Well, it’s better than a Nigerian scam

Been a while since I posted some writing-related spam.  Unlike a lot of fly-by-night endeavors designed to separate a newbie writer from their money, this one is not really a scam.  At least, I’m sure they’re giving you something for the money.   A lame something, but something.  That is perhaps the best thing I can say about a business this terribly ill-conceived from the name on down.

So, what is the name?

I present AuthorForSale.com! [Are you getting images of strippers doing  Jane Austin cosplay?  No?  Well now you are, heh.]

Hello author S. Andrew Swann, [Is that the lit-fetish version of “Hello Nurse?“]

Author For Sale. com The Showcase for authors where the publisher comes looking for You! [Where gratuitous capitalization comes looking for You!]

Visit: www.authorforsale.com [In case we cannot intuit the url from the above.]

The above link is exciting news for authors everywhere and is turning the literary industry on its head. [I’m excited.] It is fast altering the balance of power in the endeavour of publication and contract negotiation. You can now present your literary talent on a truly international stage [as opposed to the normal submission process wherein federal law prohibits the querying of anyone 50 miles beyond the territorial waters of the U.S.], and be seen by 100’s of publishers specializing in your specific genre [Even if my genre is Amish lesbian splatterpunk erotica?], all searching for new or established authors. [As opposed to the thousands of publishers not looking for new or established authors.] This means that when you get a book deal offer, you may even have more than one on the table to barter with [The economy is so bad, some publishers are paying in chickens], rather than have to accept the only deal available.[Why do I think if you had that deal, you wouldn’t be taking this spam so seriously?]

You are being offered a confidential [Ooops, not anymore, my bad.] Free Trial[i.e This crap will cost you money in the long run.] Showcase Listing valid until September 30th as part of a Writers Group[You know the Writers Group, right?  Every year they hand out the Book Award for Best Novel in a Genre] association.[i.e. We lifted your name from the SFWA mailing list, and we’re desperate for a published author to lend our hare-brained scheme some legitimacy] After the Free Trial [With Gratuitous Caps!] date you may terminate your listing with no obligations or renew your account by payment of the membership listing fee as ruling on October 1st 2010. Your Free Showcase Listing will attract the exact same benefits entitled to fully subscribed members, so the sooner you register, the more free.exposure [More and more I get the image of Lit porn. Shake those metaphors, baby. Yeah, show some symbolism.  That’s hot.  Come give daddy a little denouement. ] you’ll have.

Your Showcase can present an intended literary concept,[I intend to have a literary concept!  Sometime.  Watch this space.] a work-in-progress draft [Yeah, show everyone your fist draft, that’ll leave them begging for more.] or a completed manuscript. Getting early exposure may even attract an advance to complet it. [Yes, post a complete manuscript and they’ll pay for you to complet it.  Instructions on how to “complet” a manuscript come with a full membership subscription.]

[Technical login crap deleted to leave room for snark]

You want a more serious deconstruction of AuthorForSale.com, you can visit the Writer Beware Blog.  Here’s the thing.  The concept of this site is, essentially, trying to outsource the slush-pile.  Seems like an OK idea in the abstract, after all that is a major hassle for most editors and writers.  But, you need to ask yourself something; why does any editor want to go to this site when they have the old slush-pile staring them in the face?  It’s not like they’re going to stop getting traditional submissions.  So adding this website to the mix is actually increasing their workload.  Let’s add to this the fact that publishers have to pay to play, over five grand in fact.  That’s a small mid-list advance right there, for the privilege of adding additional work and getting more of something they already get too much of for free.  Yeah, they’re going to beat down your door.  Oh, and that author subscription fee?  Only $225 a year.  For something the author can do for the price of postage, and insure that it gets somewhere at least in the same building as an agent or an editor.  Hell, this website costs a tenth of that, and I guarantee you more publishing professionals have seen this content than would ever dream going somewhere with the squiktastic name AuthorForSale.

You’d be better off posting your writing on Facebook, it’s free and would be at least twice as effective.

Spammed.

NOTE: This only applies to Blogger, not WordPress.

I just got comment-spammed, so I’m switching on the word verification in the comments.
And, BTW, if you post something with the name “winlotto” I’m probably going to delete it no matter how “nice” you say my blog is.

Spam followup

Well, the annoying spam-meisters who’ve been peppering me with ads for self-published books have ended up on the radar of Writer Beware.

