Saturday, March 20, 2010

Think before you write

I can defend writing for low pay or even for free in some cases. Just remember: even if you're not getting paid, you're still likely to be read - so the writing matters.

Case in point: a website offering the (unpaid) opinions of self-appointed human resources experts. Some sound pretty smart. All are using the site to increase their visibility and presumably get new clients. But I wonder who would hire the one whose bio states he's proud of "restraining himself from beating the crap out of bad managers and employees" and who, in his spare time, enjoys telling "stories about his co-workers with friends over a beer after work." 

The bottom line: think before you publish.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pros & cons of writing for low pay, pay-per-click

"Anyone can be a writer."

It rubs a lot of writers the wrong way, but it's true. Anyone can be a writer and just about anyone can have an ego-gratifying "job" writing for a website with a pay-per-click/fraction-of-a-penny-a-word/write for exposure sort of payment plan.

I don't like those sites, but I can argue both sides of just about any issue :)

I'll start by defending those in the $15 per article range (like Demand Studios, for example).

Assuming you can crank out a (good) article in an hour, you're making $15/hour. Sound good? It's not, really - that's less than 20% of the low end of the pay scale for professional writers. So why do it?

  • You'll have 15 bucks fast. (Demand Studios and other sites typically pay via PayPal.) That'll buy you lunch or maybe refill your printer cartridge. 
  • If the site's attractive and fairly well-managed, you won't look bad, and 
  • Some sites offer residual income, meaning the initial investment of your time may continue to pay for years into the future. Not much, but 'residual income' has an awfully nice ring to it.
Here's why you might NOT want to do it:

  • Few people can crank out a decent-looking article in under an hour. I know it sounds hard to believe, but it's true. No matter how much help you think you get from grammar- and spell-checker, no matter how fast you type and how fast you think you can think, the fact is lucid writing takes time. Lucid well-informed writing takes more time. (We in the business call that 'research.') 
  • The articles live practically forever, which means if there's an error, or even a typo, in one of your articles, the error lives forever, too. With your name on it. 

If you're considering writing for a no- or very low-pay site, think hard before you do. There are a lot of 'good' reasons, but when you look really closely, I think you'll find most of them really aren't that good. 

This may look like an obvious segue into a "why blogging is better" article, but it's not. I'll leave that topic for another time. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Corporate Blogging vs. Hobby Blogging

SPJ member and blogger Mike Consol offers some very reasonable advice in his on-target article on blogging. Ironically or appropriately, it's only available through his LinkedIn blog site or the subscription-based magazine in which it originally appeared. (Foreshadowing the death of free content? I doubt it...but maybe....)

I like the article for what it doesn't do: namely, describe blogging as a frivolous hobby. Can be, sure. Shouldn't be, though, 'specially if you're paying someone to do it.

Corporate blogs, well-planned and professionally written, can and should:
  • increase web traffic
  • improved customer service
  • increase referrals
  • further develop your brand identity
  • personify your company's products/service
Blogging is writing, folks. Corporate blogging should be handled by professionals, not penny-per-word junk content creators.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscars and Writers

OK, I'll admit it, I plan to watch (at least some of) tonight's Oscar presentations. I hate celebrity gossip, in spite of the fact that there's a lot of money in it for writers. (One of the many times a conscience can get in the way of a good paycheck!)

One of my favorite movies (from years ago) was overlooked by the academy and the vast majority of the general population, I'm sorry to say:  Stranger than Fiction is a story about a story, a work-in-progress by a writer (Emma Thompson), and her (unbeknownst to her) real-life main character, Will Ferrell. Will she kill him off in the end? Major spoiler alert: No. But how she writes around her planned ending after she falls in love with her main character - in real life, 'cus she hated him until she met him - makes for a truly entertaining story. Um, film. Well, both.

It's a movie you don't have to be a writer to love, but I haven't met a writer that doesn't love it. :)

But back to tonight's Oscars. Don't you think some of the actors could do their careers a favor by paying a writer to pen a charming acceptance speech... and then follow it? The good news for our profession: those who don't certainly help support the PR industry.

And for that, I'd like to thank the Academy.

Friday, March 5, 2010


The only deadlines you're allowed to miss are the ones you impose on yourself. Sigh. That's an attempt at an eloquent excuse - I've let myself slide on updating my website. Blog posts are easier to manage.

What to look for in the (coming soon) new, improved site: a special rate for employee newsletters in 2010! Know anyone who can benefit from sending a uniform message to all his (or her) employees? Know a business that desperately needs to get all its workers on the same page? Send 'em my way!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An Evergreen FYI

A succinct and well-written article on publishing jargon can be found amongst Media Bistro's many helpful pages, here. It both defines and exemplifies the term evergreen. Kind of like this post :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fiction Habit: Critiquing what isn't there

I'm fortunate to be a member of a very talented online critique group. What I've learned from the group over the years could fill a book. But cursed as I am, a copywriter with a fiction-writing habit, I won't have time to write that book for many years. *sigh* Anyway....

One of the many invaluable things a critique group can do is point out what isn't in a manuscript that should be. More than those nagging questions (what happened to the donkey on page 7?)  I'm talking about things like missing elements. Believability. Conflict. An arc. A resolution. If you write without an outline (as I believe most fiction writers do) it is possible to write a story without a very important ingredient. It might look good, but there's a missing ingredient. Think chocolate cake without sugar. Leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you know?

On the other hand, a critique group can also consider what you've (perhaps purposely) omitted and give you an honest assessment regarding its relative necessity. As a story sweeps the reader along, a lot of little details can and should be left out. What kind of shoes the main character is wearing, what he had for breakfast, and whether or not he crossed at the light or brazenly jaywalked. 

If you, the writer, have glossed over a detail that needs clarification, however, it's the crit group's responsibility to call you on it. (You need to explain how the donkey got from Milwaukee to Martinique.)

And yes, it will sting. That's when you say "thank you," and put the manuscript in a drawer, figuratively or literally, for 24 hours. (Of course I recommend you save it to your external hard drive; don't get me started on back-up issues.)  Then, get your red pen, and get the donkey home.