Monday, November 28, 2005

The Fine Art of Spamming - Email Form Spam

Even I’m surprised occasionally. Having worked with technology for many years, I’ve seen just about everything – or so I thought. Over the Thanksgiving holiday one of our authors reported spam that he thought came from his domain, which is hosted on our system. Since access to our servers is tightly restricted, I suspected someone was using the Contact page on his site to send spam. Upon investigation I discovered I was correct but also found something new, or at least it was to me.

One of the optional features than an author can activate on a site built with our system is an email form on their Contact page. An email form is one of those fill-in-the-boxes-and-click-to-send forms that you’ve seen on many other sites. We offer this feature in order to hide your address but still allow visitors to contact you by email. Some people don’t like these, but they serve their purpose in hiding email addresses.

What I discovered was that some spammers target email forms – not personally on a type-and-click-to-send basis, but with automated software tools (often called ‘bots’) that roam the net looking and trying any form they can find. The intent is not so much to spam the person receiving email from the form but rather to exploit any vulnerability that the form may have.

For example some forms will mail the sender a copy or allow you to enter additional “cc:” or “bcc:” addresses. If your form has these or other vulnerabilities you become an unwitting ally in spamming other people. Unfortunately, the people receiving the spam will think you sent the spam and blame you. Not good because once you get on a ‘sends spam’ list it’s difficult to get off.

Fortunately our development team custom developed our contact form, and it does not allow sending email to other addresses. However, our author was receiving annoying email when the spam bot was trying to hack his Contact form – and it was trying about once a day with a blast of between 6 and 24 email attempts at a time!

So we took a look at different strategies and came up with several ways to thwart the attacks. I won’t go into details here, since this is a matter of security. However, even though we have repelled the attacker, we know they and others will try again. So we are hard at work on a human validation feature. You have probably seen these on other sites where a graphic with letters and/or numbers are shown that you must enter. Since the graphic is only readable by a human, this prevents automated systems from sending you email though your contact form.

The point I would like to emphasize is that we implement these changes as part of our continued system improvements and feature enhancements. There is no additional charge to our subscribers. We support our authors and when we find problems we work quickly to correct and improve our system.

On a side note, we are nearing the completion of WebforAuthors Release 2 enhancements and I will post a summary when we finish. And we have defined Release 3 and are finalizing the delivery schedule for these new features. 2006 promises to be an exciting year for WebforAuthors and our subscribers!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Designs – Shared and Custom

One method we use to simply the author’s experience on is to eliminate the complexity of web page design and layout. We chose to provide pre-built designs (sometimes called templates) that an author would select when creating their web site.

There are two major advantages, one I have already mentioned – it eliminates the complexity of page design and layout, something that many people would struggle with. I believe it takes real design talent to put together a great web page – you need to have a good sense of color, design, and layout plus understand what makes good navigation on a web page. By using professional designers, our designs incorporate best practices and solid design to give you a great looking web site.

Second, our system lets you choose another design any time. You are not locked into a specific design. This means that as we add new designs you can freely choose to try one out. By simply clicking to select a new design, your web site is instantly changed. If you don’t like it, you can change it back with a click.

Some authors want a unique design, one that is not shared by others. We understand this desire and will create a special design just for you that no one else will have. Fees for custom design start at $750 and we work with you to finalize the price before we begin work. And like our subscriptions, we guarantee your satisfaction.

The great thing is that these custom designs work with our system. For our low annual subscription price your web site will have all our powerful and extensive features. So you are able to get a custom designed, full featured, powerful web site for substantially less than if you had the site developed.

Another benefit to joining WebforAuthors is that you can start using our system now and add a custom design as your needs and success grows. Get started for a low cost but have the option to get a custom design later.

If you have a designer, we will work with them to create your custom site. For example, they could produce the graphical elements and our developers would put them into a layout that works with our system.

