I’ve been neglectful in offering some writing advice lately and this will continue today. I just wanted to let you know you should totally follow my two Twitter lists I created if you’re a baseball writer. Right now I have one for Baseball Writers and another for MLB Players. You can thank me when you start writing posts and breaking news before other websites.
I have nothing else to say other than writing sports is a small world. You can also be a nobody, write in your underwear, and still land on big time websites as a credible source. Just keep writing and put your best work out there.
A lot of places will advise you rather than write about everything sports-related or sticking with one of the leagues you should focus on a niche for your particular website or blog. Definitely good advice, this can become discouraging and waste your talent.
I’ll use me as an example for the discouragement part. You can be the judge for the latter.
I’m a Philadelphia Phillies fan. I honestly can’t write about them as often as I’d like to because of how incredibly boring they are right now. Sure, there are stories out there. I could continue to analyze Darin Ruf until I know everything about him from how well he hits against lefties to what we can project him to eat for breakfast in May. Instead of focusing on one team, since I pay attention to the MLB entirely, I chose to write about general baseball news on Innings Eaters. I also noticed how well fantasy baseball posts did and rather than start a new blog I made it a feature there. It’s not ideal, but definitely boosts my viewership.
As much as I would love to cover a team, I find it limiting to sit back and dig for ideas when there are plenty out there already that interest me. You’ll see blogs focusing on bad teams tend to run uninteresting pieces after continual losing because of how demoralizing the task can be to find something nice to say.
Instead of writing for a niche audience about a specific topic I find some people can benefit from writing for the sake of finding their voice. Make their style the niche whether it be having great analytical skills, a strong rant-style opinion, or humor.
An extreme example, let’s use Quentin Tarantino. He no longer makes gangster movies. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown were all films that could have easily taken place in the same universe. Furthermore, so could his more recent films deviating from the crime plots. However, the point is Tarantino found his voice. He has a style. He has a personality. You can watch a film and identify it immediately. This should be a goal in writing. Tarantino has achieved this through everything he does as a filmmaker. People see the movies because they know what they’ll get with him. People should read your work because they know what they will get.
While I acknowledge the importance of writing for a certain audience I think many suggestions to new writers are ill-explained. I see lots of writers who begin with a focus on one topic often trail off. Even if it ends up looking silly because of the blog name it doesn’t really matter as long as they’re writing and doing it well. If you’re successful writing about the Phillies then that’s great. But don’t continue with something if your heart isn’t in it.
Niches Shouldn’t Back You into a Corner
Your niche doesn’t have to be about a particular topic. I’ll encourage you to get very knowledge about one thing, but for the sake of not wasting your time on something nobody else really cares about, diversify yourself. Work at making your opinion what attracts the readers, not the specific topic. You’re trying to market yourself as a writer. You are what matters. Let your talents connect and shine through your writing.
SEO is a term you’ll see a lot when learning about writing online. It stands for Search Engine Optimization and is the generic way of saying something is written well to the point where search engines will pick it up. Think of SEO as the friend who fixes your hair for you or points out there’s a booger on your shirt before a big date. It’s your best friend when writing online.
A lot of SEO depends on the site you’re writing for and takes a lot more than following the basics to get the full benefits. Sites with built-in SEO are incredibly helpful as nobody is quite sure how to keep up with all of the constant changes by Google. Along with backlinks and those other fun time consuming things you should do to get more readers, creating strong titles are necessary and a really easy way to grab attention.
Let me give you an example of a good title and one that needs work. We’ll use New York Yankees’ pitcher Andrew Miller as an example since I wrote about him recently on Innings Eaters and took it into consideration.
Good Title: Andrew Miller Trade Possibilities
Bad Title: Possible Andrew Miller Deals
The same amount of words with the name present and sending the same message, there’s a big difference.
“Andrew Miller trade” is the real key. Anything else practically doesn’t matter. Maybe you’d want to list out some of the teams he could possibly get dealt to with a comma between each. You want to deliver keywords, the basics of SEO, but also remain very clear in what your article is about. A lot of people try to get too creative and smart for their own good. Use your actual writing, not your title, to show-off what a great writer you are.
