The worth of your words and weight of the world
I am not a resolutions-type of chick. My personality is too spontaneous, and I like the freedom to change my mind without beating myself up over it. However, I’ve learned a lot this past year, and have only one resolution to make that I plan to stick to: to not write for free.
That, my friends, is easier said than done of course. For a few reasons, one of them being that I am in a pool with many talented writers who will write entire articles, make videos, take amazing photos, and even produce mini-documentaries, all in exchange for the promise of “exposure” for companies who shamelessly go on the record promoting the fact that their publishing company has experienced record breaking profits mainly due to, they state with great pride, their ability to attract free, talented labor.
A lot has been said on this issue, and in some ways it has created a divide among our community of writers and bloggers, and I have struggled with ways to express my opinion without insulting the choices others have made for themselves.
However, I have to now write this post, because it has become evident that the choices many of my peers have made for themselves are affecting the one and only resolution I made for me.
It has been widely discussed how the Huffington Post doesn’t pay their writers, yet they come in droves. Because the Huff has a gazillion hits a day and writers, wanting and needing to be read and noticed, come to them counting on that as their ticket to success and notoriety, and hopefully, paid work.
I get it. I recently just signed a deal with an online magazine I never really read before, Babble.com, to be part of their new city venture, and am now the blogger for their New York site (UPDATE: I resigned and no longer write for them at any capacity). Now, people who write for the Huffington Post, for free, receive a lot of fanfare from their followers and readers, just as I have from mine regarding Babble. To many it’s a big deal, in some ways I have arrived. But have I?
The site is noted to reach over 4.1 million readers, growing monthly. This, in combination with an incredibly lovely staff, and a well-liked brand, at least among many in my community, led me to agree to writing for clicks. That’s right, clicks. I counted on the exposure. Except, my site doesn’t ever really get clicks back from my writings there, and when I promote my post, I am simply promoting it to the audience I already had to begin with. And, I have yet to make more than $12.00 a month. But this isn’t their fault. They did absolutely nothing wrong, they were completely clear, and they continue to be lovely, even showing an interest to help me get the word out on the blog more.
I, however, set a precedent. For now the writers in the cities that follow will be offered the same deal, and a whole slew of writers will agree, as I did, to give their best for little money in return. This is not to say that I could’ve changed anything. This is not to say that had I been more educated, more aware, less impressionable, that I would have gotten a counter offer that paid me per post, regardless of clicks, and that would have guaranteed me the true worth of my labor. But the fact that I didn’t, that I was the first one, and I said yes, no questions or push back for more, set the tone for the rest.
And this is what happens when we make choices for ourselves without thinking about the consequences our choices have on others.
The fact that the Huffington Post has managed to recruit so much talent (granted some of it is not, but a lot of it is), and has made a profit (especially by claiming that it has been able to do so by not paying their writers) has set off a trend that is now being embraced by another huge conglomerate, Forbes.com. Except Forbes is taking it to the next level. They are going to take the quality, free material, and further increase their profits by selling it to other publications, without giving a dime to the writer. What’s worse, writers are excited about the notion for further exposure.
Chances are that with the growing success of companies profiting from the free labor of writers, my chances of writing for profit are slimmer and slimmer.
Maybe, by resolving to not write for free I am not so much guaranteeing that I will actually receive paid opportunities to write, as much as I am guaranteeing to not continue to be a part of the problem. Of all the lessons I have learned this past year, I think this has been the greatest. Because I have come to accept and embrace, in the most humble way possible, that I am a really good writer.
Where I used to think that the validation of this was with the publishing of a piece in a major publication, or the receipt of a check for another, or the nod and mention from a well-known writer, I’ve come to learn that in actuality, the validation is in that feeling of pride when, alone in my room, I read back and can relive the moment in my mind. The validation has been in how I have touched my readers and moved a member of my community.
