October 12, 2010

Blogging for free

Today I received a request from Woman's Day Magazine to write a short piece on why I blog about my cancer. Although I was flattered to be asked, I was frustrated that the request did not offer to compensate me in any way for my time. It felt that Woman's Day was taking advantage of me, a woman living with breast cancer. I think I did the right thing. 
Here is the letter:
Hi Jill, 
I hope you’re doing well! I’m working on a story for Woman'sDay.com  about Breast Cancer bloggers. I came across your blog and would love to include you in the piece.

I’m looking for a first person narrative (about 300-500 words) about your experience with breast cancer, and what blogging has added to your experience. I’d also love to know what sort of impact you’ve had on other breast cancer patients and the cause in general.
When it comes to tone, the more your personality shines through, the better. I’d love for your narrative to really evoke your own personality and give the readers and honest view of what you’re going through and have gone through.
Let me know if you’d be up for it! It would be ideal if you could have the narrative back to me by Thursday or Friday.
Thanks so much! I’m looking forward to working together.
Amanda Greene | Staff Writer/Editor 
1271 Avenue of the Americas, 42nd Floor • New York, NY 10020

Here's my response:

Amanda, thank you for your interest in my blog. I am currently in active chemotherapy and doubt I could meet your three day deadline. 
When it comes to for-profit ventures, I am happy to discuss appropriate compensation and other details. I do generously donate my time to a variety of breast cancer nonprofits.
If you want to continue this conversation, please feel free to be in touch.
I hope that Women's Day will find a way to cover women living with metastatic disease. Stage IV cancer is under-reported in the media and significantly under-funded when it comes to cancer research.
Take care,

And here is Amanda's response:

Hi Jill,
Thanks so much for your reply. I completely understand about not being able to make the deadline--it's quite a short one.
I agree--I think that there should be a lot more coverage in the media about women living with Stage IV cancer. It would make a good web piece for October and I plan to look into it.
Thanks again, and best of luck.


  1. Why should they compensate you? This is a very normal request from the publishing world. I see no reason that they should. I often write for a variety of places and never expect compensation.

  2. It is an odd quirk in the publishing world that because there are so many "hungry" writers out there willing to work for little or no pay to get established, this sort of thing is not at all uncommon. I am a breast cancer blogger and writer and would have jumped at the chance (in fact, pass my name along to Amanda!! ;-) ).

    She did at least seem to follow your suggestion on the mets-BC article. Let's hope she follows through.

  3. Anonymous8:41 PM

    Why should magazines get free labor for their publications? If you choose to blog for reasons other than $, fine, but a magazine solicitation for an article should be compensated like any other writing assignment. When you write for free, you undermine the ability of paid writers, freelancers in particular. They pitch or are solicited for stories - and while the pay isn't great for most, $0.25 - $1.00 per word would make this request worth $75 - $500 which would help pay some bills. Good for you to take the opportunity to try to educate the writer/editor and some fellow bloggers.

    The food blog community has similar problems - I love the recent story about the invite to come to Italy at their own expense (though they will be picked up at the airport and housed), develop a recipe, shop for it and prepare it for their 75 guests - because it would be good exposure!

  4. I disagree with Caroline. The magazine is a for profit enterprise, and the issues they cover are designed to entice people to buy their magazine. To make a profit. Why should they turn their profit yet not pay you for your contribution to that? Your letter was nicely written and it was polite.

  5. Amanda didn't say they wouldn't pay. Her reply focused on not being able to meet the deadline - which might have been more important to her.

  6. Kathleen10:33 PM

    It is a huge compliment that your blog was selected for inclusion, given that there are many of us blogging about our cancer experiences. Dancing with Cancer is beautifully written, and one of my favorites because it always celebrates your life first; you are someone really interesting who also happens to have cancer!

    I agree with those who are mindful that the magazine is a for profit business and should compensate its writers. If the writer wanted to interview you and then write the story herself, that would be very different. But she asked you to write a short piece. I don't think she was trying to take advantage, there is very little profit margin in magazines these days, but on principal, I agree with your decision.