Top Five Writer Misconceptions about Online Publishing

I’ve run into many writers recently who are under the impression that online publishing is the same thing as print publishing. You publish on the web — no one else would “dare” pick up your article or content — and readers will flock to your article or blog post because of your reputation as a writer.

Misconceptions about online publishing form because many writers have years of experience with print media, which is more static than the ever-changing world of online publishing. In the world of print publishing, writers typically have more control over content and often benefit from built-in circulations for whatever print media they are going with. Since print publishing is more static than online publishing, and if writers aren’t familiar with how online publishing works — they can often end up with hurt feelings and huge misconceptions about how a publisher, blogger or reader feels about their work.

Top 5 Writer’s Misconceptions about Online Publishing

Here’s a list of my top five writer’s misconceptions about online publishing:

    Misconception #1: If I publish an article on the web, people will read it regardless of where it’s located. Oh, how I wish this were true. One of the drawbacks to online publishing, is that there is a whole, giant library accessible to readers that they can read through in the blink of an eye. If they’re reading chances are they probably read Writer’s Weekly, too. If you want people to read your online article — unless it’s on a site with a large, built-in readership — you’ll have to do some word-of-mouth legwork and promote your stuff. This misconception is especially true with writers who start a blog, but then don’t bother to promote it anywhere else and neglect to track their traffic with a web analytics package.

    Misconception #2: My article will only be found on the site where I published it. One of the ways to attain readers, is to encourage readers to have an RSS feed. A “really simple syndication” feed allows your “content” to be fed to other blogs, websites and publications — for the sole purpose of exposing your article to other audiences that may not normally visit the site where the article is hosted. Is this a violation of copyright? Nope. It’s simply a way of “feeding” your content, which is still hosted and cited on the original domain, to other sites.

    I should mention that there are spammers and content scrapers that will take a portion of your content. There are ways to track that content down and then report them to the search engines for investigation. One way to find them is to set up a Google Alert to monitor your name (which is something you should do anyway), or use the tools accessible in your blogging platform.

    Misconception #3: People need my permission to grab my RSS feed. First? Read this RSS feed tutorial. You’ll be glad you did. Second, have you checked to see whether or not you explicitly spelled out how people can use your feed? Third, are you providing a full version of your content through your feed or a summary? Have you indicated what your rights are in the feed settings?

    A tricky misconception to have, the truth about RSS feeds and copyright is that it is still under debate. Here’s why the debate over RSS feeds and copyright is still going on — an RSS feed is there for people to syndicate your content, pointing back to your site, ensuring you still have the credit. It’s akin to someone mailing a newspaper clipping of your article to their friend in Boston, who shows it to ten of their friends. Except on a larger scale. Still, that doesn’t mean there are still issues over “fair use” and RSS Feeds, which do happen because of the way technology works. However, the steps I listed above are there to protect you — I strongly suggest you look at your RSS feed closely and use a tool like feedburner.

    Misconception #4: I can write the same way for the web, as I do for print. Writing used to be all about engaging the reader; what combination of words and descriptions can I use to draw the reader into my article? For those of you with a newspaper background, you might remember the “triangle” methodology where the article begins with a few, blunt statements and gradually gets more and more descriptive as the article goes on. Writing for the web is still about engaging readers — but it’s also about organic search.

    It may seem like copywriting has gotten more bland, but it really hasn’t — it’s evolved. In addition to writing the article, writers now have to keep in mind how an RSS feed headline might show up in other places; we’ve also had to infuse the work with more active tenses and keywords. Keywords that the reader will hone in on and the search engines will recognize. In many cases, we’ve had to shorten our articles, too, breaking them up into smaller series to get more exposure and help readers digest the themes.

    Misconception #5: Only reputable blogs and websites pay writers for their contributions. I wish I had a dollar every time I heard a writer say this. It is very difficult to monetize a blog or a website — even with a decent amount of traffic — because finding the balance between advertising and spending efforts on great content is challenging for any website owner. Couple that with how Creative Commons has changed how content is viewed on the web, and you’ll find many spammers and scams taking advantage of writers who have this fundamental belief that they should get paid for everything they write.

    There are ways to get paid for blogging (which is the most common form of writing for the web), typically on a pay-per-post basis. There are sites that pay you to blog, that I haven’t had the chance to fully check out, some of which charge $10 to $15 per post. Several newspapers and other articles might buy your work to publish in “both” their print version and their online version, so that is another way around it. Additionally, there are eCommerce sites that will hire freelancers to write copy specific to search engine optimization (just ask SEO Specialist Tim Gill).

    When checking the reputation of the online community, website or blog that you’re posting in — don’t be afraid to do some Google searches of your own to make your assessment of whether or not your efforts are worth it. Having an article show up on a site that receives a decent amount of traffic and has been around for a while can be good for you. Additionally, remember you don’t ever have to disclose how much (or how little) you get paid for an assignment, so if the publication is good? Add it to your resume.

Do you agree? Disagree? What are your experiences with writers who misunderstand how online publishing works?

One Response to Top Five Writer Misconceptions about Online Publishing

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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