Wednesday, June 3, 2009

VERY LONG POST: Why It Sucks to be a Writer


The other day, I got a note from an editor telling me that a book proposal I thought was long dead was actually being accepted. Good news, right? Wrong. Because they offered me $6000 for 40,000 words plus a bunch of photo research. I declined. It was not the smallest amount I’d ever been offered, but it was the latest in a series of last straws.

Last week, I wrote a column for the Austinist that my editors declined to run. I am sad they made this choice, though we did talk through it some and I know some reasons they declined and I also know they are willing to sit down at the table and go over other reasons more thoroughly. That said—and despite the fact I know that the column has more than a hint of supreme bitchiness to it—I am going to publish a slightly revised version here.

It’s long and if you don’t make a living as a writer (or, I should say, if you aren’t one of those people desperately trying to continue to make a living as a writer) it will likely be of little interest to you. However, if you know other writers, I am asking you to please point them to this post. I’m really curious to here, via comments, the many ways writers are getting screwed these days. And so, here ya go:


Some days, my work is way easier than I deserve. I’d been mulling writing about how much it sucks—financially—to be a writer these days when a brilliant black illustration of my point fell into my lap. We’ll get to that in a bit, but first let’s look at the bigger picture.

The Internet is such a curious beast—it has, in some senses leveled the playing field for people who like to write. Anyone can be published in an instant. But anyone with an interest in being paid for writing also knows that with the advent of the Internet has come a huge decrease in the ability to make a living as a writer. Newspapers and magazines are folding everywhere. Internet ads generate far fewer dollars than print ads. And as a result, those of us who used to get paid upwards of $2 per word are now lucky if we can pay the mortgage.

Having been in this game for over twenty-five years, I’m beyond well-versed in the necessity of the Hustle, the constant pitches, the articles written sometimes lovingly, sometimes fluffily, often in haste, and nearly always altered by some editor that has his/her own ideas of how it “should” be. If you want to make it at this game, you suck it up.

So whatever bellyaching I’m about to indulge in here, let the record reflect that I’m not an idiot. Years ago, a writer friend said to me words that have echoed ever since: Writing is a privilege. It certainly is. To be paid anything at all for what has been my passion since I was at least eight is just icing on the cake. To have had not one but five books published, though in total these have paid far less than a full year’s income, has been like hitting the jackpot anyway—because, by applause, how many of you can say you’ve realized your childhood dream?


Excepting a few lucky years when I actually did generate enough dough through my craft to survive, I have always had to find creative ways to support my habit. Waitressing, bartending, dog sitting, nannying—I’ve done all these things and more just to be able to keep on typing. These days, I perform upwards of forty weddings per year to hang onto the house and that, I must say, was a tremendously fortunate career stumble as it allows me to spend my weekends driving around the Hill Country, mingling with very happy people and, if I want, eating great food. I also head up camps and workshops, which are at least related to writing.

And this week, with my tongue only partly touching my cheek, I have decided to unleash my latest endeavor to stay afloat. In a mash-up between public radio fund drives and Medieval patron-of-the-arts sponsorship, from here on out I am offering you all an amazing pay-what-you-can opportunity!! Call me a whore if you must (and who among us is not a whore, I ask you cubicle jockeys) but I am now offering a plug-for-donations scheme.

You’ll see I’ve added a donate button to this site. In exchange for a donation, I will mention you right here in my blog. Depending on the level of donation, I will provide anything from product placement (a picture of me and/or my dogs happily displaying whatever it is your company peddles) to birthday greetings for your grandmother or other beloved. Substantial contributions will allow you to negotiate—I will even entertain writing an entirely worshipful entry all about you, you, you if the price is right.

Because, for now, at least until the Internet thing settles down a little, people like me, if we want to keep earning at least part of our living with words, are going to have to take matters into our own hands. We’re not going to get cash from the sources of old—publications—because they just don’t have it.

Which brings me to the point illustrated I mentioned at the beginning. Despite the futility of the exercise, I continue to be on the lookout for paid writing gigs. Toward this end, on really slow days I’ll stoop so low as to peruse Craigslist for gigs, where I typically find “offers” to get paid $2 for a 300 word blog post—and that’s the good news. There are other “offers” of nothing more than “exposure.” Honey? If I want exposure, I’ll hop up on the bar and take my shirt off, thank you very much.

