Why I Joined Tellus – and Why You Should
Right off the bat, I have to tell you that Abraham Penziner is a pseudonym.
I’m using a pseudonym, with the kind permission of Tellus executive editor Alan Milner, who hates pseudonyms, including his own, because I am a widely-published writer who wants to see if he – or she – can attract an audience -again – under a different name.
I wanted to try my hand at some different kinds of writing – things I wouldn’t ordinarily publish under my own name – because, as a well-known writer, I don’t want to jeopardize my own brand.
This has become a problem for some very popular writers, including some writers with two or three best-sellers under their belts, who have been told by their publishers that they would not publish manuscripts of theirs that might disappoint the expectations of their followings. My agent – and other writer’s agents – have told them the same thing: don’t rock the boat, baby. Write whatever you want, but don’t publish anything that might damage your brand under your own name.
This was the very reason that some very popular writers (back in their day) wrote under pseudonyms. Stephen King, most famously wrote under Richard Bachman. Donald E. Westlake wrote under the name Richard Stark. Earl Stanley Gardner, of Perry Mason fame, wrote under seven different pen names. Agatha Christie also published as Mary Westmacott. Ground breaking science fiction author Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton) chose her pen name to conceal the fact that she was a woman, back when science fiction was almost exclusively a boy’s club.
Perhaps the most famous examples of pen names, of course, belong to Samuel Langhorne Clemmons (Mark Twain) and Eric Arthur Blair who is better known as George Orwell.
The obvious trade-off between jeopardizing your brand and writing under a pseudonym is, of course, the unfortunate likelihood that your items published under your pen names might not sell as well as the same items published under your “brand name.”
This is another example of the problem that is plaguing the film industry right now – a critical shortage of new material – with producers preferring to back remakes, reboots, and further episodes of serials rather than investing in new and untried materials. Right now, Jurassic World and Oceans 8 are playing at a theater near you, long with the next installments in the Marvel comics franchise, and another Tom Cruise unlikely mission caper film arriving soon.
The film industry has lost literally billions of dollars in recent years backing one-off projects from major directors with bankable stars on board that have crashed and burned. It simply costs too much to take a flyer on an untested property. Better the devil you know….
But why Tellus?
After all, it’s an obscure little website without much traffic or, in fact, any traffic at all?
Let me ask you a question:
How much have you earned from your participation on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, Civil, and the other upstarts out there vying for your attention?
The answer is probably damned little. Yes, there are some people who are actually making a living on Facebook, and that living involves writing, but it also involves advertising, marketing, public relations, and it almost always earns money through the sale of a product or service….not for the writing itself.
If you want to be a marketing guru or a pitchman for some arcane product, have at it! There’s nothing wrong with magic an honest living selling stuff that people need to the people who need it. It is even all right to sell stuff that people want, whether or not they need the stuff, as long as it comes with a money back warranty.
However, if you’re a writer and you want to make money as a writer, there are damned few places left where you can do that. Sure, there’s big money to be made publishing books, for the two or three hundred writers who regularly write and publish profitable books. Okay, maybe the number is up to five hundred by now, but that’s it.
Forget about the megabucks. The average income for writers ranges between $36,000 and $48,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the average. It’s also below the poverty level for a family of four in many jurisdictions. In other words, writing falls somewhere between slave labor and indentured servitude on the salary scale.
You don’t write for the money because, if you do, you are either a mercenary (if you are successful at it) or a fool (if you aren’t).
You write to get things off your chest, to convince people of an opinion you cherish, to accumulate and distribute facts, solve puzzles, create conundrums, and entertain people.
As a writer, you’re an entertainer. If you lose sight of that fact, you will disappear into the obscurity faster than Nicholas Cage, Bruce Willis, or Steven Seagal.
So, why Tellus News Digest.
Well, for one thing, they promised to pay me in real money rather than bitcoin. No one else promises to share the wealth being generated by the content that you provide. No one except Tellus. They aren’t promising to pay a specific amount. They are promising to pay a percentage of the net profits equal to the number words I write each month multiplied by the word rate. The word rate is established by dividing the audited net profit each month by total number of words published each month.
Right now, however, they don’t have any money because they don’t have any traffic, and they don’t have any traffic because they don’t have enough people writing for them. Once they do, your social media following multiplied by the social media followings of the other writers on the site will create a powerful marketing mechanism that will attract readers – your readers, my readers, and the readers of the other writers on the website – which will generate the revenue they need to pay writers well enough to reach the national average.
Now, here’s the best part. You can publish anything you post on Tellus anywhere else: Facebook, Twitter, and maybe even Medium. In fact, that’s what they want you to do, because that’s what will draw your followers to their website.
That’s their goal, but I’m not going to help them much by writing under a pseudonym, so I will also be publishing stuff under my other pseudonyms, the ones you might actually recognize.
Think about it. What have you ever gotten from any social media site except exposure? What has that exposure done for you in dollars and cents. Some people have built careers off their exposure on sites like Open Salon but Facebook is too big, too diffuse, and frankly too authoritarian for my taste.
Hey, what do you have to lose? Try it.