A number of people ask me every day if it’s difficult to be a sports journalist and my response is usually the same:
“It’s not difficult to write a story, it’s difficult to get one published.”
Getting your sports articles published can be nerve-wrecking and a real pain in the butt to say the least, but hopefully after you follow these tips you can one day have a piece published.
From a start-up blog to a credible publication with millions of readers, starting on your path to a career in sports journalism begins with the steps I have listed below.
How Do I Get My Sports Articles Published?
First things first. You need an idea.
Think of an idea that is original and has not already been thought of. Also, think if it is actually possible for you to write about it. That is a very important part of writing successful sports articles that is often overlooked.
Can you find credible sources related to this topic to get quotes from? Will these sources supply you with quotes good enough to intrigue an editor of a publication – so much that they will want to buy the piece from you? Is there enough information available for you to thoroughly research the topic and actually write a strong piece? If you can do all of these things than you’re off to a good start.
Is Your Sports Article Worth Writing?
Secondly, how do you know if this article is even worth writing in the first place?
Well, you need to contact every publisher you can. Use any and all networking connections you have in the industry and contact editors, publications or writers of sports articles and see if they would indeed be interested in your piece.
Almost every connection I have made in the sports industry has come through writing discounted or free pieces or doing unpaid internships. Do not overlook the value of scratching someone’s back first by offering them good quality services for a low price. You’ll make great contacts this way and who knows when one of them will pan out in a major way.
Send A Pitch Letter
Once you’ve found the people you want to sell your story to, send them a pitch letter laying out your idea and prove to them in the pitch that your story would make a great read for their audience and show them that you have access to the credible sources needed to make this a strong story.
If you can do this, there isn’t an editor around that will turn you down – why would they? You’re providing them with what they want and can deliver it to them in an efficient way that will benefit all parties; everybody wins!
The Process of Actually Writing Sports Articles
Once an editor has accepted your pitch and given you a word count and deadline, get busy on contacting your sources immediately for quotes. Some sources will take ages to get back to you and this could really burn you if you have a tight deadline. Contact them every which way possible, but try and get them on the phone for an interview. This way you don’t have to go out of your way to set-up a face-to-face meeting that could potentially be cancelled or wait for an email response that could take forever.
Most editors want the story yesterday and they’ll gladly pass up your story for something else if they have to. They have their own deadlines to produce sports articles or otherwise for their readers and they can’t sit around waiting for you.
Research, Research, Research
Once you’ve received strong quotes from your sources, you need to do your research. Make sure you’re only using reliable sources – Wikipedia is not a reliable source – and make sure you can fact check the information you’ve been provided through other sources. Providing research that is not factual can get you into a lot of trouble in the writing world (watch the film Shattered Glass to see what happens to a journalist who lies about his facts).
Time To Write!
After getting your strong quotes and doing your research it’s time to write your story. Make sure it comes in or around the word count the editor provided. Editors won’t mind a few words over or under, but sending them a piece 1000 words over their count will irritate them and it’s likely they’ll just send it back to you and ask for it to be trimmed down.
Make sure you do an edit on your piece and even have an editor friend of yours do the same. The more eyes you have read a piece, the better. This will prevent mistakes from being made and this should allow you to submit a stronger story in the end.
The Editing Process
Once you’ve submitted your piece, your job isn’t done. There’s a very high chance that the editor who accepted your piece will send it back to you with comments and criticism. Don’t take this personally; one important part of being a writer is accepting criticism and abiding by what the editor wants. They’re the one paying for your story, so follow their guidelines.
After some back and forth trimming and chopping of your story with an editor, you’ll eventually come to a final piece, which the editor will publish.
Get Ready To Be Published!
Congratulations! You’ve just gone through the steps of publishing any sports articles (Something Tom Jolly from the New York Times would know about. Go ahead and check out the video above to get some extra tips from him).
It sounds simple doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. It’s a lot of work, but if you use these tips and work hard, you’ll have an excellent chance of getting your words out to the world.