Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Publicity or spam?

I am regularly accused of not being crabbit. I do find this accusation rather offensive, but I understand the reason. Trouble is, when most people meet me I am pleased to meet them, we are drinking coffee or wine, and they are sensible and nice people, otherwise I would not have chosen to meet them. I can assure you that I am very often crabbit, especially when the people I accidentally come across are irritating, foolish, or send me emails asking me to do things which they have absolutely no right to ask me to do. In short, when people invade my extremely busy space in a mindset of ignorance and a total failure to think things through.

I feel you need an example. 

Is it my job to publicise other people's books? Does it say anywhere on my blog or website: "Do contact me at any time with details of your book or project and I'd be delighted to spend any amount of my valuable time constructing a blog piece, complete with links, just because YOU think my 'blog readers would enjoy it.'" No. Nor am I a complete idiot with nothing better to do with my time than publicise your books. Have you noticed that my blog is not a review site? Have you noticed that I do not take guest posts? Well, dear blog readers, I know you have noticed, which is why you don't send me crappy requests like this. But there are a load of people out there, including proper publicists of proper publishing companies, who do not read my blog but send me emails starting,
"Hi Nicola, I love your blog and I've got something your readers will love, too."
"Hi Nicola, I attach a press release for the forthcoming title by O. B. Scure Author. It's a wonderful collection of stories from boardrooms around the world. I know you'll love it so please download the 800-page attachment or click on this link."
Oh, hang on. You want an actual example? Certainly. Here's an actual email correspondence I had last week, with all identifying features removed. Though the publicist herself will certainly recognise it.
Hello there, [FGS don't call me "there". How many other mugs did you send this to?]
Just wanted to send this on the info (see below) about [name of book] again in case you missed it.. [Yes, I certainly missed it, because, as you well know, you never sent it. Or are you saying that the information has been plastered all over the interworld, so marvellous is your publicity-machine, and that I really ought to have seen it and be desperate for more?] We’re just sort of looking for online news pieces and features if you fancy it? ["just sort of"? What kind of writing is that? "if you fancy it"? What, like when I want a bit of fun in between the actual work that actually attempts to earn me a living? Like, you know, sort of relaxation?]
Oh and another little snippet of info, it was mostly recorded at **** Studios in North London - owned by **** of ****! [WTF are you talking about and why should I care about this? Does my blog suggest any interest in that?]
We have tonnes more information on this project so if you would like to know more please do get in touch! [No, I really really wouldn't. Besides, you are putting the burden on me. You are also spamming me.]
Here's a link to ****, an acapella piece that could very well have been performed in Shakespeare's time: [At which point I nearly spilt coffee on my Mac keyboard.]
And a five track sampler of more contempoary [sic] material, featuring the afformentioned [sic] Elizabethan instruments, including **********
Many thanks, [small omission of any recognition that I might be really busy]


Not sure why you've sent me this. I'm a professional author and would be happy to let you know my fees if you are interested, [LOL] but I'm guessing you're looking for free copy [duh], in which case I'm not your woman!

Best wishes
Hi Nichola, [which is not how to spell my name, so thanks a lot for actually reading my blog and knowing anything about me at all before you ask me to do something substantial for you]
Ah yeah sorry we’re not really looking to pay. [*falls on the floor in surprise*] I hope you liked the idea of the project anyway!

Many thanks,
E**** x [We really aren't actually on kissing terms, tbh]
E****, I'm sorry - I didn't and won't have time to read about it. I get sent so many things and to be honest it feels like spam. A lot of authors like me are drowned in this stuff.  Sorry.
No worries :)
This whole conversation really annoyed me. (And similar emails come my way often - I usually just don't reply. This time, I did.) There was absolutely no recognition on her part as to what she was asking me to do. There was no suggestion that I might be busy, no attempt to show that it was actually something substantial that she was asking of me. Normally these approaches at least contain some kind of recognition that I'm actually quite good at what I do, that my blog is widely-read, that there was a reason for approaching me. Does she really think that a professional writer has time or inclination to do this, for nothing? That is, to be clear, work for nothing. Work for nothing on behalf of a project which has absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with my life or work. 

I decided the only way I could turn it into something which hadn't utterly wasted my time was to blog about it, with the strong message to anyone involved in publicity, whether for your own book or the book that you are being paid to publicise:

a) Research who you are contacting. Some bloggers review books or have guest posts; others don't. If they don't, don't approach them.
b) Don't be all pathetic and pseudo-friendly with your kisses and smileys - be professional.
c) Ask yourself why on earth an author (as opposed to a book blogger) would have any desire to spend a great deal of time publicising someone else's book? A total stranger's book at that.
d) Engage your brain. Please. Just a bit. 
e) An email sent to a load of people who you haven't genuinely and honestly decided would be happy to receive the email is spam. Spam spam spam spam spam spam spam. 

