Saturday, February 16, 2008

Don't Spam Editors

The following is not a query; it is not a submission. And whatever the author thinks, it is not a marketing plan.
It is an email I received at my editorialanonymous account. And that makes it fair game for the blog. Let's dissect and discuss.

Email subject:
New children's book: Astro Socks - THE educational tool of the year‏
From: Leigh Le Creux
To: Editorial Anonymous

Don't make this claim if you have nothing to back it up. "Educational tool of the year"? According to what authority?

Begin message:
The Inspirational Book of the Year for Kids : Astro Socks
Wait, now it's the educational tool of the year and the inspirational book of the year? My bullshit meter is going crazy.
I know most of you wouldn't do this. But there is a wider lesson. It's easy for authors (who have spent years thinking about a book) to feel it has enormous range in terms of audience and use. Anyone working on marketing, however, has to focus on the audience and use that regular people (who have spent less than a minute thinking about the book) can be convinced of. Trying to convince people that you've got a book that does everything makes you sound like a snake-oil peddler.

Oviedo, FL, Feb 15, 2008 - If J.K. Rowling and Dave Pilkey combined their efforts, they may have come close to creating a book similar to Astro Socks. It is the educational tool of the year for parents and teachers, and kids love it.

Oh, where to start? Again with a the educational tool of the year thing. Can you tell I'm extremely skeptical? You've done nothing to make me believe you might be telling the truth. And setting your creation up as on par with J. K. Rowling and Dav Pilkey (congrats on spelling his name wrong, btw), just heightens the disbelief. Do. Not. Compare. Yourself. to Bestselling. Authors. It says you have very unrealistic expectations for your book and/or have only read the bestselling children's books, and so you essentially know nothing about the market.
I'd also like to point out that the title of your book is not one that is likely to elicit any consumer response other than: "What?"

"From the beginning of Astro Socks, my students and I were pulling for the main character, Chris. The author has an exceptional ability for using description to help the reader connect on an emotional level with her characters. My students were inspired by this child inventor, and were excited to create imaginative illustrations based on visualizations they had while reading the story. The number of classroom activities that could spiral from this book with my students are endless, thanks to the incredible creativity with which the story was written." Trisha Munroe, BEd, MEd
I see a fair number of authors in slush who have included testimonials from teachers and parents. Guess what? Teachers and parents know something about children, but they are entirely unreliable in terms of knowing what's well written and what will actually sell. Editors do not care what your friends and neighbors think.

This short fiction novel concentrates on a young boy who turns his dreams of becoming an inventor into a reality. Like all children, he has a vivid imagination. As he uses his imagination and visualizes, his ideas begin to take shape. The more excited he becomes, the faster his ideas begin to take shape. The main character encounters various hurdles along his adventure, but he discovers that anything is possible when you have faith, determination, and the love of your family. The illustrations throughout Astro Socks are an amazing testimonial to the book as they are a result of in-classroom projects. Students also reviewed the fiction.
Editors also see a consistent percentage of submissions that are illustrated by children. Because children are so precious and imaginative, right? The thing they're not, though, is artists. And books illustrated by children do not sell, because they're ugly. Parents think they're ugly. Teachers think they're ugly. And here's the news flash—children think they're ugly. Children wish they could draw better than they can. (And one day, if their creativity isn't squashed, they may learn to. In the meantime, however, their work is not fit for publication.)

"What I think is great is that a ten year old, a normal ten year old, all of a sudden turns into an inventor.NuPont doesn't care if he is ten or not! They accept him right away!" "Amanda", Grade Five Student
If there's anyone who knows more about children but less about what's well written and what will sell than parents and teachers, it's children. Editors really, really don't care what the few children you know think.

Educators must have this book on their reading lists, and in their classrooms. Parents and all book lovers enjoy reading it and learning at the same time.
"Educators must"? According to whom? You, the person selling the book? What a scam.
"All book lovers"? Are you telling me you've spoken to all book lovers to ascertain that they enjoy reading the book? WTF.
Connecting creativity and the imagination are in every line of this work. "Astro Socks inspires and connects the dots for successful kids, like the movie, The Secret, is known to do for adults", says Le Creux. "Faith, determination, and imagination are qualities all of us need to cultivate - especially in our children".
You're quoting yourself?! You have no shame!

About the book:
Astro Socks by Leigh Le Creux
ISBN: 978-0595463756
Publisher: iUniverse
Date of publish: Jan 2008
Pages: 90

Dear readers, comments?


Wendy said...

I got through all that, and then I got to the part about iUniverse, and then my brain exploded.

Kelly said...

I got this one too. My thought on this phenomenon--I receive at least 1 such e-mail a week--is that somewhere out there there is a book on "viral marketing" that should be banned. I've considered doing some research into the matter, but then decided deleting such e-mails was easier.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about? This sounds like genius! Take the puckish young inventor for instance, named in playful reference to DuPont, the company who invented CFCs which as everyone knows is the scourge of our precious ozone layer. So slick and dark and irreverent and -- okay, I'll say it -- plain downright sick! I love it!

