Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Email Spam 2018

 Recently I received an email from a person I didn't know who was promoting his relatively new self-published book. As a self-published author myself, I wondered how this person knew about me. Had he perhaps read my CreateSpace-published books—Patches on the Same QuiltThem That Go, or Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories?

I'm pretty sure he hadn't. Since his email had also been sent to several others, it looks like he harvested my name and contact info from the website of a group where I am a member. 

Here's what he wrote—with name, title, etc., redacted. While I consider any email that hits my in-box fair game, I do not wish to embarrass those who don't know better. Hence, the redacted info in the email I'm publishing here for educational purposes:

I'm new to [BIG WRITING GROUP], having authored a non-fiction book on [Title redacted] available on Amazon in Kindle for $20 and a paperback version for $24.65, and soon a smaller paperback. 

There is no way that I would ever spend over $10 on an ebook by a well-known author, so I'm unlikely to buy an ebook by an unknown author on a subject that doesn’t interest me. I don't think I'm the target audience for this book. Plus, the following paragraph isn’t a book summary, nor is it a hook to entice folks to buy the book. I’m not sure what it is:

The current "batch" of Justice, FBI and Congressional "silence breakers" is for . . .  [employees who reported waste, fraud or abuse] who usually "blow their whistles seemingly too late", while really they are held in silence by government agencies. These were started by the First Continental Congress in 1777. That didn't work well, as 90 years later government fraud almost lost the Civil War for the Union until Congress passed and Abraham Lincoln signed the False Claims Act in 1862, "deputizing and rewarding all citizens reporting fraud". 

Commas and periods belong inside end quotation marks. Writers know that. Writers also know that over-use of quotation marks (unless quoted material is being cited) is really annoying to readers.

I left out some stuff in the next paragraph (which also isn't a book summary or an effective hook):

The threat and quick governmental legal action worked until WWII when public sources enabled hundreds of civilian [. . . ] cases to be filed [. . . ] on military contractors that were settled in courts before the Justice Department even knew about them, too late the Attorney General claimed to pursue criminal action, against large influential Corporate political contributors. So Congress made cases "secret", keeping them "under seal" in Federal Courts, where most stayed uninvestigated and untried in Courts. A few are settled after 5 years or so "under seal" but recovered less than 1% of what was accused of having been stolen from taxpayers. Mine was filed in 1998 [. . . ] It was supposedly "dismissed", I believe illegally [. . . .] Over $1 billion unpaid in Virginia!

From that paragraph, even with the deleted info included, I had a heckuva time figuring out what the book was actually about. Plus I'm even more annoyed by the comma/quotation mark misuse. The spammer changes tone in the next paragraph, though:

Being a novice, I thought libraries bought books, especially by local authors, and especially in eBook formats that take no room on shelves.

No, that isn't how it works at all. Libraries subscribe to a service that provides access to ebooks. The service gets to pick which ebooks. Your local librarian could have told you that. As a fomer member of my county's library board, I know that some libraries will buy print copies of books by unknown authors if several of library patrons request the book, but libraries have fixed budgets and must use their funds to buy books that will be checked out by more than a few card-holders.

However, if a library allows you to do a presentation about your book (which includes your selling/signing your book), you should donate a copy of your book as a way of thanking that library.

Since that is not the case, I next thought that joining writers groups who are non-profit and giving them half the profits would work, If I could stimulate sales of their books as well, in return.

I have no clue how that would actually work—and I've been a member of various writers groups since 1994. But I can tell you—from personal experience—that self-published authors have doggone few profits. Factor in costs to get to venues that aren't close to home and you could even end up with negative profits.

If you can't stimulate sales of your own book, you are unlikley to stimulate sales of others' books.

The basic concept is to "leapfrog" libraries who can't purchase anything and go directly to "Book Clubs", who I believe are not only looking for "local stories", but are or have contemplated writing one themselves. My experience is in order to complete a book you have to be persistent and are best served "buying from local experts".

There's that doggone comma/quotation mark error again. Arggghhh! I'm not sure what " 'leapfrog' libraries" means. As for book clubs (or, as you put it, "Book Clubs"), they are for readers—people who enjoy reading and discussing books with like-minded folks. People in writers groups are the ones who have contemplated writing books.

Many "Book Clubs" book clubs in my area choose their selections a year or so in advance. Most that I'm familiar with meet monthly, so they don't choose more than a dozen books a year. 

At my website, [title redacted] you'll see my target is a big one "the $20 Trillion National Debt" that shows it is "costing each American over $62,000" for which none received anything of value. Buyers do receive something of value in seeing all the information [. . . ], and $10 if they buy [my book] at my website to their charity of choice, which I will inform them [BIG WRITING GROUP] qualifies as, and I will target to each [BIG WRITING GROUP] Chapter areas and give names in my marketing to those who make presentations.
 My full information is on our [BIG WRITING GROUP] site.

Only basic information—not "full information"—for all members is on the writing group's site (where he found my contact info). And anyone accessing the site has to know an author's name to be able to look up the info. But—since I intend this post to be educational—let me digress into giving a bit of info that might be helpful to self-publishing novices:

Go to writing conferences and symposiums. I've blogged in the past about some writing events  I've attended, such as this symposium and this publishers' day at Virginia Festival of the Book.

Read books about writing. Your library should have some. Start there, but be aware of many articles, blog posts, etc. that exist online. Over a decade ago, I blogged about "Books that Every Writer Should Read." On this blog I've also reviewed some writing books—like Shut Up and Write and The Writer's Essential Tackle Box.

Read about promotion and marketing. Lots of online articles and blogs address marketing. The Behler blog is a good place to start. I've previously blogged about what I didn't want to do for book promotion ("Book Promotion—NOT") and what I might do ("Book Promotion—Maybe").

Join a local writers group. Members who have been there/done that can help you with your concerns and questions.  They can explain hat works and doesn't work for book promotion. But, please—don't spam them.

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