How should a person blog

Just a quick note that I will be in Chicago for the second time in my life on March 13, talking about blogging, literary fame, and the new play Sex with Strangers with author and blogger Claire Zulkey at Steppenwolf.  If you’re a Chicago-based Emily Magazine reader, do stop by!  It’s only $5, which I guess is probably $10 in Chicago money but still.

The second quick note is that on 2/17/2011 I decided not to use Tumblr or Twitter or blog (obviously this right now doesn’t count) until I finish a draft of the book I’m working on.  “Putting all my emotional content behind a paywall. Trying to find a business model that works,” as Colson Whitehead once tweeted.  The first week was horrible but it’s getting easier.  I have been baking a lot. And then sending photos of the baked goods to friends and relatives.   Let me know if you would like to receive photographs of baked goods via email!

The third thing is, here is part of my response to my friend Rachel who recently started a great blog called Quaint as Fuck and wanted help figuring out how to write a column about the same topic for free for a larger site.  It is somewhat of a reversal from my earlier stance re: Writing For Free so I thought I would post it here:

“I don’t think you should write or make stuff for free for popular sites that pay their owners, parent companies, and some or all of their regular contributors, even though it’s a good way to get people to read your blog and become familiar with your name.  I totally understand why doing this appeals to people who are blogging and making stuff purely for the thrill of having someone read and see said stuff.  But the problem with that approach is: it leads nowhere.

People who read your stuff at the big site that used your content for free will continue to read that big site — and maybe also your blog, but maybe not.  Meanwhile, people who write on- and off-line for a living will continue to have an increasingly hard time making money because of the huge numbers of people who are willing to “syndicate” their content to bigger sites in exchange for cachet.  Cachet is great, but it does not rule everything around me (unfortunately!)

Luckily, there are still ethical ways to get attention for your awesome blog.  You can get one of those big blogs to link to it, directing readers to your site, where it is still 100% ok to do whatever the hell you want for free because you have total control of what goes there and how much time you spend doing it and it is a wonderful art-place that exists outside of commerce.  Or you can get one of those big blogs to pay you for something you are doing elsewhere for free — with the understanding that this will probably mean reshaping it slightly to suit their editorial voice and standards.”

For a more concise version of that rant you can of course consult Jessica Hische’s perfect “should I work for free” flowchart.  And if you want to hear more of my slightly informed, evolving and occasionally contradictory views about blogging, you can come see me in Chicago!

11 comments to How should a person blog

  • Andrea

    I would love to get photos of baked goods via email. Seriously! I miss your tumblr. But your productivity is my productivity. If I could only get all my favourite bloggers to take a hiatus…

  • Gary Michael Porter

    What? Soiling one’s blog with the stench of lucre? Moneylenders in the temple?

    Well, yes.

    Spies do come in from the cold. Women, some of them, will go on baking. And writers will eventually find themselves staring at an ATM screen that blinks, succinctly, 0.00.

    I once had an anonymous blog that eventually reached several thousand pages. In the beginning I found it rather daring and somehow illicit. Not quite as daring and illicit as posting headless nude photos of myself on Manhunt, but a secret thrill all the same. And then people began to read the darn thing. And commenting. It was one of those highly fictionalized self-revelatory blogs that elevate the mundane facts of a desperate life to the status of a Bret Easton Ellis character. In other words, I was traveling in Augusten Burrough’s territory.

    The first sign that nothing is what it seems in blogarama was my total miscalculation of my readership. What I assumed would be all those young, knowing gays who have experienced what it’s really like to wake up naked on a pool table turned out to be a worshipful audience of middle-aged women. I now know that if you write out the naked thoughts of a smart, really handsome young man, rich as a king, who happens to be tortured by the unrequited love of an even more good-looking and wealthy young man, and who tries to drink his way out of agony night after night, and oh let’s throw in a life-threatening disease for an extra bite of urgency, you’ve hit the chick-lit fun button. Basically, the Oprah demographic was mine.

    So I kept at it, thinking it was “experimental,” or “subversive,” or to be honest: all those nights I ended up drunk and home alone (gay and alone in a taxi at 3 am: nothing sadder than) I simply sat down and wrote what I wished had happened.