I should point out that if your publicist spammer includes in their subscriber list harvested emails someone who works to publicize nasty scams that target neophyte authors (i.e. things like charging to spam your book to people) implies that they do not pay much attention to who they happen to send your promotional materials to spam.

But here is it in Victoria Strauss’ own words:

Here’s why you should not E-blast me (or use any other kind of mass email campaign, such as those offered by some self-publishing services).

– It pisses me off. I’m always happy to consider a request to review–but I want you to approach me personally. I want you to be at least somewhat familiar with my reviews, and to have a credible reason to think I might be interested in your book. I do NOT want to get an email that says “Dear Reviewer,” or an E-blast that has no content other than a link I have to click, or a request for a review that’s obviously inappropriate for the magazines I write for.

[…]

– I didn’t give anyone permission to E-blast me. If you think that services like Eblast are subscription-based, think again–these services build their lists by harvesting email addresses off the Internet, just as other spammers do. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no difference between your book E-blast and a penis enhancement spam.

– Did your E-blast campaign include me? Shit. Now I’m on a dozen other lists, and I’m getting E-blasts for beach rentals and consumer goods. Before, I was only irritated with you. Now, I hate you.

It’s also interesting who Media eBlast includes among their clientèle. Apparently they’re as picky about their clients as they are about the people they eBlast spam.

Book spamming for the Lord!

Today I got a new book spam. This has come to me via Media E-Blast, a company whose name was coined by someone in a desperate attempt to make unsolicited spam and e-mail harvesting all respectable and Web 2.0ish.

Here’s my first piece of advice: Paying some “consultant” to make you a fancy JPEG ad and send it to a “carefully targeted” e-mail list doesn’t make you look any better than someone using broken English to peddle erectile-dysfunction medication. Just because they can use Photoshop and have a mailing address in the continental US doesn’t make it less sleazy, it just means it’s a little less likely they’re using hijacked zombie PCs as mail servers. (Mmmm zombies. . .)

Second bit of advice: If you’re self-published, seriously consider paying someone else to write your ad copy. If you rely on borderline ludicrous sentence constructions like,

“Sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, drug or alcoholic addiction, sexual addiction, murder, losing a loved one, broken marriages, are many things that we sometimes face.”

your only market will be among the kind of masochists that buy awful prose with the specific intention of mocking it.

Third bit of advice: Don’t lie in the subject line of the e-mail and pimp your work as “Warren Caldwell’s #1 Best Seller.” It really looks bad, especially for a minister whose selling his “life-changing testimony.” Here’s a little clue: those lists in the New York Times, those books? No spam involved. That should tell you something.

Fourth bit of advice: No one likes large unsolicited JPEG attachments. Most are porn, and I like to solicit my own porn, thank you very much.

Last bit of advice: Never use the phrase, “I stripped down to nakedness to share my most inner self,” in a spam that lands in the same folder as all the penis enlargement ads. We don’t need that mental image.

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam. . .

Many moons ago I posted about a spam query letter I got. (Not to be confused with the spam book promotion I received recently.) Just to reprise, the query was about “A Best Seller waiting to be published – Discover the Revolutionary New Way to Heal Yourself!…”

Needless to say, the first mistake was confusing a writer with a publisher. But our spammer was not one to make such fine distinctions. Anyway, I posted, I vented, and the tale thus ended.

Or did it?

I was just checking traffic to my site and discovered a new referring link from the Doubtful Muse blog. It seems that our spammer has finally gotten around to spamming editors. Yep. She’s still at it. And, yep, by the pronoun I have a gender. You see, the recent post at Doubtful Muse gave me two tidbits of information I didn’t have before (or I just wasn’t up to Googling for at the time.)

Tidbit one is a post or two at the The Rejecter blog. Apparently this poor employee at a literary agency got the same spam around the same time I did. The response reached a snark level that equaled if not exceeded my own:

Fortunately you have magic cards to heal yourself from the emotional trauma when you don’t get published because you pissed off potential agents and publishers by randomly spamming their emailboxes instead of submitting your idea in the proper format, which can be found on the very page from which you got my email address.

