Spam and its Discontents

by wjw on July 31, 2011


Remember back in April when people were happy that the world volume of spam had decreased by a third or more?  Some of the more notorious botnets, like Rostock and Mega-D, were being dismantled, presumably with the aid of the governments of the former-SSRs that had been hosting them all this time.

My spam count went way the hell down, far more than a third.  April was the cruelest month, for Oleg Nikolaenko anyway.  Some days I actually enjoyed looking at email, an experience I usually find moderately painful, like (say) an arthritic knee.

But just in the last week I’ve been subjected to a torrent of spam.  I haven’t taken any surveys, and I haven’t seen any news items, and I haven’t heard from Oleg personally; but my guess is that new and improved botnets are online, and we are all about to be pummeled by more 419 scams, more phishermen claiming to be Citibank or Wells Fargo, more shills for pet care or roof replacement or satellite TV or personal injury lawyers, more pump-and-dump stock schemes, more ads for home mortgages and auto insurance, wine and cigars, hair restoration, organic viagra, and skin care and beauty products.

And wildwendy1203?   No matter how suggestive your online handle might be, I am not going to click your link.   Please stop flooding my inbox.

And that also goes for ex-President Kofi, Philip Kofi, Diplomat efe Kofi, William Kofi, and for that matter the whole damn Kofi family. Just stay away.

But while cursing the Kofis, I’ve seen a new trend appearing in my inbox.  They’re from PR companies who want to promote my book.

I’m not saying these guys aren’t legit.   But when three emails appear on the same day from the same type of firm offering the same service, I don’t have to be a professional trendspotter to note that something new is happening here.

A little over a month ago I started offering my backlist online.   Even though the sites offering my ebooks don’t give my address away, I suspect that someone, maybe several someones, has a way of getting that address anyway.

Ebooks are, it is said, the wave of the future.  Certainly they’re a route for authors to make money, and where authors are making money, others will follow.

It’s not like they’re alone.  Some agents are transforming themselves into e-publishers, and hoping that no one will notice the conflict of interest, or that people can get the same services elsewhere, for less money.

None of the solicitations were anything but form letters.  None of them mentioned any of my titles, and there was nothing to indicate that the firms in question had a clue who the hell I am.  They only knew me as an email address for someone who might be interested in giving them money to promote my self-published book.

Old-style self-publishing, where the books were actually printed out, was always mostly scam.  They implied you could have a wonderful career if only you paid for it.  But now you can do all that stuff yourself, you don’t need even a scam publisher anymore.   What an unknown writer needs is a PR firm.

I don’t know what specific services these firms are offering— assuming of course that they are real firms, and not a server farm in Belarus— but they’re selling the same dream.  Give them money, you’ll have a wonderful literary career.

Maybe it’s true.  Maybe they can deliver.

But, y’know, they’re sending spam.  That should tell you what you need to know.

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