The WebforAuthors system is a powerful platform designed specifically for authors and writers. We invest in advanced features that all can use but that cost you much less than if you developed them yourself. With the ability to change your design and to have a custom designed web site, we offer flexibility, power and affordability.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Working with Authors

One of the most enjoyable aspects of WebforAuthors is being able to respond to someone’s need. When Jeff Gibson wanted an attachment emailed to everyone who signed up for Dr. Nell’s ( mailing list, we were able to add that feature a few weeks later. Nell wanted to offer a chapter of her book as an enticement to join her mailing list and having the system automatically send it as an attachment with the confirmation email made sense.

Recently Jeff emailed me and said “… I would like to comment on … how responsive you are. I have been impressed since day one with how quickly and professionally you have addressed any issue that has come up. Also, your taking into serious consideration and acting on suggestions for improvement.”

Several authors had commented on needing a calendar on which to put their activities such as appearances, signings, etc. We did not include this on our original feature list, thinking erroneously that this would be kept under a particular book on the Updates page. But we saw the error of our ways and developed the new “Events” page and calendar maintenance system. This new feature was just installed.

Although wee have not officially announced the new calendar feature, Bertha Davis ( has already found it. She wrote “The calendar is what I really need so badly. I like the way it's set-up. I'm going to work on my site today to see if I can add some of my signings ….”

The uniqueness and power of the WFA system is when we add new features, they become available to all our subscribers. So when Nell and Bertha got their wish, everyone else benefits too.

Our next new feature is a Links page on which an author could maintain links to other websites. We pre-built navigation when we added ‘Events’ by adding a ‘Resources’ button too. ‘Resources’ will include the new Links page, plus we are discussing a download page and the ability to link to a blog.

I’m excited about these and other new features we are working on. Plus we have several new designs being prepared that are excellent. As we get a larger variety of designs, I plan to emphasis our ability to do custom designs for an author.

Think about it. By using the WFA system as the ‘backend’ of the web site, there is no need to spend bucks when we have it all for a low annual cost. Put a few dollars into a unique design (‘frontend’ or ‘facing’ side), and presto, you have a web site like no other with features you didn’t know you needed for a cost you could not have imagined.

That’s a few of the ideas anyway. Gee, I’d better get to work!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Drive to Myrtle

On the drive to Myrtle Beach I looked forward to running on the beach. The SCWW conference started the next day and Athens to Myrtle is a six hour drive. It was late afternoon, ebbing high tide when I was ready to run, but warm, especially for mid-October. There wasn't much beach above the high tide before the tiny dunes started. Many people were out enjoying the beach.

I loved the conference, despite the hotel. The hotel is being renovated. Sandra and Frances, the conference co-chairs, did a wonderful job at keeping the event running smoothly. For more on the conference, Joshilyn Jackson blogged her ramblings here

I taught a session on "How to Use the Web to Promote Your Book" Saturday morning. It was well attended and we covered why to, how to and what to, regarding websites, blogs, strategies and effectiveness. I kept it informal and solicited topics from the audience before I began. Then I covered what they wanted, but organized, I hope, so it made sense, as a whole.

Being at a beach front hotel was a treat and sets this conference apart from many others. Few can offer the ocean at your doorstep.

Speaking of great places, I will be sponsoring and attending the San Francisco Writers Conference. The date is February 17 - 19, 2006 and more can be found  Obviously SF is wonderful, but to ‘top’ that, the conference will be at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill. The Mark is one of the grand dame hotels in the city and one of my favorite hotels anywhere. On the top floor is the famous Top of the Mark  

Friday, October 07, 2005

South Carolina Writers Workshop - Conference 2005

Established in 1990, the South Carolina Writers Workshop is a literary arts organization serving both new and established writers. Nearly every type of writing is represented, from poetry to mainstream novels to short stories to non-fiction. SCWW offers a supportive environment for people to become better writers. Their website is

SCWW membership is open to all writers, and provides a wide range of opportunities to improve one's writing, network with others, and gain practical "How To" information about getting published. There are numerous local chapters throughout the state.

