Blogging with
MOTHER EARTH NEWS

 
Mother Earth News Tree

Frequently Asked Questions

Blogging Best Practices

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become a Mother Earth News blogger?

We welcome applicants who have expertise in sustainable living topics and an aptitude to teach others — whether you grow a market garden, maintain a home solar system, are handy with bicycles, develop recipes, or manage a homestead (as only a few examples). View the collected Mother Earth News blogs, and sign up for our newsletters, like our Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to see the blog posts we share.

Contact our blogging coordinator at Blogger [at] MotherEarthNews [dot] com, to receive a blogging application.

What topics can I write about?

Readers come to Mother Earth News for instructional, hands-on advice. Our bloggers provide writing that is more instructional than purely inspirational. Many Mother Earth News bloggers are long-time homesteaders with cross-cutting experience or book authors who “blog their book” by sharing excerpts or posts that preview their work while providing standalone value to readers. In most cases, our online bookstore will carry your book if you blog regularly for us.

We cover nine main categories and work with bloggers who are subject-matter experts in one or more of them:

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  • DIY Projects
  • Organic Gardening
  • Real Food
  • Homesteading and Livestock
  • Renewable Energy
  • Green Homes
  • Green Transportation
  • Natural Health
  • Nature and Environment

Does MOTHER EARTH NEWS pay bloggers?

We cannot pay cash for blog content, so we do our part to make sure your writing reaches a large audience. (Content that is used in print is compensated; see below.) Many of our bloggers are book authors, market gardeners, workshop hosts and homesteaders who make a living selling a product or service. We do not accept content that is purely sale-oriented, but if your writing leads with usefulness for readers, we are happy to provide a platform, within reason  to market a website, organization, books, workshops or relevant products. You can include this information and links in a few lines at the end of each of blog post.

Will blogging help my chances of writing for the magazine?

Potentially. We consider our bloggers authoritative resources to the self-sufficiency community. Many are experts in their field. There is no guarantee that a particular post will be printed, but editors regularly select blog writing for use in the print magazine departments or feature articles. Consider blogging as a way to show us your ideas and your writing skills. In instances where a blog post is printed, you will be notified ahead of time and offered compensation for the first printing. (Mother Earth News and its sister titles publish a number of special, newsstand-only issues each year, which repurpose previously printed materials; it is not always possible for us to notify you that your previously published pieces is getting a new life in this way and we do not pay for these repeat uses.)

How often do I need to submit a post?

We would like to hear from bloggers monthly in blog posts 500 to 1,200 words in length. We realize there may be periods when you are not able to write so often; this is OK.

Can I submit a blog post previously published on my own website?

No. All blog posts for Mother Earth News  need to be original, rather than repurposed from your own blog or another website (material that appeared in print only is fine). If you post the same content in two locations, search engines will penalize your blog and our site for “duplicate content,” and your posts will not rank as high in search results. After your page is published on our site, its removal is our discretion and is elevated on a case by case basis.

Some bloggers choose to transfer their writing — a single post or an entire multi-year blog — to MotherEarthNews.com. In this case, your original post(s) on your site are deleted or otherwise made unpublished before the content is republished on our site.

How much traffic will my posts receive?

Mother Earth News has a very active website: More than half a million readers visit our blog pages every month. Most blog posts are seen by hundreds of visitors every year, with the top posts reaching tens of thousands of readers (year after year). We teach bloggers how to choose topics and titles that will increase traffic. We feature blog posts in our newsletters, which are mailed to more than 750,000 subscribers, and on our social media channels, reaching 2.7 million followers.

What are the expectations for the quality of writing?

Every blogger will have unique experiences and expertise — and, therefore, a voice all their own. You are encouraged to offer your perspective on the topic you’re writing on, but your Mother Earth News readers will expect a more direct, rather than literary, writing style. A how-to post or recipe will have a different style than a well-researched natural health piece or a firsthand account of starting a homestead from scratch. In all cases, the writing that works best will back up claims with solid references and lead with usefulness.

Will you be editing or fact-checking my blog?

For the most part, no. We review blog posts for general accuracy before publication, but we put trust in our blogging community to bring accurate, quality information to readers. You will need to proofread before you submit each post.

