The Many Faces of Spam

Don’t spam me, bro.

“Hark, spammers! Night will descend upon you as you feast upon the rotting flesh of thy life’s work.” – Anonymous

Spam means vastly different things to those who have encountered it in all its annoying forms. The first time I heard the term was in the early seventies while watching the BBC comedy series, Monty Python. If you are a Monty Python fan you are familiar with the “Spam” sketch where a waiter in a café recites a menu in which every dish contains the product named Spam. A group of Vikings (there are always Vikings or Masons somewhere close by) chant – “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, wonderful Spam”. The brilliance of this television show continues to amaze me. Their sketch about the ubiquitous meat product consumed widely in Great Britain after WWII struck a nerve with the world. The idea of spam as more than just the tasty meat in the snappy tin was right around the corner.

In the chat rooms of the 1980’s Internet bullies would actually scroll the word spam, and the lyrics to the Monty Python song, across the screen to push out other users. Around 1993, according to the Internet Society, the term was applied by Joel Furr, a very interesting pioneer in the early Internet days, to situations where news agencies were deluged with junk mail. This outspoken man is worth a little of your research time. He is a character.

Unfortunately, spam abuse has grown exponentially. I was recently the victim of a spambot, probably as a result of the security breach on LinkedIn. The password stolen on LI was the same as my regular e-mail, and many of my friends received messages that contained spurious links. How annoying and embarrassing! I sent out warning messages via Twitter that I was not selling real estate in the Middle East, and I was not in a prison in Morocco without enough funds to bail me out. I have since changed my passwords to very rude comments and they are all unique. The fact that a human is not reading them doesn’t bother me in the least. Typing in “eat ____ and die” makes me laugh every time.

There are a couple of other types of spam that I want to talk about, and my opinion of this will certainly annoy a few people. Feel free to disagree with me in the comment section. I can take it. Just follow the IU rules of civilized engagement.

With regard to literature, the consistent use of the f-bomb is writer’s spam. So are any other cuss words repeated consistently in the same paragraph. I believe the f-bomb has a great amount of power when used appropriately. It can shock, and make us draw in our breath. If used properly, it will seize our attention, grab us by the shirt and demand that we listen. This power is diluted if the word is overused to such an extent that it becomes white noise. It looks lazy. I remember reading a comment on LinkedIn in which an older gentleman recalled that the peasants in the foreign country where he was living at the time combined the f-bomb creatively with farm animals. This was a humorous contribution that I wouldn’t have expected from him, and I loved it. It stopped me as I skimmed many otherwise bland comments in the thread. He used the f-bomb well.

There is another kind of spam that baffles me. The building of a social media network is a key part of my promotion and marketing platform. I respect those in my network. We are all very busy, and I respect their time. The most futile and inappropriate thing I could do is to deluge them with daily snippets from my book, and ten page e-mails detailing why they should buy my book. And why I am the greatest writer since Ernest Hemingway. This type of foolish spamming behavior results in the opposite reaction: people talk about you on the Internet where you can’t see them, and decide that you are rude and quite possibly mental. You get blackballed. Don’t do this.

Instead, read John Locke’s book, and write out a marketing plan. Work hard to find your readers, and when you do for heavens sake don’t spam them. Incidentally, do you think your future readers are in a facebook group filled with other writers? I doubt it. It is important to become part of the writer community, and spamming them will backfire. Use the time you are spending spamming to write another book or blog post. Go look for your readers out in the big, wide world. Find them and you will never have to spam people again.

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Author: L. A. Lewandowski

Lois Lewandowski graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Political Science and French Literature. A passion for life lived well is reflected in her novels, Born to Die-The Montauk Murders, A Gourmet Demise, and My Gentleman Vampire, giving readers a glimpse into the world of the beau monde. Lois lives in Tampa, Florida. Learn more at her lifestyle blog, and her Amazon author page.

29 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Spam”

  1. Turn spam literally back-to-front and you get maps. Maps of a plan. Somewhere in there is the seed for a slogan.

    1. Very interesting, Sir David.
      I read that Tim Ferriss was the king of spamming every contact he had. He definitely had a plan. Also, a catchy book and the supreme belief that he would succeed and win at whatever he attempted.
      Do you think most of the spammers we encounter have a plan? I’m not sure that these spammers understand how to get in contact with their true base, so once they find a warm e-mail, as opposed to a body, they beat it to death.
      Did you think of the slogan, yet? 🙂

  2. To bring Lois up to date, Spam in a variety of forms, but still in its snappy can, is widely available and consumed in the U.S. to this very day. And while probably not on the new U.S. nutrition pyramid, fried to a crisp and served with scrambled eggs and English muffins, I can personally vouch that it makes a not-half-bad breakfast or Sunday-supper menu item.