But wait, there’s more! The second tidbit was the fact that the proprietor of the Doubtful Muse was able to Google the mysterious website only alluded to in the spam email. This was a dangerous thing to let me know. Apparently, our spammer is a woman named Christina, who operates out of the UK. Saying she doesn’t “get” the publishing industry is an understatement. Here’s some quotes from the site:

The ideas for these manuscipts [sic] are born out of many situations, if you have an idea worthy of development, please contact me for an informal but confidential discussion.
[…]
Therefore, the role of the editor is to save the writer from the embarrassment of presenting poor quality workmanship. Once an editor has proofed and streamlined a manuscript by strengthening any weak areas, the manuscript will then be ready for market.
[…]
I hope to fulfil certain criteria:

– to produce excellent, professional novels worthy of publishing
– an original plot idea
– to appeal to the a broad market place – with enough potential for the book to be commercially viable
– to continue to produce novels and I as an author stand the test of time

I won’t link to the site, but feel free to Google it yourself. The woman has invested a lot in web design, but could have done a lot better by actually submitting proposals. I really don’t know what makes her think some publisher is going to surf her site and solicit her for a book proposal. Not only that, but Christina is paranoid about “revealing” her “secrets.” She has synopses up on her site, but they’re password-protected MS Word documents. She has the spammed proposal up on its own domain that’s unlinked to from her author site, and insists you e-mail her for chapters. She has sample articles up, but no publishing credits listed. None.

However, we know she’s a certified published writer. How, you ask? Because she has this:

How can you argue with that?

When a would-be writer is in denial

One of the most important elements in being a pro writer (or artist of any stripe) is the ability to accept criticism. Not only will you receive it from editors and, if you get published, fans and reviewers, but if you wish to improve your craft you need to accept that others will read your writing and find fault. Maybe a lot of fault. If you’re a beginner, it will be a painful amount of fault. Not everyone is thick-skinned and mature enough to accept this. Some are so in love with what they think is on the page that they cannot conceive of something wrong with their golden words, the mean person disrespecting their story is either jealous, or reading it wrong. . .

I bring this up because I have a significant follow-up to my last spam deconstruction. When last we talked about this “compelling and absolutely authentic SF novel” I was reflecting that spamming a bunch of professional SF writers and hawking your self-published manuscript was not the best way to sell your book. However, curiosity did get the best of me and I did eventually visit the spammer’s website. Here’s a sample.

Journey with our main characters SeiWan Li and Lazarus as they go from young adults to maturity while they begin their mind altering excursions into the familiar settings of our solar system and beyond. Quest with the feating duo in their magnificent vessel The Star Voyager.
[…]
Immerse yourself in the informative epilogue providing detailed diagrams and alpha numeric data of ship profiles, speed scales, alien life, and locations throughout Star City.
[…]
We want to maintain a comprehensive narrative. Informal facts are available for the appetent scientific crowd to devour. This is not a work of strictly science yet herein surfaces fantasy.

I was so aghast at all this I had to tell someone, but instead of blogging about it (I’d already done the spam, and that seemed enough) I posted my discovery on my favorite bad movie site, the Agony Booth. I started a thread on the forums there letting the patrons know that this curiosity existed. (If you’re curious about the site, the link to it is in the first post there.)

I created a monster. Nearly two months later, and the thread is six pages long. And, believe it or not, the author showed up, posting in the same broken spamtastic grammar. With the Mary Sueish touch of using his protagonist’s name as a handle. Here’re a few choice quotes:

You’ll get 87.000 words of structure and adventure of exeedingly accurate and classic scince fiction action, thrill, and even a little romance for all you lovers out there.
[…]
I would like to assure you though I am in aggreeacne that we are not an official dissenminator of science fiction
[…]
I am reasonbly certain you will find it thoroughly efficient. Our team consists of writers, philosophers, and physicist to bring you the most accuract perspective on true space exploration.
[…]
The armature work “Star City” is available and ready to be acquired. Though you may find random spelling anomalies even in the face of our diligent editing of the conglomerate host of narrative and astronomical data, we believe that the random grammatical anomalies could be overlooked for the sake of ease.

This stuff parodies itself. If you’ve been on the internet any longer than the last 24 hours you can only imagine the level of snark that erupted in the thread in response to these pronouncements. It would be awe-inspiring if this was all there was.

But it isn’t.

One of the fellow forum members, Premier Blah, actually had the balls (or the masochistic streak) to order a copy of the book. The author actually had the balls (or the masochistic streak) to send him a copy. Now, since the Agony Booth is dedicated to sarcastic, snarky, scene-by-scene deconstruction of crappy movies, you can guess what happens next.

