Being passionate about cars isn’t all it takes to be a successful motoring journalist. It also takes hard work and, unless you’re already a journalist with an editor keen to tap your passion, it takes hard work to break into.
However, many current Motoring Writers’ Guild members became motoring journalists through persistence, hard work and perhaps a little bit of luck: you could too.
Cold-calling publications is unlikely to be effective, unless you can prove you can do the job. Likewise, car companies are unlikely to lend you their expensive vehicle when they don’t know you, and you don’t have a track record. Seems a catch 22, doesn’t it?
Have a look at what about motoring interests you. Classics? Tuned Japanese imports? Design developments? Go to the library and browse the publications. Which newspapers have motoring supplements? Which magazines cover topics that overlap your interest? What style do they require? Event coverage can make a good start, particularly if you are outside Auckland, as many magazines struggle to cover out-of-town events and rely on freelancers.
Now write a piece to suit. Make sure photography is covered – either by yourself, or by finding out what is or might be available, and suggesting that when you send your piece to the editor you have chosen.
Don’t be surprised if it’s turned down, but do follow up. Perhaps that editor has no freelance budget; perhaps the topic isn’t of interest right now, but your writing hit the spot and they’d welcome something else. Perhaps your work wasn’t of the calibre they seek. You need to know. If they like what you’ve written, but have no budget, they may be able to suggest someone who does.
Remember you’re more likely to strike lucky with a publication that relies on reader-contributors to start with, but that will offer you experience – and work in your portfolio.
If you’re published, get a copy of your work and keep it for your files. Meanwhile check if the editor changed it and consider why they might have done so.
Keep in touch with that editor – and continue to make suggestions. A squeaky wheel with talent and passion will get attention.
Once you are writing regularly for a publication or publications, it’s only a short step to being commissioned, and you’re well on your way.
Gradually you’ll build a portfolio of published work, examples to show new editors you approach and proof of a track record with which to approach the Guild, either under its annual mentoring programme (with one opening a year) or, eventually, as a member.