The validation is also in the professional relationships that have turned into incredible friendships, the unforgettable experiences people have offered me and my family, and the trust that many have put in me over and over again to share their stories with others in the most honest, fair way possible. I have done all of this, and not due to the writing I have done for free anywhere. Come to think of it, the only free writing that has actually led to some success has been the writing I do on this site.
So, I will not criticize those who for whatever reasons have made the choices that they have, I have been there and I understand. But I do ask that we think about how our choices are setting a precedent and affecting an entire community of writers, no matter how big or small we are. At the end of the day, we decide what our craft is worth, we have to decide what the value of the words we share with the world is. I like to think that my stories are priceless, which last I checked was not the same as free. Funny thing is, others know that too and are just hoping I won’t say so.
Babble.com Editors recently responded to this post with this email, which I am posting here, not to create drama or shed them in a negative light, but rather to make their point of view and voice heard as well. My intent with this post, as I mentioned to Babble was not to bash them, and I made every effort to point out that there was no wrongdoing on their part, and take full responsibility for my choices. Thank you to Babble for contacting me, my apologies that their opinion of my post has caused such distress. My apologies to any reader who felt mislead by anything I have said here. This post, as I wrote it, is not about them, it’s about something larger going on in the writing/blogging community. I am willing to face whatever the consequences are for the words written in this post.
FROM BABBLE EDITORS:
We recently came across your blog post on NYCityMama, and we’re a little upset by a few things. Obviously we would have rather had you talk to us about your misgivings before you opened it up to the public, that way we could have made it clear what you’d have to do to get your payment to increase from $12/month.
I think the crux of what you were saying was in these lines: “That’s right, clicks. I counted on the exposure. Except, my site doesn’t ever really get clicks back from my writings there, and when I promote my post, I am simply promoting it to the audience I already had to begin with.”
But what you don’t say is that it’s up to you to write them in such a way that people go to look at the rest of you stuff. We’re in the same boat w/ Yahoo Shine — we post articles on there for free, but we have to make it worth our while by providing content that makes people come back to Babble.
Also, you must have known from the get-go that simply promoting to one’s preexisting audience w/o growing a larger one wouldn’t make you much money. The point was to grow a larger and larger audience and get rewarded for each month of growth. Your piece doesn’t stress how the sky was the limit in terms of how much you could make but that the onus was on you to grow the traffic.
Our hope was that by growing + expanding your following each month as well as pushing your posts out via social media outlets (things we expect of of all of our bloggers), you’d gain more readers to both your Babble blog & your personal blog and make money doing it. Furthermore, we’re always happy to share our social media best practices with you and tips + tricks we use to increase traffic. Can you please reword your entry on your your blog asap? We take pride in our blogs, our blogger relations, and our business practices, and, while we appreciate your argument about writing for free and the effects it might have, this casts us in an unduly negative light.
Let me know if you want to discuss further.
Amen. Amen. Amen.
Becky: Another Amen for good measure! lol!
Excellent post as always, lady!
Thank you Melisa!
I agree, fanfare is great, but 'show me the money'!
I agree Tony, fanfare is great, but why do I still feel crappy afterwards? Priorities, priorities!
It is SO EASY to fall into the write for free trap- especially when they DANGLE THAT CARROT in front of you in the HOPES that at some point they'll pay you- or they assure you the traffic they drive back to your site will be payment enough. But after a REALLY REALLY bad experience when it comes to writing for free this is what I've concluded– when you don't take payment for what you write- you DEVALUE yourself– and in doing so you allow others to devalue you! YOU my darling, gorgeous, spunky oh so talented Carol do not need yo be paid in clicks…I say you deserve the real stuff- because you've EARNED IT!
Carol CainMelissa Chapman
Thanks Melissa and Barbara! It's taken me some time to embrace that fact…and I do now. Let's see what the future brings with that one!
Yes! Yes! Yes!
You better preach! "The moment you settle for less than you deserve, you get less than you settled for." I'm not sure who wrote this, but it always speaks to me whenever I think that I am settling. Well written.
