Update: Six months later, there’s more!

Last week, while I was in the depths of digging myself out of a massive to do list, I received the following email.

Hey [My Real First Name],
Grammarly recently gave its 3 million users the opportunity to nominate their favorite blogging author, and I’m very pleased to announce that you were one of the nominees selected to receive a blog-post sponsorship in the form of a $25 Amazon gift voucher. Grammarly is an automated online proofreader that points out and explains those pesky grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that are bound to find their way into your first draft. Think of us as that second pair of eyes that can spare you the frustrating cost of hiring a proofreader.
To receive your gift voucher, all we need from you is a quick sentence about Grammarly in your next blog post. Please send me the expected publishing date and topic of your next blog post so I can send you all the details you need in time. If you’d like to try the premium version of our proofreader for free, let me know and I’ll make it happen. 🙂
Cheers and happy writing,


P.S. Let me know if you ever find yourself in foggy San Francisco. I’d love to buy you coffee!

I read through this and, I must confess, my immediate response was, “I’m not above prostitution, but if this guy thinks I sell for $25, he’s nuts.” But I wasn’t the only one to get this email – several writers did, and several of them were quite annoyed. I have just enough traffic here that it’s plausible that what he says is true, if unlikely. Some of the other people who got the exact same email do not get traffic to their blogs. This email is a lie, and even if there actually is an Amazon voucher forthcoming, the whole thing is basically an SEO ploy to improve their google rankings. I’m not stupid, nor am I particularly gullible. I don’t appreciate being approached as if I am.

Last Thursday, I also happened to be particularly cranky, for a number of things not this guy’s fault, but some of which did involve the other people he was bothering. Dude, the SF writer community has not been having collective fun the last few weeks, and you’re bugging us with this bullshit? I can’t fix the bigger stuff. I can’t even talk about the bigger stuff without cussing and having to point out how the sentence I just said, while a true representation of how I feel, is unfair and ignores important details. When you do that for every sentence, it gets hard to talk about. You know what’s easy? Baiting the spammer.

Hi Nick,
I have a few questions.
1) You absolutely won’t be in my next blog post – my content for Fridays and Mondays are fixed and I’m not changing my schedule for this.
2) Do you have a link to the contest? I’ve never heard of Grammerly before and would like to see more of what this is about.
3) How many people won this?
4) Any sentence about Grammerly?
[My Real First Name]

I did go to their website before writing back. It’s a real product. They’ve got a real thing going on there. The problem is, I never pay a proof reader. And, frankly, this is obvious if you read my blog. My stuff gets read by professional proof reader when somebody else has paid me. Otherwise, it’s spell check and my meager copy editing skills or bust. Marketing this product to me is based on an utterly false premise. And, frankly, it sticks in my craw that by sending out these sorts of emails, he’s potentially creating the impression in newb writers that they ought to be paying for proof reading. You know what? I am a sloppy, sloppy copy editor. My rule of thumb is generally that if I catch your errors, you’ve performed badly and if I don’t, well, that’s pretty meaningless, actually. And I’ve made eleven fiction sales at professional rates. It’s my job to be passably competent on this front. It’s the magazine’s job to hire a proof reader.

Hey Anaea,

We care an aweful lot about our language and want to support people that are helping us keep it alive. To find them, we asked our users in an email campaign to anonymously nominate authors who were inspiring others to read and write. Of those nominations, we picked those we thought were especially deserving of our support and contacted them via email. Sorry if our initial message was a little unclear.

The company footing the bill would be Grammarly in San Francisco. We make a really good automated online proofreader used by over 3 million people, you should check it out!

Here’s what you need to do to get your gift voucher:
Paste the following text into the top of your next blog post: “I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because [insert clever/funny reason here].” (e.g. “because time spent proofreading could be time spent writing”)
Publish the post on your blog and email me the link.
We’ll send you your $25 gift voucher via email within 72h.
The best clever/funny reason for using Grammarly each month wins a $100 Amazon gift voucher!

Does that make sense? When do you think you’ll be publishing your next post?


Oh, they care and aweful lot about language, do they? Hey, even I caught that one. Mostly because spell check yells at me for it all the time. Does he not have red squiggly lines in his email composition window? Does Grammarly kill the red squiggle lines?