Personally I can't see wait to find out what apocalypse young NuPont will bring upon us next! (If it's not the rage virus, can I so urge for the sequel?)

Don't listen to these idiots! Keep up the good work!


Anonymous said...

Oh, my. And you know what? I *still* don't know what it's about. Not really. I just know that they want me to think that it's the best book ever. And if it were, I would think I would have heard of it by now, and not from a spam message.

africakidandtheworld said...

Is this for real??

Editorial Anonymous said...

'fraid so. I wish I could make this stuff up.

Anonymous said...

I particularly love the statement that "all book lovers enjoy reading it". The author can know this only if all book lovers have already read it, so why should an editor be interested?

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hmm, did this come from those marketing whizzes at Bostick Communications, by any chance?

If so, I might have gotten it -- and quickly deleted it. I've ranted about them before.

Abby said...

Yeah, I got that same email... *delete*

Anonymous said...

I want to make a plea for a great big sign across all editors' office walls that says, "Authors are not spammers and nuts. Spammers and nuts are spammers and nuts, and authors are professional partners."

This kind of pitiful query/letter sort of amuses and appalls us, but I think it has an insidious effect over time, and unfortunately, editors start thinking of and treating ALL authors as if they might show this kind of behavior at any time. It's tantamount to getting porn e-mails and starting to assume that everyone who e-mails you thinks the same way and might whip some porn promo into your e-mail box at any time -- so you start avoiding and disdaining them, at least subconsciously.

I want to start the Anti-Spammer/Nut Writer Posse. Who ARE these people? Do we walk around with them every day and not realize it?

Judy said...

As an author, I have been warned that editors do not want to know about what kids think of the book, or about what our family, peers, etc. think about it. This instantly brands us as naive, unprofessional, etc, so should not be done. And I would expect that most of those who self-publish fall into that category, not having spent the time learning about submissions, query letters, etc.

That said, what are the rules for contacting people with the offer of an ARC...not editors, obviously, if the book is already published, but other people who MAY have an interest?

Anonymous said...

EA said

"Editors also see a consistent percentage of submissions that are illustrated by children. Because children are so precious and imaginative, right? The thing they're not, though, is artists. And books illustrated by children do not sell, because they're ugly. Parents think they're ugly. Teachers think they're ugly. And here's the news flash—children think they're ugly. Children wish they could draw better than they can."

I've got news for you. Kids think the same about some Caldecott winners. To quote something I read on Read Roger (I believe he was quoting someone), referring to a certain award winner:

"Kids wish they didn't draw like this."

Editorial Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:25, no, no. I don't think most authors are like this. And I know my blog readers aren't like this. I posted it mostly because I thought it would amuse you guys.

Anonymous said...

"And books illustrated by children do not sell, because they're ugly. Parents think they're ugly. Teachers think they're ugly. And here's the news flash - children think they're ugly."

LOL!!! I can't stop laughing. I haven't laughed this much in a long time.

Stephanie J. Blake said...

Publisher: iUniverse


Anonymous said...

Morid curiousity got the better of me and I visited iUniverse for a sample.

Not only are there two pages of acknowledgents (a shout-out to the author's mom for the cover design and illustration...), there is both a foreword *and* an introduction, in a cunning stratagem to max out the kid appeal...

Anonymous said...

So much hyperbole makes a person think that there must be a an inverse relationship to the quality of the book/story.

Anonymous said...

words fail me.

Anonymous said...

I got this e-mail not once, but twice. *le sigh*

I stopped reading after the Rowling and DavE reference...but since you broke it down so nicely, I now have ALL the information. :)

It certainly will help the title and author names to stick in my head, but not in the way the author hoped.

Literaticat said...

i looked it up at ingram. non-returnable, short discount. so even if i wanted it, which i decidedly do NOT, i wouldn't ever ever ever order it.

poor bastards.

Sarah Miller said...

I'll bet you $42 that this is exactly the sort of person EA was talking about in her Don't-stalk-the-booksellers post. As ridiculous and irritating as this pitch is via email, imagine how much fun it'd be to deal with this person face-to-face.

Anonymous said...

For those writers out there who think self-publishing is the way to go, here is the perfect example of why it's not. I'm glad this woman has impressed herself, her family, and her fifth grade son's class though. That in itself is something. J.K. Rowling and Dav Pilkey have nothing to fear though. I'm guessing LeCreux's book sales will never ever ever come close to theirs.

shell said...

Oh, my. As EA said, "Where to start?"
Who wrote that email anyway, "Reviews for a Dollar?"

Anonymous said...

"...This short fiction novel..."

God, that one always makes my teeth hurt.

Sad. Very sad. But yes, EA, amusing in a painful way.

LindaBudz said...

I love the quote from the kid. "Something unrealistic happens and everyone just accepts it!" The true mark of a quality story.

Jinx '75 said...

"Teachers and parents know something about children, but they are entirely unreliable in terms of knowing what's well written and what will actually sell."