Carol CainAlicia @MommyDelicio
Alicia: I love that saying…will hold it dear to my heart because it is so very true. Thank you!
I agree. I used to write for free but realized I wasn't getting out of it what I put into it. So, I no longer write for free, even if it's "great exposure." My time and talent are valuable, and there's no reason I should let someone else profit off of it, unless I'm getting paid, too.
Sometimes you just have to decide when it's time to draw the line. Because if you don't place a value on your hard work, nobody else will.
Thanks Michelle, you're right. Absolutely right.
Well said, Melissa! And seconded.
LOVED THIS TO PIECES.
I swear, we are living paraellel lives.
Check it out: the-word-well.com/the-highly-practical-mrs…
Good luck with this new resolve…and H-N-Y, Honey.
Thank you Sara…read your post and will comment there as well. Good luck to you dear friend…hold fast to your dreams, never give up! Love you!
Weighing in a little late, please forgive me.
This is a subject close to my heart. I'm not a writer (or never intended to be) but a publisher and I'm proud to say we created a policy, and kept to it, when we were publishing The MotherHood: value our writers & columnists and pay writers what they are worth. We did include contributions from parents in the community that we did not compensate for, but if you wrote for us a second time, we paid. We paid our regular writers a flat fee for a min. of 800 words (or the equivalent value in display advertising), yes, at a much lower rate than the $1 per word fee of mainstream media for freelancers, but double what other community-based parenting mags paid and we will continue to do so in the future. I worry that women, especially moms, are being exploited by big business for their hard work and that is everybody's problem.
Carol CainLisa Duggan
Hi Lisa-Thanks so much for your input and honesty. I agree it is a problem for everyone and we need to work together so more quality writers/bloggers are connected with people like you who understand the impact of valuing the contributor to improve the relationship and industry as a whole.
Babes about Town
This is a fabulous piece, well thought out and gives plenty of food for further discussion. It's a great and bold resolution to make in this era where the lines between professional writer/social media marketer/blogger are increasingly blurred and it's hard to figure out your actual value.
BTW, Happy New Year. I've been an admirer of your blog from afar and it's been a huge inspiration to me when setting up my own London city guide. I'd love to invite you as a guest on my site – will email you with further details.
Carol CainBabes about Town
Thank you! Look forward to your email. Happy New Year!
Great read. I admire your resolve.
A couple years back I decided I would never again be paid in exposure. I can write for free if I want to, because I believe in the cause, because I think the project will be fun, or for whatever other reason, but "exposure" is no longer a currency I accept. If someone comes to me with a project and that's the only positive they have to offer, I run far, far away.
Thanks Jul, I am right there with you!
I agree. I am learning on my smaller scale that being taken advantage of is not Ok.
Live and learn!
And I am happy to learn from you!
So glad I can help Mitch! Live and learn!
Very well written, Carol. You are a class act and I admire you (anyway), but even more since reading this. I don't want to blog for product either (been doing it for 4 years next month). Lately I've found a few better paying gigs, but not enough yet I struggle to decide what I can do so I can continue to stay home with my baby and 2 older kids or go back to work full time.
Carol CainNancy Horn
Thanks Nancy. I know it's hard. Some decisions are easier for some then for others, I realize. In the end, we have to make a choice, within what we can, without loosing touch with our sense of happiness and our integrity, which also leads to our happiness if intact. Nothing is worth risking that.
Kimberly/Mom in the
At the end of last year, I wrote down a few of the top parenting sites that I would like to write for one day and contacted them. I was pleasantly surprised when one of them was like, "Yes! You can start as soon as you like…write however many posts you like a week on whatever topic you like UNTIL I realized that they didn't pay their (prominent!) writers. No thanks…
I try not to say "never", but it's highly unlikely that I would write unique free content outside of an internship (that I alone initiated!)…
Carol CainKimberly/Mom in the
Hey Kim-Never is a tricky word, I agree. Let's just say this, for it to work for me (and I speak for only myself here) something more than just exposure is coming out of the deal.
