There are at least two types of blog posts. One addresses a current issue, and the issue and the post are likely to be here today and gone tomorrow. This includes most of the blogs in which individuals tell you what happened to them that day ― which are really just extensions of social media sites like Twitter and Reddit, or are places people can write their thoughts with some hope of copyright protection, now that FaceBook seems to own (or at least retain) everything we post over there. They also include posts in which pundits tell you about the latest techno development, the latest way to use Search Engine Optimization, how to prepare your taxes, or what a blinking idiot Romney has been, as well as posts that have no specific purpose outside of attracting you to the blog itself (e.g., giveaways and contests).
Other kinds of posts are written to last.
I was thinking yesterday that most of the blog posts I write are in the latter category. They are intended to be strong and enduring and meaningful in a “bigger picture” kind of way. I spend hours poring over them, getting every thought and word and sentence as right as I can make it before I press “publish.” The series of posts I write on my I’m All Write blog, such as those I wrote about my trip to India, fall into this category, as do most of my Militant Writer posts.
These are the kinds of articles I might have tried a few years ago to find a magazine or newspaper to publish, but now I never much bother with the effort. Editorial staff at magazines and newspapers take way too long to reply, if they respond at all — and if they do, they tend to be dismissive, curt, even rude (not all of them, but a lot of them. They’re busy people, don’t you know?, with a whole lot of crap such as mine to read through). Even if they do publish what you’ve written, you’re only going to get paid a few dollars, if anything. Why bother going to all that trouble? I’ve got as many people coming to my blogs now as would probably read my articles in a magazine, and from very diverse audiences and geographies. I love the feedback I get from them.
I’d rather have all of my writing on my own blogs (in addition to the Militant Writer, which I consider my “flagship” blog, I have several others, including I’m All Write, a book review/essay blog and Blogging Tips where this article originally appeared). More and more people have become regular readers of my blogs and if they are reading me on my own blog page and liking what they read, that will — I hope — bring them back to my blog for more, lead them to my other blogs, attract them to my businesses (one of which — btw — is helping people write really effective grant applications, and another is helping people write really effective books and articles), and ultimately — I hope — the solid writing in my posts will interest them in reading my books (next one — The Whole Clove Diet — coming soon!).
When you are writing blog posts that are intended to last, it is worth the effort to make the language “sing.” I try to keep in mind that someone might be reading what I’ve written two or three or 20 years down the road. My blog post, ‘The Talent Killers: How Literary Agents are Destroying Literature and What Publishers Can Do To Stop Them” is almost three years old, but it attracts new readers to my Militant Writer blog every day. The only difference between then and now is that whereas three years ago, most of the new readers were dumping on me for that post (check out the early Comments, LOL!), today most of them agree with me. Times have changed.
If you’re writing daily updates just to attract people to your blog, you need to post regularly or they’ll stop coming back. If you are writing something meaningful and useful, you can post once a week or once every six months, because readers will subscribe to your feed or to your blog and they will come back on their own.
It is the greatest feeling in the world to develop a loyal following of readers, and even though it does take a lot of work over a period of several years — as I’ve invested in mine, and always with great pleasure — I find it’s a lot easier to do that with my very own series of blog posts than if I am writing for various magazines. This way, people know who I am, and they know where to find me.
Thank you for finding me. :)
I guess the problem is, how are writers going to make a living if everything needs to be done for free now?
Except for a very few, magazine writing was never a way to make a living. Writers did it mainly to get their articles/ideas out to readers, because there was no alternative vehicle. Now there is.
I love the way you think, Mary.
I, too, have pretty much given up on writing for periodicals for exactly the reasons you have cited. I used to love that kind of work. Then, all the fun went out if it. Rates dropped, rights being acquired by the publishers went up, and so did the amount of work involved in any given assignment (especially for travel, where not only did they want a good selection of high res images, they now want video to accompany most stories!) All for a few hundred dollars (if you’re lucky!)
I also agree with you about how gratifying it is to build a strong online community. I have been writing my writer’s/lifestyle blog for (almost) 3 years and slowly have built an eclectic and dynamic group of readers who indulge me by responding to my posts.
I am so thrilled that the current post in which we are discussing books that have had the greatest impact on our lives is my most successful post to date and has garnered close to 70 responses to date.
Please join us, and join the conversation at http://doreenpendgracs.com/.
Thanks for the great response . . . and nice networking! I’ll drop by and add my two cents.
