One of fellow writing cohorts, Shawnee Rivers, has started her own girlie gambling bog and in her ode to a specific internet marketing services (the services of which I’ve used*), she mentions one simple line that made me nod my head — loudly — in agreement: “Getting paid to write, online or off, is another form of gambling, really.”
Since I’m hidden here, behind the mask of a user name, I feel compelled to expound.
Writing — and getting paid to do so — is a clusterfuck of ethics. You’ve got the push and pull between needing to eat and your artistic or, if you write non-fiction, educational integrity. It was a difficult enough line in print publishing, but the technological advancements of the digital age have stretched and tested them even more.
If you self-publish on the web, you know that writing, producing the content itself, isn’t all you have to do. The written content may be enough for all your SEO needs, but there are all the other management tasks involved in running your own website.
Sure, technology has made much of work easier (especially WordPress and the plugin makers), but there’s no effective way to allocate the tasks of human interaction (responding to emails and comments, evaluating widgets and technologies, handling rates, negotiating requests, and other communication and decision issues) solely to technology.
Just look at what’s involved in one aspect… Say, advertising. Should I have ads? Which ones should I use? Where should I place them? What program or software will make it all easier? How much should I charge? Should I post my rates — and if so, where?
Mind-numbingly maddening when you’re burning with the passion to write. It’s horrific when you’ve got writers block too. At best, it’s just part of the ever-expanding, ever-exhausting to-do list, that is the joy of the self-employed, self-publishing “blogger.”
This is why many professional writers prefer to remove some of this work from their shoulders, keeping their arms more free to “just write,” by getting paid to write for another site. The thought here is that you can do more than eliminate the financial overhead of your own blog or website, you can preclude yourself from most of the decision making — and the implementation of those decisions.
Keeping your pretty and thoughtful head free from all of this is supposed to keep you free to focus on your writing. But this freedom, like all others, has its price.
Now you’ve just replaced the freedom from running your own site and doing what you want to do/say, when you want to do/say it, how you want to do/say it, with an editor or some sort of manager…
This person isn’t just the goofy red pen holding variety looking for typos. (Those have most been replaced by spellcheckers now, you know.) Oh no, now you have to please someone else with your writing. Not merely the grammar; not only in terms of subject matter; not only in terms of tone, voice and style — but everything. Every. Freakin’. Thing.
You see, every decision you relegated to some Paycheck In The Sky has been delegated to a person (or persons) who now evaluate everything you do, your column, your writing, in terms of that site’s success. And while that all may sound like it’s in your best interest, let me assure you, it isn’t always.
First there are the “tweaks” to your writing, your beat, your column…
You were hired to write a column on frank sexuality; now it’s too frank, too sexual. Avoid naming grown-up body parts, please. Or you won’t be paid.
You were hired to be the intellectual satirist; now you’ve got a minimum number of pull-my-finger jokes to make — and a minimum of three fart joke site links to dole out too. If you don’t do it, someone else will…
You were hired to fairly examine the deep rooted issues of our troubled American educational system; but… Could you limit your posts to no more than 300 words please? And lighten it up a bit too while you’re at it. The facts make the sponsors unhappy. They lower site/column traffic stats too. We think if you made it funnier, more urban and hip, we’d increase traffic — and we’d all be much more happy.
If you can roll with those changes (and live with yourself for selling-out your art, your message, even your soul), there’s more to do to earn that paycheck.
There’s additional things on your To Do list. Many sites now require as part of your writing duties that you achieve a minimum number of page views, unique users, links in to your site/column/profile, and other marketing metrics in order to qualify for payment.
These things that you thought you were freeing yourself from are usually part of your writing or blogger agreement. Not only are they a time-suck (and you should factor that time in when you consider your rate of pay), but these policies are always in flux and could be added at anytime (and if you don’t agree, you lose the gig).
There’s also a list of things you are Not To Do. Some of the things I’ve personally experienced are no reporting on actual news stories which could be construed as negative towards the industry the site is seen as serving (and therefore receiving ad fees for) and no links to sites considered to be in competition with the site you are published at or in competition with one of the company’s other sites or projects. Some of these things may not seem unethical to you; they may even seem like “no brainers.” But many of these things are neither documented no-nos from the get-go, nor communicated changes in policy.
Like any unknown hoops you are expected to jump through, you’ll only discover them the hard way, finding out only after you’ve made some egregious error. If you’re lucky, you’ll get an email explaining what you did wrong, any changes they had to make or want you to make, and why. But too often you’ll find out some more painful way, such as when you contact the powers that be, reporting some sort of tech issue that must have occurred resulting in the loss of your piece, you’ll find out it’s no error; your work had been yanked due to something-or-other. (Always best to keep back-up copies of your own writings or they may be gone forever.) And then you won’t be paid as you missed your deadline.
That’s a big price to pay for linking to a site on an invisible list.
If you manage to survive any/all of that, you now have to worry about the paycheck itself.
I don’t mean the first one that may never come because you’re to be paid on a percentage of the profits — when they eventually come in. I mean even when those payments have been coming regularly.
