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To Fee, Or Not To Fee, That Is the Question

This post has been floating around in my brain for some time now along with the title – a direct nod to the playwright of all playwrights, William Shakespeare – however I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure if I could use the word “fee” in the syntax I needed to. Luckily for me, “fee” is also a transitive verb meaning, “to tip,” so it works well with the subject at hand, as you will read about right now.

What makes someone who writes, “A writer?” After all, we all write, do we not? We write emails to our co-workers and lunchbox notes to our kids. We write out Christmas cards to Nana Eleanor and we scribe letters to our neighbors asking them to politely stop letting their Pekingese/Dachshund/Bulldog mix poop in the kiddie pool. We write in heated response to conservative political Facebook posts and we write about mediocre celebrities in one-hundred-and-forty characters or less. We write. We write a lot. So why are we all not writers? Is it the same reason we’re all not chefs? And how much of that reason has to do with money?

A recent entry by my great friend and fellow jewelry blogger, Monica Stephenson, touched on this very topic which fueled my often internal debate about where I want to go with my skill. She wrote “There have been some discussions recently, online and in real life, amongst friends and colleagues who alternately lament–and applaud–this brave new era. Anyone with an internet connection and a publishing platform can say they are a writer. When everyone is a writer, it gives voice to original thoughts that might not have been heard from behind traditional gatekeepers. But when everyone is a writer, words can be cheap.” And yet it seems that even when the content is cheap, there are so-called writers being paid a hefty price for their opinions, which is what is known in the world of marketing and advertising, as the now often present “sponsored post.”

Let me be clear about one thing before I go any further: I do not write for a living, and I have not written a sponsored post for money. I write because I love to write. I write about jewelry because I know about jewelry, and, because I love to write. That doesn’t make me any better than the next writer, or blogger, or social media manager, or even tweeter, but it makes clear where I stand and what my opinions are about writing for money. I’d love to write for money as an editor or contributor for the trade, but I never want my opinions swayed by the almighty dollar. What I think about anything is mine right now. I own it. It belongs to me alone and should I wish to share it with the world I will, through either this blog, or one of my two personal blogs, knowing that when it is shared it is up for debate. You have a differing opinion? I want to know about it. I may even want to challenge you on yours because chances are I feel passionately and whole-heartedly about mine. And my opinion? Well, it’s pure, I can guarantee you that. It’s untouched by money. It’s as true as it gets. This is where I take issue with “sponsored posts.”

Just about every morning I go through a routine which I can imagine is similar to that of most of my blogger friends. I complete my motherly/wifely/humanly pre-coffee ritual before sitting down to the laptop to open my Gmail. There, as I’m sure a fair amount of you understand, is where I find the multitude of marketing emails letting me know about this new collection or that current brand. And man, I love it; I truly, truly do. I get giddy when I think that I’m taken seriously enough to make the lists of those looking for exposure. And I go through every last email – no joke – skimming all the images and reading every quote, and if something strikes my fancy, I file it away for potential future use. But too often between the “To Whom This May Concern” greetings and the “we hope to hear back from you” closings, are bodies filled with monetary offers willing me to say that I like their product and wear their product and believe in their product on my very public forums. While I’m no less flattered at these emails than I am of any of the others, I can honestly say that I’m ethically bothered by them. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the difference between us and them; the ones who do what we do because we believe in what we’re doing, and the ones who revel in the fame, exposure, and money of it all. Maybe, that’s really what makes us the real “writers.”

Recently, another good friend of mine, Monica Bielanko (yes, another blogger named Monica!), who writes for Babble.com among other well-known blog sites wrote a piece on her personal blog, The Girl Who, called, Liberation. In it she explains how she believes that personal blogging has gone M.I.A., and that (her words) “… all the sponsored shit infiltrated everything everywhere.” She continues to express how she believes that personal blogging is all but gone now: “Most of the good bloggers have gone totally sponsored and/or edit what they share to the point of boringness. I went that way for a bit. Shit, I have a couple sponsored posts on here that make me absolutely cringe in horror when I go back and read them. Me, half-heartedly trying to weave my love for Pillsbury into a personal post. Sorry about that. It is what it is. You need to make money to live and suddenly there are people telling you that you can get paid to do the same thing you’ve been doing for years for free and you’re like, why not?”

However, Monica goes on to give several reasons ‘why not,’ with one in particular that reached out from the screen and punched me in my face… You can’t write about what you want when you’re trying to be attractive to potential sponsors and my immediate response was no different from hers…

Yeah. Fuck that shit.