The following statement appears online at the end of each post we publish: “All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.”

What about photos?

We require at least one photo (more are welcome) in order to publish a blog post. The best option is to use photos you take yourself. Being your own photographer gives you the most control over how your post is illustrated and ensures your work is all-original.

We do not allow photos from paid stock sites. Copyright is often ambiguous when dealing with these sites, even when you have purchased a license for a particular photo. If you are unable to take your own photos, instead consider perusing free, open-source sites, such as U.S. Government Public-Domain Images, Unsplash, or others.

Can I include videos?

Yes. We can embed YouTube videos in your blog posts.

Sign me up!

Contact our blogging coordinator at Blogger [at] MotherEarthNews [dot] com to receive a blogging application.

 


 

Blogging Best Practice Checklist with Special Guidelines for Real Food and Natural Health Bloggers

 

Readers come to Mother Earth News for instructional, hands-on advice. For this reason, writing that is more instructional than purely inspirational works best on our site. As a Mother Earth News blogger, you are a book author, farmer, workshop host or long-time homesteader with cross-cutting experience — in other words, a vital resource to the self-sufficiency community.

This checklist is intended to ensure the work you publish with us reflects the important role you serve in. We ask that, before you submit writing to us, you review this checklist to ensure your piece is in line with our best practices.

The title is literal and descriptive of what the post is about.

A tiny fraction of readers find your writing from the MotherEarthNews.com homepage. Rather, more than 90 percent find your posts via search engines, such as Google, so it’s important to be as clear as possible about what your topic is.

 

Clear example: DIY Chicken Coop from Salvaged Barn Wood

Unclear example: Cornelius Gets a New Coop

Clear example: Home Solar Panel Installation, Part 2: Connecting PV Wires

Unclear example: I Got PV II!

Clear example: How to Plant Potatoes using the Hill Method

Unclear example: Time to Plant ‘Taters!

The writing style is direct and authoritative.

It’s worth repeating: Readers come to Mother Earth News for instructional, hands-on advice, and so writing that is more instructional than purely inspirational works best. The obvious approaches include recipes, homestead how-to, and step-by-step project instructions, but these are not the only way to provide value. Offer your lessons learned as part of something more inspirational, such as a farm budget developed after a costly season, or a review of a book or product that helped you with a project. None of this means you cannot bring your unique voice forward.

 

Examples: Steve Maxwell’s and Julia Shewchuk’s posts do an excellent job of balancing personal, first-hand accounts with instructional advice (and they certainly are not the only ones who do this well.)

The post is formatted for web reading.

Writing for web is not the same as for print. As a web reader yourself, you know that some pages make it easier than others to quickly find what you are looking for. Large, unbroken blocks of text are difficult to navigate online, but simple formatting techniques can enhance your post’s usefulness and, therefore, keep readers on the page.

Will these options work for your post?

Sub-headlines that break the text into literal sections. Each section is unified in general sub-topic for that section and the sub-headline is specific to what the reader will find there.

Example: Pam Dawling’s advice on growing leeks includes sub-headlines to delineate sections on leek varieties, growing from seed, and planting instructions.

Lists, such as bulleted recipe ingredients or numbered steps in a project.

Examples: Emily Heyde uses a list of sub-steps in her garden shed plan, while Carole Coates keeps her multi-recipe post organized by using a uniform style for listing ingredients and directions.

 

The description is informative and 110 to 155 characters long.

Your teaser or description is the short text that search engines display in results, following a post’s headline. The teaser is very important for signaling to a reader what the webpage will be about and so should:

1. Be enticing and exactly describe in specific terms what the post is about.

2. Not be shorter than 110 characters, including spaces (or search engines will make up their own) or exceed 155 characters (or the description will be cut off).

Example: Description was too short, so Google made up its own:
text

 Example: Google used the blogger’s description, because it is the correct length and descriptive of what the reader will find:
text

 

Include at least one photo or video — and name the files with 5-word descriptions.

The best option is to use photos you take yourself. Being your own photographer gives you the most control over how your post is illustrated, and ensures your post is all-original. If someone has given you permission to use their photo, that’s fine, but always include the correct photo credit.