A while back, I did see an ad that caught my attention. Trilogy, that local giant, announced they were starting up an online newspaper and needed an editor in chief. It’s a job I was semi-qualified for but not at all interested in as, I figured, it would be a forty-hour desk gig at the very least. No thanks. I did, however, send in my resume hoping for a position—consultant, columnist, reporter. No response.

Then, the other day, I received a tip that the Trilogy project, known as the Austin Post, had selected an editor and was now looking for writers. I eagerly sent a note to this editor, Lyssa Myska Allen, outlining my credentials: twenty-six years of experience, five books published, national magazine pieces, column in the Dallas Morning News, commentary for KUT, yadda yadda yadda.

Lyssa sent back an exclamation point riddled response (that should’ve been my first clue to something amiss) saying sure I could write for the Austin Post!!! In part, she wrote:

Basically, you can write about whatever you want whenever you want, we're going to let the community reading the Austin Post decide what's good or not! Of course, I will have some oversight as the Editor in Chief, but for a seasoned writer like you I wouldn't expect much oversight would be needed.

She included an attachment with more information, including the following:

The newspaper business is going through a period of wrenching transformation. Over the last 3 years, total newspaper revenues have fallen over $20B, and industry icons such as the Rocky Mountain News have folded. An Austin-based VC is funding a new venture to reinvent the local newspaper business for the Internet age. Dubbed “Newspaper 2.0”, these local papers will combine great content with a modern, real-time, and interactive consumer experience - with a cost structure that works in the new economics of the online world.

Turns out that the “new economics” translates to “no pay for writers.” Though they do offer, in a very Tom Sawyer gets you to paint the fence sort of way: Exposure! Traffic to Your Site! Visibility and Brand Affiliation!

Oh boy! Really?!!! How soon can I bend over my keyboard and take it up the ass for another no-pay website?!!

And how soon will the promised exposure net me invitations from still more websites willing to not pay me for my writing in exchange for still more exposure?

Before I go on with my exchange with Lyssa, full disclosure: In fact, I do not get paid for the weekly installment I write at the Austinist. Well, I don’t get paid in cash. I do get those very things—exposure and traffic—that Trilogy is promising but I also get something bigger. On the warm fuzzy side, I get to be part of an actual community of writers and editors that joined forces to put this site together to be of genuine service to Austinites. Unlike, say, Lyssa (whose salary, I confess, I am quite curious about), we all pitch in and none of us are making anything outside of events tickets and some cross marketing. That is, we’re all here voluntarily and no one is exploiting anyone else.

I find it hard to believe that Trilogy is merely undertaking their venture as a similar community service. I did ask Lyssa for an interview to discuss just what it is they are aiming for. Here’s what she said:

I'd love to meet you for a drink or coffee and talk state-of-the-industry. Off the record, naturally. Let me know if you'd be up for it.

I explained to Lyssa that not only do I not do “off-the-record,” but even if I did, considering I have to work seven days a week, I wouldn’t have time. Though I must admit, “off-the-record” being code speak for “stuff I’m not supposed to say,” I was fleetingly curious what she had in mind for our conversation.

Lyssa wrote again saying, in part:
I didn't mean to offend you by asking to be off the record, I simply meant to suggest that we could meet as colleagues rather than me representing Trilogy and the Austin Post. I fully understand the writer's plight--I've done time as a full-time freelancer, and as a magazine editor have fought for higher rates for my writers. Austin Post, however, is a different sort of endeavor, a non-profit built to serve a community.

Admittedly, this chapped me. You see, I’d googled Lyssa to see just what her qualifications were. In a town crawling with writing and editing talent, what did she have to catapult her to an Editor in Chief position overseeing “the best local writers in Austin”? (Which, can I just say—“local writers in Austin” is directly from the Department of Redundancy Department?)

Lyssa has a website: http://www.lyssawrites.com/home.html , a couple of years experience writing for local rags, and a degree from Rice, procured in 2006 in history and religious studies. Oh, there you go. So, okay, I got snippy with her pointing out:

…if, in fact, you graduated less than three years ago without a journalism degree, I would really question whether that counts as having "done time."

I also noted that the info sheet she sent me says: An Austin-based VC is funding [the] new venture. I asked her to clarify which the Austin Post is—non-profit, as she suggested, or VC endeavor, as the memo suggested.

