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Friday, November 30, 2007

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: <>
Cc:<>, <>,
<>, <>,
<>, <>,
<>, <>,
<>, <>, <>,
<>, <>, <>,
<>, <>, <>,
<>, <>,
<>, <>, <>,
<>, <>,
<>, <>,
<>, <1@xxx.asu.ed>,
<>, <>,
[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 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.]


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.


Steve Buchheit said...

But if they actually sent individual emails, what would they have been paying the spam service for?

What's really sad is the language is explicitly sex oriented.

"can’t get anymore real than this"
Virtual sex tag line.

"fantastic yet satisfyingly available technology"
Is that isn't a internet sex tagline I don't know advertising copy.

"in your Internet explorer browser and see for yourself!"
Classic sex spam copy.

You just got hit up for a sex SF book, dude. :)