Should Freelancers Not Mention Their Blogs?

Oct 122010
 

That's me, barely visible on the left, talking in the demonstration kitchen of Kendall College in Chicago. My book, Will Write for Food, came out in July and I'm still in promotion mode.

At a recent talk at a culinary school in Chicago, I told the audience of food writers about an outrageous request a company made of a food blogger, showing that food bloggers aren’t taken seriously when it comes to pay. A woman raised her hand and asked whether to omit that she is a food blogger when pitching a publication for a story.

“That depends,” I responded. “Are you already established in print?”

She said she was. And then I thought: This woman in the audience is brilliant. Because she will be taken more seriously and offered more money than if she says she is a blogger.

Signing books after the talk. That's Scott Warner on my right, program chair of the Culinary Historians of Chicago, host of my talk.

How do I know this? Print publications sometimes ask bloggers to work for free. And while many print food writers have started food blogs to stay current, saying so might backfire on them. Award-winning writer David Leite explained in the comments section of a previous post:

“I think the crux of the issue is the word ‘blogger,” he wrote. “These days, my name’s not appearing in magazines or newspapers as much… Somehow because I’m a blogger—even one with a decade-long tenure in print media—I’m a cheap commodity.”

So if you’ve written for print and you want to be paid as you were before, leave the word “blogger” out of your query letter. Do you agree?

p.s. If you’re wondering about the talk, please listen to the podcast on Chicago Public Radio.

Photos by Amos Gil

  57 Responses to “Should Freelancers Not Mention Their Blogs?”

  1. I leave the word “blogger” out not because of the pay issue but bec of the respect issue. Some editors still roll their eyes when they hear the word “blogger”. Many editors will still take me more seriously if I write that I’ve been published in X, Y, and Z than if I tell themI have a popular blog called ABC.
    (Same for freelance photographers too, by the way.)

  2. I don’t market myself as a blogger but as a food writer, which is what I write about whether it’s in print or on my blog. I do list my blog on my resume first and foremost, simply because that’s where the majority of my work is. I also believe it’s my blog which originally opened the doors for my print assignments here in the US.

    • You’ve done quite a few pieces for NPR Kitchen Window, which is web based and maybe more open to bloggers. Not sure if you would have the same experience with print pubs, though, Lynda.

  3. Not to sound full of myself, but pretty much everyone I pitch knows I have a blog. Heck, I have been approached by strangers who know I have a blog! So hiding it is not really an option for me. In some circumstances I’ve found it is an advantage, but I agree, not when it comes to pay. In that respect I make it clear–I am a professional recipe developer and freelancer writer for both online AND print publications and I expect to be paid as such.

  4. I don’t omit the fact that I have a blog, but I definitely pad query letters with other publication experience first. I think you’re right: the word has been cheapened. Many editors don’t take “blogger”, in and of itself, seriously in my experience. Thanks for another great post, Dianne.

  5. Never, never, never. If you’re a talented writer, you write well online, off line, in print. That is all a good editor cares about.

    • Really? I’m surprised that you would say that.

      • Let me clarify: The title of the post is “Should Freelancers NOT Mention Their Blogs?” My response is they should NEVER not mention their blogs (double negative!). So, when you remove the negatives—Should Freelancers Mention their Blogs? Answer: Always, always, always.

  6. Dianne, do you think it’s because the bar to entry for bloggers is low, whereas for freelance writers there’s a stricter vetting process? I, too, list my print pubs first in my bio, and they’re the first thing I mention when I pitch a new publication. For me, though, part of the reason is that editors have probably heard of the magazines I’ve written for, and they’re less likely to have heard of my blog.

    I do mention my blog, though, and I direct them straight to the url. I want them to see my true unedited voice.

    • Well, that’s probably part of it. But you have much more credibility because of your work for publications like Eating Well than because of your blog, even though it’s incredibly popular. I don’t think editors are as up to speed about bloggers. They tend to think of them as more naive and worse writers — sadly this is sometimes the case!

      I don’t know if it’s an advantage to show them your true unedited voice unless you are pitching a story where you get to use it.

  7. Ah, this is the question that has dogged me from Day One: how does a new writer, one whose ONLY published work is on her food blog, find respect in print media? I am so hesitant to point potential editors to my blog – self-edited and un-reviewed as it is – that I have stalled in my ambitions to break into paid writing. I’m not sure how to stress the fact that I consider myself a professional when my blog is the only public exposure I’ve had. I would love to hear some in-depth stories of how other food bloggers successfully made the leap to professional, respected food writers.

    Thanks, Dianne, for this site. I’ve been reading it for quite some time, and you always give me so much to think about!

    • You are welcome Tara, and I’m so pleased that you’re getting something out of it.

      This post was aimed at freelance print writers, though, and you have to start somewhere. Please don’t let me stop you from pitching print.