    1. Yes, there’s now SPAM with cheese, among other things. We actually featured a photo of that here on IU a while back. I don’t doubt many of the cans available today will still be edible 100 years from now. And I’m sure while our Classy Lady Lois doesn’t eat SPAM (nor do I), that she truly knows that in the end, it will be cockroaches, Keith Richards, and SPAM.

      1. Kat,
        Lol! I actually didn’t have time to prepare a dish with Spam, which was my intent before writing this. I bought a package of Spam light, and will let you know how it goes.
        There was another type of Spam mentioned in my research, and I’ll add it now. Individuals who consistently have nothing nice to say and fill threads with negative comments are considered by many to be spammers.
        My dad loves Scrapple and eats it to this day, at 81 years old. He says it is good for him, and who am I to argue?

        1. Scrapple? I’d never even heard of that until I moved to Maryland in 2001. My best friend and I tried it in a diner…you know, when in Rome… And then she made the mistake of looking at the ingredients on a package of Scrapple when we were in the grocery store. Two words: NEVER AGAIN. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Yvonne,
      The research for this post was illuminating. The Internet grew so fast that bad behavior was rampant as everyone tried to figure out how to make money off the web, or at least control it.
      I’ve been known to drop a well-timed f-bomb. But, I always try to wait to take out the big guns.

  3. Very nice post, Lois, thanks. Agree too with the f-bomb thing – overuse of any word lessens its impact. To choose a word out of thin air, like “awesome”, for example 🙂

    1. Hi rj,
      I am going to cook with it and see how I can make it really yummy. I’m thinking eggs, chives, and some smoked Gouda.
      I actually LIKE to place an f-bomb for effect. It is a powerful word, and says a lot about a character if used in an appropriate situation.

    1. Couldn’t resist this. We had a no swearing rule when The Daughter was little. Then she grew up and one day her dear Mum – me – dropped the f-bomb. You should have seen the look on her face! Priceless. 😀 I think that was the day she realised I was actually a human being.

    2. My mom spelled it at my brother once. We all burst out laughing. We couldn’t even say shut-up when my mom was around us. Or fart. We had to say, “passed-gas”. When we wanted to torture my baby sister we sang her name in songs, and we were really good at that. 🙂

  4. Great post, thank you 🙂 I agree with all the spam related no-no’s but the take home message, for me at least, is that the real market for our products does not include other writers [well, not often at least].

    That is going to be a hard insight to work on because other writers are so much fun to talk to.


    1. Thank, Meeks!
      Yes, you got my message. I believe that many of the Indie books are just as good as the traditionally published, but those writers have found their reader base. John Locke’s book has some simple ideas for finding the readers of a certain genre, and writing for them. This is so key, and something I think about all the time. Where are my readers? Am I doing the right things to find them?
      I do think having a group of like-minded writers to commiserate with is important. IU is a great place for that.

  5. I don’t like either- the meat, or the incessant bombing of my FB/Twitter pages with annoying advertisements.

    My approach: 1 Tweet/day about some of my books. And maybe if I have a new cover or a new story coming out, I’ll put that on MY page (never on someone else’s!!!).

    It irks me when people send me messages and post their links on my pages. If I am FB friends with you, and you post something, I will see it on my wall. If it interests me, I will look into it.

    Bottom line- be polite!

    Great post.

    1. Kathy,
      I like your approach to Twitter. It is a great way to inform your network without overdoing it.
      I love to check out on the facebook home feed what everyone is up to, but someone else’s book doesn’t belong on my wall unless I put it there, which I often do.
      Thanks for your comments.

  6. This is conjuring up bad memories of family car trips back when I was a little teeny writer and Mom would serve SPAM sandwiches for lunch. Ew. Haven’t touched the stuff since.

    I agree with Meeks: the take-home message is to market our books to readers, not (so much) to other writers.

    1. Our parents mean well, but I am still scared of lima beans and brussel sprouts. I will let you know how my Spam experimentation works out.
      Yes, we need to find our readers. I work on that every day. 🙂

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