I still write for two sites for free. One site I cannot quit as it is a local site. I love the founders. But get no traffic back from my posts. The other site I am extremely loyal to even though I have made $40 in two years of writing with the dreaded Adsense dollars. It was the site that gave me my writing break — I used this site to get other writing jobs hence my loyalty. What to do? I write my shortest, quickest, on-the-fly posts for both sites. For the paid sites, I research, I ponder, and I write better posts. I just can't stop writing for either of the nonpaid sites.
Jill-you don't need to explain yourself or apologize to anyone for the choices you make. You don't even need to apologize to yourself, especially when those choices make sense for you and work for you.
We all contribute to sites for people we love, or sites that represent something we care about, or sites that we feel hold an opportunity for us. What I mean to point out here, are the sites that are significantly profiting, and are doing so in great part due to the free labor. Sites like Huffington Post and Forbes get heavy traffic, like I said, and for the many people who write for them, that is enough. I have a problem with those companies going out and saying to other companies like them, "Hey! We've found the perfect business strategy! You open up this here blog see, and then you get people to give you their craft see, and then you don't pay them, but we still rack in the dough in advertising money!" Not. Cool. Because then, upon seeing this successful trend grow, why would anyone have to pay anyone ever at all? It has something to do with a cow, and free milk, if I remember correctly.
Kimberly/Mom in the
"For it to work for me, something more than just exposure is coming out of the deal."
I TOTALLY can sign-off on that for me too. I can't wait to see what great opportunities come your way in 2011!
Kim Tracy Prince
I think there's a threshold that a writer reaches in her career, as you have, where money is earned. Writing for free to get clips is normal. What Forbes is doing is simply unethical, in my point of view. Their move doesn't mean that all uncompensated writing is bad. I think what you're doing is setting a good example of the traditional path to paid writing: prove yourself, and you get paid. People who do it for too long and never get paid might be in the wrong business, or going about it the wrong way.
Carol CainKim Tracy Prince
I completely agree Kim!
I have not been able to follow the whole thread — but wanted to point out that many of my colleagues on the traditional media side are also going through many changes and distress. Their print and broadcast outlets are expecting reporters to also blog for the outlet with no extra compensation explaining that their primary job is suffering (print/broadcast)and that web is not monetized yet. Talk about a rock and a hard place. I feel for those commenting here. Our entire business is in flux along with a tough economy. For publicists – we want to be respectful and work with all who speak for, write for and report for our intended audiences. I have the deepest respect for Carol and so many of the web media I have been dealing with since the early 90's 🙂 If I can help – let me know how!
Great post. Funny isnt I hvae been reading your posts thinking you were getting paid but agree that its interesting you were not getting that many clicks.
I do think that there is a precedence going on that we are all writing for free in exchange for exposure.
PS I knew about Forbes but did not know huffington doesnt pay their writers
My first writing gig was when I was 19. This was 1996 for a lifestyle website for college students.
I was paid. Per article.
Not much, mind you…but paid nonetheless.
Where it gets tricky is when you ate promoting your brand.
I wouldn't take a writing gig for free… but what about something that promotes me as an education expert or a blogging personality?
As someone who has made a decent amount as a writer, both online and print, over the last decade, I'm disturbed by the trend of not paying writers. However, there are also times when I'm putting myself out there as an expert, not a writer.
I fear, though, that for all bit a very fee, more exposure as a blogger may mean more free trips and appliances but little money.
Great article! I learned alot and that is, to make sure that I get paid for my hard work and don't accept the contrary to popular belief, that needed exposure is gained from writing for free. Keep informing! I needed that.
Fabulous post. I clicked over via Carrie Ferguson Wier.
I have made some decisions recently about related to this very topic. I have recently taken on a blog assignment that does not pay but the long-term benefits potential is greatin in my opinion. I also turned down a local blog opportunity that did not pay. I thought about each decision very carefully.
