Socrates co-founder, Chris Nee has some advice for aspiring football writers.
If you thought Socrates was all beer and chicken balti pies, we’ve got news for you, sucka! With ten-and-some events under our belts, the football blogging community has proven to be a superb source of insight and inspiration as well as ruddy good company. So it’s only right that such advice is collated here and shared with anyone who might find it useful.
We’ll begin with a pertinent subject for many writers who are just starting out in football bloggery: getting published. It sounds somewhat counter-intuitive to present “getting published” as a challenge, given the lack of barriers involved in blogging, but with so many well-known sites out there accepting submissions a guest appearance or two can be a fantastic way to get started.
Of course, getting published on a popular blog site is not easy; neither is knowing how to go about it. Some editors like to be approached with a pitch for an idea, others are happy to take a read of fully-formed articles and make a call on their suitability. Some, of course, don’t want submissions at all.
Discounting the latter of those groups, here is the Socrates guide to not getting published – the irritants and errors that make editors hit the delete button on your emails. Take it from me, we do that a lot.
So, if you want to get posts published, don’t:
Scatter your pitch
It can be tempting to send your pitch or your draft around to as many editors as possible, because it theoretically enhances the chances that someone, somewhere, will pick it up. Trouble is, they can tell. It’s quite clear when a writer has punted their work all over the place and it doesn’t really tick the boxes it needs to tick. We’re a precious bunch sometimes, and we like to think that the people who email us claiming to read/admire/love our sites (I’m not sure where I stand on that, incidentally – I think it might be annoying) have put some thought into where they want their writing to appear.
Of course, nobody would say you should write with a particular blog in mind and then give up if there’s no response. My advice would be to stagger, not scatter. If you get a no, push it somewhere else. But don’t do it willy-nilly.
Contact the wrong editors
Inevitably, scattering your approach results in another faux-pas: talking to the wrong editors. It’s very important to think about which sites are a good fit for your article. If you make sure it goes to the right places, you’ve a better chance of getting your post published and you negate the possibility of narking somebody off.
There’s nothing worse than having to trawl through emails pitching articles about areas of football that just don’t fit. Your work needs to fit into a site, not stick out like a sore thumb. Make it easy for them by emailing the guys whose personal interest might be twigged by your topic.
The solution, of course, is to read the sites you’re approaching. Shouldn’t be too difficult.
Approach it like a job application
“Dear sir, I am writing to enquire…”
No, no, no. I get a lot of these, and while it’s obviously important to be polite and respectful, it exposes a lack of understanding about the world you’re getting into. Football blog editors and authors talk to each other all the time – it’s a community, it’s informal and it is, generally, very welcoming. Say hi, bounce ideas off us and talk to us like humans. The chances are you’re posher than most of the editors anyway, so relax and be cool about it. We don’t bite.*
We get a lot of emails, and generally we’ll get through them given time. But we mostly have proper jobs, and some of us even have spouses and partners. Getting nagged by prospective writers is beyond irritating and again shows a lack of understanding of the situation on their part. The amount of people who think I get paid for editing twofootedtackle.com is eye-watering. In fact, if they all read the bloody site I probably would do.
So relax. If I don’t reply the first time, I’m sorry. If I don’t reply the second time I’ve deleted your emails because I do this for free and your expectations are unfair and misplaced. If I don’t reply a third time…let’s just say don’t email me a third time.
Write posts that are too long or too short
This one’s very, very simple. Look at the site you’re pitching to, and write articles of a similar length. While it might not seem important, and most of us are so grateful for your work that we’d never proactively impose a word count, it is annoying when something is submitted that is so obviously a different length to the rest of the site’s content. If I tend to publish about 1,000 words at a time, don’t send me 500. And it’s the same the other way round.
The less work we have to do, the better your chances of getting your post published.
Ignore writing conventions
These are always up for debate, and if you really want to do your homework it’s worth having a look round the site you’re pitching to in order to see how they work; the editor’s probably stuck in his or her ways, if there’s anything about them.
Taking my own site as an example, I am very picky about names (full name for first mention, surname thereafter – no silly or fawning nicknames) and numbers (one to ten written out in full, 11 and above as numerals). You will massively improve the chances of your article appearing on a particular site if you observe the conventions they have in place. They’re there for a reason.
Use Microsoft Word. Ever.
Curly quotes must die. If I see a “smart quote” in your work – curly apostrophes included – my blood boils. Blogging in Word is like decorating your living room with crayons: it might be the easy way but it’s lazy and it makes the final product look like sh*t. Find yourself a decent plain text editor (I recommend Notepad++ for Windows users), save your copy as a .txt and send it like that. The cleaner and simpler the submission is, the easier to edit it will be. And that’s only going to work in your favour.
Leave all the work to the editor
The vast majority of editors work for free, and therefore you shouldn’t expect them to polish your turds. If pride isn’t enough to make you proof-read and edit your own work then you probably shouldn’t be doing it at all, but even if you’re not that way inclined then at least consider that if your writing is untidy, poorly structured and awkward to edit, nobody’s going to find a home for it. Besides, I used to get told off for not reading back over my work at primary school. It’s the first rule.
Remarkably some writers are more than happy to contact an editor, ask if they’re interested in taking some work, and then ask what they should write about. Er… *DELETE*
So, there’s the handy and somewhat sarcastic guide to getting your work published. Of course, these are not hard and fast rules but a list of ideals compiled based on my own opinion and some anecdotal input from the trio of loveliness that is the IBWM editorial team. But if you follow all of the above you will increase your chances of making it on to most sites.
* Some of us bite.
Chris Nee is the editor of the Two Footed Tackle website