“Fixing my toilet will be great exposure for your plumbing business” and other bullshit writers deal with

Emails like the following are not uncommon, so today I figured I’d spotlight one of them – and anyone who writes, draws, or designs for a living gets this sort of pitch all the time:

Dear Eric,

Hope all is well. In the coming month a new and unique website will be launching called REMOVED.  While virtually all other sites directed towards the male audience focus on sex, sports or men’s fashion, REMOVED will provide men with the resources to connect and exchange ideas on everyday issues, including relationships, life, marriage, parenting, etc.

Based on your expertise and published work, we feel you have a voice that would be complimentary to the content we will be offering.  We’d love to have you contribute an entertaining and useful article(s) designed for our future male reader.

Topics that will be discussed throughout the site include: Relationship advice; Dating advice; Parenting advice; Divorce and break-ups; Male bonding; Self-help addiction; Self-help anger; and Self-improvement, to name a few. More than articles and straightforward advice, REMOVED will offer a proprietary app that serves as a virtual assistant for your relationship.

Each published article can certainly include a highly visible link to your website, blog, book or service. In addition, we will be highlighting all our contributors in a dedicated section.  Most importantly, you will be helping build a user base and reach thousands of interested readers.

Please let me know if you’re interested in contributing or if you have any additional questions.

Best,

REMOVED

Pretty standard email. I’ve been approached for this sort of thing before. In this case, they probably found me due to my work on Stuff Every Husband Should Know and Stuff Every Groom Should Know. Cool. I’m glad to know my work got noticed. I think both are fun-but-informative books, so notes like this are gratifying. The site does sound like something I could contribute to, too, based on my past work. Building connections between your projects is always a good idea and is something I don’t do frequently enough, so the idea sounds enticing.

However, I did notice that there was something missing from this email. Something I wanted to ask about in my follow-up:

Dear REMOVED,

Thank you for reaching out. The concept for REMOVED sounds as if it will fill an underserved niche in the world of men’s publishing. The idea of joining your team of contributors sounds intriguing.

I’d be interested in exploring the idea and pitching some potential articles to you. Can you outline your compensation structure and/or rates for me? Thanks.

All the best,

So what do you think the response was?

You get three guesses … but you really only need two. In this case it was:

Thank you for getting back to me and for your kind words. Unfortunately, this is currently a non-paid contribution. In exchange for your guest article(s), you’ll be able to promote any of your books, services, etc., which will be visibly linked for viewers to visit and will be highlighted in the main page as a top contributor.

 

Of course the compensation was going to be “exposure!” It always is. The problem is, I can’t use exposure at the McDonald’s drive-thru, the beer shop doesn’t take exposure, and my mortgage company for damn sure doesn’t take exposure as payment, either. Exposure won’t put my kid through college, fix my broken down car, or pay my income taxes.

So obviously, I politely declined. (And to be fair, they were very polite in all their correspondence, too, as you can see.)

Look, sometimes creative types do work for free. This is usually on their own stuff or their own collaborations with others, however, or on a passion project. If you want to break into fiction or comic books, for instance, you’re going to be working for free until you can get noticed. That’s how it works. You produce good material, show it to people, and hopefully a publisher or agent says “yes!” Once you are noticed and a publisher picks you up, then you are no longer working for free. You’re getting paid, however meager that pay might be. Or in the case of a passion project, you do it because you love being creative and have something you need to get out of your system. We all dabble in that.

But pitches like this are not passion projects. They’re about producing content for a for-profit entity. It’s about helping them make money.

No one asks this sort of thing from carpenters or plumbers or mechanics. Writers, artists and others in such fields, however, get these requests all the time, as if we haven’t worked long years honing our craft and working to be professional providers of quality content. As if there is no value in what we do because anyone can do it. Ridiculous idea, that.

They’ll find some suckers. They always do. It won’t be very good, but it will be free, and for these outfits that’s all that matters … and that makes it really difficult for the rest of us who actually rely on our skills to make a living.

The moral of the story is, pay your professionals, even if they work in words instead of hammers and nails.

1 Comment

  1. Ian Sokoliwski

    TESTIFY!

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