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Spam, spam filters, and getting around them - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Spam, spam filters, and getting around them
Okay, just got a note saying our spam filters have been re-adjusted at work, but it's a never-ending battle because spammers work tirelessly to have dynamic interfaces to get around filters.

So, here's my question:

The theory of spam is that it's really cheap, so if it even gets one person, there's a benefit. But by the time you're investing so much time and techy knowledge in getting around filters, that's not true anymore--the overhead goes up.

And if people are putting up aggressive spam filters, it means that they don't want to be solicited by e-mail, and aren't going to be particularly open to it--in fact, they'll be hostile. So you're not going to make a sale anyway.

So you're putting in ever-increasing amounts of labor overhead in order to reach customers who are going to slam the cyberdoor in your face anyway. Wouldn't it be smarter to just keep sending to the people who've indicated that they're open to it? There's no filtering to get around, and the people won't be hostile, so we're back to the notion of no-overhead, single purchase profit.

Although why anyone would buy prescription drugs from people who write in netspeak is beyond me.

EDITING IN, because there's no point to a separate post:

Am I really meant to take something seriously when it comes from a vanity press, has horrid prose on the back cover (which is the only prose to which I am "treated"), and is advertised as something that anyone who likes sf/f will enjoy?

Folks who legitimately self-publish should be the first ones railing at these stupid vanity presses that have no editorial process (I went to the site--authorhouse.com--and they advertise this as giving control over the work to the authors... snerk) and no quality standards. This is what makes it difficult to take any self-publishing seriously. If you want to publish something yourself and keep control of it, start a company and set up quality standards which, yes, even your own submissions have to meet.

I say this to writers as a professional book-buyer: Stay away from the vanity presses. Period. It's a big honking flashing sign that says "Reams of badfic worthy of deleterius stacked beyond this point--direct your energy to less time-wasting sources now." I know it's neat to see your name in print, but you're going to get bilked, and you're not going to be respected as a professional author. May as well stick with the internet. I don't understand why it hasn't put paper vanity presses out of business anyway, being a cheaper and faster way to achieve exactly the same level of fame and respect.

Sorry. Had to let that out.

I feel a bit...: confused Huh.

7 comments or Leave a comment
fiatincantatum From: fiatincantatum Date: November 18th, 2004 10:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Rule one: Spammers are Stupid.
lothi From: lothi Date: November 18th, 2004 11:08 am (UTC) (Link)
The theory of spam is that it's really cheap, so if it even gets one person, there's a benefit. But by the time you're investing so much time and techy knowledge in getting around filters, that's not true anymore--the overhead goes up.

I read somewhere (Popular Mechanics, I think) that one of the ideas being toyed with to deal with the spam problem is changing the processing cycle for email. The premise was that making the processing cycle longer (up to five seconds) would require spammers to purchase many more servers to reach the same number of recipients, which would drive up the cost per message to the point where spamming becomes almost as expensive as direct mail. And increasing the processing time at the mail server will be pretty much transparent to a normal email user.

Don't know if I got all the details right, but it sounded like a more promising solution than filters, because it puts the cost of spamming back on the spammer and takes it off the recipients.
buongiornodaisy From: buongiornodaisy Date: November 18th, 2004 11:21 am (UTC) (Link)
But doesn't an author receive pay from vanity press? Why post a work online if they can't get any money from it?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 18th, 2004 11:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Vanity presses ask the author to give them money--the author pays publication expenses. And yes, the authors will receive royalties, but they almost never actually recoup what they've invested--in other words, they don't make money; they lose it. It goes into a great big black hole in space, never to be seen again. Vanity presses are the writing equivalent of real estate scams.

It would make more sense to set it up as an internet business. Post a few paragraphs, then say, "Would you like to read the rest of this story?..." Less expensive, and it cuts out the press entirely.
buongiornodaisy From: buongiornodaisy Date: November 18th, 2004 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
True, and have the readers subscribe to the story if they want to read more. That's a lot cheaper.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 18th, 2004 11:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Though it will still prevent that story from being sold to a traditional press, and the stigma of the thing will stick to it. It won't be any worse than the stigma from a vanity press, but citing it will have about the same effect as citing fanfic--the classic glazed smile that says, "That's nice, dear. But really, we only deal with pros."
skelkins From: skelkins Date: November 18th, 2004 12:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just a couple of notes from the sales end of this issue.

I used to be a book-buyer for the travel section of a large independent bookstore. Quite often, people would come to see me wanting to sell me their self-published travel guides. I would consider stocking them if I thought they were well-written, well-researched, and filled a need that wasn't already being filled elsewhere--but even if all those criteria were met, I still sometimes just couldn't do it. The reason was the cost.

Tiny publishers (like self-publishers) can't offer very good discounts, and the mark-up on new books is already miniscule. I did carry a few self-published books, but I was taking a loss each time I did so. I could afford to take some losses, because the store I worked for was huge and successful. Small bookshops just can't afford it.

In my experience, a lot of the people who self-publish just don't seem to grasp this fundamental economic problem. They think that if it's "as good" as a book by a large publisher, then bookstores ought to be happy to stock it. Sorry, in a perfect world we'd love to, but it just doesn't work that way in real life.

As for vanity presses...ugh. Yeah, they're the equivalent of real estate scams. It always amazes me that they find enough suckers to stay in business--very much as it always amazes me that anyone ever buys anything from a spammer.
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