Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Article Service May Not be Right for Authors

Time magazine reports that anyone who can string a sentence together can make extra money at eHow.com.

That may be pushing it in spite of the picture they illustrated the article with-- a typewriter with a dollar bill being ejected from its roller. They say you might make $20 a year or even $1,5000. Since then I’ve heard authors talk about using it to get some passive income and to still get some exposure for your book and I thought it might be useful for those who are tired of giving their articles away and would like to make a little extra money.

It seems eHow does have high standards for its submissions so I (Ha!) decided to give it a try. Mind you, I spent about three hours setting up a profile and filing my first story, "How To Liven Your Online Writing Using Dialogue." I wouldn’t call me an expert on online sites yet but I think I can tell pretty well what is right for writers so here's my report:

1. Adding a profile was user-friendly, but it appears the site is really more like another social network than a place where people go on their own to learn something from the articles posted there.

2. EHow may not enforce it, but it appears they don’t want any recycled materials. Mind you I said "recycled" as in "reused" or even "repurposed." I didn't say plagiarized. That goes without saying. But no recycling makes participation more time consuming than some authors wish to fool with.

3. There may be an easier way for real writers to do it, but eHow is obviously designed to lead nonwriters through a process of making a how-to article understandable. That means that a simple copy and paste is impossible. That means it takes a professional writer a lot longer to post an article than it should.

4. I immediately began to get invitations to be an eHow.com friend. In fact dozens of them--most of whom were not writing articles or--if they did--were not writing articles even vaguely related to my interests or the article I wrote. I was able to turn these off with an "unsubscribe" type link.

5. I got the feeling that the only way to make money at this is if one promotes one's articles like crazy, pretty much acting as a sales person for the articles. But the articles can’t obviously tout your book (rules against that), so why would I want to spend time doing that (both the writing and promoting) rather than spending it promoting (and writing) my book? I see this process as being advantageous only for a hobbyist writer.

6. After my initial experience, I did not fill out the financial information so I could get paid. Therefore I can’t report on actual income--but I am pretty certain it is not all that passive. You'll have to work to get paid, and work hard.

So. eHow for writers who want to build a writing reputation is not recommended. Not by me anyway. And not for writers. If any of you feel differently, I’d be happy to post your positive experience and the results, but I'm sorry I wasted my time except that I am able to report my experience to you.


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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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