Monday, February 23, 2009

Internet Freebie Woes

A few weeks ago my Assistant #2, who handles all requests for "Free Stuff" and mails out books, etc., started going crazy with dozens of requests a day. She receives requests on a regular basis, but nothing like what started happening. She wrote me, "What on earth have you been doing? I'm going nuts here."

Me? Hadn't done anything. Yet Sandy was receiving requests from all over the world. Portugal, Russia, Germany, France, and on and on. The English-as-a-second-language emails were quite entertaining at times. But they also were annoying. These people weren't my readers. They couldn't care less what I've written. They just wanted free stuff. One woman requested 200 each of my various bookmarks.

Day after day these requests came. We try to be responsive and patient, but really, this was getting ridiculous. I twittered about my frustration. One fast-thinking follower of mine googled key words like "Brandilyn Collins" and "free" and came up with the errant sites. Yes, plural. Some "free stuff" site had picked up the info off my Web site and run it. Then other sites picked it up. At least then I knew why this was happening. After a week or so it all died down.

Fast forward two weeks. I, not my assistant, started receiving dozens of requests for a signed photo--from people all over the world. Nowhere on my Web site do I offer a signed photo. And on my Free Stuff page, the email link is to my assistant. So somebody had to work particularly hard to "err" on this one. I've googled twice and can't find the culprit. I was hoping, if I found the listing, there would be a place to leave a comment to correct the error. Maybe I just haven't explored long enough or put in the precisely correct key words. At any rate, I'd like to strangle somebody at this point. At the very least, kill 'em off in my next book.

If anybody out there wants to do some private detective work on the 'Net, be my guest. First one to find the offending site(s) will receive a book of his/her choice from me. Not to mention my unending gratitude.

For future record--I do not give away signed T-shirts, hats, sunglasses, shoes, posters, videos, cats, dogs, elephants, lamps, keyboards, telephones, rocks, menus, magazines, candy bars, make-up kits, knives, houses, estates, or planets. Got it?


Anonymous said...

Have you Googled your exact email address? If you sent it to me I could try a few variations. There are some pretty standard ways to obfuscate them while still allowing them to be functional. I promise not to abuse it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to include my own email! dsmith77 { AT } gmail { DOT } com.

Anonymous said...

No free signed rocks?! Shucks.

Kim Vogel Sawyer said...

Ah, the price of fame, Brandilyn. Everyone wants SOMETHING from you. :o) I'm no computer expert so I can't offer anything but sympathy. I hope you find the culprit(s) and stop'em in their tracks!

Blinky St. James said...

No signed planets? Or cats? Drat. ;)

I tried Googling several things but whoever did it was sneaky...I can't find anything. Will keep trying though!

Anonymous said...

I Googled "free autographed pics of Brandilyn Collins" and found...a million sites either promoting your books through blog tours or other Christian writers. Only one site claimed to offer free autographed pics of you, along with a gazillion other free things, a forum called Hope this can help!

God bless, from a very amateur-ish detective.

Anonymous said...

You know, it wasn't hard to figure out your email address. It's on your .com home page - if that's the one in question. Googling it within quotes plus the keyword "free" gives only 38 sites. None were suspect.""+free

BTW, Paypal uses your email address as a unique identifier. Your address is now all over the place partly because you helped out Katy and Liz. I have to agree that this is one price of fame. I doubt you'll think the price too high though. ;)

BTW, Mallie looks like a nice dog. And I now have your phone number and part of your home address in Nor-Cal! You might want to have that information removed... If I weren't a nice guy, well, you know...

Hope this helps a little.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Hannah, thanks for the link to the site! I went there and searched the site but couldn't find the page with the info you mentioned. (It's a huge site.) Do you have the exact URL?

Dragons, thank you for your further investigation. It's frightening to see how much of our lives ends up on the 'Net, isn't it. Glad you're too busy beating dragons to come after me.

Hannah and Dragons--if you'll email me with your street address and a specific request for one of my novels, I'll be happy to send the requested book to you.

Tracy said...

So, just to be clear... I shouldn't expect special delivery of the signed elephant??? LOL Sorry you've had so much trouble. I hope it slows down soon. And I'm looking forward to reading about the murder in your next book! Blessings!

Vanessa said...

Brandilyn, just a few things you can do on your website to provide protection:
1. Remove the words "free stuff". It is located on your home page and is the name on a tab. It may be in other places on your site, but I didn't find it. By having this exact wording, your site will appear on a search whenever someone is looking to post links to free stuff. I have seen blogs that do this, but it is polite to ask the originating site for permission to post the link.

2. Have your web designer create some forms for you and tie these to your email address and your assistant's email address as appropriate. These are pretty simple to create. There are programs out that allow individuals to search a website for hidden email addresses. That is probably how yours was located. Another problem with having contacts set up the way you do is that, when clicking on Email Brandilyn or e-mail my assistant, Outlook opens and you are presented with an email form. Not everyone uses Outlook and this can make it difficult for them to contact you.

Sorry this is so long, and I hope it makes sense. If not, let me know!