I don’t like the second example because “Andrew Miller deals” is not a strong sports term with a clear message. Deals means a lot more than trades. It’s called MLB Trade Rumors for a reason and not MLB Deal Rumors. Deals are what we get on food at the shopping market. Although we think of them as synonyms in the sports world, as you should when making sure your vocabulary is stretched, when putting a title to your article it’s not going to help you any.
Of course, one you have a big following, this doesn’t matter as much. Still, you’ll want to follow these practices as it certainly does help you get more hits through Google, Yahoo, and your Bing using grandmother.
Let’s look at one more example while we’re at it. Bad titles are a pet peeve of mine because I’ve seen some perfectly capable writers fail at it. Here are two more about a made-up trade involving Miller and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Good Title: Andrew Miller Traded to LA Dodgers
Bad Title: The Yankees Send Andrew Miller to Los Angeles
There are a few things wrong with the second one. First I want to go over why I like the first. The first is good because it starts with the simple statement letting everyone know Miller was traded. When people are searching on the Internet keep in mind they will half-ass their searches and not type in verbs. Sometimes, to sound intelligent, you should include them. I know I do often to keep from people realizing I’m a complete moron.
In the case of the bad title, the use of “the” at the beginning is completely unnecessary and looks bad. You’re writing the title to an online article; leave it out. I also have a problem with the word “send” as it doesn’t strike me as a sports-centric choice. Go with trade, always. In your actual article you can and should mix it up.
Hopefully you also noticed another problem with the title even in regards to basic grammar. Saying the Yankees sent a player to Los Angeles is not clear. First of all, you should stick with cities or team nicknames in the title, not switching between the two. When the city has two teams, like Los Angeles does, you’re better off going with the nickname to avoid any confusion. Plus, nicknames are more sports specific.
There’s a lot to learn about SEO. When I write about a certain subject I’m always mindful to use the big piece at least one other time in my story. WordPress offers plug-ins that can help you with this where you can specifically target search terms to direct people your way. There will always be new information on SEO so make sure you read up on it. Use keywords in your title and keep things as simple as possible. Read other successful news-related blogs for ideas on how to do this to the best of your ability.
I noticed on Innings Eaters I was getting a couple of hits from Bleacher Report, one of the most popular sports websites out there. Unfortunately there was no way of knowing exactly which article it was getting all of the hits, but I had an idea as one post I made about Jay Bruce as a possible replacement for Alex Gordon was climbing up the charts. Some research on their site and I determined this was indeed the case.
I’ve noticed a few of my articles linked to other sites lately. Last week one was on the Baltimore Orioles’ page. This is a pretty big deal as the linking gave me a couple thousand views.
Overall it has been a big month for my Innings Eaters blog. Plenty of Google hits earlier in the month, links from other websites impress me even more as someone took the time to actually select my post. I’m not sure how or why it was chosen yet in doing so I’ve been able to have two consecutive days of over 8,000 views.
Hopefully this has landed me on the BR radar. More than anything, I have to pray there are no decision-makings working for Bleacher Report whom I teased in high school.
I’ll do a bit of research into how to get on their list a little more frequently as the exposure has done a lot of good for Innings Eaters this month.
I feel like an idiot sometimes when I think of the years I wasted not writing about sports. I’ve followed them religiously at times in my life without putting together the idea I could make a living writing about them. Instead, as an outcast in high school, I focused my attention on trying to become a standup comedian. If you thought breaking into sports journalism was tough try making a table full of five German-speaking tourists laugh on a cold Tuesday night in February in an otherwise empty room. Oh and you can’t swear because one of them is 8-years-old.
Writing about sports never occurred to me until after I joined the new defunct Yahoo Voices. I can’t even tell you what my first sports article was. When it earned me a couple of bucks I began writing about them more frequently. Eventually I was writing daily beats for the Philadelphia Phillies on Yahoo Sports until they shut that program down only about two months later. The decision had nothing to do with my abilities, but I can’t help to feel the universe was against me. The exposure was great and I even heard one of my articles mentioned on the radio in Philadelphia then discussed. Regularly, they’d pop up on the front page of Yahoo too and get tens of thousands of views.
Rather than bore you further with my personal journey let me skip right to the point. How does someone get paid to write about sports if they’ve never done it before?
