shining, please visit his author page.
Yet, ‘fake’ Stephen King still has three books in the Amazon #10 at the time of writing. That’s more than the ‘real’ one.
Isn’t it ironic?