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Ep 8 Meet Kate Garklavs, editorial analyst at Scripted.com

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In Episode 8 of So you want to be a writer we talk about Puberty Blues, why journalists should use twitter when fired, the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Shortlist, the 2014 NSW Premier's Literary Awards Shortlist, The Guardian's Self-Published Book of the Month Competition, Bob Carr's diva demands, the ideal length of everything online, plotting vs. pantsing, our Writer in Residence Scripted.com and more!

Click play below to listen to the podcast. You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher Radio. Or add the podcast RSS feed manually to your favourite podcast app.

Show Notes

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Why journalists should use Twitter: When you’re fired, it helps with encouragement and actual job prospects
http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/why-journalists-should-use-twitter-when-youre-fired-it-helps-with-encouragement-and-actual-job-prospects/

The Children's Book Council Book of the Year Awards Short List 2014
http://cbca.org.au/ShortList-2014.htm

Talented shortlist for the 2014 NSW Premier's Literary Awards
http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/talented-shortlist-for-the-2014-nsw-premiers-literary-awards-20140408-36arp.html

The all-new monthly literary prize – for self-published authors
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/08/self-published-diy-books-monthly-prize-legend-times

‘I'm the best chairman I know': Bob Carr's Diary reveals former foreign minister's diva demands
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/im-the-best-chairman-i-know-bob-carrs-diary-reveals-former-foreign-ministers-diva-demands-20140409-zqspi.html

Author Patti Miller

The ideal length of everything online
http://wallblog.co.uk/2014/04/07/the-ideal-length-of-everything-online/

ScriptedWriter in Residence:
Scripted.com is the leading provider of high-quality, original written content. Founded in 2011, Scripted has provided quality content for thousands of customers across every industry and offers writers hundreds of jobs daily.

 

We asked you:
Plotting vs. Pantsing
https://www.facebook.com/WritersCentre

Working writer's tip:
How to make working from home more productive
http://www.fastcompany.com/3028658/work-smart/how-to-make-working-from-home-more-productive

Pink Fibro Bookclub:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/274090672737464/

You’ll find your hosts at:
Allison Tait
http://www.allisontait.com/

Valerie Khoo
http://valeriekhoo.com/

Australian Writers’ Centre
https://www.writerscentre.com.au/

Transcript

Valerie
I’m talking Kate Garklavs, the editorial analyst at Scripted.com. Thanks for joining us today, Kate.

Kate
Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s a real pleasure.

Valerie
I think a lot of our listeners are going to be very intrigued about what Scripted does. Can you just describe in a nutshell what Scripted.com is all about?

Kate
Definitely. Many of your listeners may have heard of us, but for those who haven’t, Scripted is a platform that automatically matches our freelance writers with clients who are in need of top-quality content. What this allows writers to do is submit their work directly to the client using our platform, so there’s no direct interaction between the writers and the client. Our system allows writers to claim jobs for which they’re qualified, which match their interests, and this really just saves our writers the hassle of finding and vetting clients, tracking people down, requesting payment, things of that nature, so it really just kind of streamlines the freelance process for writers. It also allows clients to more easily acquire high quality content.

Valerie
I know that for a lot of writers the actual writing part is what they love, and the dealing with the client is not that exciting, and you take that element out of it because you’re actually the middle platform or middle person between the writer and the writer never has to meet the client, but what kind of clients are they? What kind of jobs are they?

Kate
Like our writers, our clients are really diverse. We have everything from very small businesses, medium size businesses, and also some enterprise clients, so it really goes across the whole range. Most of our clients are marketers who are looking for content for various marketing initiatives. People are coming to realize that the best way to connect with potential customers and with your audience is through telling a really compelling story and just having top-notch writing. So, that’s what all of our clients have in common, is the desire for really great content.

In terms of business size it really just ranges. In terms of different verticals we offer jobs across all different verticals. We have currently a great demand for lifestyle and travel writers. We get lots of requests for business writing, technology-focused writing, sales. Basically, you name it, we get requests for it.

It’s really diverse and that’s what makes it so exciting, is that we’re working in all of these different verticals.

Valerie
You talk about the clients wanting content, but what is the most popular type of content that they’re looking for so that listeners can get an idea of what content you’re actually talking about.

