In today’s edition of unpopular opinions

You may remember on Monday when I wrote about a writing meme called I Write Like. That was when I Write Like was a wee meme, and since then it has spread around the Internet and my Twitter feed like wildfire. Since then the entire I Write Like site has been revamped, and a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, and a blog have been added.

Oh, and an affiliate link to a guide that tells you how to win a writing book proposal. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? After all, what writer doesn’t want to get published? Sure, the person promoting this is the CEO of a Christian publisher with a self-publishing offshoot, but for the moment, who cares?

At least two people do. Unfortunately, the writers (and in turn a lot of the commenters) are jumping to some conclusions, despite meaning well. Because of this, some of them are getting their facts wrong. Let’s take a look.

1. Thomas Nelson is still a legitimate publisher of Christian books, though the publisher does have a self-publishing offshoot called West Bow Books, added in 2009. “Formerly legitimate” publisher? Thomas Nelson publishes works by Billy Graham and Max Lucado, some recognizable names in Southern Baptist Christianity.

2. The guy who built I Write Like also builds other software for Mac and Windows. He founded the company in 2002, and it would be a shame to build all that software only to scam everyone with a writing meme eight years later. That’d put a lot of time, money, and software to waste, wouldn’t it?

3. The guy behind I Write Like released it on Friday. Around Wednesday, he posted to Hacker News asking for advice on monetizing the program. Any additional stuff was likely created in the last few days on the advice of the people who replied. Note this part of the post:

It’s spreading just like a perfect meme should 🙂 E.g. http://search.twitter.com/search?q=iwl.me

My question is, what should I do with it:

a) for monetary gain (It already achieved the SEO effect I planned, not sure what to do now).

b) for a good cause. I’m already thrilled to notice that people discover and re-discover writers and say “Oh, I write like [writer], I must read more of his works.” What can I do to get more of this effect?

Note that at the time he had no idea what to do with I Write Like’s unfounded success. As people have noted, he chose to monetize the site. He had to do it quickly, of course, because people lose interest quickly. The affiliate link on the results page offers to let others affiliate. You can probably set that up quickly, if not instantly, as opposed to waiting to be approved for a Google Adsense account. So he got affiliated with the guy selling ebooks

The thing I find most wrong is selling ebooks of 28 or 32 pages for twenty dollars. If Dmitry gets money from purchases and not from clicks, he’s doing it wrong. I would say no one would pay for that, but I’m probably wrong. Better approaches: Traditional ads or links to books by that author on Amazon with an affiliate link.

But calling this a scam? Only in the sense that you’re paying twenty bucks for a glorified pamphlet. The guy has to pay for hosting and maybe make a few bucks somehow. Don’t nip an entrepreneur in the bud.

4. “Subscribe to the newsletter and you get to download an ebook that’s in the public domain!” Yeah, you’re right about that one. I think it’s silly too. I’m emailing him about this one to point it out. Shouldn’t people subscribe because they want to? Chances are unknowing people would download the ebook and unsubscribe. Better to have a few loyal subscribers than a bunch who downloaded and unsubscribed.

5. “This entire thing’s silly and he’s not qualified to say who I write like.” He admits the second part himself. As for the first, what’d you expect, a professional analysis? Besides, he wrote the program in three days. Think of this as a NaNoWriMo for programming. Does that make you feel better? No? Then get that stick out of your bum and enjoy your life.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, this post reads like David Foster Wallace.

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