On Newsletters, Privacy, and Government Interference

Or, Why I Don’t Have a Newsletter

One of the best-sounding pieces of advice I see about author branding and fan outreach and controlling access to your fans (as opposed to letting a retailer like Amazon control that information) is to have a newsletter. What a great idea! You get a digital mailing list of people who want to know when you have new books out. Bam.

I looked into newsletters. There are free services that you can use to generate them, that will manage/automate the subscribe/unsubscribe stuff for you. Awesome!

I signed up for Mailchimp, eager to put this in place before my Christmas novel comes out, to catch any new readers from the get-go. Then I read the federal regulations on commercial email (AKA spam laws) and promptly deleted my account. The regulations put a burden of disclosure on me that I am unwilling to comply with, and the penalties are too high to be worth taking the chance about.

So what is this onerous restriction? The sender’s business address. Right now that is my house, and that is an absolutely unacceptable piece of information for me to be legally compelled to share for the privilege of sending mass emails to people who want to buy my books and have expressly signed up for notifications about their availability. Now, I could go open a post office box or rent a box from a place like FedEx, and maybe someday I will. When my books are making money enough to run this as a business and not a hobby. Right now, however, that is money I do not have – and even if I did, I do not like being coerced by the government to pay for a service I otherwise do not need.

Now, I am not sure how other writers handle this piece of governmental bullying. My guess is that most do not know the laws and don’t list an address in their message. Maybe some tell themselves it is not a “primarily commercial” communication if they don’t mention buying the new book, merely the information that it has been published. Maybe some assume that the government will never come after them because they are not actual spammers, therefore no one will report them as such for their communications to be scrutinized.

I do not trust the government not to prosecute asinine violations of the law just because they can – and in the current digital spying environment they are harvesting and storing all sorts of emails for who knows how long and for who knows whom to access – or to use things like spam law violations to prosecute an individual they cannot get to another way. Perhaps that sounds paranoid; perhaps it is. But I don’t think so. Just because I think such regulations impede free association and hinder the functioning of the market, and as such are unconstitutional and morally reprehensible, that doesn’t mean I am exempt from the law…and I can see a time in the not-so distant future when merely expressing those opinions will get me on a watch-list and have all my actions put under scrutiny.

So I do not now and will not for the foreseeable future be creating a mailing list. I am attempting to figure out a subscription feed that would send only certain types of posts from this blog (such as the category “official announcement” or even a unique page/post type) so that one could receive updates from this site without having to receive every post, but I have not yet learned enough coding to figure it out. (If anyone out there knows how and wants to trade skill for skill, I can copyedit or line edit a ms for you!)

In the meantime, screw you, anti-spam laws, for restraint of trade via unacceptable demands of an owner/operator’s personal privacy. I’ll take my ball and go home smirking about the fact that this vampire government screwed itself out of whatever taxes I would owe for the sales generated via a newsletter.

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2 Comments

Filed under Housekeeping, Rants and Storms

2 responses to “On Newsletters, Privacy, and Government Interference

  1. That’s always the choice we are forced to make: Privacy or security? I think you were right to choose to keep your information out of the public view. Personally, I don’t have a newsletter and I’ll think twice about starting one without a P.O. box.

    • That IS the choice the government wants us to make, but it’s a false choice. The thing that makes us less safe is giving the government more and more control of our lives and more means to enforce the behaviors they want us engaged in but have no business dictating.

      Sorry, stepping off the soap box….

      Anyway, I’m glad that I am not the only one who finds that requirement problematic. I feel like there should be exceptions to the spam laws for the double-opt-in (where you have to subscribe and then activate/verify the subscription), but that’s not where we are. Ah, overly broad laws and unintended consequences….

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