In short: consider whether your desire for publicity has turned you into a spammer.

So now you know what makes me crabbit.

Well, that's one of the things. More later! 


Jackie Buxton said...

I think that's them told...
Great to see you being a crabbit for once, Nicola-no-h although, strictly speaking, to be a proper crabbit it would have to be unprovoked.
Spam drives me MAD as does obsessive promotion of self-published books without any regard/ support for fellow authors. Thanks for posting, made me giggle.

Anonymous said...

Great post and actually quite unbelievable behaviour in your example. I'm sure there'll be a few red faces today over this and rightly so.

As someone who does currently spend a lot of time promoting other people's writing for no financial return (there are many other rewards), I find it quite ironic that when I actively approach publicists asking for a review copy, for example, I sometimes get messed around. I haven't got time to waste chasing things I've already been promised. However, very important to say that the vast majority of publicists I've come across are models of efficiency and professionalism.

Nicola Morgan said...

Jaxbee - ah, you are right. In that case, I'm never really crabbit, as I'm always provoked!

Isabel - that *is* ironic. Most publicists in genuine publishing companies are efficient and sensible, in my experience, but there are a whole load of agencies springing up containing utter divots who can't string a thought together, let alone a sentence. And they measure their results by how many emails they send, not how many engender useful replies.

Sue Moorcroft said...

Excellent post! That 'I don't want to work for nothing' thing is hard to get across to people, isn't it? Especially people on a salary.

Sue x (Is the kiss OK?)

Nicola Morgan said...

Sue - :) - yes, and the "I don't want to work for nothing message" usually elicits "but you can't expect us actually to pay for something so small, can you?"

xxx :))) LOL and mwah

Jenny Haddon said...

I remember reading a wonderful piece by the late Keith Waterhouse about how soi-disant charitable enterprises were always asking him to 'contribute a little piece'. Clearly for free.

He pointed out that writing was how he earned his living. Would they, he asked one of them, request a doctor to diagnose a little something for free. Now that's crabbit.

But you're giving him a run for his money. Power to your arm!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

That's telling them! At least I hope the person actually got the message in the end. I do occasional promotion on my main blog for authors I know and invite for an interview. But I'm increasingly asked by strangers now - takes all the pleasure out of it when I have to say no, sorry.

catdownunder said...

Ah yes, I understand this all too well. ("We can't actually pay you but it is for a worthy cause...")

Keren David said...

We're on the same list, I think - and I've noticed a lot more spam like this in the last few weeks.
Funnily enough I was vaguely interested in this one, only because the studio in question is at the end of my street...but not interested enough to do anything but hit the junk button.
If they want to waste their time spamming me, when they could be doing useful things instead, that's up to them. I'm never going to reward them for it.

Sally Zigmond said...

Am I missing something? I get stuff like this often. I hit the delete button. End of.

Stroppy Author said...

I usually ignore this stuff by email, but have had a recent spate of it on Facebook and that *really* annoys me. I am on Facebook to share with genuine friends and other authors. I don't even publicise my *own* books, for God's sake, so why on Earth would I publicise someone else's???

This Facebook spam tends to come from people I don't know very well. In one case it came from someone who had hijacked his relative's account to reach more 'friends'. No, I am not your friend, have never even heard of you and don't give a damn whether your product (not even a book) bombs.

What do they think our time is *for*? Are we such sad characters we are hunting around for things to do? Aaaargh.

Helen Hollick said...

Thanks for the giggle Nic(h)ola : the intelligence of people never ceases to amaze does it?

As an author I get people posting ads for their book on my Facebook page - without asking me firs; a) it is rude not to ask b) I don't endorse books I haven't read. These are always self published indie writers, unfortunately. I say unfortunately because I firmly support indie writers, but it's this kind of rudeness (usually alas, accompanied by a less than good book) that gets the good indie authors a bad name.
I started getting my own back by posting my books on their sites.... funny though, they don't seem to like me doing it.....
:-) xx
(smiley face kiss kiss)

Nicola Morgan said...

Stroppy and Helen - what is this FB stuff? I haven't had any - thank goodness! Is this on your FB personal page or author page? I have my author page set so that people can only post comments, I think, not links or pics. Does that mean I'm safe?????