We do not allow photos from paid stock sites. Copyright is often ambiguous when dealing with these sites, even when you have purchased a license for a particular photo. If you are unable to take your own photos, instead consider perusing free, open-source sites:

Select “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” and “Find content to use commercially.” Check the license on each photo and note the photographer’s name to include a credit.

 

Use descriptive photo file names. Ask yourself, “If I wanted to find this photo, what would I search for?”

Clear example: Golden-Retriever-Wearing-A-Hat.jpg

Unclear example: DSC123.jpg

 

Promote your writing and connect with readers.

Linking to reputable sources and your own site provides necessary citations and directs readers where to find more information — but please do not overdo it. Hyperlinks can just as often be distracting or unnecessary. If you are not backing up a claim of fact or linking to something of legitimate value, consider leaving the link out. MotherEarthNews.com is chock full of 50 years of useful content, so we prefer you link to another page on the site when appropriate. Items for sale including books, please check our online Store for the product in order to link to that page.

Social media. If you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or other social media platforms, let your friends and contacts know about your recent blog post with us. If you keep a personal blog, cross-promote by mentioning your personal blog in your posts for us, and your posts for us in your personal blog.

Follow comments on your posts and respond to comments, whether positive or negative. Remain polite and curious, and if a commenter criticizes you, acknowledge the commenter’s right to his or her opinion. (If you discover something you posted is simply wrong, send a link to the post and the text you’d like changed to us at: Blogger [at] MotherEarthNews [dot] com.)

 

Special Guidelines for Food Bloggers

Always title the recipe clearly. Use a specific headline that will help guide readers to your recipe.

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Write like a pro. Professional courtesy dictates that you must credit someone else if you’re using their recipe. If you wish to reprint someone else’s recipe, from a book, magazine or another blog, give credit to its developer. If you have changed at least 3 ingredients and one process step, the new recipe is yours; but it’s still gracious to say something like, “Steven Raichlen’s recipe for bourbon-peach grilling sauce inspired my take, which substitutes tequila for the bourbon.”

List ingredients in order of use, and always check that all ingredients listed are accounted for in the text of the recipe. Are you telling the reader to add yeast to a bread recipe, but no yeast is specified in the instructions? Or have you specified yeast in the ingredients, but not given a clue about when it’s supposed to be added to the recipe?

Write a headnote for every recipe. A headnote is the text at the beginning of the recipe. It can be about the recipe’s history, a special technique involved, storage directions, suggestions for substitutions, or a personal story about a time this recipe was served successfully. The yield goes at the end of the headnote, and appears in italics in this format: Yield: Makes X servings.

Use American cooking measurements, oven settings and ingredient names. We are delighted to have bloggers from all over the world. But if you’re a British or Canadian blogger and you ask for “aubergine” and “courgette,” most American readers will not know that you’re asking for eggplant and zucchini.

Format the recipe correctly. The late, great Wendy Akin’s recipe for traditional Christmas Stollen is an example of a recipe that’s formatted correctly.

 

Special Guidelines for Natural Health Bloggers

Always be extra careful with health claims. There is a great deal of incorrect information on the internet. Whenever you make a health or healing claim in a post, you should quote/cite reputable research or other expert sources to support the claim. Expert sources could include medical journals, such as the The Lancet, or medical institutions’ sites, such as the Mayo Clinic.  For herbs, top sources include publications from The American Botanical Council, Commission E monographs, and university studies.

Include footnotes or linked text in parentheses that explicitly states the source, so your readers will know where you got your information. Blogger Kathleen Jade does an especially good job of this.

Write from your own experience with caution. You can always say what you do, why you do it and what you believe the results have been. But you should not promise results unless you can include solid evidence to support the promise.

Treat every post as if it’s for beginners. Not everyone knows how to make an herbal tincture, so if you’re asking readers to do something procedurally that is not commonplace, be sure to explain that step — or provide a how-to link (preferably to another page on MotherEarthNews.com).

Avoid writing about homeopathic remedies. We are unaware of credible evidence that they are effective.

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