Bryan Buttler is a contributor to Philadelphia Magazine’s G Philly and Ticket. He also teaches writing at a variety of local colleges. For more information visit bryanbuttler.com, or visit his author page for Philadelphia Magazine: http://www.phillymag.com/author/bbuttler/
Finding (and Using) the Right Blog along the Road to Publication by Bryan Buttler
Back in 2006, I was sitting in a graduate writing workshop with a rather esteemed fiction writer who made a rather bold statement: Don’t you dare ever publish your work on a blog or online.
Fast forward to today, 2014, and the writer’s advise is all but antiquated. Blogging and publishing online has arguably become the de facto method for writers and journalists to present their work to a large and encompassing audience. This, alas, is a double-edged sword—blogging allows for immediacy, for wide-spread and fast-reaching contact with an audience. It also allows for shoddy writing (and shoddy websites) to self-promote less than stellar product.
As a writer, I’m most concerned about my craft and the discourse that we present as a community. I’m also concerned with how some blogs take advantage of writers—many websites use bloggers as a means to push an agenda, sell advertising, or simply get “hits.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as a writer if it gets your work appropriate exposure. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen writers get used by editors and website producers; I’ve learned this the hard way.
The bright side? I’ve been lucky enough to land a substantial contributing writer gig at Philadelphia Magazine’s G Philly and Ticket blogs. The exposure I received from Philly Mag has been incredible, and it has lead me to compensated jobs with the magazine and quite a bit of esteem in the community.
With that, I want to share four of my drop-dead “truthbombs” about blogging, ideas that you, as a writer, should bear in mind if you are considering joining the ranks of online publication.
- Ask yourself: what do I want out of this? It goes without saying that many blogs do not compensate for work. That doesn’t mean that writing for a non-paying blog is a bad thing; if the blog is reputable (more on this in a second) and can provide you exposure, contributing to it can be a very good jumping ground for your own work. However, you’ve got to be realistic with your expectations. Why do you want to write for this particular blog? Is it simply artistic expression? Exposure? Did someone ask you to do it? Do you want to use it as a stepping stone to get your work out in the world? Really consider these items before you expose your writing to an audience (and rubber stamping the blog’s name to your writing for life).
- Trust your gut. I can’t emphasize this enough. I was writing for a gay website that had some extremely questionable content. As a matter of fact, I was asked to take on editing duties without pay (writing without pay is one thing; editing without pay is a totally huge no-no). Whenever I’d confront the website producer about certain risqué pictures or really poorly-written pieces, I’d get excuse after excuse. I started questioning the ethics and the ethos of the website after I took a step back and really looked at it. I didn’t initially trust my gut when I first started writing for them. Needless to say, after I woke up (with the help of a lot of good friends in the community), I left and moved on to a much better gig. The bottom line: if you feel like a website is treating you poorly, chances are, you’re correct. If you feel content is questionable, your gut is screaming GET OUT. Leave. There’s plenty of other places who would love your work.
- Don’t sacrifice style and content. Time and time again, I see writers switch to “blog mode” when they write an exclusively online piece—grammar, style, and professionalism goes out the door. This is really a bad idea. Just because you are writing something that’s going to be on a blog doesn’t mean you can eliminate the rules of good writing. Produce work that you are proud of.
- Do not mind the trolls. People are going to talk crap on your work; it is almost a given that folks are going to leave really ignorant comments regarding your writing. My advice? Don’t even look at them. Chances are, the chatter that is being left by readers is just that; you can’t even call it feedback because it isn’t constructive. I’ll never forget what I published a piece on a gay child foster care seminar and people made fun of the Shutterstock pictures I used of desolate-looking teenagers. If that’s the only problem they have with my post, well, then, I’m doing pretty good!
Blogging really can be rewarding for so many reasons—besides the ability to get your work out to a broad audience, there are other perks. I can’t tell you how many gracious, wonderful people I’ve met through my writing, some of which I have developed great friendships with. I’ve been invited to free Broadway and opera performances, cocktail receptions, open houses…the list goes on. The bottom line: blogging is a lot more than just sitting behind a MacBook typing random prose onto WordPress. It is a legitimate and powerful way to render your voice.