Blogging, Money, Writing and Contributors

Writing

Writing

I read an interesting piece this week and, despite my sabbatical, or perhaps because of it, I felt the need to comment.

The piece was about how “likes” don’t pay the rent and “exposure” is just a fancy word for free. With the important statement “When nobody is making any money off a publishing platform, that’s probably okay, but when one party is making a lot of money, and everybody else is enriching that platform and making nothing, that’s potentially a problem.” It went on to discuss whether or not it’s right for people to submit their writing work for free.

Like so many before me, I have fallen down the rabbit hole into the world of writing. I have stepped into the world of sponsored posts. I have read with horror the comments on GOMI and similar places about sponsored posts, all the many guides on what to do and what not to do. What qualifies as a sponsored post, what qualifies as being given free product, what you have to disclose, what you don’t. All the rules, regulations, guides on what kind of statement to put on your posts, where, etc.

I have watched the debate about paying contributors, especially with interest in light of Mamamia’s recent announcement that they will begin paying for original contributions.

This debate always makes me uneasy for one very simple reason: I don’t pay for contributions to this site. Nor do I pay my wonderful editors who help me run it.

But, and here’s the important thing: I don’t make any money from this site. This site runs at a loss.

Our hosting is expensive. We did have cheaper hosting, but we kept pulling down the servers. The sponsored posts we do get don’t cover it. They don’t cover my hardware, our internet bill, or our customised theme. We are looking into the possibility of crowd funding, and aren’t ruling it out for down the track. And I’ve always run this site in the promise that, upon the time this site does make enough to pay for contributions, it will.

I opened a book one day, and I read these words:

“A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.” The Angel’s Game

That is how I feel about contributing for free, about sponsored posts and advertising, about money and blogging in general. Every writer wants to earn money from their writing. Every writer is willing to make compromises to see their name in print, be it on paper or on a screen. Every writer dreams of the day their writing will support them, and they will be able to devote their life to this craft.

And it’s my job to try to achieve that, not just for me, but for everyone who contributes to make this site a success.

So we will be doing sponsored posts, but with these rules:

  • It will always clearly identify that it is a sponsored post at the start of the post (this will appear in the preview, please click them anyway, that’s how we get more and fund this place! That, and I always try to make them really interesting and/or useful)
  • I will never lie or say something I don’t honestly believe, and anyone who writes a sponsored post for us agrees to the same.
  • We will not support products or brands we disagree with, and that includes anything that is against our body love message.

We will run advertisements, with minimal impact, and they will be clearly marked.

We will use affiliate links, but I will tell you where they are (Hint: We current have affiliate accounts with ASOS, Amazon, iTunes and The Iconic).

I hope you agree with my conditions, and will continue to support us so we can one day see our names on a miserable piece of paper that will surely outlive us.

xx T.

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  • http://www.alwaysjosefa.com/ always Josefa

    This is perhaps one of the most refreshing perspectives I had read on this topic, thank you x

  • http://johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

    As someone who contributed a lot of time and effort to help setup and run this site during it’s first year (and as someone who has also contributed their own money to help pay for the costs of running this site) I fully support you T!

    But I also want to be honest about one thing though – there are a thousand reasons why I eventually decided to relinquish any form of “ownership” over KK&T, and why I stopped being an editor and regular contributor to KK&T – and one of them was because I wasn’t interested in the business-side of running a website like KK&T. It always left me feeling a little uncomfortable that to run a site like KK&T, that you also had to find ways to pay for it.

    But that’s the thing. If you choose to deliver a Website using professional tools, these will cost money. When you make that decision, I don’t think it’s wrong to then also use other professional tools to try and help pay for those costs. That’s only fair. That’s how these things work. But I never felt comfortable with it.

    Personally – on my own Blog – I decided to go down the other path. I deliberately chose a free Blogging platform – Tumblr – and I will never run sponsored posts or advertising on my own Blog, because that’s not why I Blog. I’m not looking to make a living from Blogging. I Blog because I like to write and and like to share my writing with anyone who is interested in reading it.

    As for being paid posts – especially paid posts on Mamamia – well, I never expected to be paid for my posts on Mamamia. I knew that when I submitted them. I don’t expect to paid in retrospect. I submitted posts to Mamamia because I thought the readers of Mamamia might be interested in what I had to say. Posting to Mamamia gave me access to an audience I never would hope to find on my own Blog.