She responded:
As for Austin Post, it is both: a VC-backed non-profit project.

Which to my ears sounds like a capitalist endeavor for its producers and editor and, sigh, a totally non-profit project for any writers foolish enough to hop on board.

Okay, enough bellyaching. Who do you want me to write a blog post about, people? And how much are you willing to pay me?

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lyssa is actually a really sweet person, but yeah the whole Austin Post thing really bugs me. Before she took on the position of editor I received an email from them telling them that I had been chosen to write for the site- when I emailed a few times asking for more details (i.e. what's in it for me), I just kept getting the same pdf sent to me with generic no detail bullshit. GRRRRRR....

Oliver said...

Spiker. I think I know who's behind this. Interesting and very vapid. Sorry for the bad taste in your mouth. With you in self-employed bliss...yO

Anonymous said...

Dear Spike,

Here is what I did with this problem...

But first a bit of background. I got into book writing kind of through a back door. I was all set to be a screenwriter after film school pumped me full of adrenaline to go out and get coffee for other screenwriters. When I got out I realized I didn't want to get coffee for other screenwriters. I wanted to be a screenwriter. But they didn't teach me how to go and do that "go be a" part. So I headed back to Austin in 1997 and started a theater company where I could produce my own stuff. That led to me calling Werner Herzog and asking him if I could stage one of his movies. That led to Flack Francis from the Pixies agreeing to have dinner with me. That led to me asking him if I could write a play about his life, which led to me getting his blessing. Which led to me realizing I'd never make a dine even if it did make it to the stage. So I called an old friend and asked who the best rock book publisher was in the USA. She said Vigliano Associates who had just published both the Popes book and Kurt Cobains. Sounded legit to me. So I called them and told them I could write a book on the Pixies and the editor who I got on the phone was a big fan. The next day I had a book deal and now I'm on book #3. I've never been in the news biz, articles, wouldn't know where to begin, but I can deliver a damn fine book. Oh, and besides the nice big publisher advances that are gone by the day the book is published so there is no money to be able to afford a flight to my own book release, It's been pretty awesome being a writer. However, after Kurt Vonnegut's family tapped me to write his biography 9 months ago and Random House bought it for half a million dollars, and then a day before I was to pick up my big check, the family despite the solid contract in place pulled out, causing Random House to tear up the check, I thought it was time for a back up plan, finally. It had been awesome, but counting on writing alone for food and lodging, was getting to be a fools errand. It was then that I went onto Austin Craigslist and bought a vintage 1964 airstream and a 1956 teardrop shasta and spent the next 4 months in the back yard turning them into stores. I even built a writing desk in the teardrop. It's now been 7 months with my airstream boutique on south first and its little sister teardrop treat trailer and even in this economy, I might not be rich but I'm paying rent, meeting new people, and have plenty of time to write during the slow parts of the day. I think what ended up happening is I realized that in order to survive in Austin as a writer as I wanted to, I needed to tap into not what it had to offer me, but what I had to offer it. I don't think any writer should join Austin Post type things that claim to be bringing a new tool to Austin writers blada blada blada. The same lingo they pitch to the investors to show how all the money will be returned. No, I urge you to buy a trailer, open a store, and put your writing desk in it. That way you get paid to write all day long. Maybe it's not your solution, but it was mine and I guess I am saying that there must be more. That’s what is great about Austin, it is one of the few cities in the US of A where you don’t hear “You can’t do it that way” at every turn, and if you do hear it, we have a knack for not listening.

I’ve always been a fan of you as an Austin staple and I hear what your sayin’ I’m with ya, sending good thoughts… from my trailer.

Josh

Spike Gillespie said...

wow josh,
thanks for taking the time to post that. i had the dumb luck of stumbling into being a wedding officiant in 2006. you know the so-called three year rule about business-- these days i do maybe fifty weddings a year. the pay is great, the people are wonderful, and i am usually welcome to stay and eat really good food and hear music, too, if i want. and you are so right about austin being the place to make odd dreams come true. i also do writing camps, workshops now and then, and other sundry gigs to pay the bills. i truly truly believe writing is a privilege and that's what keeps me going. and if i am writing for free, if it truly is a community effort-- like the austinist-- then i feel beyond lucky to be a part of it. but i guess i'm getting a little cranky with increasing offers to write for free from folks who do want to make a profit from my work. i dream of a trailer-- maybe i'll go ahead and get one now. thanks again for the story.
spike

Debi Martin said...

