August 31, 2005

Authors Who Spam...By Angela Hoy | printable version

I receive several hundred spams each week. Most want to show me how to make my male anatomy bigger (even though I'm a woman) while others want to dump a bunch of money into my account from some foreign dignitary who's on the run from his or her government. The only spam that I usually forgive is spam from non-fiction authors. You see, I'm running an ezine for writers and authors. If they send me a marketing message about their book, I'll usually overlook it. They could very well want me to review their book (even though we never publish book reviews). But, they may not know that, so I give them the benefit of the doubt.

I do get upset when a fiction author sends me spam about their book. A new novel on the market is clearly not something I would blurb in WritersWeekly.com. When that happens, I send them an email letting them know that what they sent is spam and that spamming could seriously harm or destroy their reputation. I don't threaten them. I simply assume they don't know any better and warn them of what can happen if they continue spamming. Some authors don't understand what spam really is and thank me. Others send me downright hateful emails and tell me to stick it where the sun...well, you get the idea. Unfortunately, many of these authors are self-published. And, what's even more disturbing is that their books are being printed by our competitors, the vast majority of which don't seem to care if their authors spam, perhaps hoping the spam will result in book sales. I know because I've complained to these companies about their authors' spams and they almost never bother to even respond to my emails. One very large POD company in particular did respond to me, saying, "We don't really have any control over what the authors do." Yeah, right.

As you've probably noticed, when a POD company has a bad reputation, that reputation filters down to all their authors as well. Since most of these companies don't even respond to complaints posted about them online, it appears they just don't care about their reputations. As long as they can get as much much as they can out of each author, they're happy.

Well, at Booklocker.com, we do care about our reputation because public book sales comprise the majority of our revenues (unlike our competitors who rely mostly on money from authors to stay in business). At Booklocker.com, we know our reputation is also the reputation of our authors. We don't want to be associated with spammers and we know our authors don't want to be associated with spammers, either. We have a stringent clause in our contract that states:

The Company is adamantly against the tactics of spam. Spam is defined as:

1.) sending a form email en masse to people who have not requested it,

2.) posting a form message en masse to newsgroups or discussion lists,

3.) any unsolicited electronic posting that results in complaints to the Company, the Company's web hosting service or an anti-spam group whether made by the Author of the Work or by a third party without the Author's knowledge,

The Author should never use spam tactics when promoting their Work. Authors who use spam tactics when promoting their Work shall have their contract immediately terminated, their Work removed instantly from the Company's sales channels and become ineligible to do business with the Company in the future.

Most authors who want to participate in email marketing read our contract and then send us emails, asking us to further define what spam is, even discussing their particular situation or marketing plans with us. Can they send an email to their cousin Joe about their new book or would that be considered spam? (No, emailing your cousin, one-on-one, about your new book is not spam.) Would emailing your entire list of alumni be spamming? Yes, absolutely. Would emailing a list of book reviewers be spamming? No, not if you email each person individually, address them one-one-one, and ask them if they'd like to review your book. But, yes, emailing an entire list of people without addressing them individually, and only sending them a form email (that states nothing about reviewing the actual book) is absolutely spam.

And, unfortunately, it happened again this week. We had to terminate a Booklocker.com author from spamming. He claimed to be only sending his email to book reviewers. That may be the case. However, he sent a form email to a long list of reviewers, yet he never asked anyone to actually review his book, nor did he offer them a way to obtain a copy of the book for review. He simply pasted the back cover text of his book in an email, his name, email address (which actually had a typo in it - meaning he emailed an invalid email address to recipients, which is also illegal when spamming), price, etc. There was nothing in the email at all that indicated the book was available in print or electronic format for review. It was, however, clearly a marketing message.

After exchanging numerous emails with the author, and after asking for a list of the people he sent the email to (which he said he couldn't provide because there were too many), and after obtaining a copy of the actual email, we determined it was indeed spam. And, it absolutely harmed our reputation because it resulted in a complaint being posted about us online.

The author did apologize for his "naivety" but that wasn't enough. He did spam and it did harm his and our reputation and we were forced to terminate his contract.

While most POD publishers will allow you to spam, you should realize that even one spam can harm or destroy your reputation. You can lose your email address, and even your website (if your ISP is notified of the spam). Believe me, if you send out 100 spams, nobody is going to buy your book. If you send out 10,000, perhaps one person will. But, the net result of the money you might make will never pay for the loss of your reputation as a respected author, and the loss of your email address, website, and possibly even your publishing contract. It's just not worth it.

Never send any email that is promotional in nature that was not specifically requested by the recipient. I live by the saying, "When in doubt, don't." If you're not sure someone will be offended by your email, don't send it. If you're just not sure you should send that email or not, don't! If you're not sure if the email you want to send out about your book is spam or not, it probably is.

 




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