    You can say the same thing for KiKi & Tea – when I now post the occasional guest post on KK&T my writing gets exposed to an audience WAY bigger than the audience on my own Blog. That’s why I still like to post the occasional guest post here on my old site… because I like the site, and I like to stay in contact with the KK&T community… and because I think you guys might still be interested in what I have to say from time to time.

    If KK&T ever grew big enough to pay for posts, I’m not sure I’d accept payment to be honest. Like I said before, I don’t blog to make money. I blog because I like to write and I post my blogs online because I like people to read my writing. But that doesn’t mean I disagree with people who do want to get paid for their posts. I think that’s a completely valid point of view as well. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be paid for your effort, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to go down the whole pro-blogger/freelance writer path. But that’s just not something I’ve ever been interested in.

    I feel different about my unpublished book though. If it ever gets published, then I want to get the best deal I can. I expect to make some money, no matter how big or small. If I can’t find a publisher, then I’ll try the self-publishing route, but again I’d expect people to pay to download my book. It’s horses for courses. Blogging is a hobby of mine. I’m not looking at making money from Blogging. Writing books is a dream of mine. I want to be a published author. I want to make a living from writing books. I want “being an author” to become my “lifestyle”, not just an aspiration. To me, that’s the difference between my blogging, and my aspiration to be a published author.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      But you’re still a writer, a writer who dreams of literature putting a roof over your head and a hot meal at the end of the day. A writer who wants his name printed on a piece of paper. Blogging or books, it makes no difference.

      And if you don’t accept payment when we get there I will shove it down the back of your shirt at lunch. 😉

      • http://johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

        Pffft… I’d just take the money and put it straight back into your crowd-funding project… but I better get a KK&T T-Shirt for free, or I’ll be pissed! 😉

        And to be perfectly honest, the dream of seeing my book on the shelf of my local bookshop means more to me than any money I could earn from writing… but you know my financial position, so you know that I don’t need to earn a lot of money from writing to be able to give up my 9-to-5 job.

        I was thinking about my MM posts – if they paid me retrospectively – $50 a post – I’d get $300. To me, that’s not a lot of money – I just couldn’t be bothered chasing that – but for a lot of other people, $300 would be a windfall… that’s why it’s good that MM has finally decided to pay for posts… and it’s also why it will be great when KK&T get’s to be in the same position. :)

  • Monique Fischle

    I’m going to start soppy and say that I love you T and I love KK&T. It’s so great to have an outlet for writing beyond my own blog and while I’m probably a crappy contributor (as the number of posts I have written has decreased), it has nothing to do with not being paid, it is an issue of time.

    I think that anyone would understand, especially after reading this post, that you aren’t raking in lots of money from running the site and then not paying your writers. You have expressed multiple times that you would love to be able to pay some kind of fee but you are upfront about it and the main reason we have so many wonderful writers contributing their words here is because of the lovely environment you have created and the support we receive from you.

    I for one completely agree with your conditions and I love that you have created, along with the help of JJ, this wonderful place :)

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      Love you too Mon Mon! xxxxxxx

      I also feel like adding that you, along with the other editors, are told what I’m paying and what I’m earning. That’s important to me too :)

  • http://iamevilcupcake.com/ iamevilcupcake

    You can’t argue with logic!

  • http://www.zoeymartin.com/ Zoey Martin

    This was a really interesting read!

    As someone who is also doing a start up website that is not profitable (yet) it has also weighed on my mind the criticism of writers not being paid.

    We have started running advertorials but it will take some time before they get regular enough that we can take the step to pay writers.

    The writers who contribute to The Shake know that they are absolutely the first priority for being paid, even before expenses. And the Editorial Team know that writers will be paid before they will.

    But I believe in it. And I believe that in the long run it will be successful enough that I will be able to repay the kindness and loyalty that my writers and editors have shown me so far.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      We’re absolutely in the same boat (even if yours has bigger oars ;P)

  • CG

    Hi Tasmin, I remember you and John from MM and found your site when I fell down the google hole while lurking around GOMI.