Writing IS a craft and a professional trade. If we are all clamoring for exposure on the Internet and willing to work for nothing then what is the ultimate benefit to writing as a profession? One of my resolutions for 2011 is to focus on what brings the best ROI.
Love your insight!! Thanks for posting.
A few days ago, I decided I will only be funny for money. I will not work for free and yet, ironically,I sent the Huffpost Divorce a piece the other day. After, reading this, I likely will not do so again
Great, great post
Jessica-Follow what you feel is right for you. That is key. I'm glad I was able to help in some way. Thank you!
Wow. I don't think your post casts Babble in an "unduly negative light" at all. Not one bit.
The editors asking you to CHANGE YOUR WORDS ON YOUR PERSONAL BLOG does.
Happy New Year
After seeing your note on Twitter, I decided to read the whole piece.
I don't think there is anything wrong with what you say and how you put it.
In many cases, blog and advertising networks make money on volume.
Content and writers become mere inventory.
I would rather share my stories for free with sites that I choose for their quality and community of ideas rather than 'networks' that turn me into a cheap commodity.
It's even better if these sites offer only an excerpt of your original story, this way you are guaranteed to get additional visitors on your site.
I don't think the idea of sponsored posts flies either.
Picking sponsors that are in line with what you write and the audience on your site might be the way to go.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
'The French Guy from New Jersey'
Carol CainSerge Lescouarnec
Thank you Serge. i greatly appreciate your feedback and input.
Carol you spoke the truth, and as you said, shed insight to a very real problem in the blogging community in general. It's that whole "why buy the cow when you can the milk for free" cliche come to life. It threatens the livelihood of people who have been professionals in fields across the board because it's all too easy for companies to value dollars over sense.
I speak from experience in my field of food writing and recipe development. I've turned down so many "opportunities" that ended up being a request for free or low-paid work under the guise of "collaborating" and "developing a relationship".
Thank you for standing up and making your experience public. I can only hope it has a ripple affect and makes more bloggers realize their self-worth. Companies should take note too, that this is a ground swell they can no longer ignore. At some point they'll have to pay a living wage to get quality content and create REAL relationships.
Thank you Jennie!
This was a very brave post.
I would amend it to say that I won't work for professional sites – sites that make money off my work – for free. I don't have a problem writing for free for fun if no one else is profiting from my work.
Carol CainMiss Britt
Thank you Miss Brit…and I agree with you wholeheartedly.
Any company that asks you to "reword your entry on your your [sic] blog asap" should be told to go kiss your New York City hiney.
We're all trying to figure it out….the great question of how to make money in a publishing medium that loves and prizes free….and I for one think the great chase for eyeballs and Google is going to meet with an ugly end eventually.
If I had the answer to it all at this point, I'd be on a beach somewhere, but I don't. It's a work in progress. But do not let yourself be a cat who can be herded too easily. They want what YOU have. It ain't the other way around.
In addition to elements you mentioned in your post, is there a tendency for some to start a blog after seeing some 'celebrity' blogger on TV or someone getting a book deal in the same way that many sign up for culinary school thinking they'll become the next Jamie Oliver.
Writing and building your site is hard work, it takes discipline.
You also have to know your limits. In my case, i never pretended to be a recipe developer or a great photographer so i share recipes from others and mostly use photos from people professional or amateurs whose work I love.
Maybe some sites are too 'niche' to survive?
Others might be written by people who love their subject but will never reach more than a few friends because they are not that good.
Even for those of us who manage to build an audience over time, making more than $1000 per month from ads and sponsors could be a stretch. Not a living wage at about $33 per day.
In the end should blogs be used like a portfolio for outside gigs that pay?
Thinking out loud
Carol CainSerge Lescouarnec
Serge, I have often spoken on this very issue and most definitely would say that my blog is my portfolio for work that I do throughout the year. It is, for me, a place to share my stories and my voice, but also a reference I submit when approaching companies. In my very young 2 years of blogging this has worked well for me, and I honestly am happy with my results thus far. But, it's not an approach that works for everyone, nor one that everyone wants to follow. It's all very personal. Some ppl just want to blog. Period. And that's ok too.
