Congratulations! You’re a writer. You’ve written an article, published a short story, ground out a novel, gotten a piece linked in a magazine, or something similar. You’re on your way. Then you realize that for people to read you, they have to find you. You’ve got to get your name out there. Create that much-vaunted Author Platform. All the experts say that blogging is good, but who has the time to do it often enough to get noticed? That’s long-term, shouting words into the ether. What to do, what to do—wait: maybe you can write pieces for a more popular site and piggyback on their traffic! Yes. Lots of people will read your stuff and will like it so much that they’ll click on your name, find your author site, and start gobbling up your books like Joey Chestnut on a plate of hot dogs. And you’re contributing to the Community, whether it’s genre-focused, politics-focused, or whatever-focused. You’ll make friends, develop business relationships, maybe find new books to read: it’s all good. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but it can’t hurt.
Here are a few things to consider before selecting a site to write for, if they’ll have you. (They will have you: nobody turns up his nose at free content.)
- Exposure: You’re doing it for the exposure, right? The sweet, sweet exposure. Just remember that you can’t spend exposure. Nobody has ever paid a mortgage or bought a cup of coffee with exposure. You want money, don’t you? We all do. You’re not offering your books for free, so why should you offer your articles for free? It’s a dilemma. But still…that exposure. Getting your name out there. So you take the trade. The hope of potential future earnings in exchange for hours of your time writing content for someone else’s website. Fair enough. Whatever you do, make sure that it’s good exposure: your name needs to be at the top and/or bottom of every article in clickable format that links to either a page all about you or your personal website/social media home of choice. Your articles need to be shared by the website on the most-trafficked social media platforms available, and on each share your name/handle needs to be front and center so people know that you wrote the piece. That’s only fair.
- Gratitude: Along with the meager-to-nonexistent pay of Exposure, you should also be remunerated with gratitude, the coin of the volunteer’s realm. Each and every piece you write must be received with a thank you so you don’t get the feeling you’re pouring your time into somebody else’s ungrateful well. (No writer is an island; even loners work for psychic income.) Requests for your effort must be made in friendly fashion, with no pressure applied. Compliments are necessary. If the site owner doesn’t make it clear that he knows that you’re doing him a favor by providing free quality content for his site, he’s not worth your work. You’ve earned those thank yous.
- Controversy/Drama: Some sites are controversial, either because of the content or the owner/editor’s personal drama. While controversy doesn’t typically devolve upon unpaid grunts like yourself, personal drama always attaches itself to you if you write for a drama queen on a regular basis. It doesn’t last forever, but it does cling to you like shit sticks to a blanket. Avoid all drama queens: the cost of doing business with them is never worth the Exposure. Drama queens are easy to spot as long as you don’t ignore the signs: lots of self-created enemies, passive-aggressive communication on social media, cliquish junior high school behavior, a constantly-expressed feeling of being attacked.
- Values: Make sure that the site you write for shares at least some of your personal values. We don’t have to agree on everything, but when you find yourself significantly at odds with the site’s editorial slant, you’re eventually going to run into trouble. Even if you keep your personal beliefs separate from your work, others may not. Combine that with a lack of gratitude or a penchant for drama, and you have a combination that’s sheer poison. A casual perusal of the site and its associated social media accounts will show you if you’re a good fit. If you’re not a good fit, don’t risk it. The red flags are there to protect you, so do not ignore them.
I foolishly ignored my own advice some time ago, and as a result all the hard work I did was deleted by a hostile, ungrateful drama queen because I dared to express, on my own social media sites, deeply-held opinions that millions and millions of other people share. Pleasantly, the sites I write for now, including my own, are run by kind, generous people who behave like consummate professionals, and I appreciate it.
For now, I’m heading off to the bank to cash this month’s Exposure Check. Cha-ching!