      The only blogger I can think of who made a huge transition to print is Molly Wizenberg of Orangette, and it came after her successful memoir came out, to her own column at Bon Appetit. I suppose she is the biggest success story. Can anyone else think of others?

      • Chocolate&Zucchini
        Julia & Julia
        Certainly David L’s blog hasn’t hurt him a bit.

        • Two got book deals from their blogs but I’m not sure they have written for newspapers or magazines. I do remember an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times by Julie Powell. David Lebovitz has freelanced a bit, but he was a published author before his blog.

          • I believe Clotilde (c+z) has had more than one long form in Martha Stewart. Not shabby …

          • Thanks, all. Those are some of the big ones I would list, also. But it’s been very encouraging for me to read here about smaller bloggers who have landed print gigs as a direct result of their blogs. Stephanie Meyer’s suggestion to start with local, ‘edgier’ publications is very helpful.

        • Clotilde has written regularly for fine British food mag, Olive and NPR, Elle a Table
          Not to forget Gluten-Free Girl either.

  8. I agree that published writers get more respect. But if you’re just starting out, having a blog gives publishers a chance to see your writing. I started my own blog, and then was invited to write on another local blog. The exposure on multiple sites helped give me credibility. I think it’s the fact that someone else vetted me on the community blog–it wasn’t just me publishing myself. I was recently invited to write for a print publication. I think the whole point is to have multiple points of exposure–not just your own blog. At least that’s what worked for me.

    • Congratulations on getting to print. Certainly for bloggers who have never written for print, exposure on other sites is a terrific way to increase your credibility as a writer.

  9. I guess perhaps I’ve been lucky with this- I’ve had three articles published as a result of my blog which were paid full rates…but they were UK publications, perhaps this has something to do with it? I’m more hesitant to tell people I have a blog when it comes to food styling jobs because I’m not a photographer and the food I photograph at home is to eat!

    • Maybe UK publications are more respectful of bloggers than American pubs are — something to consider.

  10. This is slightly related (or would that be slightly unrelated?) as it pertains to my photography career. I maintain a portfolio site that makes no mention of my blog, even though the blog features much more photography (and writing) than my work portfolio does.

    In the beginning I wanted to keep them separate, I’m not sure why but I thought it might minimize my professional appearance as a photographer since, like writing, the stakes are high and it’s a competitive arena. However, over time, it’s become a bit more difficult to keep those worlds separated for me and I’ve found the help each other. Prospective art buyers and ad agencies get a much better sense of who I am as a person and that adds another dimension to the job (for the better, I might add).

    But like Darrin Light, um, I mean David Leite says, if you’re good then you’re good–doesn’t matter the avenue. I imagine as the blogging world gets bigger it’ll be harder to keep things separate for all of us (and people can always google to find out more about a potential hire).

    • Sure, it’s related.

      Many photographers keep their sites and blogs separate. Lots of blog writers have a separate professional writing site.

      In your case, it’s clear from your blog that you’re an amazing photographer, so both should generate work. With writers, I’m not so sure. Freelancing usually means writing in the voice of the publication, so editors have to see that they can do that.

  11. I can’t help but wonder if bloggers would get more respect if they were to briefly note the size of their readerships in their resumes/CV/pitches. Isn’t some of the discrepancy in pay/respect the fact that there is, in fact, an enormous difference between a 3-year-old blog with a readership of 25,000 and a 3-year-old blog with a readership of 10?

    Don’t get me wrong, good writing is good writing, but I think the problem lies in saying that you are a “blogger” isn’t enough to distinguish yourself. Print publications with long-term, sustained circulation numbers get respect. Print publications that are new, and have low circulation numbers? Not so much.

    • Yes, if there’s nice way to work in your numbers without making it sound too promotional, it could make a difference in terms of credibility.

  12. Here’s my quandry: “I’m blogger” and “I contribute articles to a website publication.” Do those mean the same thing?

    In my experience, they don’t seem to be. I have my own blog and I contribute articles to two websites. The websites don’t refer to themselves as blogs. And I have to admit that, while I’m still conversational, I write in more of a journalist voice for both of these websites. One of them has specifically said that writers referring to their site should never refer to them as a “blog” and that we shouldn’t refer to ourselves as “bloggers” for their site.

    In stressing the distinction, perhaps therein lies one answer about the perception of blogs versus online publications?

    • They don’t. A blogger has her own blog. A contributor writes for someone else, and is therefore more prestigious because she is selected, edited, and paid (I hope). How interesting that they don’t want you to refer to yourself as a blogger. Goes to the point others have made: bloggers don’t get no respect.

  13. I’m kind of stating the obvious here, and pretty much the same thing everyone else is intimating – but you have to go with whatever’s most impressive. If you’ve been published in print, but it’s the Podunk Times, and you have a blog with a billion readers, you obviously want to say you’re a blogger with a billion readers!