    You have a great site here and it deserves the chance to flourish. It’s authentic and classy and God knows we could use a bit more of that. Personally, I have no problem with advertising and sponsored posts as long as they are honest and ethical. I left MM when the Kmart campaign started. I asked how they married their feminist views with the exploitation of women in third world countries and whether they had investigated the safety (namely formaldahyde) of the cheap goods they were ‘WOW-Ing’ about. Of course, my comments didn’t see the light of day. I think I’m one of Jamila’s ‘bogans,’ … or maybe I’m one of the ‘f*ckers!’

    I’m sure that any site on which Bradley (I’m your secret BIGGEST fan, Bradley) and the lovely evil cupcake frequent must have something going for it.

    All the best x

    • CG

      Oh, and a site that is as commercially successful as MM should have bern paying writers loooonnng ago.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      The lovely Evil Cupcake is one of our editors!

      Thank you for your kind words about our site. I am so touched. I can’t promise I will never wow over Kmart products (to be frank, I do wow over them at home) but I can promise I will never censor you unless you say something that is mean or offensive. (e.g. If you said I was a bitch for buying Kmart, I would probably delete that).

  • Kelly Exeter

    So interesting T because I have a post brewing about how the economic realities of running a start up online magazine site simply do not allow for the payment of writers … So what should everyone do? Never start up a site like this? Sites where emerging writers get to hone their craft and get their voices heard?

    The whole ‘never write for free’ debate just makes my head hurt as does the criticism levelled at sites that can’t/don’t pay. Everyone needs to be left alone to draw their own line in the sand as to where and when they will ‘work for free’. For me as a writer, I value having my voice heard above being paid for it. Having my voice heard beyond the confines of my blog is a thrill and a privilege. That’s why I will happily write for pretty much anyone for free. But my circumstances allow me to do that.

    What does make me laugh a little though are the people I’ve seen declare ‘I will never write for free and neither should you’ when I know they have. Bcause they are the same ones who publicly scorn a site like MM in one breath and then beg to be exposed to that site’s 1 million readers in another when they have something to sell/push.

    (Please note, I agree as much as the next person that as a market leader and a profitable business, MM should be paying contributors. I just find the hypocrisy shown by people in being happy to write for them for free when it suits them, while telling everyone else not to do it, is breathtaking and frustrating because it does not add to the conversation in a useful way)

    • http://johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

      I loved this comment Kelly! :)

      Here’s the thing. In the almost 18 months KK&T has be going, they’ve published over 800 posts. If they paid for each of those at the MM/Hoopla rate of $50 a post (and I don’t think you could pay much less than that) that would have cost KK&T $40,000 so far… how many of you could afford that… and if you could, how many of you would be prepared to fork out that much money on the slim chance that you might make it back one day?

      … I thought so…

      And that’s the thing… you can’t compare a major website like MM to a start-up like KK&T. And you can’t compare professional freelance writers, and aspirational freelance writers (who want to be paid for their work), with hobby writers who just want the chance to be published on a website with a larger audience than their hobby-blog. We’re talking apples and oranges here.

      Start-up websites need to be able to build an audience and attract sponsorship without the overhead of having to pay for posts – otherwise websites like KK&T with their own unique voices would never exist…

      And aspirational writers need sites like KK&T to get experience in a safe environment where they can learn the trade, so to speak, and then move onto bigger and better things.

      There’s room for all models of websites out there – paid posts, and unpaid. To claim there’s only one model is just idiotic!

      • http://www.kellyexeter.com.au/ Kelly Exeter

        I really believe a line needs to be drawn between people who are ‘not really writers but I want to share my story and am just happy to see it published’ type people … and writers who are putting research and fact-checking into writing an informed speech. I do not believe the former should be paid.

        • Kris

          I think the differentiation should be the publisher. If they’re doing well and turning a profit (MM, Hoopla) then they should pay. Sliding scale if they want, but I think most of us understand the ire MM received when on one hand they say “We are but a small family start up, we can’t afford it” but on the other they clearly are doing really well, pay their staff well, and CAN afford to pay, they just (until grudgingly recently) wouldn’t.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      I’ll write for pretty much anyone for free too. The only reason I’ve never had a piece published on MM is purely because they’ve never accepted one! (And, to be honest, I haven’t submitted my best work because my best work is too close to my heart)

      I’d love you to come back and leave the link to that post here when you publish it!