I like my writing. I like the rawness of it and the realness of it. I like digging deep into an emotion and coming up for air just before it suffocates me. I like offering my industry a human side because after all, who here doesn’t love a good F-bomb from time to time? And you know what? You like it, too. You know you can only read so many stories about twinkling facet-patterns and multi-colored stack rings. You know you only have so much patience for dogs wearing tiaras and antique rings from 1953. You know it’s true, and I know you know it’s true, and I’m making you a promise right here and right now that I’ll never, EVER, give you a story, or an opinion, or some bullshit anecdote because some multi-million-dollar company paid me to. What you see is what you get: fuck, shit, boobs, asshole, and all. If those words bother you, there’re a million other fashion/jewelry/style blogs to make up for the tiny void this one will leave in your life. They’re out there, waiting to give you everything that’s fake about this industry. They’re the college football player who dropped out his sophomore year to go pro because he was gonna get paid; who’s now endorsing everything from Reebok to Mountain Dew to Trojan Condoms and Chiquita Bananas (sold separately). Me? I’m the 340 pound player on the O-line that nobody thinks will last more than two years. No endorsements. No one knows my name. But you know what? I’ve got my degree in biochemistry to fall back on when the shit hits the fan, and when the money runs out for that guy, I’ll be content in knowing I played with heart. I’ll be happy as shit knowing that I did it for the love of the game; nothing less, and certainly nothing more because in my mind there is nothing more. No one will ever force my hand because what I think on my own deserves its own place in this business.

feeTHIS POST HAS BEEN SPONSORED BY ME. I paid for this post with years of English classes, hundreds of literary masterpieces read, and a dozen books on the appropriate use of grammar. I paid for it with the hyperbolic blood, sweat, and tears that every *real* writer feels, has felt, and will continue to as they put on paper that which is painful. I paid for it with the words of my friends, the faith of my colleagues, the envy of my enemies, and the honor that comes ONLY from being true to myself.

I am a blogger.

I am a dreamer.

I am a student.

I am a mother.

I am a jeweler.

I am a thinker.

I am a writer.

I AM A WRITER.

And what you’ve just read above is exactly what makes me one.

 

(Mic drop)

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13 thoughts on “To Fee, Or Not To Fee, That Is the Question

  1. Thank you for the honesty and the individuality. As I sit here on the other side of the equation, I ponder constantly WHY we should pay someone to spout/rehash our marketing messages. If our brands and products are not good enough, if our differentiation does not shout, if our integrity is not obvious…we are not doing our jobs and paying someone to pretend we are and give a stained testimonial is the same political propaganda we rail against daily in DC. Thank you. I am not paying anyone outside our associates to advocate our authenticity. Thank you sincerely.

    • Mark, hurrah! Agreed, and noted. I have mentioned many brands in the one-year history of this blog that I ONLY highlight because of how great I think they are. Making a suggestion is one thing. As metioned, I love receiving information about brands and sometimes it opens my eyes to brands I may not have known about before. If your product is good, is stylish, is current, and your company reputable, then the editorials and posts should come naturally and plentifully.

      • Honest commentary….pro or con….is genuinely appreciated. Hopefully it makes us better. We all need the reinforcement that outsider X-factor evaluation offers.

    • Kirsty Wareing says:

      Mark, I wholeheartedly agree. As someone who writes content in-house for a luxury jewelry brand, I often feel like I fall halfway between the two camps. I use my love for the written word to educate customers, but I cannot shy away from the marketing that’s also involved. Barbara – excellent post as always. This is what I read Adornmentality for, stay real.

  2. Nice one, honey. It’s a shame that we live in a written world where we all now have to clarify whether praise is real or fake. But that’s the world we have, and it’s important to raise consciousness among those who don’t understand why it matters. Brava.

  3. Everyone is selling something in this industry, so the voices–looking at you, Barbara–that ring out to the contrary always pique my interest. I write two blogs: one for Pricescope.com, which pays me to write about topics that I choose (a luxury, I know) and my own blog that is sponsored by me. There have been times on Pricescope when I’ve featured the site’s sponsors, mainly because they’ve donated a jewelry piece for one of our giveaways. But that’s a different deal, as the generosity is major on their part, and I’m promoting the giveaway, which benefits our consumer audience. And it’s my choice to do so. I have been approached to write promotional material for my personal blog, and I’ve ignored these offers. But again, I have the luxury of being able to do that, as I have a steady gig. I don’t fault people for wanting to monetize their blogs, but I do tune out sponsored posts.

    What I really WANT to see from indy bloggers are more opinions. Do we all really LOVE everything? Or do we only write about things we love and skip the negativity? Take the awards shows. They bore me to tears! Talk about sponsored! Celebs in jewels that they’re paid to wear? Who cares? But…like a good blogger, I will cover the shows, because based on my reader numbers, people want to see it. Maybe this year, I’ll add more of my opinions.

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