First you need to know how to read. Then you need to know how to write. Then you do it. Then you struggle for years trying to find purpose.
A less cynical answer involves a combination of writing for free and writing somewhere that pays you a few pennies. Plenty of places do offer monetary compensation and almost all do or should require you to have been published elsewhere. This could even be on a personal blog. I’m not sure anyone ever became a writer without doing it for the sheer enjoyment first and this is the step you must take before anyone wants to read your work.
There are plenty of places where you can grab a free blog. Blogspot and WordPress are the best and I’d rank them in reverse order. Blogspot looks like a blog whereas WordPress can actually become a true website with more options. You should familiarize yourself with whichever you choose and take advantage of the features to make your site easy to navigate, unique, and beautiful on the eyes. I feel people who use Blogspot are usually already established in some sort of industry whereas WordPress is for those trying to capture more of your senses. With WordPress you won’t make money unless you buy the domain and are accepted into WordAds. This is simple, but does take some time. Blogspot supposedly does pay. You’d have to Google for information on that as I’ve never had the patience to stick with it to the point where I could earn anything from them.
Once you’ve blogged for free you’re ready to start getting paid work. Don’t think a few posts will do it either. Make sure you give yourself the time to get better. You probably won’t just jump into writing for a well-known site either straight from Tim’s Cool Baseball Blog. I’d instead recommend Googling yourself to death and finding a place that takes in any stray writer they can find. These sites are great because they let you flourish. Far from popular, they’re a great springboard to something more and typically offer more opportunities. If you’re smart, you can learn a lot from the people who run these sites.
And you can always skip the unpaid blogger and go straight to earning advertising revenue on Sportsblog where I write my blog, Innings Eaters. It’s the place where I’ve consistently put together one of the top viewed MLB blogs on the site since inception back in March. I’ll go over later how to succeed there in another post as I am a huge fan of what they’re doing.
The Abridged Version of Everything You Just Read
Getting paid to write about sports comes down to finding the right already established site to do it. The more experience you have the higher you can aim. Fansided and SB Nation are two sites where you should be able to find a writing gig although newer people won’t get paid. It’s decent exposure and both are two places where you can learn some good habits while networking.
Earning money for your writing should be a goal for everyone as selfish as it may sound. We have a lot more to go over and hopefully you have a little clue as to how you can get started.
I haven’t written anything here at the Cleat Report for a few months. As it is the first domain I’ve ever owned I feel like a rotten father for neglecting it. Other than a small handful of readers, this site was never something I was very successful with. However, in a new year with a new approach, I hope to turn this site around and into something worth reading with a completely different focus.
My original intent with the Cleat Report was to write about baseball. It was that simple. Anything about the subject was game. The Yahoo Contributor program had shut down right when I was beginning to get better at writing and actually paid to do so. I had no other places I was writing exclusively about sports, baseball specifically, and wanted to be a part of something big.
It’s hard to imagine as recently as early 2013 I had never made a buck writing anything. Countless screenplays, a few books (okay I did make a few dollars off of those), and blogging regularly was hardly a paycheck worth bragging about. A dream of mine to become a writer was very out of reach for the longest time, but right now it does feel possible. And it is my journey as a writer I would like to share regularly on the Cleat Report going forward.
I’m a professional writer. I am because I say I am. It’s all you have to do in the art world; just say it. Although what I made in 2015 writing was also about a month’s salary, which suddenly makes me feel like I wasted a lot of my time, over the last month alone I’ve made tremendous strides and will get a huge total for December. My hope is on this site I can share my successes and strategies with other people hoping to become a full-time paid writer. My focus, of course, will be in the sports industry with a slant toward baseball.
I’ll leave up old posts of mine too and sometimes reference them. Looking back I see where I sometimes went wrong. I’ve been writing about sports consistently for over two years now in many different places. Hopefully from my mistakes you can advance further at a much quicker pace. Remember to stretch before you do. Nobody wants you pulling a hammy.
For the time being the Cleat Report lives and will be a site about writing. My own advice included regularly, I hope others are willing to share what they know too. I’m still in the process of moving along and whatever I can offer to others is fair game.