Also, dear god, I hope I’m not inspiring people to write. There are enough writers in the world. Half of them should find a new hobby. If you need me to inspire you to write, may I suggest knitting, instead? I’ve seen slush piles. They destroy what little faith in humanity I ever manage to muster.

Back to our dear friend Nick and his awefully generous desire to give me $25 if only I’ll lend my classy little blog here to his dreams of page 1 rankings. Notice his attention to detail, and how he’s suddenly switched to using the name attached to the email address rather than the one he pulled from the records about the site owner (I’m guessing that’s how he got my real name), even though I signed my email to him with my real name. This is a marketing guy with big ambition and small attention to detail.

The best part? This email I got fifteen minutes later.

Hi <Real Name>,
Self-publishing takes a tremendous amount of courage and inspires people to care about writing. We at Grammarly appreciate that and would be honored to sponsor your next blog post with a $15 Amazon gift voucher. We’re confident that a mention of our brand on your blog will help spread the word about us within the community.
In case you haven’t heard of us, Grammarly is an automated online proofreader that points out and explains those pesky grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that are bound to find their way into your first draft. Think of us as that second pair of eyes that can spare you the frustrating cost of hiring a proofreader. If you’d like to join our 3 million users and try the premium version of our proofreader for free, let me know and I’ll make it happen. 🙂
Please send me the expected publishing date and topic of your next appropriate homeschooling post (ideally something about writing) so I can give you all the details you need in time.
P.S. Let me know if you ever find yourself in foggy San Francisco; I’d love to grab some coffee. 🙂

Oh goody. Now I’m a courageous self-publisher! Just what I’ve always wanted!! I mean, I thought I was putting my book up because I’m too damn lazy to submit to editors or make a proper ebook, but apparently it’s so I can bravely become Spam bait for people who think I write about homeschooling?

This guy didn’t even cross reference his lists of different blogs to make sure he didn’t use two approaches for the same people. As somebody who does a fair bit of marketing in her day job, I’m a smidge offended at the laziness demonstrated here. Dude, you allegedly have access to a bit of software that can replace a human proofreader, but you can’t throw your database into a spreadsheet and run a duplicate entry check?

I’m disappointed in the quality of human spam scum these days.

I asked around and tried to find anybody willing to confess to having nominated me for this honor. There were no takers, just more people who’ve gotten this spam.

Here’s the real problem. If I were going to properly go into self publishing, this might be an appealing product. But now that I’ve heard about it in this fashion, there is no chance in hell I am going to use it. Or recommend it. I’m not even putting their name in the post title just to limit the bit of google boosting griping about them does. If this company wanted to reach out to writers and get the word around the SF community about their product, there are about a dozen better ways I could think of for them to accomplish that, and without spending much more than whatever their planned outlay of vouchers is. If they want those ideas, they’re welcome to ask for them.

But they should remember that my consulting rates start at $120/hour.

10 thoughts on “Spamtastic Promotion Fail

  1. Did you send him a link to this post? I doubt it would qualify, but if you got $25 from them for it I would cheer. 🙂

    1. I thought about it, but since his directions specifically state that the line would have to be at the top of the blog post, and that’s not what I did, I decided not to.

    1. As far as I can tell, only the first wave of people contacted got offered $25, and the offer went down to $15 after that. Look at it as being better sheltered, not worth less.

  2. Just got the same email but offering me $100 despite my blog being really quite poor indeed. And me living in the UK so not having much use for your strange American money.

  3. I’m so glad I found your blog post before I fell for this thing. I also thankfully found a review of the Grammarly software that helped me too. *shakes head* When I asked fellow writers, they hadn’t heard of Grammarly before either – never a good sign.

  4. I just got a similar email today and decided to google straight away. I honestly thought I was special for a moment, because I do have acceptably good traffic on my blog. Good thing I read your post… now I know what to do with that email.

  5. People are still being offered different amounts. I was offered one amount, and a blogger friend a different one.

    I told them that I would only participate if I followed FTC guidelines. I wrote that it was a sponsored post, even signed up for a free trial (and cancelled before my CC was charged).

    Now, after putting them as no-follow links, which is what you MUST do when you are compensated, Nick @ Grammarly is refusing to compensate me. He did NOT ever specify in any previous email that the link must be do-follow or I would not have agreed.

    Do NOT participate! Grammarly will not compensate you if you post ethically!!!! They are looking for bloggers who are willing to bend the rules. Don’t stoop to that level, be ethical.

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