One Cent a Word?! What You Should Be Doing Instead

This recently hit Craigslist. It’s entitled “Ghost Writers Wanted.”  I thought it the bottom of the wage floor at one penny a word. But then I remembered I wrote another post which looked at 6/10ths of a cent a word. (internal link) Still, bottom or not, this is the kind of work to avoid:

I am looking for a few quality freelance writers to produce eBooks on a wide variety of topics. Books typically range between 10,000 and 15,000 words and vary in content from how-to and self-help to romantic fiction. Qualified candidates must be able to research topics quickly and turn in non-plagiarized content within 7-days’ time. Writers are free to pick up as many or as few topics as they like with no minimums required. No experience necessary. Pay is $1 per 100 words. Please send along a 300-word writing sample outlining the basics of the paleo diet, or samples of your non-fiction, non-poetry work to see if you are a good fit for the job.

You don’t get a byline. Someone else takes your work and stamps their name on it. You are far better off writing for free than doing such dead-end work. Non-profits, NGOs, and weekly community newspapers will assuredly let their volunteers claim a byline and recognition. That helps with resume building. But doing original writing and research for a penny a word will only leave you broke and disheartened. Work on your website instead.

I’ve written before on the collapse of the wage floor (internal link). How today’s writer competes with anyone who has a net connection. This job offer shows that we’ve hit the basement and, Fukushima style, are continuing to descend.

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Marketing Thoughts – An Argument Against Social Media

The best marketing for a writer is their own writing, showcased at an ad-free website kept current by frequent blogging. I don’t see any value in Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Maybe a LinkedIn presence if you want a social media feed.

Time spent pursuing more followers on social is misdirected. What’s the hope? That your tweet on the Canadian bobsled team lands you a job? Good luck.

A better proposition is to spend time directly targeting employers with queries instead of hoping chance will bring them to you. Keep sending out article suggestions, book proposals and job applications.

Developing more followers seems a waste of time. Whether you have one hundred or one thousand followers makes little difference to a harried editor who looks at two hundred article proposals a year, only to accept twenty that meet her editorial requirements and which captures her imagination.

Time and chance happens to us all. Your query on the frogs of Borneo might elicit a spirited reply from an editor who just visited Southeast Asia, or stony silence from an editor who despises the slimy things. In either case, you have to research a publication, draft a winning query letter, and solider on past disappointment.

I understand with books that there may be a difference. Increasingly, editors want you to bring an audience to them. More followers could help. But what kind of time will this take from working on your writing? Ideally, your website writing would reflect on the book you have in mind. Let me go off on a tangent.

I get the most likes on this blog when I write about poetry. Should I, therefore, write more about verse than prose? I am not a poet but I can see why people tailor their sites to their statistics. Your call. But you may wind up far from your calling.

It may be better to forget likes and followers and continue to work toward what counts: satisfying yourself and meeting the needs of an editor. Note that I did not say pleasing the reader. Your editor comes first. After your query is accepted, then comes the reader, following the editor’s guidelines.

As to how the editor gets to know your work, that is for your query letter and your online portfolio. As to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, I see them as time bandits and no substitute for a comprehensive writing website.

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Format Magazine Looking for Contributors

Format Magazine (external link) is an online presence which focuses on the visual arts. I find it inspiring to see photography which I can’t hope to match. Photography and art, like writing, takes practice and equipment and temperament and time.

While it may be fun to take a year off to study photography or Photoshop, there’s no way I could afford it. And practicing on my own, slowly, taking photographs for one article at a time, has achieved only workman-like results. Still, web sites like Format do give me inspiration and a look at a world I would not otherwise see.

Right now, Format is building what they call a Contributor List. I hope it’s not just a way to capture e-mail addresses. Here’s what their latest e-mail message read, in part:

We’re looking to build up a list of Format contributors. We’re seeking designers, photographers, and visual artists of all sorts to contribute content. We’re also on the lookout for writers with fresh perspectives on the worlds of art and design. Anyone is welcome to sign up. You don’t have to have been previously published or have an impressive CV. All we’re interested in is the quality of your work. We’re always looking to amplify emerging voices.