Spike,

You are by far one of the best writers in this town. You know that. You should be compensated justly. And you are not alone in your pain.

I appreciate you letting it all out. I've seen those craigslist ads too.

I've been running a dialogue on and off on this topic on my FB page for more than year. After being laid off from yet another relatively stable blogging gig, I wrote on FB: "I can't compete with free," which is the going rate for writers on the internet.

I, too, used to make $2 a word -- at McCall's magazine. I got the journalism degree and did my time toiling full-time at the Statesman.

I've been angry and mad and in denial and sad.

And then I moved on, like you do when a love affair ends. It was good for a long time before it went sour.

I found aother love. A more reliable, mature love.

I used to freelance full time and teach part time. Now it's the other way around, and I am much saner.

I don't need all that excitement -- like you said, the pitches, the primadonna editors, blah blah blah -- I don't want to audition anymore. I'm an adult. A talented grown woman who has lived a lot and has a lot to give.

I love my students. So, I don't see my name in print as much anymore. I'm in it now for what I can pass on and give. I won't go quietly into the night but I will go gracefully and with more dignity than being a writer allows at this time.

The times seem to call for brazen entrepreneurial spirits who can afford to take financial risks. I did that when I was younger. It was fun. I lived a full and unusual life. But now I want something I can count on. My new love isn't always as unpredictable and wild but it's constant and firm.

I'm not such a risk taker anymore and I've decided that I'm not a sell out if I've decided I don't want to live the rest of my life that way. Stability can be an adventure for someone who never had much of it.

As they say on the internet FWIW for what it's worth).

My heart goes out to you. I'll keep showing up for the Chronicles as long as you present 'em.

Debi

Spirit Mascot said...

Damn straight, Spike. Thank you for putting words to the fiery fury that has been bouncing around in my own soul of late. I remain a dedicated amateur writer for this exact reason...I'm afraid I would focus my enlightened soul into a laser beam and aim it like a death ray at the first person who offered to compensate my talents with "exposure", as if I can cook that up and serve it to my family for dinner.

Meanwhile, the offeree is likely busy buying high end furnishings for their half million dollar, 800 square foot condo and complaining about the loud music that's infringing on their right to live downtown in the Live Music Capital of the World in peace and quiet.

Yep, it chaps my 48-year-old native Austin ass to listen to obvious capitalists talk about the fabulous reward of exposure they're offering YOU, while they monetize your blood, sweat and tears and greedily line their pockets and build their own extravagant lifestyles on it.

I stepped out of the workforce 15 months ago, in order to save my sanity from collapsing under the weight of this nasty virus. I'm now pretty close to broke, and will be going back to work soon. You can bet your ass that, as soon as I have money coming in again, you'll be writing something especially for me, and receiving real money, courtesy of a real person with a real heart and a real soul. That's the nature of a real Austinite, and is the ultimate litmus test that separates the real human from the wannabes who simply parrot what they see everyone else doing.

Thanks for being you, Spike. Austin needs you, perhaps more than you realize.

Spike Gillespie said...

Hey Spirit,
thanks. i just sent a note to debi saying i'm surprised at the strong response to this post. i guess i was waiting for comments suggesting i should quit whining. i am grateful for the commiseration, though bummed out so many of us are being screwed. i'm resigned to the notion that i will have to continue working at sundry other gigs to support my writing habit, which seems far too ingrained to ever totally give up. lately i'm contemplating using my knitting skills to knit up a nice walmart greeter vest so i'll prepared when it's time to apply for that job.
spike

Ana said...

Spike, I totally agree with the sentiments in your post. I too have gotten these offers from Austin Times and immediately disregarded them, for much the same reason as you.

I already have a pro-bono gig for INsite Magazine here in Austin that has much more of a community appeal to it. And it's an actual print publication (I refuse to believe print will die!) But that's a topic for another time.

I recently left a paid blogging gig because they kept reducing our pay to the point where it was very nearly unpaid. Yet the amount of Hustle required to keep the blog moving forward was increasing.

In all this mess the most important thing to do is keep sane. Though it's challenging at times, writers have to hang on and weather the storm. Eventually the writing/publishing ship will right itself.

Nicole said...