    It’s a little bit semantics, but I think it’s also a matter of if you consider yourself a blogger or if you consider yourself a writer who has a blog. As a writer, there’s no getting away from blogging – it’s expected/required of me, definitely by book publishers and even a little bit by magazine publishers. But I’m a writer first and foremost and I wouldn’t consider introducing myself any other way. Being a blogger first and foremost is kind of it’s own world, one that I don’t claim to be facile in, and it entails different connotations – some better, some worse.

    • Yes, that’s what others have said, to refer to yourself as a writer. In your case, since you’re published in Bon Appetit, I’m sure that goes at the top.

      I agree with your assessment of which method to promote, but not everyone is comfortable with putting their stats into a query letter. Perhaps there’s another way to state status, ex. chosen by Saveur or Food News Journal.

  14. Hey, that was me! I asked that! Neat!

    To clarify, I am NOT established in print. In pitching to editors, I would absolutely mention my blog (er, website) as it is the only printed record of my work. But I agree that had I additional work in my portfolio, I would place those clips first. If I had big names among them, I probably wouldn’t mention my site at all.

    I also agree that it depends on the size of your readership. Some bloggers would be foolish to omit mention of their sites (your Molly Wizenbergs and Ree Drummonds); but at a lower level (like mine), where hardly anybody stops by, the website might as well be a diary kept under the pillow. Nobody will really care if you wave it around.

    Love these discussions on this blog. The give and take of so many established writers (bloggers) here is invaluable.

    • Aha! Thanks for identifying yourself, Beth. Sorry to have gotten that wrong. But it gave me a good idea for a blog post, at least.

      If hardly anybody stops by, it could work to your detriment to show your blog to editors, as you surmise. They want writers who strike a cord in their readers, rather than people who are writing mostly for themselves.

      Some gorgeous photos on your most recent posts, Beth. Now you just have to get the word out. Commenting on blogs is a good way to do so, and I bet my readers will go check you out.

  15. It seems pretty obvious to me that if you are trying to get a deal writing for a print publication you would highlight all the wonderful things you have written that have brought those past publications lots of readers and subscriptions – that’s what it’s all about. Show them the money. If you were wanting a gig as a singer, you wouldn’t necessarily demonstrate all the dance steps you can perform, although it might prove interesting. Logic says that if you want a job doing a particular thing, you let the prospective employer know how well you do what it is he is hoping to have done. Just thinking out loud again….

  16. My blog has led directly to paid work for a local magazine, mostly because the editor was looking for a non-traditional, more conversational (blog!) writing style. Edgier, trendier, local magazines/publications might in general be a good place for a blogger to break into print.

    • Wow, that’s a great story. How wonderful for you that the editor was looking for a strong voice. Typically they edit all the personality out and make it a uniform voice.

  17. Hi Dianne — It’s an interesting question, and one which I perhaps could have thought about a bit more before I threw myself into the freelance game (I, err, did not really)! I have written for both print and online, and started my cooking blog after I had written a lot for newspapers/wire service … So I didn’t mention it starting out, because it didn’t exist very well (and back then — and as is now — it was created as a writing space/practice for me to record my cooking forays because I wasn’t really doing any specific food writing). These days I mostly do mention it, however, and it’s also linked on my clips site.

    I think for me it comes down to context: If I’m pitching a more home and garden or travel story I’ll probably overstate the blog (though it’s never hidden), because I’m not sure how relevant it is to that subject. But for food stories … definitely. I try to treat my blog as, yes, a writing and photography exercise, but I am also conscious potential editors may check it out down the line. I also think that these days that writers – freelancers or otherwise – are almost *expected* to have a blog; whether or not they highly promote in pitch letters is up to them, but it’s definitely worth a mention and/or link.

    • I don’t know if magazine editors expect writers to have a blog or care. They want to see your stories online, preferably at another publication’s website. They are probably more impressed to see links to other print publications where you have freelanced. That shows them that you already know how to write for a publication, vs. for a blog.

  18. Like Stephanie, I landed a job at our local alt-weekly — as a restaurant reviewer — because of my blog. The editor called me and hired me on the spot. Because of that exposure, I’m now the editor of a local, glossy shelter publication (an offshoot of our city mag). I now scan the local blogs looking for folks who can write for me. If you can write well, you can write about anything. And if you’re writing well on your blog, unedited, I want to talk to you.

    • All right Brandon! What a great success story. Nice to hear from an editor who respects bloggers and got his start that way.

  19. Interesting topic Dianne, as usual. Do you think that suggests that authors should also consider keeping their blog off of their author bio on book flaps and in press and publicity?

    • I don’t think so, Sarah. I always add my website URL. It’s at the end of my bio at the back of my book. ( I just had to get up from my desk and go look to make sure. Whew.)