    Which is all to preface the fact that one day I stopped, but not because of money. The fact is I was and am a professional writer, well-compensated, in a whorish sort of way. I stopped because I outgrew the character, for one thing. But the main reason was I outgrew blogging. Suddenly every Suzy with a tulip garden was blogging about her snail and slug problems. Every 47-year-old man with a ‘57 Chevy in his garage was blogging about pistons. Like Victoria Beckham’s hair or Angelina Jolie’s lips, blogging simply fell out of fashion.

    The thing about being compensated for creative effort is this: At some point in first or second grade each of us wrote a poem, or we opened a box of Crayolas and drew a picture of a river; we sat down at a piano and plunked out the theme song of a TV show we had just watched. We came home from church and stood up at the dining table and sang Amazing Grace a cappella. We came home from a performance of “The Nutcracker” and our entire life became a dance.

    If you are like me, and you are, as we advanced through our academic careers, junior high, high school, college (or, haha, graduate school, or law school, or medical school) it never once occurred to you that one day you would have to “make a living.” The word “job” had no meaning for me. The people I knew did not set their alarm clocks, they didn’t make a weekly trip to the dry cleaners, they didn’t shave on a daily basis or necessarily apply an anti-persperant before they went out dancing.

    And of course you know what happened. One day I looked around and my best friend and roommate had just had his first solo show at a gallery. My boyfriend, rest his soul, had a solo in the Houston Ballet. Another friend was “Lifestyle Editor” of a magazine. Another was the a film director at a museum. Suddenly three of my friend’s paintings were hanging in museums. My best friend from high school was performing the Lizst concerto with orchestras across the country. I began an affair with my Russian literature professor, who was married to Stockard Channing at the time and had just published the definitive translation of Rimbaud, and I met Ned Rorem, and Robert Mapplethorpe, and somehow, amazingly enough, I managed to get through my twenties without Robert photographing me naked.

    Everyone else I knew was a lead singer in a punk rock band.

    Money money money. All those people I mentioned above are dead or dieing, except Susan (Stockard is a stage name and her family owns ships) are dead.

    Writing for money: I’ve never done it. I never will. I have an entire bookshelf of poetry whose creators haven’t made a dime.

    Swilliing for money, yes! Go for it! Good grief, even Patti Smith has a new best-seller.

    But there’s no money to be made on the internet for writers.


  • It’s a far better thing to not blog than to blog apologies for not having blogged recently. :-)

    I’ll miss your updates, but I can only approve of your decision to focus on the big stuff! I loved “And the Heart Says Whatever” and I am looking forward to your next book.

  • Mark

    Good for you. Good luck with the book.

  • Emily

    I am going to miss your blog terribly. Would love to be emailed some baked goods.

  • octagon fat kid

    My Doritos, Pepsi and pizza palate probably won’t much crave your forthcoming culinary book (I can only assume you are gestating an epicurian collection at the moment) so I will very much miss your blogging in the meantime. I love to follow the fictional flow of your life as it is delineated in your blog, but cooking just seems like, EWY, more of the messy business of living. It’s like work. Doing something that you would rather not be doing. Blogging/fiction, on the other hand, is like shopping, watching TV, or dry humping a Pomeranian. It’s easy-going and fun, the 10% of the day that the other 90% is really all about.

    Cooking, Pssssssh! Bring on instant replicated food a la Star Trek.

  • [...] Emily Gould on not giving away your content for free.  (Emily Magazine). [...]

  • i would seriously dig some photographic evidence of baking. I too am in book writing isolation, quit my job to do it.

  • Sam

    Now that anyone with a laptop is a potential content provider, how valuable is this information? Why do you think you are entitled to be paid for your anecdote about your cat? Interesting post, if I lived in Chicago I would totally attend your talk to find out why…

    Good luck on the book writing. I am one of the people who bought and enjoyed your first book. I think you have a compelling voice and I will probably buy your second book (on Amazon, will we get another lecture for this??).

  • Emily

    Your blog break is my sadness! I would love to be on the baked goods yahoo group.

  • [...] times, and often in the form of blog posts.) but while I may not have been reading [...]

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