Spike - You are brilliant, thank you for your extreme realness, the realness that awards you as an amazing writer. Keep up the good work and I've got one word for you, Karma!

Nicole said...

Spike you are brilliant. Your candid style and realism are want award you as a fabulous writer. Keep up the amazing work and I have one word for you, Karma!

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Spike. Historically, writers have rarely had the luxury of making a good living from their work--the printing press and the spread of literacy made it possible for a few hundred years, but now the big publishing networks that allowed writing to be marketed and sold to mass audiences are being outflanked by the Internet. And the publishers, knowing their days are numbered, want to starve the writers first, in order to hang on to their shrinking profits as long as possible. It's like the big automakers screwing the unions while they continue to make outdated cars.

The same thing is happening in the music industry, which bloomed, flourished, and collapsed in less than a century. Artists, having an actual product that people value, will be the ones to survive. The models will have to shift, but at least we won't have to suck up to the nobility for patronage.

The way I've been treated as a freelancer makes me profoundly grateful that I didn't take your path. I trudged through multiple degrees and have an interesting and well-paying job with health insurance (!). I freelance on the side, and take PROFOUND satisfaction in being able to say to editors, "No, I can't make those changes you want, because the end date on my contract was two weeks ago, and you've changed the primary text I'm writing about in the interim. And if the project isn't satisfactory to you, then you can just return my manuscript and find somebody else to write the whole damn thing for you in 48 hours to meet your print deadline. Because you know what? I DON'T ACTUALLY NEED THE MONEY."

They HATE that--it's so clear they are used to dealing with completely cowed freelancers who are used to getting paid late, if at all, and providing endless re-writes. I wouldn't trade that leverage for anything.

With all the layoffs, the publishing industry has become reliant on the exploitation of freelancers to handle work that should be done by having one actual, salaried person tracking a project. As a freelancer, I've been asked to reconstruct Web projects that no one in the company remembered creating; document and reconcile multiple versions of a project left behind by various laid-off employees; and research competitors' products. All of these tasks, of course, unfold after the contract--for WRITING--has been signed. This is not a sustainable industry. I hate that its collapse is causing so much trauma to people like you who have had the guts to get in their with both fists. But the more writers say "No," the closer we get to being able to build something better.

- George

Kim Lane said...

Word, Spike. One very big reason why I love my job so much is that we will always pay our writers. Period. It ain't $2 a word, but for a local, niche, young publication swirling in this economy, it's pretty damned good. That makes me proud, and it gives me hope that readers and writers alike will continue to read and support us, partly based on that dedication.

Cheers to more editors and publications appreciating, and PAYING, Austin's writers and keeping their craft alive.

Kim Lane
Edible Austin

Spike Gillespie said...

I again want to say thank you to everyone for all the comments here, the stories shared, and the support. I think I was feeling a little bit alone-- not as in the dreaded "terminal uniqueness" sense but just that maybe i was going to catch hell for complaining, that maybe I was the only one feeling *so* bad about the current state of writing for pay. What's happening is a sad state of affairs. And somewhere in there Dolly Parton's quote-- "I had to get rich before I could sing like I was poor again"-- comes to mind. The acknowledgement that we are most creatively free when we don't have to worry about money has taken a perverse turn here-- with less and less money coming in for my writing, I'm free to write whatever I want (and to sing that other verse-- "freedom is just another word...") I feel beyond ridiculously lucky to have a regular place to write (the austinist) even though that doesn't pay cash. I feel ridiculously lucky to have people who are willing to read and respond to the writing. And I am so grateful I fell into the wedding business. I remain sorry for all of the writers being exploited. And, for the moment, I will continue to focus my irritation specifically at the Austin Post, though of course there are countless other places exploiting writers. I've been checking out austinpost.org to see just what they are publishing that they consider to be the work of "the best writers in austin" and "ugh" is about all i can say for now. I wish us all good luck in finding some sustainable work that also allows us time to write what we want. And Kim? Thank you for ALWAYS finding a way to pay me, not just with Edible Austin, but way back with AustinMama. And George-- I just love love love that you have been able to say "no" to editors. So thanks again everyone.

Anonymous said...

This is pretty much the epitome of it - a local publication that will be completely generated and voted on by the readers: http://dev.beinseen.com/

Anonymous said...