A curious statement. As an educator, I read 4-5 books a day to my kids. Over 10 years of reading, I'm able to quickly gauge what books will bore my kids. I often have to paraphrase books that are too wordy, but have great pictures that hold my kid's interest. My school often buys books my kids hate, but when I borrow books other teachers have bought for their classes, they are always great. Who reads more children's books than editors and teachers? Why would that education not qualify us to know what makes a good book? If its not good, our classes will let us no in about 10 seconds.

Jinx '75 said...

I blame my typos on keyboard stick-age. Thank you.

Editorial Anonymous said...

I'm related to several teachers, so don't think I don't hold them in high regard.
And as I said, teachers do know a great deal about children, and thus about what makes a book accessible to them.
There's a difference between that and "well written" or "salable", however. You yourself, and possibly all the teachers you work with, may be able to recognize "well written", but there are scads of teachers quoted in slush manuscripts I've seen who clearly don't know a thing about it.
And "saleable" is an entirely different thing. At a time when teachers and librarians (to my enormous ire and frustration) have fewer and fewer funds, a book is not saleable based on its appeal to teachers and librarians.
I wish it weren't so, but that's the world in (and the administration under) which we live.

Anonymous said...

"At a time when teachers and librarians (to my enormous ire and frustration) have fewer and fewer funds, a book is not saleable based on its appeal to teachers and librarians."

And that leaves us NF writers... where?

Anonymous said...

I suspect another problem with teacher recommendations is that teachers (generally) are very nice. Especially the teacher who teaches your kid. Honestly, I've seen teachers work hard to say something encouraging to writers of very very very very very bad books. You give a book to your kid's teacher, and the teacher will try to say something nice -- especially if you're a classroom helper or volunteer. There's no percentage in a teacher being blunt or snarky with a hopeful writer...and especially not with a writer who is also a mom in her classroom.

I've met teachers who were excellent at judging good books that kids would like...but most of them, if handed a bad book by a parent/author, will say nice things about it.

Sarah Miller said...

Jan -- Bingo!

Editorial Anonymous said...

I think you're probably right, Jan.

And Anon 7:31, that doesn't leave nonfiction writers nowhere--you just have to create books that will not solely appeal to teachers and librarians.
Cases in point: Actual Size; First the Egg; The New Way Things Work; Owen and Mzee; Oh, Yuck; An Egg Is Quiet.

Anonymous said...

You want to look for the book on Amazon and check out the tags. Okay, I'll save you the trouble:

good author (1)
great book (1)
great gift book (1)
school reading lists (1)
teaching resource (1)

Jinx '75 said...

Jan, I think you are exactly right. I would certainly be nice to a parent or volunteer who asked what I thought about a book they wrote; even if my kids threw blocks at me halfway through reading it. I'm a teacher- not a parent- and as a former Nanny I'm constantly shocked how little parents know about their kids favorite books or children's reading tastes. Often the books they ask me to read at bedtime or tell me are their child's favorite are the books the kids would riot if I read at school. Parents gravitate toward overly-long, overly moral stories with lame pictures. The kids go to sleep or get fidgety about half-way through, and parents assume that's an age-appropriate response to any book, not that it's a normal response to a bad book.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Nicely put, Year!

Anonymous said...

I came by via Roger. I'm a bookseller in the kids dept. at an independent and deal with a number of local authors on a regular basis. This letter is my life! Why oh why does everyone think they can write/illustrate a bestselling children's book. I'm going to have to dig back through the archives to find the do not stalk the bookseller post.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that a book isn't "salable" if it appeals to teachers and librarians. It might not have trade market appeal, but is salable to the school/library market, which is a viable one.

I do agree that most teachers (kids, neighbors, etc) are probably just being nice and telling you what you want to hear when they read your story. So, yes, editors take that with a grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

I don't think all self-published books are bad. I read one recently that was actually a really good story. I think the reason a regular publisher wouldn't have touched it is because it didn't really fit in one genre or another. But it was an awesome book.

Anonymous said...


Saipan Writer said...

I came from Read Roger, too.

I write a monthly children's book review column for my local newspaper--in a very remote location with a very small population. Yet determined self-published authors find me and send me their books, hoping, I guess, that the tropical sun has turned my brain to mush and I am so desperate that I will write a favorable review of their book.

At first I encouraged this, not realizing how clueless many self-published authors are. In nearly 4years of writing my column, I have reviewed 1 self-published book that I could recommend. Some are so bad that I cannot even, in good conscience, pass them on to the community as free donations.

They suffer from all the problems you've mentioned--bad art, bad rhyme, bad story.

I did not get your spam, though, so at least I have something to look forward to. :-)

And to think that I was complaining about penis enlargement e-mails!

Anonymous said...

I think you guys are too hard on self-published authors. Some authors have to make opportunities for themselves if agents are unwilling to take them on. Some best-selling authors began as self-published authors.

Maddy said...

I'm not sure which is funnier, the post itself or the things you've been sent listed down the sidebar.

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