I do not pretend to understand the byzantine nuances of how systems determine what is and is not Spam. I can only extrapolate from patterns I have seen. But I know recently I’ve had a fairly big number of author submissions end up in my Spam folder. Author submissions getting inadvertently flagged as Spam doesn’t help anyone, and I can’t believe I am the only publisher having this problem. Chances are that if your submissions are getting flagged by email provider as Spam, other publishers using the same provider are also finding your submissions in the Spam folder.
- FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. Not to beat the proverbial dead horse, but a great many guidelines have specific formatting instructions to avoid your submission getting flagged. Depending on how advanced (I use that term loosely) the spam filter system is, it may be looking for specific formatting or language in order to correctly process your submission. Half of the submissions that ended up in my Spam folder had ignored rather important parts of the guidelines. I can’t say for sure that is what triggered it (as other emails get through) but it may play a factor.
- Excessive links. Two-thirds of the emails flagged had three or more live links in it. I genuinely do NOT need your Twitter, Facebook, newsletter sign up page, Instagram, blog, Amazon author page, etc. etc. etc. I just don’t. I don’t look at them anyway. If I decide to publish your story, I’ll ask for that stuff later if I need it. But excessive links in the body of an email is a common spammer tactic, so this is the type of stuff that can get your legitimate emails flagged.
- Excessive data in the body of the email. Half the emails that got flagged had long lists of their publication credits and accomplishments included. Because spam filters are often only looking for keywords and formatting, not context, a long list of “products” can look like Spam. Again, I’m not reading it. I don’t care about your previous publications. They have no bearing on my decision to publish your story. Save yourself the keystrokes or the cut-and-paste and don’t include them unless a publisher requires it.
- Punctuation marks in file names or excessively long file names. These type of file names can trigger Spam filters because, depending on the marks you are using, they can “read” as code when being scanned. Adding too many punctuation marks can cause a program to not identify your attachment as a Word document.
- Unusual file sizes. If your Word document is bloated because you have added a lot of special formatting, images, embedded custom fonts, track change comments, etc, that can and will set off Spam filters. You can inadvertently cause your file to become bloated if you are cut-and-pasting from other files with different formatting than your final file. You may be surprised at the number of submissions I get that actually consist of multiple different fonts and margins (sometimes on the same page!) caused by cut-and-paste from other programs. Half of the submissions had unusual file sizes and when I opened the files the formatting was all over the place.
- Free email addresses. I am convinced that Yahoo and GMail secretly hate each other and make every effort to flag each other’s emails as Spam. I have nothing to base this on, of course, other that the fact that such a high volume of GMail addresses get flagged by Yahoo (which hosts my website and email service) while Yahoo addresses routinely get flagged by GMail (which I use for Google Drive). Whatever the reason, I rarely have problems with emails that come from specific author domains. Not saying every author has to run out and get a personalized domain for email use. But if you are having ongoing problems with your emails getting flagged you may want to look into it.
I can’t guarantee following this advice will solve the problems. I can’t even say for sure that these reasons are what has caused the latest flood of incorrectly flagged submissions. But I wanted to at least bring the topic up and try to provide some help. I really do want to read your submissions!