The 2005 SCWW Writers Conference will be held October 14 - 16, 2005 at the Landmark Resort in Myrtle Beach, SC. Information on the conference can be found at

WebforAuthors is a Silver Sponsor of the event

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The WriteStuff Writers' Conference - St. Louis

Two weeks ago, on September 24, 2005, I was fortunate to attend The WriteStuff Writers’ Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. I attend several conferences each year promoting WebforAuthors, so I have a unique perspective from which to compare conferences. One thing that I think is great about the WriteStuff conferences is that they are one day conferences – a jam packed day, but only one day. Many other conferences are multi-day events, which require a bigger time commitment.

There were three WriteStuff conferences this year – Indianapolis, Cincinnati and St. Louis. St. Louis was the last one for the year, be sure to look for this conference next year. I will post their schedule once it is finalized.

Founder J. Andy Murphy pulls in great talent and impressive sponsors to these events. The “big” sponsors are Writers Digest (, the leading magazine for writers and authorHouse (, a leading self publishing company. In addition, Andy brings in regionally and nationally known authors and experts who share their experience and advice. WebforAuthors is also a sponsor, providing subscriptions to our service as door prizes.

The WriteStuff is presented in partnership with Ambassadors for Children. AFC is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that seeks to better the lives of children around the world who live, study, and play in impoverished communities, while offering volunteers a life-changing experience. All proceeds from the conferences directly benefit Ambassadors for Children.

Here a link to the WriteStuff page at AFC:

Friday, September 30, 2005

Why was WebforAuthors created?

In the beginning . . . .

The company that created WebforAuthors is Turner Technology, Inc., which I started in 1997. TTI provides Project Management and other Information Technology services primarily to mid-sized companies - typically distribution or manufacturing companies. More specifically, I focus on implementation and refinement of ERP systems. ERP is a funny term - it means Enterprise Resource Planning - but these systems entail little planning and don't really deal with 'resources.' ERP systems are the 'back office' of a business - they handle the transactions: order entry, purchasing, inventory, payables, receivable, general ledger, manufacturing, etc. For more on ERP, go to

The packages I have implemented include Enterprise 21 ERP from Technology Group International ( and Oracle ERP from Oracle Corporation (

These packages are typically web enabled, and some are web based. Also, I have developed web sites and managed web site projects clients.

About a year and a half ago, I was visiting my good friend Dale. His wife Robbie is an aspiring author. She also owns a marketing consulting company ( Robbie's approach to writing included gathering information, attending classes and seminars and joining a writing group. While sitting around the breakfast table she was telling me all the things an authors needs to do to be successful. I was amazed at all the things she talked about. After all, don't you just write, get published and write some more? Boy, was I uninformed.

In her list of things you need was the advice to 'get a web site.' I stopped and asked, how did this guru, this instructor who taught hundreds and thousands of aspiring writers, suggest you get a web site? "Oh," she said, "just go get one."

Knowing the difficulties of 'getting' a web site, I thought there has to be a better, easier way. I researched and found that there are few if any solutions focused on authors. Oh there are some generic solutions and some author focused sites, but none that provided what I envisioned.

Here's what I had in mind: first, an easy, non-technical system to create and maintain a web site. This would let you build a site and update it anytime you want. But why stop there? Why not build in features that are specific to authors, that would be expensive to build into individual web sites but if shared could be offered at a low cost. Features such as mailing lists, email newsletters, forums, a shopping cart to sell your book and more.

Essentially, that's what I do for businesses - discover their needs, develop a way to use technology to solve the problem or make a process more efficient and easier, and deliver the solution. So I took this approach and applied it to the needs of writers and authors. And just as importantly, I took the goal of providing support and to continually include their feedback and ideas into enhancing our services: Listen, support, respond, improve.

So that was the beginning. After about a year of work and development, WebforAuthors was launched in March of this year. For more information on what is offered, please click on the link to WebforAuthors under Links on the left.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Welcome to the WebforAuthors Blog

Hello and welcome to the blog. was launched in March 2005 and provides an internet based service through which authors and writers can create and manage their own website. It is very easy to use and provide advanced tools designed especially for authors. Visit our site at

The purpose of this blog is to provide authors with information on various aspects of writing and how the internet can help them be successful. It is written and maintained by E. Marshall Turner, Jr., President/CEO of Turner Technology, Inc., creator of the WebforAuthors system.