Have to agree 100% with Miss Britt, it IS a very brave post.
I could have saved you a lot of drama. I wrote for Babble for 3 years while I was launching Momtrends. It is a perfect partnership if you are building a brand. If you already have a powerful brand, as you do, there is no sense in this partnership.
You made a terrific decision in valuing yourself–as I did a few years ago when I left Babble. They are a fun site to be sure, but they are not out to get their writers $$ they are out to turn a profit.
Stick to your guns.
Kim Tracy Prince
New York City hiney! FTW!
Do you view yourself as a writer or a publisher?
That is the big question. If you view yourself as a writer who makes money by writing for other people in exchange for cash, then you are probably doing yourself a diservice by writing for free.
if you view yourself as a publisher and your website as a publication, then strategic (that's the key) writing for other publications can be thought of as part of your marketing budget.
I've written ONE article for the Huffington Post. That one article has gotten 14,000 retweets, and 20,000 Facebook likes/shares. It was then republished on Tim Ferriss's blog where it got another several thousands Tweets/Likes and a quarter million Stumbles.
The net result of that one article was probably close to 4,000 subscribers and 25,000 visits to my site. There are only a handfull of travel blogs with 4,000 subscribers in total.
You have to be extremely strategic with both what you write, who you write it for and how you promote it. The act of writing for free doesn't mean anything without having an idea of how you will be promoted on the page, expected pageviews, etc.
I see too many people who write the same lukewarm articles about family vacations on Martha's Vineyard for the Huffington Post. There are no links back to their site (assuming they have one), they don't promote the article, and the articles aren't the type which will generate buzz and take advantage of the large Huffington Post audience.
Writing for free isn't binary. You have to be savvy about how you do it.
I am working on my second article for the HuffPo, but again I'm being very strategic about what I'm going to writ, how I'm going to promote it, and most importantly, how I'm going to link back to myself in the article.
I'd view any free gig through the same lens of "what can this do for me".
Carol CainGary Arndt
Hi Gary-I greatly appreciate and welcome your input. As someone who has been successful in building their brand, I appreciate you sharing with us here. I completely agree with many of your points here. If you are going to do it, you must absolutely be strategic about it. As I noted in my post, what I miscalculated, or misunderstood as Babble would say, is that the marketing of my posts would be a joint effort, where as I would be displayed better, promoted more, etc., etc. There is another key point you are making here, you have not contracted yourself to write for free on a regular basis. I think, and you point out that this is what you are doing here, that if done, it should be well thought-out, planned, and done only on a basis where a strong opportunity presents itself, and not where you are churning out articles or posts without pay, under contract. As you say, "what this can do for me" (which I believe i made mention of in an older comment).
And lastly, I do want to point out that, in your case, you are a nationally recognized, NYT-noted travel blogger. You have a strong following already. This doesn't mean that you can get away with crap, which you most certainly don't deliver anyway, but it does mean that you have an incredible following to begin with, and to add this to an audience with the HuffPo most definitely helps, because your reputation, noted, as I said before, nationwide, precedes you. I feel it's important to point this out because though you work hard at your craft and deliver top notch work, no matter if it's on your site or somewhere else, I would hate another lesser known blogger who is also talented, and incredibly gifted as you, to think that all these elements will lead to similar results as yours as immediately as they did for you. I believe it would take a bit more giving on their part to the HuffPo before they reach the results you can speak of. In the end it is that person's decision to determine whether they want to build that audience in their own brand on their site, or as part of the HuffPo's brand and site.
The ONLY way to grow your blog is by exposing yourself to audiences who never heard about you.
Think about that for a moment. Talking to followers on Twitter and Facebook is a great way to engage your followers, but it doesn't do anything to help grow your followers. For that, you need to go places where people have no clue who you are.
Guest blogging is one of the best and cheapest ways to do this. One alternative is to buy advertising, and I think most people would rather write for free than spend cash.
