Recently a frustrated would-be Cracked freelancer took his grievances to a Reddit writing forum and posted “5 Ways Cracked Promotes Mediocrity.” I don’t intend this solely as a defense of Cracked: his is an attitude I see far too often, so if I can help anyone who’s starting out avoid his mistakes, maybe it’ll save someone time and heartache.
I wanted to use Cracked as a way to meet other writers and hopefully promote my self-published novel. Publishing an article on Cracked would definitely help me establish a profile on the Internet, along with fans, fame, and fortune.
First mistake. You don’t write for an outlet because you want publicity for your self-published project. You write for an outlet because you like what they do and think you can do that. Otherwise, yes, you’re going to end up frustrated because your heart isn’t in it.
The entire process has been one huge disappointment after another. I tried to shoehorn a few of my ideas into the required format, but usually failed on one requirement or another.
Well, yeah. When you try to “shoehorn” instead of absorbing the outlet’s goals, it won’t work. Would you try to write an article for Good Housekeeping about organizing closets because what you really want to write is satire about shoe fetishists, and hey, shoes are found in closets?
They Focus On Premises Instead Of Execution
Ask great humorists which is more important, premise or execution, and they’ll tell you execution every time. Does the premise from any Monty Python sketch sound good on paper? How about Saturday Night Live?
I guarantee that those Monty Python and SNL sketches started out as a pitched premise. Nobody has time to watch anyone perform a sketch, or read a full article or novel until they’re pretty sure it’s something they can use. Writing is a business, and if you can’t interest someone in your product in a few lines, you’re not going to sell your product. Better get used to writing pitches and synopses.
If Cracked really wanted to evaluate potential writers, they would give them all the same premise and see what each writer does with it.
Who does this? Are there magazines or publishers out there who say, “Write 1,000 words on X topic, and then we’ll let you know if you’re hired”? I’ve submitted to magazines, websites, and publishers, and every single time I’m the one who had to submit an article, story, or writing sample that I created on my own. That’s the way the writing world works.
If you look through the Cracked Comedy Workshop, you’ll find that most of the discussions are about needing at least six examples or finding more sources. The reason so many potential Cracked writers struggle with those things is that they thought Cracked wanted them to write, not compile a list of six facts.
This goes back to not understanding how writing works as a business. A Cracked pitch needs a minimum of six entries because sometimes one falls through in the editing process, and Editorial knows the exact amount it takes to physically fill two pages. The writing guidelines for submission state right up front that everything has to be fact-based with sources (for the freelancers.) Other outlets have different guidelines, and you’re wasting your time and theirs if you don’t bother to learn and follow guidelines.
They Encourage Uniformity Instead Of Personality
Because publishes a ton of articles, the Cracked Comedy Workshop is correspondingly huge. Considering the sheer number of pitches, it makes perfect sense to weed out as many as possible, but unfortunately, ensuring that the pitches have a uniform voice is the worst way to do it.
Every outlet, ever, has a voice. It’s how you know you’re reading Rolling Stone and not Newsweek. And until you become well known enough that you can sell articles based on people recognizing your name alone, you must learn to write in whatever voice the outlet wants. If you want to sell articles and get paid, anyway.
My guess is that this writer hasn’t submitted anywhere other than Cracked yet, or he’d know that Cracked is crazy easy to submit to compared with other places. With Cracked, as long as you follow the guidelines, you get feedback every week (even if it’s not the feedback you wanted). Plenty of other places never bother to answer at all, or send a form letter.
It’s a lovely thing to want to write and send your work out into the world, but if you want to do it professionally, you must act as a professional. That means leaving your ego behind, choosing where you want to submit for the right reasons, following the guidelines to the letter, and learning what they want you to do. That’s the way to start to have some success.