Kate
Sure. That’s actually a very good question, I guess our most popular forms are really blog posts, both long and short, and also white papers, but we do offer other types of content, newsletters, batches of tweets, Facebook posts, things of that nature, but really the blog posts and the white papers are very popular.

Valerie
So, typically the writers are producing blog posts on, as you say, specific industry areas like lifestyle or travel or business, or whatever.

Kate
Yes.

Valerie
Scripted.com is based in San Francisco, and I understand that you’ve got over 80,000 blogs and writers on your books, is that right?

Kate
We actually have what we consider a network of 80,000. our active population is a bit smaller than that. I don’t know if you’re familiar with our origin story, but —

Valerie
Tell me.

Kate
We pivoted from Script, that was our founder’s first company, and Script has 80,000 in their data, in I guess their membership base.

Valerie
What is Script?

Kate
Script was a screenwriting company and our founders, Neil and Ryan, were really into screenwriting. They started Script and what they found was a lot of businesses were approaching them and asking whether the screenwriters with Script could write marketing materials. From there Neil and Ryan thought, “OK, there’s really a demand for great writing,” and from there they pivoted and founded Scripted. That’s how we got started. People were approaching Script and Ryan and Neil for content, and they identified a need and kind of pounced on it.

Valerie
How long has scripted been going then, in its current form?

Kate
Since 2011.

Valerie
Now I understand that you were actually a writer for Scripted, on their books, before becoming an internal employee. Just tell us a little bit about your story, what kind of writer were you before, why did you decide to use Scripted as a writer?

Kate
Well, actually I started writing for Scripted — let’s see I guess it was about a year and a half ago. I found out about Scripted through a friend. I was working full time as a writer and editor at an art school at the time, but I was always looking for side projects, ways to save money, basically build up a travel fund. So, when I found out about Scripted I was really excited about the opportunity, because I was qualified to write in different verticals — lifestyle and travel, education, art and design, so really the topics I that I have background in, that interested me.

So, I wrote for Scripted for about a year and a quarter, and would in fact still be writing for them if I weren’t working for the internal team, but it was really just a great system. I could write on my own time, which was usually one weekend morning, sometimes in the evening after work, and I could claim as many or as few jobs as I was able to during a week, so it was really nice and flexible, and working with the staff here was awesome, I had these email relationships with people with whom I now work in person. Everyone is just as friendly in person as they were via email, so it was really a great experience, which is what prompted me to approach Ryan and apply to one of the full time positions here.

Valerie
I understand that the average blog post would be, say, 450 words, but within that 450 words the brief could come from a client and it could be really simple, like, you know, how to whip up a chocolate brownie, which is no big deal for somebody who is a chocolate brownie specialist, or it could be heavily briefed blog post on researching the various customer relationship management systems out there and providing an analysis on which one is the best, or a recommendation. What level of detail is typically provided in the brief from the client?

Kate
That’s actually a really good question; all of our clients provide pretty detailed guidelines for our writers. For example, whether research is required, if it is required how much; how to cite sources, whether imagery is needed, the intended audience, the desired tone, examples of other work on which to base the writing. So, clients actually provide very detailed briefs or guidelines for writers. Just to touch on the topic of research, we do have quite a range of jobs in terms of research required. Some of our projects are quite research-heavy. Clients will request multiple sources. Things cited in a certain way, whereas other projects are much more impressionistic or subjective in that they really draw more on the writer’s experience. The nice thing is some of our writers are really into research, they have a background in that, and that’s kind of what their passion is, and other writers, of course, aren’t, but the nice thing is that writers are able to choose jobs that meet their expertise and also their research preferences, but our clients do provide very detailed guidelines for our writers.

Valerie
Can you maybe like look up your editorial schedule now and tell us perhaps three typical types of posts or articles that might be put out there for writers? Just so our listeners can get an idea of the variety or the kinds of things that they might be able to choose from.

Kate
Sure. In terms of technology articles, I just read a really great post about Lean versus Agile development, kind of breaking that down for people who might not be familiar with that. In terms of lifestyle travel we have a lot of great posts — recipe development, money-saving techniques for new moms. Also we currently have a lot of requests for place descriptions and city guides, really drawing on writers’ familiarity with different geographical areas and descriptive skills.