Not counting the lost pay for the writing work you performed which did not meet the standards (be it not maintaining stated metrics or pulled pieces with improper links, etc.), getting any payment at all is an issue. So many websites and companies cannot maintain paying authors for their work. Oh, they’ll continue to pay the techies, the editor/managers, etc. But content? Oh, they figure they can get that for free, so writers are last on the list to be paid. I don’t know whether it’s worse to be informed of such things, or if it’s more insulting for them to deny it; but in all cases, you’re out of money — even if you are asked to stand-by for eventual payment, continuing to write too.
And here’s the kicker — even if you have a contract you could legally pursue, look at that fine print… Look for the line that says something about the contract is filed in, or pursuant to the laws or courts of, X location. That’s where you’ll need to file (sometimes required to be in person) and/or appear. I’ve yet to sign one based in my own state, let alone near my home., so legal action is, if not near-impossible, more money-out to invest in trying to get what’s yours.
Suddenly this whole world wide web thing, doing business across governing bodies, doesn’t seem so sweet now, does it.
Why do we authors continue to put ourselves through this?
I suppose, as Shawnee says, it’s part of our gambling nature; we bet on ourselves to beat the odds, confident that we are skilled enough to do so.
* I have used the consulting and services of Big Mouth Promotions several times in the past six years; but, as I have done so under my real name and will expose neither my name nor my site names, I feel an official testimonial may sound hollow… However, because I took what Deanna taught me and found it profitable (in terms of its direct application and the ability to generate my own consulting fees from it), I do feel obligated to highly recommend the services. Both Big Mouth Promotions, and the new team of U.P. to the D.L.
If the soul is in your heart, integrity must be in the lungs, I think.
Creating profiles seems to be the bane of my existence as a writer and “online personality,” so while working on a profile for that new project I was looking for something I’d previously used that I could cut, paste and tweak a bit.
When I found my old LiveJournal (don’t bother to click; there’s only the one post and I’m sharing it below), I had a good giggle. The sole entry (because I lost all password recovery options) is dated from January 10th, 2005, and reads:
I am moody, enjoy being moody for the most part. And I like things that elicit moods, such as books, weird finds at thrift shops, strange items & photographs, and the thoughts of other people. I enjoy weird writings, even if I must make them myself.
Dark, dark is good, but I do not like the disgusting shock-value or wannabe-goth dark. Dark is a place. A mood. Not a place constructed by mere crass comments, incredible images, or the grotesque-on-display.
I enjoy intelligent discourse. As long as it’s not too brainy. (I don’t like to read web articles or posts that require footnotes.)
Humor is good. Humor is subjective. I heartily enjoy good subjective laughter.
I believe creativity is the spawn of Dark & Humor. Somewhere in the incompatibility, the wry sparks intelligence that seeks a life of it’s own.
I enjoy chocolate before, during & after sex.
In don’t enjoy long walks on the beach holding hands, unless we are holding hands to hold one another up, laughing so hard are we at some hideous find, some inappropriate humor.
I dislike intensely cutesy animated gifs & websites with insipid ‘music.’
I am curious as to how this works, both from the tech side & the culture/social aspect. A tad uncomfortable even.
I’m not really quite sure what that last line was all about… I’d been writing online for roughly five years already by that point. Was the “blogging” software that new to me? (I do recall finding the display of mood by text and emoticon as insipid as embeded music.) I’d have to use the Wayback Machine to verify the publishing mechanism of the old columns and websites back then– and I’m not in the mood.
Or maybe I was posing as a newbie so that no one would be able to connect that LJ user to the professional me. That’s what that whole “I enjoy intelligent discourse. As long as it’s not too brainy. (I don’t like to read web articles or posts that require footnotes.)” thing was about. How funny!
Funny that my self-described identification as a writer was so tied to intelligence and even footnotes that I thought my best disguise was “not too brainy.” What, do I own both the attribute and the ability to properly attribute documents? lol
Funny that my level of paranoia at being “found out.” Just avoid your legal name and other specific information guaranteed to be found via a search engine, and you can’t be found — at least not with any degree of certainty by even the most smugly sure of themselves. Omission is the key, not little lies.
Funnier still that it reads rather like a dating site profile or something.
Ah, but what really prompts me to post all this is the thought that your profiles are like mini-memoirs…
Memoirs, as a genre, are not like biographies or autobiographies. Our limited sense of self combined with our abundant egos creates both the space and need for fiction; fiction to fill in the spots left by the fallible fragility of human memory, inspired by the need for the delicate deceptions we tell ourselves. In fact, memoirs are rather more like narrative non-fiction or, if we are so deluded that we present ourselves in the correct time and place yet doing and saying things through the filter of wishes, they even become historical fiction.
In fact, it has me wondering if autobiographies can really be so distinct from memoirs at all.
Reading our profiles — even the current ones, is not only to laugh, cringe &/or be puzzled by that moment’s snapshot of our own psyche, but to wonder, if at some future time someone should feel it’s warranted, how our own words would color the research and writing done by our biographers…
Why would we even need to fear the filter of the biographer? Our own recollections and presentations get in the way!