I have one novel written that I self-published and another on the way. As an unknown, I would never even attempt to get an article published, because I am pretty sure it would only lead to frustration. I blog and insist to myself that I have fun with it, instead of attempting only to lure the masses.
I just read your talent killers article and agree. It’s more about keeping the good ol’ boys club intact than publishing quality books. I am constantly amazed how hard it is to get people in the biz to read my book. (Authors with traditional publishing contracts who claim to love to read are among the worst.) Even in the self-pub company I first used, NO ONE actually read my book. In my opinion, that is no way to run a business. If I were in the publishing/agent business, not only would I be reading every book I could get my hands on, but my interns or whoever would also be reading entire manuscripts, and then a decision would be made about the quality.
Regular people have given me great reviews and keep asking when the sequel is coming out. That means a lot more to me than what someone sitting in an office in NY with an agenda thinks. The publishing world is shooting itself in the foot as more authors such as myself are saying “see ya” and striking out on our own where we have a much better chance of getting read.
Yea, I want to get noticed, but on my terms.
I agree completely, Susan.
I largely agree with you, Mary. Other than a monthly column, I write very few magazine articles these days. Most of my income comes from contracts. Like you, I find it much easier just to post to my blog than go through the frustration/humiliation of submitting to magazines you know are too swamped to consider my inquiry when they have a stable of ‘tried and true’ writers who end up doing 95% of the content, anyway.
BTW, it was possible to make at least a good portion of your living from magazine writing back in the ’60s, ’70s and earlier. Fee rates have not changed in over 30 years, but costs definitely have. As one web publisher told me after I inquired about payment. “We can pay you beer money.” Thanks a lot. At least I get feedback from my readers on my read-for-free blog, and that’s worth a few beers to me.
The web publications may be offering only beer money to writers, Don, but if you ask for a quote on placing an ad for your business on their website, stand back (and get a second mortgage).
The hardest thing for me in all of my writing has been consistent output, but the value of establishing that regularity can not be understated. Hopefully I can work my way up to providing that on my own blog. For now the best I can do is the field research of following blogs like this one.
In many ways self-publishing mirrors the wild west of blogging in that you have to hope that quality brings the readers and contributors you want… and you gotta work for it.
Thanks, Johann. I just checked out your blog post about Smashwords as a platform. I’m using Amazon this time but have another book coming down the chute so I’ll be considering your advice for that one.
I’m thankful for the overall online community, which gives us blogging and a new level of respectability for self-publishing. It puts power back into the hands of writers – which is where it needs to be. Publishers and editors have held an omnipotent persona for years; forgetting – as always – that their very existence begins with the introverted creative soul who struggles quietly over a keyboard at all hours of the day and night. I just established my own quirky little blog, so everyone please check it out when you get a chance: http://www.chiefwritingwolf.com
Nicely said. I look forward to checking out your blog.
I decided some time ago that the ratio of effort to satisfaction in magazine writing was too low to keep me interested. At first it seemed like a good way to practice my craft because the research component is quicker than books and I could write on a variety subjects that I found interesting (and expected others might find interesting), without the time commitment of a book. Still, I spent many, many hours conducting research, crafting, paring away, rewriting and delivering on impossibly tight deadlines (often with photos, usually unpaid) only to (often) get bumped by last-minute advertising, or be treated badly by editors with far greater egos than their skill or talent warranted, or, if the article appeared in the issue for which it was written, and was miraculously in more or less the same condition as when it left my desktop, I would then wait, wait, wait on the cheque. (Nino Ricci nailed this in his brilliant post last summer http://ninoricci.com/news/open-letter-to-globe-mail.) So yes, Mary, I agree wholeheartedly, why write for magazines just to be writing? It’s hard when you are, at core, nothing BUT a writer who wants nothing else than to write (but, for a living wage). A friend mused recently that if she had it to do over again she’d keep her high school job as a grocery store check-out clerk (this is not to cast aspersions on persons in such jobs), take her paycheque home and celebrate everything about the rest of her life–and write for herself. I like your idea of using a blog to write articles, but for me it might mean a whole new website–thinking on that. I SO admire your persistence and sheer hard work to maintain multiple blogs!! Thanks, as always, for the inspiration and good example.
Thank you for this really thoughtful and intelligent reply, Christine: you make excellent contributions to this blog! I hadn’t seen the letter from Nino Ricci but I loved it. I’ve wanted to pen similar messages often.