In terms of business you mentioned customer relationship tools and management earlier, we have a lot of posts about those types of things. Basically it varies a lot based on vertical, but whether a writer is more descriptive or more factual, we’ll have something for them.

Valerie
How long does a writer have to turnaround a job?

Kate
It actually depends on the type of job. Usually five days, but some of our jobs, super-hero jobs, are actually turned around much more quickly, and those are not as common, but if for whatever reason someone cannot complete a job the job will be reassigned and that has a much shorter deadline. Of course if writers are able to submit work early they get bonus points, in a manner of speaking, so we always encourage writers to submit early, if possible.

Valerie
Do go you get paid extra if you do a super-hero job, or if you do one that requires a quick turnaround?

Kate
Yeah, there are additional measures of compensation. In terms of payment, that’s really just determined by the type of job and the writer’s skill level, the client, and things of that nature, but with super-hero jobs writers can improve their writer’s score, so there’s a different measure of compensation for that.

Valerie
Do you have writers from all different countries, including Australia? And how do you measure their writing quality? How do you determine whether they’re OK to be on your books?

Kate
Well, we have a pretty interesting application process, it begins with a writer coming to our site, registering. There’s initially an English proficiency test, after which writers submit a specialty application, and specialty is just our way of saying topic area. And then specialty applications are reviewed by our peer review board, and we currently have an acceptance rate of 18 percent. So, people who are reviewing specialty applications are already proven to have knowledge of that area.

In terms of where our writers are from the vast majority of our writers do live in the United States, although we do have a good number of Australian writers, Canadian writers and writers from other English-speaking countries, so a pretty diverse group.

Valerie
What kinds of volumes do you do? Do you have any writers who are likely to get their full time income through Scripted?

Kate
Writers use Scripted as a supplementary income source. I’ve actually called a number of writers, just interviewing them, talking to them, seeing what their experience is like, and writers often will tell me that they use Scripted as a way of bolstering their retirement fund or paying down student loans, or saving for vacation, things of that nature.

In terms of job volumes we currently have hundreds of jobs available, we’re only expecting that to grow. We’ve seen increased demand for jobs, but we currently have several hundred jobs available.

Valerie
Let’s get down to brass tacks now and talk about the rate, because I mean you display all of the rates on your website, which is at Scripted.com, and if you look under pricing it says here — now, this is going to be an interesting conversation because in Australia there’s a lot of discussion about what writers get paid and whether that amount is being driven down by just the sheer fact that it’s a lot easier to find writers these days and also providers like yourselves. On your website we’ve got that standard blog posts, which I assume are about 450 words, are $49. Is that what the writer gets? You obviously take a bit of that and then the writer gets the balance?

Kate
The rates displayed on our website are the business rates, so what the client would pay for different forms of work. Our writers receive a portion of that. And we have taken into consideration rates, it’s something that’s very important to us and we know most of our writers try to make a living from freelance writing, and it’s their craft, it’s extremely important to them. I understand why the discussion of rates is so hotly discussed.

Basically our rates take into account basically the technical nature of a project, our writers’ expertise and experience, things of that nature. So, more complex or technical projects will command higher rates. Simpler projects/shorter projects will have lower rates, and also we have a pool of expert writers who have demonstrated deep knowledge of niche topics, the ability to target very specific audiences, and expert writers actually receive higher rates because of the more complex nature of the work.

Valerie
What you’re saying is expert writers would receive more than, say, the standard rate here, which is currently $49?

Kate
Yes, that is correct. So, expert writers do earn more for expert jobs than for the general jobs.

Valerie
Just so listeners can get an idea, standard blog posts are $49, and these are US dollars, website pages are $69, white papers are $299, tweets are $2, and Facebook posts $3, or long blog posts are $59, and email newsletters $49. Now you mentioned that writers get a proportion of that, so for the writers — because it’s mainly writers who are listening to this — what are they likely to receive, say, for a standard blog post?

Kate
Well, for a standard blog post, you know, we don’t go lower than $0.05 per word, $0.05 per word is the minimum threshold. For more complicated projects we actually go up to $0.25 a word, so depending on the complex factors — client, writer, experience, vertical, things of that nature, it will fall between that range. I wish I could offer a more concrete answer, but it really does depend on the client, the form of work, the subject matter, how much research is involved, but we never go below $0.05 per word, because we recognize that clients are willing to pay more for high quality content. And, in order to keep writers going we need to offer them higher rates.

