Dear Jackass: Your Spam is Not Cute

I get some strange comments and email now that I’m creeping toward Internet famous*. Some of them are rude, some are misdirected, and some are asking me to do their work for them, as if I somehow have the secrets to unlocking fame and fortune, now that more than two people know who I am.

None of them actually get from me the thing that they wanted. I don’t even get into arguments over whatever they said. I’m, in general, an “eh, whatever” kind of girl, and “ignore/delete” is my favorite response to being poked with a stick.

I’ve decided to share some examples of the junk mail I get, in hopes that you might learn something. You don’t need to read it all in order to glean the most important lesson. I’ll tell you right now. Lean in. Listen up. Ready?


In case you need me to be a little more specific, don’t be these people:

The misogynistic jackass. Says things like “why do you women whine so much” and “you wouldn’t step out of line if I was there you fucking coward”. I know, I know, how could I not swoon at such delightful attention? Instead I ban people, report their IP addresses, and don’t bother to reply to their comments.

The needy spammer. Wants to spam, doesn’t want to research how to spam, asks me to do it for him. Recent example (from Monday):

Dear Carrie Cuinn.     I am presently trying to market my Sci-Fi mystery thriller, [REDACTED] by [REDACTED]**  (on the KINDLE Bookstore) on blogs.

What blogs do you recommend for this genre?

Dude. No.

The link-back spam. Says things like “I love your blog so much would you link back to my blog please thanks so much it would be great for both of us!” Sometimes with all caps. Rarely with decent punctuation. Look, if you want me to follow your blog, be interesting. I promise, I promote the blogs and books and authors that I enjoy (which, if you read my blog, you’d know).

The confused-as-to-what-kind-of-business-I-run spammer. Messages from these people read “Dear Dagan Books, please carry my book in your store.” I do not own a book store. I am a book publisher.

The “can I get an in?” author. I’ve gotten several emails and blog comments asking if I’ll publish their book, their story, read their query, and so on. Never through the right channels, but to me personally, as if reading my blog or knowing my email address will make me like their story a little better.

On the up side, these people at least know what I do for a living. The problem is, that’s not the way to get your work in front of me. If you go to Dagan Books, or Duotrope, you’d see what I’m buying right now and how to submit it properly. You want me to be happy about seeing your story? Send it to me that way. Otherwise, I delete your email and you get nowhere. We have a system in place for a reason – to make sure that your work doesn’t get lost, so you get an automated response letting you know we actually got the thing, and so we can track the notes that multiple reviewers make. You want multiple readers looking over your work, by the way. You’ve got a much better chance of at least one of us falling in love and fighting for your story.

The lusty letter writer. At least as often as I get anything else, I get these. Uninvited comments complimenting my face, my hair, my breasts (most of all). Suggesting we meet up, suggesting I do things to them, telling me to submit to things they want to do to me … *yawn* It’s all rather boring. I’ve never once been interested in replying, it doesn’t do more than waste a moment of my time, and it’s immediately followed by an IP ban.

The total wackjob. I’m not sure if they’re trying to out-weird the girl who edits Cthulhurotica (probably not going to happen, btw) or if they think that talking about putting barbecue sauce on their cat while rollerblading in the nude will get me to reply. Hasn’t happened yet.

The needy rejectee. Someone gets a rejection, asks for notes on why they were rejected, and either keeps asking for more input or argues with my response, no matter what I say, over and over, until I stop replying or they turn into this guy…

The angry rejectee. This is always someone who I’ve turned down in some way. Occasionally it’s because I didn’t reply to a comment or email, much more often because I rejected a story pitched at Dagan Books. I’ve been cursed at, insulted – even called a hipster once – and threatened with bodily harm because how dare I? Don’t I recognize their genius?*** Don’t I know that I’m unworthy to reject them?!?

Um. Okay. Then why did you submit something to me in the first place?