I think this new era has been such a boon to me as a writer. I write to be read and I am no longer discouraged before I start by the thought that “no one’s going to publish this so what’s the point.” Now I can just write and write, and the feedback is far more positive from real people than from gatekeepers. So it’s not that I’m persistent in blogging! It’s that the rocks have been untied from my feet and I am rising. (Well, not a great metaphor, as I am not sure where I am rising to. No doubt there’s a ceiling somewhere! :) )
I have to disagree that magazine writing was never a way to make a living. I know many writers even now who are making $.50-$1 a word writing for magazines. Yes, that amount has come down from a few years ago, but that is still decent pay–$500 for a 500 word article? I could live nicely writing a couple articles a week.
True. If you can write and sell two articles a week at $500 ea. per piece, you are set. But most people in that situation are fortunate to have a regular gig, and there’s a big difference between $250 and $500 (.50 and 1.00/word) per article. In this case, I was thinking more along the lines of someone like me who does freelance writing and editing for private-industry clients, which is more lucrative and regular, and has a good idea for an essay or a series of travel articles or a profile of someone or a review and wants to write occasionally that way.
And those mags paying $0.5 and $1 per word are few and far between (usually national in market). I have written for one mag. that pays a $1 (which is what they have paid for the last 30 years), but it is issued every three months and I must compete with a whole bunch of other freelancers for space there. If I get one article a year there, I’m doing well.
Don, did you notice the link Christine Cowley included in her comment to the rant from Nino Ricci? You may have seen it before — I hadn’t. I’ve been on the verge of writing an almost-identical letter to TWO universities with which I work in the past few weeks. One took THREE months to pay an invoice. My sons kept saying, why don’t you add interest, and I said, if I revised to include interest, it would take another six months to pay it. It’s like trying to turn an ocean vessel to get anything to happen. And that’s my “regular, more lucrative” work. I don’t need the heartache of journals, newspapers and magazines on top of it.
Mary, yes I had read the Ricci letter, and have also waited months for payment from some mags. I remember when I first started in this business (over 30 years now) reading a how-to article where it stated mags should pay on acceptance of the MS. I only had one mag. pay me that way. All others pay on publication and often much after publication. My regular publisher explains that is the only way he can do it as he has to wait for the advertisers to pay before he has the cash to pay his writers. I don’t complain (other than payment size) because he’s very good at getting them out about 6 weeks after publication.
And yes, even at $1 a word if the subject has any substance at all, you are not being paid for the time to research and organize prior to the writing. (I once did a cost benefit analysis of a large piece I did. I figured it was worth in the neighborhood of $4 to $5 per word, instead of the $0.50 I received. I don’t do cost/benefits of mag pieces anymore.) That’s why my contract writing always takes priority. In the contract the payment timelines are clearly spelled out and I get paid for my time.
I haven’t written for universities in a few years. Again, it was by contract and payment conditions were spelled out. I do remember, however, there being an issue getting the cheques on time. If memory serves, the bureaucracy maze was worse than dealing with governments (where I’ve learned what buttons to push) and the clerk in charge of writing cheques couldn’t have cared less about the bills I had to pay.
Hi Mary, I understand completely what you say about poring over blog posts, getting them just “right.” I’ve read so many tips for authors about how to write blog posts in 30 minutes or less. Well, maybe it’s possible to crank out a post if you’re a writer with a huge fan base and known for quality content. I don’t hit “Publish” until I think I’ve written something solid that has “lasting power.” Sometimes that means agonizing over language, etc. I’m new to blogging but have years of experience as a published medical/science author, so writing shouldn’t be that challenging. Blogging is more social and there’s no peer review except feedback from fans who appreciate your content by coming back for more. Thanks! Jo Ann
Always great to meet a fellow wordsmith — in the true sense of the word. :) Thanks.
Keeping up with posting, is a challenge I haven’t been able to meet. I know a successful blog should have postings almost every day. Even though a good blog can help sell a writer’s other books or services, it can be difficult to keep posting every day, especially when you are building a readership and feeling like nobody is out there. I’ve had individual posts that have gotten a lot of hits, but I still find it hard to build on the momentum.
Great read! I’m glad I stumbled on this via the LinkedIn Writum group.
I blog for my own enjoyment mainly so whether or not the posts are timeless, that might be subjective. I always considered pursuing article writing or even novel writing, but your post is a good reminder of the obstacles to that along with minimal return. Blogging satisfies my creative drive for the time being.
I look forward to reading more of your blogs.
I’ve just started a blog on WordPress. This is all new to me since I’ve spent all my free time writing my book the last 6 1/2 years. Currently I’m postingteaser excerpts from the book.
I’ve added your blog to my “blog roll.”