Friday, October 9, 2015

An Open Letter to Spammers

I would like to take a little time today to talk to all of you about spamming, because it's really a big problem in the book blogging world. For a while last year, we were posting cover reveals, release blitzes, and blog tour promo posts here on the blog. This resulted in our inbox being flooded with requests for these things to the point that we were missing review requests; they were just being buried amidst all the other stuff. So at the beginning of this year (maybe the end of last year), we created a new email address specifically for review requests so that those requests would not be buried and we could easily keep them organized. That email address is the one we have listed here and on our FB page.

This is a screenshot of our review request page. Notice that it not only specifies review requests, but what information we would like included with those requests, as well as what we absolutely don't want to receive. Our About section on Facebook has the link directly to this page. In spite of this, people still send cover reveal request, blog tour invites, and promo post requests to this email address. Most of the time, I send one reply asking to be removed from their promo list and never hear from them again (or they send an email informing me that they are removing me, and then I never hear from them again, which is perfectly acceptable to me.)

You're probably thinking, "Why don't you just mark those emails as spam and delete them. Why is it such a big deal?" And the answer is that if I don't address them as they come in, the email address will end up on more and more promo lists because there are some PR companies and authors that do not make use of the BCC function of their email when sending out mass emails, and then other authors and PR companies that received those emails, take the addresses and add them to their own lists. It would not take long at all for my review request email address to become inundated with daily cover reveal etc. sign-ups, and we have only posted 2 or 3 cover reveals since January of this year, and those were for an author that I had worked with in the past for books that I had read and loved that were being re-released by a new publisher. Everything else that we have posted since January has been unique content, so I don't feel like there's any reason a PR company or author that has actually visited the blog would think that we would sign up for those things in the first place.

But I wouldn't be writing this blog post if my email address was always removed from a mailing list after I've requested it. It's annoying to me and time consuming to have to send those emails, but when it's different offenders, it's not too bad. No, the real problem is when I get a repeat offender, especially when she seemingly doesn't realize that she's spamming. Now I realize that I should not name and shame this offender publicly because it's bad form, but I've come to the conclusion that this is the only way to get her attention and to get her to actually pay attention. This is my last resort, and it would be pointless if there was no identifying information provided. Lucky for you (and me), I've got screenshots!

This was her first email to the incorrect email address and my reply. I received no reply of any sort to this email. But a few days later, I did receive the following email. 

If you'll notice, J.L. Beck does not make use of the BCC function when sending her mass emails. I took the time to cover the email addresses that were listed out because I'm not trying to contribute to the spam problem by making it easy to find those. Every time I have received a mass email from J.L. Beck, I have also received several emails from PR companies with cover reveal sign-ups etc for a few days afterwards. Every. Single. Time. 

So I sent this message in response to the second spam email she sent my way. We went all the way until the end of July before she sent another message (I'd really thought she'd removed me after that second one.) 

 She seemed truly apologetic, and sincere that she would be removing me from her mailing list.

But she didn't.

You may notice that the date she sent her email says August 13th, and my reply says it was sent on the 5th. That is due to the fact that I had changed the date on my iPad to go back in time to keep a book loan from expiring before I was able to finish the book. (It's a rather handy trick.) 

If you look to the left of the above screenshot, you will notice three other replies sent AFTER the one to J.L. Beck informing people that the email address is for review requests only. (The actual date is wrong on all of them, because of my time traveling for the book loan.) Now, I think she sent a response to this email, once again telling me she would remove me from her mailing list, but I was unable to find it, so I may have accidentally deleted it, and cannot verify one way or the other whether I received acknowledgement for this email. 

Then yesterday I received this email.

Once again, she did not make use of the BCC function of her email, so I knew I could expect to receive at least a few additional spam emails from other people afterwards. Yay. (NOT). 

 I sent the above response, because honestly, I think asking to be removed from a promo list 5 times is more than enough. This screenshot also shows her reply to my response. At this point, I would ask that you refer to my first screenshot (the one of my review request page). Her "review request" does not include the book synopsis, the genre, or a brief excerpt, and it absolutely DOES include a link to a Google doc.

She also asked me if someone else might have signed up to be on her master bloggers list, but at this point, that is honestly irrelevant because I have asked to be removed 4 times prior to yesterday's messages. Those requests supersede anything else that may have been filled out in the past.

In the interest of full disclosure, this is the reply I sent back after that. (And yes, that typo in the second paragraph makes me cringe.)

 Now, because I know a bit about J.L. Beck's history with drama, today I decided to check her page to see if she'd blasted me (because frankly, that's kind of her style.) I found this.

Apparently she wants to throw a brick at my face because she can't be bothered to take action on perfectly reasonable requests the first 4 times they're made. This also made me think that she'd probably be a bit more vocal on her personal profile, so I checked that too. I was not wrong.

I'm sorry Ms. Beck, but if I was a bitch at all, it wasn't for no reason. It was my next to last resort, since you have failed to remove my email address from your mailing list every single time I've asked you to do so. Clearly being a bitch at least gets your attention. And congratulations, because that post right there is the one that inspired me to make this blog post now rather than waiting until the next time you send me a mass email with a Google doc link (because at this point, there is not a doubt in my mind that it's going to happen again.) This is my last resort, and if it doesn't yield results, obviously nothing will. 


Although I have not received another email from J.L. Beck since posting this, I have received three spam emails from her new PA. After the first one, I was going to let it slide because even though my email should not have been on the mailing list any longer, that was not the PA's fault. I also thought that the PA would actually mean things were better because she at least makes use of the BCC function when sending mass emails. She also responded to my email fairly promptly.

But alas, less than a month later, she sent me another.

Being December and in a somewhat forgiving mood because of the holidays, I was even going to let that one slide. However, not even two weeks later, I received yet another spam email (and my previous response went unacknowledged.)

How hard is it to remove an email address from a mailing list? 


Not long after sharing this on the Facebook page I received this email from J.L. Beck's PA.

I thank you dear PA for that effort, and for your future effort and I hope you and your baby get to feeling better soon. I do find it interesting that my email address is/was on the master list so many times to begin with however. 

Then I did a little more snooping because J.L. Beck makes it so easy (on purpose I'm sure.)

Now why on Earth would I have put myself on your bloggers list multiple times if I didn't want to be there at all? Furthermore, the email owner adding the email address to the list is NOT the only way it could end up there if your list doesn't require verification, which yours doesn't J.L. Beck. And again, it doesn't matter if in some drug induced fog I did sign up for the list. Once I asked to be removed, it should have been done. I should never have received another email after that. Every single one of them is, by definition, SPAM! 


Authors, PAs, and PR companies, when sending mass emails, please put all the email addresses in on the BCC line so that everyone receiving the email doesn't see them. Additionally, if a blogger asks to be removed from your list, you should honor their request. Not doing so will not get them to sign up for whatever you're sending them, but will likely result in them refusing to promote you at all. And for the love of all that is holy, read bloggers review request guidelines (when they have them) before sending your review requests. You will get much better results that way. - Katie 

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