How Not to Spam

This morning I found a message in my spam folder from an aspiring science fiction author, offering a free ebook and requesting feedback, “Likes,” and blogs. It was a nice enough letter, but clearly bulk mail, not personalized in any way. This was my response:

Thought you might like to know that your email landed in my spam trap. And, well, technically it is spam, because it’s a commercial email from someone I’ve never done business with before. As spams go, it’s pretty pleasant and inoffensive. However, I’m not likely to read your book (not a fan of the subgenre, sorry) or help you publicize it (I already have dozens of real-world friends who are making the same “please help me publicize my book” request on a weekly basis). Good luck!

He replied with a nice email thanking me for the pleasant reply, having received some nasty ones. I responded:

Alas, I’m not really surprised about the nasty responses. We are all so overwhelmed by uninvited commercial messages — they’re on our TV, every web site, email, Twitter, Facebook… — that when we actually have a chance to yell back at the source of one I can see that some people would really let fly, not caring that the source was an individual who’s just trying to make a buck. So, even though I think this campaign is probably not a good idea, I’m sympathetic.

You probably would have done better to approach people you actually know. If you don’t know any prominent writers, maybe some of the less-prominent writers you know do, and you could ask them to introduce you. If you don’t know anyone in the SF writing community (and if that’s the case, you really should have started doing this long before your book was ready for release, but it’s never too late to start) you can attend science fiction conventions, join a local writing group, maybe join SFWA. Participating in social media — mailing lists, joining Facebook groups, leaving comments on blogs — is a pretty good way to form online relationships. But when I say “participate,” I mean to hang out like you would at a party, don’t be all “buy my book!” all the time… maybe even ANY of the time. Keep doing this until you have created actual relationships, to the point that asking your prominent writer friend “hey, my book’s out, would you mind mentioning it on your blog?” is seen as a natural request rather than an imposition. Yes, this does take time, by which I mean years, but a) it’s fun, and b) building a career is not the same thing as selling one book.

Thanks for asking, and good luck!

After I wrote that I realized that other people might like to read it as well. So here it is!