Premier Blah starts his own forum thread where he does his own recap of the novel in question. And it is as awful as you think it is. And the author himself weighs in, which I’d feel kind of sad about if it wasn’t for the fact that this train could be seen coming for two months and the guy still stood on the tracks pimping his self-published masterwork. It is a sight to behold. . .

How *not* to sell your book

You may have read my earlier post on how not to query agents. Here’s a follow up, using another spam message I got recently.

I am genuinely mystified at the thought processes that produce things like this. Spam in general is only effective because it only requires .01% of the recipients to respond and order their genuine Nigerian Viagra stock enlargement cream. That’s a model that doesn’t translate to universes as small as the publishing industry. And even if it did, do you actually want responses from people gullible enough to respond to it?

Anyway, as case in point, I present the suitably annotated spam e-mail. (Remember: if you send me personal e-mail I treat it as confidential, if you send me spam, it’s fair game.)

My snark is in green.

Subject: Like Science fiction? The newest and most genuine saga is now availible!
[SWANN: A genuine saga? Is it in the original old Norse? And while I’m a sloppy-ass typist in my personal e-mails, if you’re advertising your WRITING you might actually try to keep typos out of your subject line. Just a thought.]

From: <xxxx@xxx.com>
Cc:<webmaster@xxx.com>, <soles@xxx.net>,
<webmaster@xxx.net>, <bud_sparhawk@xxx.com>,
<walter.spence@xxx.net>, <normanspinrad@xxx.com>,
<demonlord07@xxx.com>, <edstack@xxx.com>,
<justinvs@xxx.net>, <jimmy@xxx.com>, <bexstarr@xxx.com>,
<dave@xxx.com>, <jim0052@xxx.com>, <evenmere@xxx.com>,
<deb@xxx.com>, <dave@xxx.com>, <psicom@xxx.org>,
<swann_website@xxx.net>, <info@xxx.org>,
<webmaster@xxx.org>, <mattea@xxx.com>, <picpal@xxx.com>,
<enquiries@xxx.co.uk>, <email@xxx.com>,
<rsheckley@xxx.com>, <quaglia@xxx.com>,
<mop15870@xxx.pt>, <1@xxx.asu.ed>,
<sarahsingleton@xxx.co.uk>, <smartin@xxx.com>,
<theworldsofrobertsilverberg@xxx.com>
[SWANN: Never heard of BCC, huh? And unless it has to do with the latest SFWA implosion or Marty Greenberg anthology, I have trouble imagining a legit reason for sending me, Robert Silverberg, Norman Spinrad and Robert Schekley the exact same e-mail.]

If you want real science fiction we recommend this story to you.
[SWANN: You realize you just pummeled 32 professional, published SF authors with the blatant implication that they AREN’T writing real science fiction?]

It can’t get anymore real than this!
[SWANN: Unless you write non-fiction. Oh, and yes, it says “anymore real,” which might make a cool postmodern character name, but doesn’t do so well as part of an English sentence.]

We are excited to offer you this great narrative detailing real material for the next era in human history.
[SWANN: “Real material?” Does that even mean anything? And don’t you just love the royal “we?” It adds just the right amount of pretension to the cluelessness. Finally, given the nature of most of my other spam, please keep your excitement to yourself.]

From new, fantastic yet satisfyingly available technology to accurate alien biologies, provided in our new cosmic work is what your hungry sci-fi mind has been yearning for.
[SWANN: “New, fantastic yet satisfyingly available technology” is a phrase that belongs in badly-translated Russian Viagra spam. We’ve also gone from “great narrative” to “our new cosmic work.” This is not an improvement. Also, the writer is so in love with modifiers that they forgot to have the sentence make grammatical sense. “From … technology to … biologies, provided in our … work is what your … mind has been yearning for.” Arrgh, this e-mail has hurt me in my brain.]

Visit www.xxxx.com in your Internet explorer browser and see for yourself!
[SWANN: Damn! I use Firefox. And the exclamation point? Nice touch. PS: Bill Gates’ legal team is sending you a letter for failing to capitalize “Explorer ™”]

Feel free to contact us with the information at the bottom of the page and we can discuss how to get you your book.
[SWANN: As I said with the query spam: Good idea to make it a non-intuitive multi-step process to have people get back to you.]

We hope to hear from you soon!
[SWANN: No, I really don’t think you do.]

Whew!

