Writers blocked

A while back I mentioned the “So You Want To Be a Writer?” ads, whose claims were a tad misleading. Rob Spence took ’em to the Advertising Standards Authority and won.






0 responses to “Writers blocked”

  1. Thing is though, it is possible to become a writer, making a decent living. But you start with a blog, not one of their courses.

  2. Excellent. Please can someone now report them to the apostrophe police?

  3. Gary

    Never mind that, we need to send the spelling troops to the Fizz music channel. It’s been invaded by illiterate texters. Text speak is bad enough at the best of times, but when people are abbreviating words they don’t know how to spell it’s even worse.

  4. Gary

    But you start with a blog, not one of their courses.

    Indeed. I think what bugs me about the ads for these kinds of courses – not necessarily the Bureau ones, there are a few firms do it and they all blend into one in my mind – is that testimonials tend to be of the “I got my book published by a vanity press” or “I’ve had three letters published in the Sunday Post” variety. Which of course you can do without spending any money on a course.

    You can make a decent living from writing, of course you can. But you can’t make a living from the wrong kind of writing, any more than I could ever make a living from my piss-poor photography. And particularly in this day and age when the pressures on paid writing work are more severe than ever – rates for Comment Is Free are getting the NUJ irate, for example, but at least CiF actually pays people – I think it’s unfair to say “do our course and make big cash” when, in most cases, you won’t.

    This makes sense in my head – employment agencies aren’t allowed to charge registration fees (with a few exceptions, such as stage agencies if I remember correctly) because otherwise they can exist by being in the charging-for-registration business, not the getting-people-work business. Why try to get people jobs if you can make a profit simply from registering every no-hoper in the city? And the creative industries – music, writing, whatever – are inhabited by firms who are in the getting people through the doors business, not the getting people work business. Do you reckon these courses ever turn away prospective clients by saying “actually, you know what? You can’t write for toffee, and no publication in the country would pay for your ideas even if you could write. Which you can’t. Please, don’t waste your time or your money.”

    These days the money’s in SEO, PR and viral sodding marketing, not in proper writing. For example, I was offered two jobs (by the same firm) recently. Job number one? Writing tech articles debunking bullshit. Job number two? Sock puppeteering, hanging around forums mentioning clients’ products. Job number one? Unpaid. Job number two? Rather well paid. (No, I didn’t take either. I’m not going to name the firm because it was a private conversation and I initiated it by replying to a “writers wanted” post).

  5. Hi again Gary, I’m really sorry but I’m going to have to mention my book here. It’s about freelance writing and warns people about the perils of opting for ‘training’ with these organisations that make such promises. I paid £50 for a “course” on writing for the internet when my kids were tiny and asked for my money back when I saw how much of it was on writing for free!

    The feedback I’ve got is that the tips included in the book make a refreshing change in that they are the testimony of a jobbing journalist, down to earth and straight talking.

    I have no axe to grind and I know two tutors from WB – one is an established journalist and author who is a friend who has given me excellent advice re copyright and contracts etc, the other is, if I were to be kind, what could be referred to as ‘eccentric’.

    It was precisely because of all the bollocks spouted about writing aimed at so-called hobby writers that I wanted to do my book – to tell them that there was no magic formula and that a bullshit detector was one of the key attributes of a working journalist/writer, along with a thick skin and ability to get on with people.

    I won’t drone on (ooh looks like I have already) but it saddens me that talented writers not only accept the low fees you mention but think that the ‘prestige’ of writing for certain publications will see them through – prestige doesn’t pay the bills. A phone call with a tip off to some papers/mags can earn you what 400+ words could. It also saddens me that those with so much talent can be the ones with the least confidence after bullying editors knock it out of them.

    Sorry, bit of a ramble there and I wanted to be in bed ages ago. Bugger.

  6. Spooky! Gary and Linda are posting from the future! The time on my new aluminium iMac is 23:54 on 7th November.

  7. What kind of crazy person actually checks the time-stamps on comments? Not me, that’s for sure. Definitely not. Ever. At all. Not even once.

  8. Gary

    Linda, plug away. I’ll actually buy a copy when I’m a bit more organised, and I’ll stick a review up here if you like.

    It was precisely because of all the bollocks spouted about writing aimed at so-called hobby writers that I wanted to do my book

    That’s why I did my first music book a few years back. A huge rant about pay to play, a particularly nasty facet of the music business that rips off starry-eyed pop kids, turned into a big article which in turn became a book. And of the three people who’ve read it, all of them read the advice and ignored it. Aaaagh.

    prestige doesn’t pay the bills

    Indeed. It’s definitely got worse since the internet came along, because it’s encouraging publications who *can* pay to try and avoid paying. Not just writing, either. It’s hellish for photographers now.

  9. Gary

    Gary and Linda are posting from the future!

    Hadn’t updated the blog for winter time. Should be fixed now.

  10. Thanks Gary. :)

    Hope you are getting some early nights now. I’ve been trying to get tips for a good night’s sleep when you have young children together through my blog after wittering on about how tough it can be. I really hope you can do much better than I ever did!