  • http://www.jfgibson.com.au/ Jodi Gibson

    My comment didn’t appear. And oh I laboured over it for ten minutes! Grrrr.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      So sorry to hear that!!

  • http://www.jfgibson.com.au/ Jodi Gibson

    What I was saying is basically this issue is under my skin and I can’t decide which camp I sit in, I see both sides.

    Firstly sponsored posts – each to their own. If that’s you thing who am I to judge/care?

    Secondly, there are so many online websites/blogs that do not operate as a ‘business’ as they don’t turn a profit and may never. They cannot afford to pay contributors or writers understandably. The onus should be on the writer.

    As a new freelance writer I believe it is up to me where I pitch my work to and it is my responsibility to understand the terms and conditions as to whether there is payment or not. If I know that a site does not pay I may still contribute for exposure, but a more detailed time consuming piece I would submit to a paying publication. Writers do deserve to be paid for their expertise and time. I read something during the week that I really liked ‘If it is good enough to be published, it is good enough to be paid for’ or something along those lines. But again, the onus is on me. Most publications both online and print are upfront in relation to payment so there is no excuse submitting and knowing there is no payment offered and then jumping up and down screaming about deserving payment!. It does both writers and the industry no favours.

    As for KK&T, it is your site and you should be entitled to run it how you wish and in a manner that is in alignment with your values. And kudos to you for being upfront and transparent.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      Thank you, I value honesty above many other things. I am honest about who I am, what I believe and how I run this site.

      I think you’re right, but I also don’t like the idea of people being exploited because they don’t know how to ask for money. But I think most people know what they want, and if it’s to see their name on a big website with no financial gain, then who is to say they are wrong?

  • Bradley

    I do not have a problem with advertorials. Just disclose that I am about to read an advertorial BEFORE I open the article. Allow me the right to decide if I wish to be “advertised at”.
    Don’t make the disclosure half way down the page or in the last sentence….as some sites have the habit of doing. Don’t try to tie a completely unrelated topic in with the product….as they do on some sites. Just don’t BS me with your advertorials….as they do on some sites.
    Above all, please don’t let the advertorial content outweigh the literary content….as they have done on some sites.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      As said, I will always put it at the TOP of the article. It won’t outweigh literary content, otherwise this site could hardly be described as for the love of writing, could it? 😉

  • Ingrid

    Thank you for a fantastic post Tamsin! The quote is absolutely beautiful.

    I believe it’s important to be honest and disclose. It makes you more credible and it also takes away from people being cynical about it all. You and your team have put a lot of work into KK&T and I don’t think anyone would mind that you try and recouperate some costs with sponsored posts and affiliate links.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      I adore that quote. I want to incorporate it into the site in some larger way.

  • Heather

    Meh, I happily write for free on several sites. Everyone has different reasons for writing but for most writers, the reason is, “I can’t help it. I must”. So the blogs I contribute to give me an outlet. I made (and continue to make) a living out of writing; firstly in journalism and now in PR. I feel not the slightest skerrick of resentment if I don’t get paid for posts – even if you’re profiting from the site. The amount of work that goes into running this is diabolical and I respect that. Also, I have the pleasure of getting some nice back links for Shoe Envy :) Win-win! And anyway, it’s fun. I like ranting about female vagina sweat :)

  • Maree Talidu

    T it is a delight to be a part of KK&T. Money has never interested me, i write because it’s in me, it’s part of who I am; but you’ve made it a wonderful environment to write in. You understand that we aren’t robots who can just spew out piece after piece, you know we are individuals with lives that are busy and demanding and you GET that. You have been nothing less than gracious at all times and I am grateful to be part of the team. I don’t really aspire to write for some mammoth corporate blog, I’m happy right here where people write with integrity and you choose quality over quantity. You’re a fab EIC and you stick to your guns. I love that.

  • Jane

    The best word I can think of to describe my reaction to this post and how it works itself out on KK&T is “respectful”. You respect your readers. The writing comes before the money/advertising, not the other way around. I am not a writer – in the sense that it doesn’t come naturally to me and I don’t feel a compulsion to do it – but I am a reader and I enjoy reading sites that respect me and treat me as though I’m intelligent.

