Why writers shouldn't network on MySpace

By Katharine Swan On Monday, July 23, 2007 At 4:02 PM

A while back, I set up a "work" account on MySpace, with the idea that I could use it to network. Let me advise all the rest of you writers not to try to use MySpace to network.

Basically, you get a few different types of writing-related people on MySpace:

1) Editors who are running low-budget, short-lived magazines and want everything for free
2) Wannabe writers who just want to talk big about this or that book they are going to write someday
3) Authors (legit or otherwise) who are marketing their work, and really don't care about anyone else's

If you fall into the third group, that's probably the only way I can think MySpace might be even remotely useful for you. Theoretically, if you had a book you wanted to get the word out about, you could set up an account for it, and then send out mass friend requests, bulletins, etc. In other words, you could be that annoying person who everyone hates.

(As an aside, I got on the friends list of one author's book page. That was how I found out all the bulletins she was sending out were AP articles and other materials reprinted without permission. Talk about lazy and immoral!)

This post, however, is about the first type of person -- the editor who wants writers and other staff members to contribute out of sheer desperation to snag a byline.

Unfortunately, I am on a couple of magazines' friends lists, though not for long. This afternoon I received the following bulletin from one such magazine, looking for a new webmaster:

We need someone (does not matter where you are located) who is experienced and someone who has great references. We also need someone who can make changes to the magazine's site in a very short period of time. We're often called to post up banners, contests or links in a short amount of time. So, we need someone who is reliable and efficient!

After this paragraph, there is a very loooong paragraph describing all the qualifications they are looking for. I edited it out because otherwise no one would finish reading this post. After the long description, the paragraph ends by saying:

Nothing too major or nothing that will require a lot of hours. We just need someone from time to time that is reliable and can put things up right away when needed. We get a lot of people who need us to post up banners and contests within a day or so, that's the kind of work that is most important.

And, of course, the kicker:

Since our magazine is strictly on a volunteer basis, we are not able to pay for services. However, since our magazine revolves around celebs, we offer the opportunity to get your name out there in a wide field! Not only that, there are often many perks such as free DVDs, CDs, MP3 players, etc.!

In other words, this magazine wants you to be not only extremely qualified, but also have a schedule that allows you to be available to do their work at the drop of a hat... And they expect all this with nothing but "exposure" (the value of which is doubtful in a free startup magazine) and free grab bag prizes.

In my opinion, the scum-of-the-earth doesn't get any lower than "employers" who want expertise and your full attention in exchange for a byline and a few goodies. The fact that these publications make it so long (this one has been on my friends list for the past year) can only mean one thing: there is no shortage of writers naive enough to fall for it.

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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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