Sally - of course, hitting delete is the easiest and possibly best option. But I get so many of these things and sometimes they even email me AGAIN to ask why i haven't replied. It makes me angry. There's another point: someone is paying them to do this, thinking that the publicist is emailing the right people. It's a scam and it distresses me on many levels.

Stroppy Author said...

Nicola, in my case it is so-called friends (people I had genuinely friended) on my personal FB page sending a mass message (to everyone they know, or to everyone they know who works in publishing in some form or other when it's a book). So it doesn't go on my wall, it goes in messages and I eagerly open the message, expecting something from Crabbit, or one of my other *genuine* friends and find spam encouraging me to buy the independently produced e-book of Cowboy robots on Saturn, or whatever. I if I dont' instantly Leave Conversation I get a stream of messages from people I don't know saying 'just downloaded it, can't wait to read it' - etc.

At least these aren't paid publicists. I suppose they might be in the pay of Google+, trying to drive people away from FB. I have a series out next Tuesday - I would sooner eat every published copy than spam-message my Facebook contacts! What possesses them to think it's a good idea?!

Lesley Cookman said...

And then of course, there's those that aren't for a good cause like - er - FESTIVALS! And we all know about those, don't we. Joanne Harris just received an invitation from a US festival with no fee or travel expenses. As Jane said, bet they told her it would be such good exposure. Oh, sorry - bit off topic.

Cameron said...

I'm sorry Nicola (correct spelling) but that had me in fits because I imagined the sender as a wee mouse walking up to a sleeping lioness and poking her in the ear.... then repeating the exercise. I'm still chuckling.

You're quite right though, that is unforgivably rude behaviour and you know my views on manners.

You may not believe it but we struggling indie authors also get bombarded with offers of "help" from nice, friendly publicists and printers who want to help and it's only much further down the line (if one is stupid enough to respond) that they tell you exactly how much this help will cost. Gggrrrrr

Great post - but then they always are. (not on kissing terms either)

Helen Hollick said...

On my personal FB page Nicola and my author page. I'm quite happy to share things with my readers - photos, latest news etc, I regard that as part of my networking (OK marketing) which is why I keep the pages public, but there are a few people who abuse the "friendship". I guess some people just don't have any idea of good manners.(Must add, occasionally someone will ask first & I reply nicely saying no, I won't put an ad for a book I haven't read, but you are welcome to send me a copy so I can read it. I rarely get one sent though; it makes me wonder how sincere these requests actually are.)

Daniel Blythe said...

If I get anything like this it goes in my automatic Spam folder - I'm on Thunderbird and it seems extremely good at junking the rubbish. (I do check it every so often as the occasional genuine nugget slips through. But we're talking about 1 in 300.) At least you have interesting spam, though. Mine is mostly invitations to 'join elite gaming', give someone my bank details or have various surgical enlargement procedures.

However, you've made a very good point by using this one as an example. An email with a request for an author to do something isn't always necessarily cheeky - if it is a charity I've supported in the past, for example, then I may, just may, do something for them for free (I've written stories for Doctor Who charity anthologies, for example, alongside my paid DW work). But as you say, there is no clear idea of what they actually want, let alone any recognition of you and your professional skills.

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks for all your comments, people. And from the conversations on twitter this is a common irritation. really worries me that people are paying for this shite.

Sharron said...

Hi, Nicola,

I've got something that might interest you...

Full agreement. If we don't stand up for ourselves, we'll be penny anteed (sp) to death.

Kath McGurl said...

I get this kind of thing via my womagwriter email address too. I just don't reply. Occasionally I get a good, well-targetted piece of marketing by someone who HAS read my blog and knows what my blog readers are interested in. Those, I appreciate, and may well post something about.

In your 2nd reply I don't think you were nearly crabbit enough. I counted two sorries in one paragraph, but the spammer deserved none.

LynnPrice said...

Dear me...seems you and I got our Victoria Secrets in a wad on the same day over the same issue. Meh. I recommend chocolate and good tequila.

widdershins said...

... and some of them would actually think that 'engender' is some hip buzz-word for non-gender-specific ... glad you put a flea in their ear!

MaggieM said...

As a PR, this makes me sad (and a bit crabbit!). It sounds as though they're just working from a mailing list that someone compiled. They'll have emailed thousands and if they get any coverage out of it, then it will be deemed a success.
I just hope it doesn't cause people to jump to the conclusion that all freelance publicists are immoral and lazy. We're not.

Amabaie said...

Too funny. I get spam publicity all the time. I guess the definition of spam can be summed up (in this case) with the word "there". Hello there. As I you said and I extrapolate, how many other "there"s has this been sent to?