You make a lot of great points, Spike. But one thing I have to disagree with: I really, really like exclamation points. They suggest the enthusiasm and optimism of youth. As opposed to, say, the bitterness and cynicism of old age.

The Native said...

Thanks for doing the fancy footwork on that Trilogy thing, Spike. I saw that same posting and almost sent in my resume, too. In fact, I found your post tonight, because I am cleaning out my mailbox and my cover letter was stuck in my Drafts folder.

How predictable, how boring, and how, well, redundant, I suppose... One of these days writing will make a comeback, I think. First, a million terrible little ventures like this one must fail.

The truly insulting thing is that it takes next to nothing to pay us, compared with ad revenues. Silly to short the cheapest part of the venture.

Anyway, I'm just glad to have the whole thing run to ground. And of COURSE it's headed up by a co-ed named Lyssa. I mean, just, of course.

-- KVS

Joe said...

Great post.
Doubly interesting to me, since I struggle weekly in the mud-pits of rural journalism (yes, such exists) near Austin, and I have a talented son, living in Austin, who wants to be a writer.
I think you're right in dissing Lyssa, but could I make a suggestion?
Why not join forces with some of your fellow craftspeople and form your own e-venue -- a sort of Wheatsville Coop for freelancers -- where you own the trumpet, build (and serve) the community, and provide not only "exposure" but "compensation" to those who participate?
You, and your fellows, do control the means of production, after all.
Cheers, and thanks for the great post.

Anonymous said...

Spike,

As another veteran writer, I think your irritation is completely justified. I have little patience for these newbies who get hired as cheap editors. Thanks to their title, they act like sage veterans, based on the music briefs they wrote for their community newspaper. Most are talentless hacks who are killing time on their way to mediocre careers in p.r.

Beyond our grumpiness, this is a huge issue for the industry. Publishers with financial backing put these wannabes into key roles, only to discover too late that they have no skills and no creative drive. It's one of several reasons so many publications fail.

--Kevin B.

dan solomon said...

I found this one in the comments section of Austin Post, which I just now heard of because I was thinking of seeing what they were all about at the Belmont party tonight. I'm glad I can be use the time productively and playing video games instead, rather than wasting time being tempted with offers to join "the best writers in town" who are desperate for exposure.

Yeah, it's bullshit. The thing that drives me nuts are the pro and semi-pro writers - I noticed a few familiar local names on the site - who are so bedazzled with the idea of getting in with the new media they've heard so much about that they go quisling. I'm really not sure what the appeal is for them, unless they're hoping there are some scraps to come in the future. But generally speaking, scabbing yourself out isn't a means to a sustainable career.

Anyway, frustration abounds. Thanks again for talking about it.

--d

Spike Gillespie said...

Thanks Dan,
You know, I looked again at Austin Post and notice at least one Austin Realtor trying to pass what is nothing more than advertising for his business as "legitimate content." It is such a fuckload of shit I don't even know where to begin. "ooohh!! I'm Lyssa!!!! and i'm going to let the PEOPLE pick what's real news!!!" i feel really sorry for her, being hired on as the mouthpiece for so much horseshit, and buying the horseshit. reminds me of the bush admin and how they would pull all those media stunts re: Iraq. Anyway, I give them three months before they fold. eeejits.
s

JMHusted said...

Huh. I cannot find the Austin Post. Or, for that matter, Lyssawrites.com.

JMHusted said...

Do you know where the Austin Post went? Was hoping to read it myself, but I can't find it. Or Lyssawrites.com.

Spike Gillespie said...

http://www.austinpost.org/

http://thisislifeinaustin.com/

JMHusted said...

Oh. Huh. Looks awful.

So, thank you, Spike, for sharing with us your wonderful words and passionate heart. We are the richer for your writing and I hope that sooner rather than later you are too.

indigo warrior said...

This is what no one ever says or wants anyone to know - non-profit and not making a profit are not the same. Non-profit simply means that the money doesn't go to an individuals or individuals that own the company or organization, the money goes back into the organization. So you can give your favorite non-profit a donation and then 90% of that donation can go into the pockets of the people who run it. Always ask where the money goes before investing your time or money. How much is going to the board (there's always a board), how much to the staff, how much to other operating costs? All of this information should be publicly available to anyone that feels a need to know. So just ask for a report.

Nigel said...

