I wrote something dashing for Smashing

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TL;DR: I wrote an article on creating a multi-author blog with Next.js for Smashing Magazine.

Over the last few months, I have worked with Next.js a lot. After years of React, I’m getting a lot of value out of Next. It takes care of things like routing, server-side rendering, image optimization, and more. I don’t have to set up these basic features by hand, which allows me to focus on each project’s business case.

When Smashing Magazine was looking for articles on Next.js, I jumped on the opportunity. Since this was my first time writing for a site much larger than mine, I didn’t know what to expect. From the first contact to the eventual publication, the process was very smooth.

Vitaly and Iris over at Smashing Magazine were super helpful throughout the project. Their experience working with many authors shows. We first talked about a few potential topics and landed on a technique I use frequently. Most of my projects read Markdown files from the local filesystem. With no database involved, I often need a way to connect two pieces of information, like authors and posts. The article covers how to set up these foreign key relationships with flat files.

The team at Smashing then asked for a rough outline in which I described and structured the article. After they made a few suggestions, I fleshed out that basic structure. Having the outline in place made it easy to fill in the rest. My first draft came in at around 4000 words.

Lee Robinson, Head of Developer Relations at Vercel, reviewed that first draft. Their suggestions were easy to work in, suggesting I add more of Next’s features like next/image and next/link. Once I had dotted my i-s and crossed my t-s, Iris from Smashing told me they wanted to publish the article later that day. That was it, that was the whole process. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but from the perspective of an author, everything was very easy.

You can now read the article on creating a multi-author blog with Next.js over on Smashing Magazine. Having my own author page over there still feels a bit surreal.

While everybody can write for Smashing Magazine, they do a lot of quality control. Their experienced readers are looking to learn new skills. Since writing those pieces takes a lot of care and effort, Smashing pays authors for each article.

As I had closed my sole proprietorship a few weeks earlier, I could no longer write invoices. Accepting that, I would still have written the article without getting paid. They kindly insisted on offering an alternative form of compensation instead.

I was experimenting with social media at the time. To try something new, I suggested doing a book giveaway via Twitter. We landed on me giving away three printed books from their collection as payment for my article. They even handled shipping, meaning I only had to run the giveaway and pick three winners.

Since this was my first giveaway, I first researched how others do them. Some have very light entry conditions, counting every like of a tweet as an entry into the raffle. Others ask for a higher commitment, like retweets or even follows.

Followers gained through giveaways are usually of a lower quality than regular followers. Sure, having a larger number of followers is nice. At the same time, if those followers don’t care about your regular content, they are not going to engage with you. Instead of silent followers you can talk to, you want friends you can talk with. People that only followed you to win something are unlikely to interact with you.

A follow rule was out of the question for me for that reason. Retweets also felt too invasive, as I didn’t want to force people to inject my tweet into their profiles. To still get a higher engagement, I had participants reply to the giveaway tweet.

With Smashing offering many different books, I didn’t want to limit the selection myself. Winners could pick any of the books currently in print. To take the choice off of my own shoulders, I had them reply with their pick to enter the giveaway.

Book giveaway explaining conditions
The image I shared with the tweet, asking people to pick which book they wanted to win.

The tweet received 86 likes and 65 replies over about 24 hours. For a first giveaway, I was happy to see so many people join in. I passed the contact information of the winners to Iris from Smashing Magazine. They handled everything else, making this super easy for me.

All in all, it was a very positive experience. I can absolutely recommend writing for Smashing Magazine. If you have an article you always wanted to write, reach out and offer it to them. They’ll hold you accountable and make sure it gets published. I’m already looking forward to the next article I am going to write for them.

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