Certainly, having a following already can help, but it doesn't guarantee anything. I started out at zero like everyone else. I used contacts I had with bloggers in non-travel niches to get my story out when I started. If the Huffington Post was an option at the time, I would have used it.
Also, for the record, I think committing to a regular free posting gig is probably a bad idea all around. Anything more than once a month is probably just giving the company free labor.
Carol CainGary Arndt
No argument from me there! I have a nice long list of fellow bloggers and publishers such as Uptake (though they pay per post too), that really helped to push my work out. But make sure that you actually will be exposing yourself to a new audience, that fits you and your brand. Make sure that when you write that blog, it's not going to published and hidden three pages deep, or placed at the footer of the page. Make sure, that in addition to your linking and tweeting, and FBing and all other forms of self-promotion, that the place you are writing for has a proven system in place where either they rotate the posts in their highly-visable, featured post section or that they also use their SM or marketing efforts, etc., etc. There are some sites that do this, help you spread the word, so that you aren't just promoting to an audience you already have. Like you said, think strategically.
Thanks again Gary! So incredibly helpful.
Wow, so many comments since I first visited this post. Carol, I hope you know you're one of my favorite people. The world needs more Carols and a lot less of other people that I'd like to name, but won't. I wrote something similar on this issue, as in relation to travel writing specifically. The issue of payment with website, magazines, and publications is a problem. I heard one of the editors of Frommers say that if someone is getting paid to look at and publish your writing, then you should be getting paid to write it. The quality and pay is going to continue to be driven down as long as there are the Forbes and Huffington Post's out there. You're going to tell me that Huff Po is worth nearly 200 million, but they can't pay contributors? It's amazing that you see this in writing, but not in so many other fields. Have you ever had a plumber, electrician, bartender, nurse work for a while for "recognition" and "exposure" until they can build up experience? Of course not. Sheila Scarborough is another one of my writing heroes and she once said: "At the end of the day, you write for people, and not search engines". I don't care about your subscribers, clicks, retweets, likes, and all that other shit; I want to know if you can provoke and inspire me. It's up to us to stand up and be a voice and say no to that which continues to drive quality and pay down. There are places out there that can and will pay and pay well for good writing. At the same time, writers: don't sell yourself short. If you think you're only good enough to be published for free, find another profession because this isn't the industry for you.
Spencer, thanks for coming back and commenting. I have been blessed with Sheila's incredibly strong and outspoken support on this issue, so I am considering myself pretty lucky to have so many in the community that support this thinking.
Like I said before, the only site I write for free is my own, despite the little clicks and hits and what-not to not writing for free elsewhere. It has taken a lot of time and work, but I am doing what I love finally and I am happier, and less burdened to push someone else's brand.
I am incredibly inspired by the very many responses and the reactions of so many struggling with these issues. I still say do what you feel you must, I won't attack you or label you, or belittle your efforts and ambitions for it. But at some point, you have to lift your head out of your computer or typewriter and see what is going on around you and how you are impacting it. No writer/blogger big, or small, is free of this effect.
Whether we want to accept it or not, whether I am worthy in your mind to even consider myself enough to say so or not, we are all in this together.
Carol – you ROCK – worry not about building anyone brands but your own! you have an amazing spirit and its clear that you have passion for what you write about!
KEEP up the AMAZING AWESOME JOB that you do!
Amy (Amy Blogs Chow)
Bravo, Carol. You are absolutely right to take a stand. I resolved to do the same a year ago and it's worked out well for me. One can pick and choose her battles; this includes assignments. It's true that our actions set a standard for other writers and good work should never go uncompensated. Hopefully the monetization model will change this year to make it more fair to writers or, rather, I hope that more writers realize they're being taken for a ride when "exposure" or "future pay" is being offered. The thing is, even the individuals working at the publications themselves don't realize they cannot guarantee traffic. They can quote their own site traffic, but I'm hard pressed to find any individual who became known – or paid an income they can live on – by writing for a bigger site (or many little sites) for free.