    I have no issue with sponsored posts here as I always know when I’m reading one. I hate getting to the end and finding out then as I’ve seen on other sites. I like the recent ASOS promotion – I bought a great jumper for a great price! I didn’t know they did larger sizes so had never looked there (assuming that they didn’t).

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      Thank you, Jane! That’s really what I strive for. The pieces with affiliate links (ASOS, for example) are always just pieces we think people will want and we add in affiliate links, rather than articles we have been paid to write. But even for the sponsored posts where we are paid to write them, I put a lot of effort into ensuring they are still interesting articles, still helpful or amusing or personal. Still something you want to read. Because what’s the point if they’re not?

  • Ribbons

    I’ve changed my view on writing over the past year, after reading a lot on the state of writing and money.

    It used to be for me a thing I would like to one be paid for, or a profession I could perhaps enter. I’m old enough that journalism was once a viable career option. Now I have re classed writing as a hobby only. When I write something (an article, a short novel – god one day I’ll finish – etc) and complete it I see it the same way as someone who has completed a piece of knitting or played a game of basketball. They paid for materials, court fees, I paid with my time and efforts. Other hobby people expect nothing back from their money and efforts but the enjoyment they had and perhaps the admiration of others (you made that quilt wow! hey I read your $1.99 e-book that makes you no money and loved it!).

    So how is writing any different? Few hobbies are free. Some hobbies are bloody expensive! Few people expect their hobby to repay them or pay off or earn them an income. Writing used to pay, it rarely does now, our mindset needs to change. For most people it’s a hobby, just like any other, with associated costs.

    For those who still want to have a crack at generating an income or covering costs, great! Some people will manage to that. There is room in the market for quality writing/unique ideas to earn money. But few will manage it because there has been an explosion in writers due to the accessibility of publishing changing.

    I hope this site covers it’s costs and the efforts to do so are fine. I love the ASOS ads. Sponsored ads are fine, do what you have to do. Ambition is great. I just want hobby writer’s and bloggers in general (in general, not saying this writer) to stop complaining about how they make no money/have to pay for a template. No one pays for my knitting yarn or my snowboard.

    • Ribbons

      Although there is a crucial difference in that a writing hobby is aimed at other’s enjoyment and perhaps it should make money it’s clear that with so many writer’s out there paywalls on blogs are unlikely to work so the reader will nearly always read for free, excepting the elite like the New York Times or some such. So if the only way to make money is ads and sponsored posts and the blog still doesn’t make money then perhaps the owner needs to realise that while they are providing a service for others it’s still just their hobby they need to make a decision about whether they can afford to do, just like anyone else with a hobby. I wish bloggers all the best and hope they make millions of dollars, I just feel guilted lately on some sites in the past couple of months. I do pay for content on some sites, if Mummy Blog 101 was good enough to pay for I would. It’s not, so stop stop guilting me over your hobby. I’m cool with the SP and ads, but drop the guilt. *general comment not about this sites attitude.

      • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

        Interesting perspective, and an important one (glad it’s not about this site’s attitude as I don’t think of myself as complaining!). As reflected in the quote I have chosen, for many writers the dream is of having their name on a piece of paper, not being millionaires. I think anyone would be silly to go into writing thinking it’s going to make them lots of money. It isn’t. Especially not blogging.

  • http://thefloralapronblog.blogspot.co.nz/ Floral apron

    Very interesting read for a newbie blogger like me. I am still in the honeymoon period of happily tinkering with each post and do so with knowing the cost comes from hours spent tapping (and occasionally
    swearing) at a screen.
    Undoubtedly I want my blog to pave the way for payed writing and agree entirely that writing
    and dreaming go hand in hand. I like the idea that even the big power bloggers once started their journey with limited audience and the desire to grow.
    Thanks for giving me a really honest and refreshing perspective on this curly topic.

    http://thefloralapronblog.blogspot.com.au/

  • http://Rowdyfairy.blogspot.com.au/ Rowdy Fairy

    Great post! I have just started following your blog. I am a new blogger myself and I really enjoy writing and taking photos and I really like that I can use my blog as a platform to express this creativity in myself :-)
    Rowdy Fairy Blog
    Follow Me on Bloglovin!