Coming at this from a different POV it's hard to see what the point of the Austin Post is for the reader (or potential advertiser - I assume it's meant to make money at some point). There doesn't seem to be any real "writing" in it, nothing that would make me want to bookmark it if I'd stumbled across it. It's all filler, regurgitated news items from elsewhere or chunks of barely disguised Boosterism that would be more at home in the real estate, employment agency and entrepreneurial blogs they no doubt originated in.

There's nothing evil about it, however. It's just not what it claims to be - it's a sort of blog aggregator for fluff and stuff no one's ever been paid for regardless of the medium. There are thousands out there already, giving hobbyist writers a little thrill to see their name attached to something.

Freida Bee, MD said...

Suddenly, I'm in the mood to brush my teeth.

I've been a silent reader for a time, and just want to say that to us masturbatory bloggers and just discovering the cent-a-word-gig realists, you are a rock star.

"The Austinist doesn't know what it missed out on." (Sorry, that was my grandmother talking.)

Juleep said...

Oh my, Spike. Did you really compare Lyssa to GW Bush? I get your frustration but aren't you being a little melodramatic here? The personal attacks mostly made by your commenters, but encouraged by you, are in poor taste. There is no need to make fun of Lyssa's name or refer to her as a co-ed and insinuate she is a bimbo.

Spike Gillespie said...

No, I did not compare Lyssa to Bush-- sorry if that's how the comment read. What I was referring to was that, ala "Mission Accomplished" and other media campaigns, the Bush administration perpetually tried to make people believe one thing when it was the opposite of the truth. I am saying that the marketing of Austin Post is suggesting it is a newspaper, or alternative newspaper, and-- at least the current model-- is decidedly NOT. At no point did I make fun of Lyssa's name. And it is not a *personal* attack to question the credentials of Lyssa. If they are saying they are publishing the BEST WRITERS IN AUSTIN, which is a lie, then someone needs to call them on this. Lyssa is in a public role, being presented (by herself and her employer) of being capable of editing the BEST WRITERS IN AUSTIN. Given her tactics (lurking on writers groups fishing for free content providers), posting poorly edited pieces at the site, etc, then it is perfectly acceptable to question her qualifications. If I said she was too tall or too short or too whatever, THAT would be a personal attack. I am saying that her professional qualifications are very very limited and, in a town where so many experience writers and editors are losing their jobs, it is a total insult to... wait, I already wrote all this.

Gina Vivinetto said...

Amen, brother.

Anonymous said...

I actually interviewed for the editor in chief position for the Austin Times. It was a huge flashback to the dot-com boom, except without the money. The interviewer described what was basically a mashup of blogs, and I said, "Nah, that won't work." My favorite interview question: "Tell me about your personal branding." I guess laughing was the wrong answer. After the interview, I did a little more searching and found an earlier Craigslist posting for the same job, except it was called "Content Acquisition Specialist" instead of Editor in Chief. It's all about the branding. Don't blame Lyssa, though. She's just trying to pay the bills too.

Christie said...

I discovered your blog through a comment posted on AustinPost.org on the welcome writers page.

It is ironic that you would say that you don't need the exposure, and yet, you would post a link to your blog in your comment at Austin Post.

Certainly, your blog is about your thoughts and observations, however, it seems unprofessoinal to take emails from Lyssa and use them (without her consent, I assume) as part of a diatribe about your profession and to repudiate her qualifications.

It is possible that there might be writers who would like the exposure and this might be the perfect vehicle for them. It would be their choice whether unpaid commentary is worth their time and if it would assist their individual brand.

I don't know all the people at Trilogy, and maybe they aren't publishing experts, but they must have business acumen, so I am interested to see how Austin Post grows and develops. We might find the vision is more than what the rest of us see now.

Spike Gillespie said...

Christie,
I made no secret, when writing to Lyssa, that I am a journalist. I was not conducting a private email exchange with her-- i asked her for information about the business model. My hunch is that you are tight with Lyssa and attempting to get exposure at *my* website to defend her. What's up with that? As for posting a link at the Austin Post-- it is a public forum and, just as writers post whatever the fuck they want over there, I can post whatever the fuck I want. That's the danger and the beauty of the internet. If a "business" exists to exploit writers, and if I am feeling the pain and fallout of that, I feel duty bound to let others know what's going on. Feel free to share this response with whomever you like. Unlike Lyssa, I don't live "off the record."

Spike Gillespie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.