When it does come to the filter or agenda of the biographer, perhaps their bias is far more important, even necessary, than typically thought. For certainly their own human reaction to our own (sad, amusing, trite, etc.) constructs is one way to get past the posing and self-fiction to a more real truth about ourselves.
And it is for this reason — certainly not my personal discomfort and loathing! — that I wish for someone else to write all my own bio boxes and profiles.
So I’ve been away for awhile. Normally, I wouldn’t even bother to address it — if anyone cared to ask or whine about it, I’d just tell them to kiss my ass.
[What? Am I paid to talk to you? There are many upsides to self-publishing, but a guarantee of “a blogger blogging” isn’t one of them. You get what you pay for; and since you’ve paid absolutely nothing, I am not compelled to do anything more — or less, when I’m loquacious with the logorrhea — than I feel like.]
But lately I’ve been hanging with my girls, licking our wounds. Now, before you go dreaming of lusty lesbian scenes and making puns about gashes, let me tell you that there’s nothing sexual involved. And it hasn’t even been particularly fun.
…At least not in the usual knee-slapping variety of frivolous gaiety that passes as “fun” for most people.
You see, these women, like myself, are survivors of domestic violence. Along with the boatload of issues you’ve managed to absorb from the various media portrayals (news, talk shows and dramatic tellings alike) you’ve likely clicked to bypass as soon as you recognized the subject matter, there’s a shitload more that we deal with. Especially if you are, as we are, mothers.
[Yeah, I kiss my kids goodnight with this potty mouth.]
Anyway, we’ve long been talking about sharing a place to talk in public about this under-exposed societal disease which threatens the lives of women and children — even after they are separated from their abuser. Naturally, there are plenty of official sites and legitimate organizations covering the issue, and I wouldn’t knock them for nothin’, but we felt there was something missing… Something that would be as beneficial to the public at large as it would be for us, the private at smalls, I guess.
So we’re working on that. Stay tuned, as the saying goes
Commentary comic about women who don’t like men to take short-cuts. *wink*
We moved recently, which is always a pain. Months later, I’m still having spaz attacks — tonight over The Situation With The Books.
My husband, in his quest to get everything unpacked, rammed the contents of our individual and joint book collections onto the shelves; the results have left me cranky.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m anal enough that I use the dewy decimal system to organize my books, but I do prefer them organized.
There are several parts to my system: grouping and physical placement.
I group my books loosely by topic, so that I can find them. There are admittedly blurry distinctions and overlaps that true librarians might gasp at; but then my system simply has to work for me. Currently the only consistency in grouping is “whatever boxes hubby had around him at the time that fit on the shelf,” which is so not helpful when you want to find your 18th century courting customs book.
While I don’t care how he arranges his books (his books and the finding — or not finding thereof is his problem), I am hyper critical regarding the physical placement of books in terms of appearance.
2. Physical Placement / Appearance
This is essential to me because books which appear to be put away with all the care of a child forced to clean his room, shoved in any place so that the floor is clean, means there are books that seem to be ready to tumble towards the floor. This is not a matter of Type A personality, for dust can and will accumulate; but “shoved” shows a lack of overall care — and my psyche cannot rest with such disheveled shelves.
It’s like I hear the chaos.
And I fear it.
My antique books cannot withstand such dastardly deeds as falls to the floor and uneven spines — and all my books are my friends, and I take care of my friends.
The physical placement of my library is based on the delicate balance between my preferred general sense of care and the realities of limited space.
The limited space issue is a practical reality which I grudgingly accept. While hubby is willing to box his books and pack them away, I cannot. I will not. How can I discover and read them then? How can I use them for research that way?
No, the best way to deal with this is to maximize shelf space.
Here’s how I address it:
A) All books must be placed as far back onto the shelves as is possible. This allows for double rows, or, in the case of over-sized tomes, no spines hanging over to bump. (You’d think this is obvious, but my husband apparently thinks that placing books in the middle of the shelf is best — for what indeterminable reason I cannot fathom.)
B) Books of similar size ought to be placed together; this way, if you must slide a particularly oversized volume along the top, it will lay flat — not only looking less precarious, but presenting less risk of damage to the binding. This also might allow for some sections of the shelf to be double-rowed.
C) All paperbacks ought to be laid flat and stacked. This not only maximizes space by using the full height of the shelf space, but it easily allows for double-rows of on a single shelf. And such stacks also make it much easier for browsing and hunting for books (it is much easier to lift a stack up to peer behind it than to tip or grab a handful at a time).
D) When trying to keep your books in your previously defined groups, there will be times when hardcovers must also be laid flat and stacked; double-rowed, where possible.
I realize many of my rules of book organization may be an anathema to many serious book collectors, but until I hit the lottery or there’s a grant for book collectors like myself, I must work with what I have. And what I have are thousands of books, finite floor space, very limited shelving, and even more limited funds.
And a husband who just doesn’t seem to have the book angst I do.