Valerie
Would it be safe to say that something that’s $0.05 a word is something that is no research? It’s like pure opinion or…?

Kate
I hesitate to say no research, just because there might be that job that requires a little bit of research, but I mean certainly, you know, certainly something that’s $0.05 a word is less complex in nature, probably requires less research than say a white paper, which by its very nature requires research and source citation and things of that nature. I guess to answer the question there is a relationship between job complexity and the rate.

Valerie
Sure. In Australia the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which is kind of like the Journalists’ Union says that rates should be around about — I haven’t looked it up lately, but should be around about $0.85 a word, and most standard rates are around $0.50-$1.00, what would your response to that be, because I know that a lot of listeners would probably be thinking, “Oh my goodness, $0.05 a word? It’s nothing like what it should be.” What would your response to that be?

Kate
I guess my first response would be to get more information about the types of jobs for which those rates apply, or to which those rates apply. So I mean do those rates apply to, you know, for example a short blog post, or would that be more of a long form article, or something that ends up in Harvard or The New Yorker, or something like that.

I mean I think without context it’s difficult to really consider rates. Certainly, some world renowned publications might offer $0.85 a word, but I think it’s kind of a different ballgame. I guess I can’t really respond to that without knowing more of the context to what those rates apply.

Valerie
Sure. I put you on the spot because you’re not necessarily familiar with the Australian market. Do you have many journalists on your books or are they typically bloggers who have an interest and passion and expertise in a particular area?

Kate
We do have some journalists on our books. I mean we have a lot of bloggers. We also have people who have expertise in a certain profession, dentistry or horticulture, something like that, and they’ve always had kind of an interest in writing and a passion for writing, and this is their way of developing that skill or exercising that skill. So, it’s a pretty diverse group, actually. But, we do have some journalists, people who have written for San Francisco and national publications, and have for whatever reason gotten out of print journalism and are now writing for different media, but…

Valerie
Are they the majority or the minority?

Kate
You know it’s probably somewhere in the middle, I mean I wouldn’t say the majority, but there are a fair number of journalists and ex-journalists, so I don’t have the hard numbers on that with me right now, but I’d probably say in the middle.

Valerie
It sounds to me from what you’re saying that Scripted is sort of like — it may not be the ideal solution for somebody who wants to earn a full time income, but it’s a good supplementary solution for somebody who’s already earning an income through some other means, whether that be as a writer, or as a dentist, as you say, but wants to supplement their income, potentially, writing about their particular passions or interests.

Kate
You know I think that’s a really good characterization. Our job volume varies week to week based on what clients are requesting. We can’t guarantee the same amount of work everyday, so I think for that reason we don’t advertise ourselves as a way for writers to make full time income, but that said, we are an excellent way to supplement your income, and that’s definitely how I engaged with Scripted before joining the internal team. I think that’s a great way of putting it.

Valerie
It’s been going since 2011, and since then I’ve certainly seen the world of content marketing grow and grow with more and more brands wanting to produce content for their websites, or whatever. Can you give us an idea of your growth, whether that’s in terms of volume of jobs per day, or head count, or whatever? Just so that we can understand how quickly this sector is growing.

Kate
In terms of number of jobs per day, actually I’ve only been here a few months, so I’m not totally sure what things were like at the very beginning, but just since I’ve started we’ve seen the writer applications double in the past three months, people applying for specialty, so that’s one measure I can give. I mean just since I started working with the internal team we’ve seen that number just about double, so I mean it’s really exciting. We’re seeing more and more writers expressing interest for working with us.

Valerie
But, have you also doubled the number of client jobs?

Kate
I can’t really comment on the correlation between those two. We are seeing a huge increase in the number of client jobs, but how that relates to our writer base I can’t really comment on that. But, we are seeing a huge increase in the number of client jobs as well.

Valerie
Great. Certainly an interesting service, and Scripted isn’t the only provider of its kind out there, but it certainly one kind of matching service that has emerged over the last few years, so thank you very much for your time today, Kate. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Kate
Thank you for taking the opportunity to interview me, and it’s been great talking.

Valerie
Wonderful, thanks for your time.

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