Monday, August 31, 2009

Dammit Jim, We're Writers, Not a Charity!

Over the last few years, the online copy business has suffered a dramatic shift in priorities. Where once it was important to have quality informative content, today's content providers are looking more for quantity. They want to flush the web with keywords, keywords, keywords. To make things worse, these companies are paying less now than ever for web content.

Why is that?

The truth is, in the online world, not many companies are that worried about the quality of their writing. Their primary goal is to be first in line when those Google search results pop up. All too often I hear, "We're not worried about the content, just mention the word 'fill in the blank' as many times as possible to get our Google ranking up."

What these people don't realize is that it's one thing to be a top ranker in the search results, but it's another thing entirely to get people to actually buy from them or to use their service. In order for that to occur, the site has to have creative, relevant copy that clearly delivers their message and speaks directly to the consumers they are trying to attract. Of course, this can be accomplished while keeping a steady grip on the basic SEO fundamentals. But sadly, not many companies are willing to pay for that brand of good writing.

And to be honest, why should they?

Yep, that's what I said - why should they pay for good writing? If you look through any of the online freelance content services, you will see thousands of writers who are willing to work for pennies.

A 500-word article for $.50 (yes, that's 50 CENTS)? You'll have hundreds of bidders for the job.

35 blog posts per month for $15? You'll find someone to take the job, guaranteed.

Or, how about the ever popular - 100 articles, 300 words each by Saturday for $100? Oh, did I mention today's Thursday? SOLD!

It really is depressing to see so many writers prostituting themselves this way. This is our livelihood - have some pride, why don't you?!

In November of 2007, Hollywood's screenwriter's guilds went on strike to rectify a great injustice to the industry's writers. That strike put Hollywood on its heels and made a tremendous impact like no other strike before it. During that three month strike, the true value of quality writers suddenly became realized and appreciated.

Web copywriters aren't fortunate enough to have a union backing them, but that doesn't mean we can't stand up for our rights. We are the only ones who can make a change within our industry. Companies will continue to pay less as long as there are writers out there accepting these low-ball jobs.

As good old Dr. McCoy would say, "Dammit Jim, I'm a writer, not a charity!"

What do you say? Who's up for a revolution?

Are You Comfortable?

Comfort. It's a word that we can sometimes take for granted, yet at the same time, it's something we're always striving for. Financial comfort, emotional comfort, physical comfort -- these are the three goals that each and every one of us strive for each and every day. But, is comfort really such a good thing?

As I'm writing this, I am enjoying a splendid cup of coffee. Now, usually, I take my coffee with just creamer or if I have it in the cupboard, I'll add some Truvia, a non-calorie sweetener. I prefer my coffee this way not because I like the way it tastes, even though it's not all that bad, but because I want to cut down on the amount of sugar I take in. Diabetes runs in my family and truth be told, I could lose a few pounds. Therefore, coffee sans sugar.

But, when I'm really in need of comfort, out comes the sugar. And believe me when I say that first sip is like mana from Heaven! The kicker is -- even though the coffee is outrageously delicious and comforting to me, behind the scenes it's not doing me any good.

This same rule can be applied to not only your daily life, but to your work as well. If there's one thing I've learned as a freelancer, one can never get "comfortable." The second you think you're free and clear and all's right with the world, that's the moment you need to pick up the pace and work harder. If you don't, more times than not, you'll pay the consequences.

In business, one can never be truly comfortable. You have to be waiting (and preparing) for the next shoe to drop. Your ears have to be up and primed in order to hear your competitor's approaching footsteps. You need to be ready to make your next move. When you're comfortable, these things fall by the wayside. After all, life is good, right? Yep, and that's what the comfortable antelope thought, right before his uncomfortable brothers and sisters bounced off and he became the lion's lunch.

So now is a good time to ask yourself -- am I comfortable?

If you are and you're happy about it, that's fine, but...wait a minute...did you hear that sound coming from the bushes?

Writing Routines of the Masters -- Jonathan Mayberry

Here is a snippet from my interview with Bram Stoker Award-Wining author, Jonathan Maberry. Jonathan is the author of one of my favorite trilogies -- Ghost Road Blues, Dead Man's Song and Bad Moon Rising. His newest novel, Patient Zero was just released. If you haven't read anything by him, visit your local bookstore today and pick him up, you won't regret it!

What is your writing routine like?

Jonathan: I write for a living so I log a lot of hours. Mostly I work from home, so I’m usually up early and at my computer by around 7:30 and I write until 5. I usually take a 5 to 10 minute break each hour to exercise (stretch, move, etc.), and that keeps my mind fresh and reduces stress on my neck and shoulders.

I set myself a daily minimum of 4000 words for whichever project is currently on deadline. That’s usually half of my workday. The other half I’m working on research, marketing, or working on projects for my clients -book editing, manuscript analysis, etc.

I also try to spend a little time each day on message boards and MySpace. Those are great for meeting readers, fellow writers, experts for my research, and so on.

The day goes fast.

If I’m really pressed for a deadline then the whole day will be built around that project.

My agent has sold eight books for me over the last two years, only one of which was actually written at the time of I have a pretty hefty schedule. I love it though. It’s a great life.

To read the complete interview, click here.