  20. Great question! (And a good follow-up to the discussions about BHF.)

    Once I made the jump to freelance I made a very concerted effort to refer to myself as a writer. But I never really thought of myself as a blogger either. For the most part it was because I don’t like the word. Not any connotations, just the word itself. It isn’t a pretty or melodious word.

    And it begs a distinction too. Are you a writer who blogs or a blogger who writes? There is a difference in my mind. Many a blogger gets attention, even publicity, but it isn’t always because they write. But a good writer should be able to get and maintain steady work, regardless. Their blog can be a creative outlet, like a lawyer’s or teacher’s. Or it can be a promotional tool. But if you write for anyone but yourself and get paid for it, you are a writer in my books. Heck, even if you don’t get paid for it you might still call yourself one! There are a lot of unpublished novelists out there.

    • Good point, Cheryl. But I’m afraid many good writers are not able to get and maintain steady work. Sometimes there isn’t much call for their kind of writing, or sometimes they don’t know how to market themselves.

  21. Dianne, it is so difficult not to jump into these discussions as your posts are always so incredibly thought provoking! When I pitch myself or a story to an editor, I don’t simply say that I am a blogger or a writer. Through a brief introduction to myself I attempt to show that my writing is unique and consistent yet at the same time versatile. I want any editor to understand that without changing my voice or writing style I can take a subject and transform it from something very personal, emotional or nostalgic written for my own blog into something universal, food for discussion, aimed at a larger, more general readership, their readership. My blog, after all, is a showcase for my writing as much as what I write for an outside blog or publication. I hope I am not naïve, I am, after all, fairly new at the game.

  22. Interesting article.

    What I kept thinking of is how online media has radically changed the playing field for those seeking to be published, noticed, recognized, etc. Anyone and everyone is now a player, all in search of some kind of acceptance in one way or another whether they choose to admit it or not. Print is dying; unfortunately, and as a result we are driven to online media outlets to cover our hind ends and keep up with the latest trends.

    Anyone can sign on to Blogger, WordPress, etc and call themselves a writer. But what I look for with blogs is consistency. Is there a unique voice and consistent writing that makes me want to keep reading? As a new blogger I am still finding my voice. My blog is a mere 2.5 months old at the time of this post and there is much to learn and much room to grow.

    What sets anyone apart in my opinion is that consistency as well as the quality of writing. Having many followers does help but if you have 10,000 alleged followers and in reality only 100 read regularly, it becomes irrelevant in my eyes.

    Being established in print is useful and should command respect but as I mentioned earlier it’s dying a slow death. Longtime print writers are cornered into keeping up to date with their work and establishing oneself online has become crucial, if not mandatory. The key is to separate yourself from the wannabes (for lack of a better term) and casual bloggers.

    I think editors need to realize being a blogger is not a dirty thing. If you have established a blog with strong writing and keep to the intent of your blog (be it food writing or other topic) then it should not be viewed as a negative. Perhaps I am naive, but I am also 30 years old and in the generation that grew up with the internet.

    The world and technology is changing rapidly and it’s up to us as individuals to either keep up and stay current or fall behind in silent protest. If mentioning one’s blog works for them, great. If not, then omit. I’ll play devil’s advocate here and consider this a case by case basis. When it comes down to it it depends on who is interested, who wants to pay, and who wants to read.

    • But here’s the thing, Kim. When you write a query you either mention that you have a blog or you don’t. You make the case-by-case decision right there. You can’t wait to see how an editor will judge you. And right now, most editors will peg you as an amateur, or someone who is willing to work for less, if you say you have a blog. (Unless, of course, you’re a superstar blogger.) They’re probably looking for ways to pay less anyway, as their budgets have probably been cut.

  23. By the way, sorry for the essays on now three of your posts. I tend to be a bit wordy and opinionated.

  24. I think one factor to consider is whether you were a writer before becoming a blogger, or if you became a blogger to fulfill a writing passion – as a hobby or with the hopes it could become a second career. Before becoming a food blogger, I was a graphic designer and a translator. I had next to no experience writing, except for a personal travel blog (with a very limited audience) and the occasional copywriting I did for my clients (just to help out, really). Starting my food blog allowed me to show people I was serious about cooking and writing. It also confirmed that I really love to write: a blog can be a big commitment if you take it seriously. If you can’t keep up with it, chances are you won’t enjoy being a writer on deadlines.

    Starting my blog has been positive for my budding writing career. My audience is growing, I landed a recipe testing job and I was just published in print for the very first time. I followed your advice – approach local publications – to start gathering some clips and it worked! Thank you for that :). I’m far from making a living as a writer but I would be even farther if I didn’t have my blog.

    I don’t think published writers need to mention their blogs, unless it’s extremely successful, because their clips are what give them credibility. But for unpublished writers, a blog is a very good way to show what you can do. It really has helped me and I hope my luck will continue.

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