Let me get serious here for a moment, because what this spammer is doing is actually a little less offensive than what the query spammer was doing. This person is obviously trying to get some buzz for their (probably self-published) book by getting other authors to read it. This person apparently tried to focus who they were spamming to. And there isn’t any reason why you can’t send a bunch of writers promo material for your book— but this is not the way to do it.

First off, they’re your peers (and I’m giving the author the benefit of one hell of a doubt here), and you need to treat them as such. I am assuming that this person is offering comp copies (if they’re actually expecting Norman Spinrad to go to their website and BUY a copy based on this, they are insane) but they’re offering them with a high-pressure ill-worded sales pitch that smacks of a deadly combination of arrogance, ignorance and desperation.

You want to ask authors to read your book, fine, but ASK them. Nicely. Something like, “Dear [author name here] I respect your work and would really appreciate it if you would read a comp copy of my latest book. Please let me know if you’re interested.”

And in the name of all that is holy, send individual personal e-mails! Sending the same e-mail to 32 authors shows a lack of respect that will be reciprocated, if the recipients bother to pay attention to you at all. If you follow these guidelines, you will probably still get near zero responses, but at least you will not actively piss people off and have snarky writers deconstructing your efforts in a public blogging.

And Now: How *Not* to Get Published

I have just been the recipient of the strangest spam I have ever gotten. No Nigerians involved, no performance enhancing drugs and (thank god) no goatse double-penetration felch hentai.

No this spam was obviously a labor of love by a single individual who has absolutely the wrong idea about the publishing industry. (My comments in italics.)

Also, here’s a little disclaimer: I do not publish people’s personal e-mails to me. Ever. Even if you act like a jackass, anything that’s actually directed at me I treat as confidential. However, if you send me spam form letters, you are implicitly saying that you want the whole frigging world to see your message whether they want to or not, and thus I reserve the right to comment, in public.

Re: A Best Seller waiting to be published – Discover the Revolutionary New Way to Heal Yourself!…
From: Writer Seeks Publisher <writer_seeks_publisher@xxxxx>
To:swann_website@sbcglobal.net

[SWANN: First step to not be published, don’t put your real name on the query, you don’t want those nasty publishers to find out who you really are, do you? Also, be sure to let them know right off the bat that this is a gosh-darned guaranteed bestseller.]

Please only reply to the email links in the text below.

[SWANN: Second step, you don’t want technophobic publishers to even consider responding by phone or, golly, snail mail, so let them only e-mail you back. And you can filter out the Luddites among them by making sure they can’t just hit “reply” but have to hunt down an address hidden in the body of the e-mail. Yeah, smooth]

FAO Publishers & Literary Agents – I have a fully completed and critiqued non-fiction manuscript together with graphically designed cards available for publishing.

[SWANN: Don’t forget to make sure to let them know that what you’re querying them about is “available for publishing” this will help differentiate you from all the people querying publishers and agents about stuff that isn’t available for publishing. Of course, make sure to never ever go to the trouble if identifying the recipient by name, or even profession- that way they know that this gem is going off to all their competitors and they need to act quick if they want a piece of this bestselling action.]

For more information, please read this email or email me at writer_seeks_publisher@XXXXX to request the synopsis, some sample chapters, the card graphics and the promotional website.

[SWANN: don’t forget to remind them to read your e-mail, preferably down in the second or third paragraph. And of course, whenever you mention a website, don’t forget to omit the URL. Can’t have just anyone looking at your promotional materials.]

[…]

My Critique company commented:

[SWANN: of course, make sure to let them know if you had to pay someone to look at your work.]

This is an amazing manuscript. Many, many readers will benefit from this material. Thank you for writing this manuscript. This will be a huge success! I do wish you luck with this endeavor. However, you will not need luck. You have an awesome manuscript, and a special gift with words.

[SWANN: Always a good idea to include nebulous and vague puffy quotes by people you fail to identify. It lends an air of mystery to your manuscript, an indispensible component of self-help non-fiction. Make sure they call your MS “awesome” at least once, especially if it’s self-help non-fiction.]

For more information, please email me at writer_seeks_publisher@XXXXX to request the synopsis, some sample chapters and the promotional website.

[SWANN: Make sure you repeat one paragraph of your query verbatim at the end just to remind the reader of your “ special gift with words”]

[SWANN: Of course, it also helps you to avoid publication if you make sure you do not differentiate between authors, editors, and literary agents. It isn’t your job to sort out these fine distinctions. Save yourself time by spamming it to anyone, thus giving you more time to concentrate on your awesome unpublished bestseller.]