There doesn’t seem to be a link at Format to go directly to signup. I suggest getting on their e-mail list. If you’re worried about spam, get an e-mail account dedicated to your lists and signups. I’ve used (external link) in the past and I liked it.

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Experimenting With an E-mail Signature Line Service

I’m experimenting with an e-mail signature line service called Wisestamp (external link). Here’s what my new sig line looks like:

I think a good looking e-mail signature line makes me look more professional. Wisestamp has a limited variety of templates and you can add your own photographs and images.

The neat trick in mine is that the sig line looks for my latest WordPress post. It is a clickable link. I think this is more compelling than a simple link to my website.

Wisestamp seems to work best with the Chrome browser and it gets complicated trying to put a sig line on a mobile browser like the iOS operating system. I haven’t, for example, yet attempted to put this sig line on my phone.

I am happy so far and I will keep trying different combination. I think there is a free offering but I have gone with a paid option that does not place ads.

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Essays and Lazy Writing

Many posts ago, I asked what a kind of writing style was called. (internal link) I’ve figured it out. They are essays, pretending to be reporting. I am frustrated by such writing in that they waste the reader’s time. With this style you must read several hundred words before finding out what the author is writing about. Rather than quickly defining a subject, essays disguised as reporting languidly and leisurely give out the facts. It seems most prevalent in sports writing but it is everywhere today. Now that the Olympics are here, essay writing is in full force.

Here’s one two paragraph example:

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — By my calculation, we are roughly 57.34 percent of the way through these Olympics, which means it’s time for me to get on the wrong bus. But that’s OK, because I knew that wherever I go, an American will finish fifth. If we have learned anything about these Olympics, it’s that an American always finishes fifth.

Have you seen the medal count lately? As of this writing, the U.S. is in sixth place, one spot behind Russia, which isn’t even officially here. I was pretty fired up about that. That’s like losing a bar bet to an empty stool. But then I realized the U.S. can catch Russia without doing anything at all, thanks to the Russian curling scandal.

The writer is in love with his own writing and wants to be part of the story. Who, What, Where, When, and Why, plus H for How, are the essential questions to answer for the reader. This should be done quickly. Plenty of time to set a scene after the fundamentals are addressed. I consider this essay style lazy and disrespectful journalism, especially when reporters like these are obviously capable of writing well and could easily be forthright.

Another example:

The Olympics you see on NBC are not the same as the Olympics that unfold in the mountains and ice rinks of South Korea. NBC tries to distill dozens of events into compelling television for a mass audience. In person, all you see is one event at a time, and you often don’t know if anybody is watching back home. Minutes earlier, Kenworthy had kissed boyfriend Matthew Wilkas at the bottom of the slopestyle course, unaware that NBC would broadcast it, causing a minor commotion in the States.

In attempting to cover the color of the games, sports reporters wander away from facts and finality. Essay writing has its place as not everything is a box score. A writer working as a reporter, however, must always be conscious of the reader’s time, their need to know, and our duty to keep out of the story.

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Pimping A Favorite Video — Sci-Fi Caper

This is Sci-Fi Caper out of Mendota, California. I know it primarily as home to a wildlife refuge. Sci-Fi Caper is a power trio, reminding me of the simple punk bands of my youth. In this video everybody seems happy. Unscripted happy. Which makes me happy, too.

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Another Article on Spec

Once again I am writing an article for Rock&Gem magazine on spec. I’ve written about this approach many times. (internal link). With spec, you don’t have a writing assignment, you are on your own to create a piece that with luck will be accepted.

While writing without a signed contract may seem frightening — what if my 2,000 words are rejected? — there’s also freedom in that you have no deadline and no fixed rules to obey on style or substance. You try to model the magazine’s editorial approach and you send your MS in.

Although no deadline is involved, I usually set one myself. That’s to keep the project from being open-ended and stealing time from other things. One can’t endlessly edit forever. I’ll give myself four weeks for this article and then off it goes. That should be enough time given the other writing and editing I have to do.

Right now I am sending off e-mails for help and I am also ordering books and magazines where necessary. Coffee is in order, too. I may speed off to Madhouse Coffee (external link), my favorite 24-hour coffee house in Las Vegas. Or I’ll put some on the boil here. Who knows? That choice is up for speculation.

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