Most of the people who say these things are men, and most of the comments center on the idea that as a woman I am not as good or as smart or as talented as them, and therefore I should help them sell their book,or publish their story, or take them to bed, or whatever else they have in mind, because woman = less than man. [insert caveman grunt here] I’m important when they want the thing that they want, in that there’s an assumption that I can get it for them, but I’m nothing when I refuse.

Well, I’m one thing at least – I’m the girl who’s not afraid to hit the “delete” button.

* Not to be confused with actual fame in any way.

** Yes, he put his name in all caps too.

*** True story: The first time I ever rejected a story, the guy wrote me back and said simply, “Will no one recognize my genius?” I saved that email.

12 thoughts on “Dear Jackass: Your Spam is Not Cute

  1. “Will no one recognize my genius?”

    That’s beautiful. I want to cross-stitch it onto a sampler and hang it on my wall.

  2. I imagine that the incorrect submission stuff is bound to happen to an editor here and there.

    The random misogynistic stuff is just baffling to me. I know sadly that this isn’t a rare thing, but lately it feels like I’ve been teleported back to the Mad Men area of guys running around being dumb. Didn’t we evolve past this?

    • Incorrect sub stuff happens all the time when the submitter doesn’t want to follow the guidelines or thinks they’re special enough that they don’t have to. It’s an easy rejection, no thought required – though I do usually point people toward the right guidelines. I’m kind of nicer than I should be in this business, but I’m new enough that I still like people 🙂

      • I think that’s pretty kind of you. New writers often need a helping hand pointing them in the right direction.

        It is the weird rude comments that just don’t make any sense to me. How does that help anyone?

  3. Do you have a “Will Not Ever Work With This Person” list? I know Jenn Brozek does and I was wondering how standard that was among editor types.

    • Oh no, having a blacklist is actually a terribly unprofessional idea! Though I’m sure Brozek doesn’t mean any harm by it, in general it’s very rare among professional editors. Here’s why:

      Having a blacklist means that when a person is on that list, no matter what they send you or projects they suggest, you don’t want to be a part of it. Okay. So …

      You’re in the business of making books. Editing, publishing, writing, it’s all part of the same business. We are successful when we run it as a business, not a club, because we have the best chance of finding the right stories and presenting them to our customers. Saying “I won’t work with you” means that even if the exact right story comes along, one that will help you sell books, you won’t buy it because you don’t like the person. You’re willing to let your business suffer to decline someone else a chance at publication, and you’re putting the word out that you’ll only work with people you like – meaning you’re losing out on work from people who don’t like you personally but would have worked with you anyway (bc they’re professionals) and that you’re encouraging the “what will you do to get me to like you” attitude that has long led to people abusing their positions as editors in order to harass others.

      But, you may be asking, isn’t there a professional reason to make a list of people you don’t like? No, there’s not. Because if you don’t like their writing, and they keep submitting bad writing, you just reject it. It’s not good enough, it’s not the right fit. You don’t need a list for that.

      And if they’re a jerk in emails or asking for too much or submitting the wrong way, and they keep doing it, you’ll see that too. Easy rejection.

      The only reason to have a “list” is so that other people know you have a list, and then they’re afraid of getting on that list. It means the person with the list only wants to work with their friends, and is willing to make a less-than-perfect product in order to do so.

      I like Scalzi’s philosophy instead – he says that if you’re his worst enemy, and you submit the perfect piece for a project he’s working on, he’ll hire it, because it makes the book better. And then he’ll hope you get hit by a bus.

  4. I’ve been getting the random ‘I’ve written / published this book, and I’d like you to review it for me!’ for my own site. It’s getting annoying.

  5. Would you be interested in publishing a volume of my top 1000 sarcastic tweets and blog comments? I’d even let you include this one, if you’d like….

  6. I can see all kinds of everyone pursuing help to publish, but hows the sex thing role in there? I thought this was a brain thing.

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