Monday, May 23, 2011

what I really wanted to say

You have a message From randomblogger on Etsy.
Subject: Blog Review

Hi! I am a stay at home mom and I have a blog that I frequently update at called RandomBlog. My blog has over 800 followers and a Google page rank of 3. I do a feature on my blog called the “Etsy Shops I Love”. I just found your shop, and I was wondering if you would be interested in sending me one of your adorable products, and then I will post pictures and a review of it on my blog. I can also do a giveaway of your work! I'm sure you would get some new business from it!! Please let me know if you are interested and what information you would need from me.
Thank you!!!

I get these emails on a semi-regular basis. I don't know why, but they are mostly from women who have blogs dedicated to raising children in aesthetically pleasing environments. Somebody, tell me why this is. And don't tell me it's because these are former corporate sharks who gave it up to be a stay at home mom, and now they're broke and want free cupcake stands.

Mostly, I ignore these emails, because it seems to me a transparent trolling for free stuff. Bloggers who have opinions that actually matter-- and by that I mean bloggers who can write about someone and that someone will immediately be slammed by overwhelming business-- not only never ask for free product, they will usually not accept it if you offer it up. I know of one exception, and I would love to write about this person, but since he did not try to hit me up for free pottery but a good friend of mine, I have to hold back.

This last email I received was particularly annoying to me, which is no big deal since I get annoyed very easily. And all the time. Perhaps, I should do more yoga, or stop drinking so much coffee. If I have a minute I want to burn, I will take a quick peek at the blog just to see what I'm dealing with. This particular Randomblogger gathers followers by offering giveaways to people who become a follower and post a comment. I guess the majority of followers are people who want free stuff. Not my demographic. Most posts had zero comments. Not surprising, because the posts were in depth discourse about family trips, baby milestones, and free-ranging opinions regarding the pluses and minuses of stuff that I don't care about. Which is fine, bloggers are free to write about whatever they want, but don't use your blog with a google pageRank of 3-- which is not very good-- as a quid pro quo.

This email itched at me. I think it's unethical to ask for free stuff that you will then write a "review" on. It's intrinsically biased, and I would not be very happy at all if I discovered a blogger I liked to read for opinion and recommendations were going around asking for free product from the people they were giving glowing reviews to. I really wanted to nail this person with a scathing email, but then I realized I was losing my mind again over something stupid. But I had to say something. I managed to write back a non-scathing email that I saved for all future trollings:

Dear RandomBlogger,
Thank you for your email. As a policy, I never give away my artwork in exchange for a review, a blog write-up, or as a giveaway. Bloggers write about my work all the time because they want to spread the word to their readers and support what I do for a living. I have found that giving away my work does not generate meaningful business. Thank you for thinking of me and good luck with your blog.

I did not hear back, thanking me for my subtle slap in the face. And my blog has a pageRank of 4.


  1. Well I do agree with you. I am a mommy blogger but I do not send emails out to businesses asking for free items in return for reviews. I think that is just bad business...looks like all you want is free stuff. I don't actually send out many emails to businesses at all. The ones I do contact, I ask them if they would like to be featured on my blog because I like what they make or sell. I am not even ranked on Google. I blog about what I want not just so that I can get free stuff. I would have sent the scathing email but you did the right thing.

  2. Great post!

    Just in case I'm ever tempted, now I know what really *not* to do as a blogger.

    And your answer sounds so right!

    I have an on-going series on my blog called "Tea with... (insert name of artist or crafter I like here)".

    It features artists and/or crafters whose work has something related to tea (I am tea-obessed) and whose work i really really personally like. I hope to feature you someday soon!

    -Vic from TeaButterfly.

  3. I like your tactful response to these freebie requests. I receive them frequently as well and relate to your frustration.(By the way, if the solicitations are sent to you via Etsy convo, they are against Etsy's terms of use.)

    On a positive note, I'm appreciative of the bloggers who actually purchase items for their giveaways, rather than requesting freebies.

  4. Well said Whitney!

  5. At least the motive was obvious. I get so many strange comments asking for, say, a guest post, and then when I check out the source, it has nothing at all to do with my main subject. I wish I could figure out what the angle is.

  6. A friend of mine on Etsy received one of these requests. When she checked out the blog, the woman actually had a recent post about doing reviews to get free stuff.

    My problem isn't this exactly, but rather because I do (eek,often cute) animal imagery on my pots, people on Etsy trolling for donations for animal rescue fundraisers. Worthy causes no doubt, but I can't afford it and limit these donations to local organization, and good friends, family, and some good established customers' causes. I'm sympathetic and it makes me feel bad to turn people down, but I also get a little irked when I see many of these folks asking for donations have no Etsy history of buying handmade. ok, rant over.

  7. Anonymous9:02 PM

    Good for you. I loved your reply letter. I personally try not to have anything nasty that I say in print. lol

  8. I wish I was as clever of a gal as you! I hate it when i get these letters. : )

  9. Whitney you are so cool. That is my review of you (and your pots). Don't stop drinking too much coffee or ever chill out. Strangers who want free stuff are not anyone's target market! Fiesty potters are the best!

  10. I've not yet tried having a giveaway on someone elses site, I do know its quite common practice amongst some blogs. I have given away pieces for magazine articles and found that actually it was pretty successful in generating business for me, maybe thats because it was in print and the target audience was right.

    I think its better if you can to run your own giveaways if thats what you really want to do.

  11. Ugh! That's so frustrating, but your answer was so polite!
    I agree with Barbara as well about charity donations. Come on people, we're artists not millionaires. We're trying to make a living too.

  12. Wow, a 3? That really is rubbish! Even my blog is a 4 - don't ask me how because it is no where near as good or as popular as yours!

    That was a very tactful response.

  13. I feel so much better after reading this post. I used to read a very well-known blog, authored by someone who had a tragic accident a few years ago. I got so fed up when I realized this woman's children are covered and house filled with free crap sent to her. During the holidays, she actually solicits samples to feature on her blog. She states that she won't be able to feature all submissions and samples won't be returned. Hello free family Christmas!

  14. Amazey, blogging about what you love is what makes for meaningful content and a decent blog, so you are on the right track!

    Regarding the frequent requests ALL artists get for free stuff to support charities, fundraisers, and causes: I made a policy. My policy is is the cause must be local and support children or another cause close to my heart, like Girls, Inc. If it doesn't meet that standard, it gets my form letter:
    Thank you for your email. I' sorry to say I am not able to donate any work to support your fundraiser. Thank you--"

    Now, the time I got an email from someone asking me to donate to her personal fund raiser so she could get another round of in vitro and have ANOTHER kid did not get such a polite response.

    And Little Wren, I agree that if you want to give away your work it should be to your own fans and customers.

    And Christine, that's hideous. Email me that blog so I can read and gag!

  15. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this - it articulates what I've been feeling for years (and your polite decline email is almost exactly the same as mine, by the way.) The freebie-trolling blogs do the opposite of supporting handmade, and it honestly pisses me off, because I know so many desperate, newbie sellers think that the only way to increase their business and get press is to give things away. Thanks for highlighting this!