04/27/2011 11:37 am ET Updated Jun 27, 2011

Are You a Spammer? A PSA for Authors

Late last year, I signed up for a review copy of Draculas, an ebook authored by self-publishing guru Joe Konrath and friends. Hundreds of bloggers and reviewers signed up for review copies. Unfortunately, one of the e-mails sent out from Konrath's crew was CC'd -- and not BCC'd -- to everyone who had signed up. This was unintentional, and apologies were sent for the error. Fine.

But almost immediately, the list of reviewers' e-mail addresses was appropriated by several self-published authors hoping to ride Konrath's coattails -- resulting in a flood of spam e-mail requests to review their ebooks.

Months have now passed, and yet the flood continues. Yesterday I received this e-mail in my inbox from [NAME REMOVED]:

Just a few months ago you helped fellow writers Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch launch their novels DRACULAS and RUN to great success. Because you liked those books, I'm hoping you might be interested in taking a look at my self-published ebook [TITLE REMOVED]....

There are two problems with this type of e-mail. First, what you're doing is...

1. ...RUDE. There's a term for unwanted e-mail: "spam." And no one likes spam. If someone has signed up for your newsletter or e-mail list, that's a different story. But if not, what you are doing could also be...

2. ...ILLEGAL.
If you send commercial mass e-mails, you must include a way for recipients to opt out of future e-mails, as well as a valid physical mailing address (street or PO Box). I'd say 90% of mass e-mailed spam from authors doesn't include either of these important, government-mandated components. Why are they important? Failure to follow FTC guidelines can result in a $16,000 fine per instance. See CAN-SPAM commercial e-mail guidelines here.

Joe Konrath and other self-published success stories did not get to where they're at by spamming bloggers and readers with requests to read their ebooks. They did what thousands of authors before them have done: grow their audiences one reader at a time.