We are sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience: Celebrating One Year On Epinions
Jun 21, 2001
Popular Products in BooksThe Bottom Line Looking back at one year of review-posting, I now have a better understanding of what to expect-- and what not to expect-- from time spent writing for Epinions
I only today realized that earlier this week my one-year Epinions anniversary came and went without notice. On June 14, 2000 I posted my first-ever piece on Eps, "It All Come Down To Livin' Fast Or Dyin' Slow," a review of Robert Earl Keen's "Gringo Honeymoon" album (1). Since that first post I've had fits of motivation where I was posting reviews at what I consider the blistering rate of one or more per week (!), but more often I've just sort of lounged around the site, sometimes reading stuff from people I know and trust, sometimes taking a wander around to see new folks and areas, and sometimes just wondering who in the world is actually reading the pure dreck that constitutes 95% of the content on this site.
One of the nicer things I've drawn from this year on Epinions has been a rejuvenation of my confidence as a writer. I've been writing professionally since the mid-80s when I was still in college, but in the past few years, as I've had to devote more and more time to tend our three young boys, I've had less and less time to do much writing. During this child-tending hiatus, I've felt my "game" slip away from me slightly. Just like any other activity, writing is something you have to practice. The more you do it, the better you get, and the better you get, the better it feels and the more you enjoy the overall experience. The main attraction of Epinions for me has always been the notion that here was a place where I could come and write-- write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted-- and possibly a make a few bucks along the way. In effect, to get paid to practice.
Epinions has given me a nice chance to bang on the keyboard and produce writing for consumption by (hopefully) intelligent people. I tend to ramble about all sorts of nonsense on a variety of online discussion boards-- this trivial bit of interaction with other "adults" is largely what keeps me sane during those days when my wife is sleeping all day and working all night and the bulk of my human contact is with the Happy Meal target demographic. Writing something that requires at least a pinch of thought and a dash of passion feels good, and Eps is a great place to get that feeling. Sure, the "pay" here stinks, but then, without Epinions, I'd very likely still be posting similar thoughts and ideas somewhere on some other online discussion board anyway, and in that scenario the same silly writing would net me NO pennies as opposed to the paltry few that I garner here (2). For me, any money from Eps is just gravy, since that's not why I post here in the first place.
Which is a good thing, because over the course of the past year the payouts have been decreasing consistently. Writing as I do almost exclusively in the low income area like "Music" and "Movies" and "What You Need To Know About Tex-Mex" (3), I understand and accept that I'll never see thousands of hits nor hundreds of dollars in Income Share for any one review. I'd love it if I could make decent money from the Epinions pieces, but I don't lose much sleep worrying about it either way. However, I talk to enough oldtimers here to know that it used to be possible to make a decent amount of money writing for Epinions-- enough basically to qualify as a part-time second job. There might still be a small handful of folks who continue to see significant income from their time and effort here-- I certainly don't know them nor talk to these people-- but the bottom line for me is that Epinions is not becoming any MORE economically enticing as a place to devote your efforts as a writer.
And that's a shame, because there are some truly gifted people writing on the site these days. I can't start naming names-- any such list would surely leave off lots of people who deserve mention-- but trust me when I tell you that it's possible to read writing here that compares favorably to the best writing you'll see in the best magazines and journals sold in this country. The ultimate tragedy, of course, is that these writers-- many of them almost totally ignored even within this community-- could easily be making hundreds or thousands of dollars by selling this very same writing to "legitimate" outlets. Epinions offers tremendously addictive "ego boost" in the form of direct immediate feedback from individual readers. Of course, I've always thought that there's a lot to be said for cash on the barrel head, too, but then I'm just a mercenary bastard at heart.
All of which explains why my attention has been turning more and more to "real" writing jobs. Now that I've reminded myself that I can in fact sling words pretty effectively when I so choose, I'm becoming more and more interested in writing pieces for consideration by magazines and publishers who value heartfelt writing as more than just a lure with which to draw eyeballs to their site. Epinions will likely survive in some form well into the future-- the basic idea is just too cool to kill, even for the folks in Brisbane who seem to be doing their absolute damnedest to muck it up-- but it seems pretty clear that Epinions will never offer much of a chance for a decent writer to make even a tiny percentage of what they might make by spending the same effort elsewhere. Just one magazine sale or editing contract is worth hundreds of dollars, while in this past year I've managed to make only enough to buy a pair of music CDs.
So don't expect me to be wallpapering Epinions with fresh content any time soon. It's still a fun diversion, and I continue to meet interesting people and make new friends through my time here, but it's just not a very cost-effective way for me to spend time turning thoughts into words. I'll still post stuff when the mood strikes, but I'm not interested in donating time to help strangers choose a better stove or pick a better car seat. My advice to writers here is simply to use Eps for what it is-- a free place to stretch and learn and try new things. Don't look at the site as a place to dazzle the world with your literary brilliance. If you have something truly meaningful to offer the world in your writing, then please go cast your pearls before a more appreciative and receptive class of swine. Similarly, if you are seriously interested in making money as a writer, this just ain't the place to be.
Unless, of course, you're satisfied with 34 cents per article.
Bottom line: always remember that while writing for Epinions, you are far better off to concentrate on the writing rather than the payout. If you are truly talented and dedicated, you'll know when it's time to stretch your wings and leave the nest for bigger and brighter things. 'Til then, keep reminding yourself that this is just a silly website, so have fun and don't take it much too seriously.
Oh, and at all costs avoid Amtrak (4).
Notes (Feel free to go fatten my coffers if you've not already done so. I thank you. My wife thanks you. My creditors thank you perhaps most of all.)