Love this post! It's such a catch 22, because you want "exposure" but how much free writing can you do? I turned to blogging because as a journalist I wasn't getting to write what I wanted. Then I was approached by a food blog that asked me to write for them – for free. I did, but then after several posts and seeing the number of hits and comments, I rethought writing for them and decided to start my own. Now, I write two blogs and while they haven't generated money yet, at least I'm writing for me and with the proper promotion, I'm still getting exposure.
Wow. Just wow.
I didn't have time to read all the comments, but I found Gary Ardnt hit the nail on the head.
I also write for free for another site and receive barely any click-backs from it. It is mind numbing coming up with a good way to stop doing it. As you've said, I have made many connections through working with this site and would feel bad just leaving, but at the same time, it's not easy writing pieces (including recipes and photos). I am thinking I may have to stop soon as not being paid when having to take time away from my family, well, sucks.
Babble, you are being way too defensive, based on the reasonable post by Carol about a larger issue. This is about writers and how they should be compensated in the digital age. It is not dissimilar to the altering revenue/business models hitting music, book publishing, film, etc. I do think that firms such as Babble sometimes mislead writers about the potential exposure/financial upside. But I assume writers are smart and should be aware that virtually every publisher will try to get their copy as cheaply as possible. Another issue, whether self-promotion is an obligation with no promises from Babble or equivalents, is less thorny to me. Babble makes no promises, nor should it have to, about promoting any of its content. The opportunity, upside and downside, seems clear to any writer who examines the structure. Still, I am sympathetic to Carol and the plight of writers whose rates are being driven down down down one way or another
I totally understand. I wrote for an on-line pub for a while and appreciate the experience. I was never doing it for money. To make the big bucks on these, you have to either have a very sexy topic or spend your day online promoting the heck out of your posts. I did what I did for reasons that worked for me. I decided to start my own blog- a great decision- when they changed the terms of service and skewed then so much that they were no longer the least bit acceptable to me. I am very thankful for the goose as I would not have undertaken my blog without it.
I don't agree with Babble that you should have taken it to them before making your feeling public. If you thought there was a way to work out the issue and wanted to stay with them, yes, take it to them first. If you were done, blogging about it is fine, unless their terms and conditions prohibit you from airing laundry in public. Then there is a risk.
I have little patience for sights making lots revenue on the web and not sharing it with their writers. But only when writers refuse to supply free content will this stop.
On a side issue, I am turned off that some of the "fun" chats on Twitter are making a profits. I think that takes them out of the fun arena at least for me.
Thank you Santafetraveler for sharing your experience. It's always great to here about other's personal journey as well. Yours is a great site. Congratulations on following your dream.
Quincy–Thank you. I appreciate the feedback and support.
What nerve, asking you to change your wording?! Wow!
On the topic of being asked to 'edit' a piece that Dee just reacted to, it happened to me recently.
The part in question was actually a quote that I shared 'verbatim'.
I removed a few words from it that I did not like in the first place and let the person know that I do not edit my pieces unless there is a typo or I got my facts wrong.
Maybe there is a misconception out there that blogs are a mouthpiece for PR.
It is not my idea of writing to just cut and paste press releases.
I rarely write negative posts and close to no 'trashing' reviews.
When I write positive things, I want to select what I share.
Carol: They missed the point entirely. Of course. I am so glad you are standing by your words. Never been prouder of you. The internet has killed the newspaper, but we don't have to let it kill the writer. :)But it is indeed complicated to stand for quality and professionalism in the age of free content. Thanks for giving that a voice.
Thank you Sara. Yes, I am afraid that they did an a lot of what resulted from it only served to further prove my point and make my resolution stronger. Thanks for your support!
I agree with Sara. There is a definite disconnect between what you expressed in your post and the response from babble. I respect you so much as a writer. Thanks so much for putting a voice to something I've struggled to understand for myself. 🙂
Thanks Heiddi for your support…and I'm glad to know this helped you!