The note arrived this morning in my inbox from an editor I did not know. The email was, while nicely written, a form letter requesting that I write an article for his site. I usually find these guest blog requests flattering, so I am happy to explore the possibility. The multi-paragraph note clearly outlined in all the ways my article would benefit his site and his larger goals of building his global community. There were instructions for the way my article was to be written and he used words like partnership, collaboration, sharing and mutually beneficial to help inspire my pen.
Again, nothing wrong with the request. However, the big red flag came when I realized that the editor listed nothing mutually beneficial in his carefully crafted note. So I can only assume there is no benefit for me by helping write and/or promoting his site — and since this was a form letter, there is probably no benefit for any other writer either.
While I do recommend working for free or peanuts for the right opportunity. Unfortunately, this letter just came across as presumptuous without actually offering anything to the writer.
I understand that many of us are looking to get traction in the vast Internets and need help from others to get started. I know the request is nothing personal, just an oblivious hope that a writer will be desperate enough to write a story for free and not ask too many questions about the value of doing so. For the publishers and editors considering sending similar notes, here are a few details worth adding to request letters so writers can make informed decisions about whether or not they want take advantage of a new opportunity.
Let the writer know how many visitors your site gets and how many people are active in your community. Also consider offering Google PR details to help inform whether a link back is worth the time. However, in my experience, most sites do not get enough traffic to justify this as a genuine selling point.
Where is your site located. It is important for writers to get a sense stylistically of what your web site is all about — even if it is still in development.
How much do you pay writers? In the letter I have been discussing, pay was not offered.
Hyperbole is fun in theory, but unreasonable in practice. In plain English, what is the value of writing for your site and what is its main objective.
Other than being a new opportunity, how is writing for you beneficial to the writer.
I will craft a brief response to the editor thanking him for his generous offer and for considering me for his opportunity. I will include a short list of ways I could be of service and request what they can offer me in return. I will do this not to put the editor on the spot but to have the information on the table so I can make a decision based upon reality.
The photo is a free offer from a lady in Radang Island, Malaysia