as a writer this pisses me off…

walt disney world for dummies 2005 written by michelle snowSo I get this message in my Facebook mailbox about a new application that I can add to my profile. It’s called iGo iWrite and basically it allows travelers to write about their trips and other travel experiences – like any of the other travel blog sites out there that are user driven – but with a twist. The creators of the application will compile the best posts into a book and publish it as a new and innovative series of guidebooks created by Facebook users.

Sounds great on the surface, doesn’t it?  But wait a minute. Let’s examine this closer.

You do the hard work of writing the story. You maybe even contribute photos. Then they publish it in a book.

But you don’t get paid for it. Nada, zip and zilch.

I joined the app just to make sure and here’s what it says:

“Will I get all the fame and glory?
Yes, you will a receive a byline for your work and will be credited for your participation in the world’s first published writing project conducted entirely on Facebook. In addition, your Facebook photo, or one you select, may accompany your published article.”

So you don’t get any pay. You don’t even get a free copy of the book.  You get nothing, but your name as author and “maybe” a photo of you, and in return, they make money off of your writing and hard work.

Don’t fall for this guys.  I know everyone who has ever blogged about their travels or read a guidebook has had dreams of their work being published. But you’re better off keeping your own travel blog and then using a service like lulu.com to self-publish than falling for a scam like this.

Unless, of course, you like getting nothing for something.

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Comments: 2

  1. zengrrl August 31, 2008 at 12:00 am

    I thank you for presenting your point of view, Paul, but while I actually like the idea behind iGo iWrite, it’s the part about where you make money off other people’s writing, while giving them nothing but a byline in return that is my issue.

    Too often, I see talented “true adventure seekers” as you put it, write brilliant pieces, only to be taken advantage of. And while I commend you for stating upfront that writers won’t get compensated beyond the byline, if you intend to package their work and make money off it, then they deserve further compensation. Even just a free copy of the book would be better than nothing. Otherwise, what’s the different between participating on your site and just doing a blog of their own and putting out their own book eventually, besides the fact that you stand to make money off their writing?

    If you do truly intend iGo iWrite to be a community project via Facebook, then shouldn’t the writers stand to reap when the rewards come in and not just put in the hard work of creating the content?

    My only concern is the writers are treated fairly. 🙂

  2. Paul Spicer August 28, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    You bring up some very important points, Michelle, and I thank you for your candor and your support for writers in general. As one of the creators of iGO iWRITE, as well as a freelance writer myself, I felt it important to share with you my perspective, motivation, and passion for this writing project.

    As you noted, writers at this time are not paid for involvement and we like to make that clear from the beginning so that everyone can decide if they’d like to participate in this collaborative writing experiment. In terms of what writers get out of their involvement, this has all been unfolding and evolving over the past few months as we launched our Beta version and solicited feedback. Some of the key highlights are free travel opportunities and trips to the top ranked writers, credit and a byline for all articles published, a copy of the book, and a soon to be released Ambassadors program with additional writer perks. We’re also striving to make the entire platform an online clearinghouse for writers, with links for resources, tips, and a writing forum. With that said, I’d like to kindly point out that the iGO IWRITE experiment represents in my view a homegrown effort, much like Facebook itself, that has never focused on monetizing the user experience. Instead, it was our goal to design, create, and self-fund a web application that could be used on the Facebook platform in an effort to encourage group writing and in the end, a user-generated series of books.

    While each of the iGO iWRITE founders have different backgrounds, it’s probably best to share with you a little bit about mine to fully understand why I helped create the iGO concept. Having written for numerous publications and published several books, I still very vividly remember the days in which I was building my portfolio and pitching stories to editors like mad. As you know, freelancing is a very solitary exercise and one in which you must have thick skin. In recent years, however, I have found social media as the ideal gathering grounds for writers like me, as evidence by popular sites as Suite 101 and blogs such as your own. It’s also interesting the rise in self publishing during this time, and how the playing field has been leveled of late in the publishing industry, much like that of independent record labels in the music industry. While I’ve personally been empowered by the improvements to a writer’s life due to the internet, I have served on a number of editorial boards and worked for print publications that have not embraced this change, in turn favoring the more traditional role of print media. As these publications have experienced a decrease in their readership, many struggle with shoestring budgets and how to capture audience attention in this new age. Having an equal background and affinity for both forms of media, it’s my opinion that one does not have to mutually exclusive from the other, and the best way to serve the reader in today’s environment is to offer a blending of both communication vehicles. In fact, I don’t think the internet hurts print media one bit – when used effectively it actually supports, complements, and breathes new life into print media.

    With all of that said, it has always been my goal with iGO to find a way to simultaneously support writers and publishers by using a new format, while blending a little of the old with a little of the new. Using the Facebook platform as the vehicle for such collaboration is in my view ideal, as it opens up the possibility of attracting both amateur and professional writers, and ultimately creates what I see as the modern day storyteller, someone who makes us of and appreciates both forms of media. I feel that this especially holds true for travel writing, as this is one of the most desired, yet challenging careers to tap. But, does this really have to be the case? I personally find that the very best travel reviews are those written by true adventure seekers, someone willing to stray that oh-so-beaten-path — not the paid professional writer. In this sense, the iGO iWRITE community represents a new way of writing — it’s a forum for anyone who simply likes to travel and write about their experience. Writers don’t have to be professionals, and they can write in any style or voice that fits the moment. As a community, the writers of all levels are then able to pick their favorite stories, provide feedback, and shape the direction of the collaborative book. In other words, it’s not a large publishing house calling the shots. In terms of what they get out of this, that’s all part of the ride, one that we’re taking together.

    Thanks for letting me explain, Michelle. Its letters and commentary like yours that help us shape the direction of the project. So thank you for sharing your thoughts with your readers, and for taking the time to let us know how we’re doing. Keep up the good work!

    All the best,
    Paul