By on June 8, 2012

Since I started my career, I’ve been asked countless times, whether by acquaintances, friends, reader emails and just about every male with a pulse and a drivers license; how do I get your job (or, for our readers, how can I start writing for TTAC). I’ve seen a few lame, generalized articles about “how to be an automotive journalist”, but this one will tell you how to actually make a career out of it, rather than simply spending your days as an “independent blogger” while working at the Verizon store to pay the bills.

1) FORGET ABOUT CAR REVIEWS

Literally every single hack with a Twitter account, a dubious blog with three-figure monthly traffic, or some kind of “diversity” angle that can be used to shame OEMs into getting press trip invites, can write car reviews. And they do. Badly. Here’s a little known fact: all the trips to France and open bars and all the PR ego-massaging is meant to disguise the fact that car reviewers are the peons of the automotive journalism world, the lowest on the totem pole. Car reviews get the lowest pay from publications (in many cases, they won’t pay at all) because they are the most fungible content. Unedited car reviews, even by “name brand” journalists that you know and look up to, are usually written at a level that a 3rd grader would find embarrassing. I know this because I’ve spent years editing them.The participants of the press trip circus are often times the “useful idiots” who can get the OEMs message out there, not necessarily the best writers, or drivers or nicest or brightest people. It’s a little like the real world. In any case, real press trips, usually to far-away places like Indianoplace, are rare. More common are car keys handed over by an agency. With that in mind, don’t give up because there’s a way to actually make a living out of this…

2) Have a skill that has nothing to do with reviewing cars

This year, I’ve ignored a whole bunch of pitches and sought out two people, because they bring something to the table that the TTAC crew can’t necessarily do to the best of their abilities. Andrew is an engineer, and when he’s not repairing dangerously dilapidated infrastructure in rural Canada, he’ll be writing about automotive technology in layman’s terms. Tim is the sales guy and he makes a living at it. If you’re not good at math, well, look at it this way: Steve knows the used car business inside out, Sajeev has a lot of real world experience (something that few have and counts for so much), Jack has a racing license, Murilee is the only person in the world who has tons of knowledge about obscure vehicles and automotive trivia that don’t condescend to the uninformed, Michael owns and operates his own business in the auto industry and Bertel…well, start here and figure it out for yourself.

Corollary: Being a “social media expert” is the only qualification more worthless than “automotive journalist”. Good content gets traffic, not Twitter, not link spamming, not SEO.

3) If you insist on doing car reviews, you better be good. Or a hard worker. Or not…

If you’re going to review cars, your pieces need to either blow the reader away with superlative prose or focus on an angle that nobody else has seen. We have both here at TTAC. You can figure out where Brendan sits on that continuum. On the other hand, we have Alex. He’s no Brendan, but Alex isn’t interested in the “dab of oppo” British-style faux-hooning review. Alex will do a video about the BMW 650i’s technology features when most hacks will use it to try and impress whatever sex they’re attracted to. Alex will pour his heart and soul into a commercial van comparison when most writers couldn’t even muster half the effort to write about the Scion FR-S. Forget what you see on the Facebook albums and Instagram profiles of other established writers. Driving an Aventador in the desert is glorious but fleeting. They can be replaced by the next over-enthusiastic individual willing to eat the requisite amount of excrement the moment they run afoul of whatever agenda is set out for the publication. You can not afford to be expendable.

4) Read and network

The two most important things you can do. Reading is the gym for your mind. Read everything. Stop reading the buff books. You will develop a myopic, uninformed and stubborn view of the auto industry known as “ManualDieselWagonItis”. Buy a subscription to “Just-Auto”. Get a copy of Arrogance and Accords and take copious notes. Stare at monthly sales figures until you are literally bored to tears.

Then go out and network. Meet everyone. Social awkwardness never stopped me, or the most egregious weirdos from succeeding in this business. Every job (including this one) has come from somebody liking me more than someone else who may or may not have been more qualified than myself. At the lowest point in my career, Ed threw me a lifeline because he not only thought I was capable, but he liked me enough and more importantly trusted me enough to let me come onboard and help steer his ship while he went away.

Corollary: you will not get along with everyone. You will dislike some people. They will dislike you for any number of reasons. Your personalities may clash. You may have different values. They may feel threatened by you. Whatever. The right person will recognize your talents, and if they don’t, maybe you just have no talent.

5) If you STILL insist on doing car reviews

Take whatever money you’d spend on buying a brown Citroen SM with a Stratos V6 swap and LEARN TO DRIVE. There are many ways to do this. Go to racing school (expensive). Get coaching one on one (also expensive). If you’re fortunate like me, sign up for a karting series. Although you run the same track every time, nothing teaches you fine control of a vehicle, or how to sense how much traction you have (or don’t have) like karting. It’s also cheap (at low levels) fairly safe and most importantly, good fun. Chances are, you will never be a race car driver. As a child, I was found to have exceptionally poor spatial sense, which will prevent me from ever becoming a great racer. If you’re the kind of person who is more inclined with words than numbers, chances are you may have a similar ailment. The good news is that if you learn to steer smoothly, squeeze on the brakes and look ahead, you can savage most of your fellow junket participants, over-priced sports car buyers and both types who also attend the same track days as you. The downside is you may “…never be able to out of your window net and simply [destroy] another man’s confidence on the entry to a critical corner…” but I’m sure most of us can live with that. Or …

… simply forget about car racing. It is beyond me why would-be car racers end up as would-be writers. The OEMs that hand you the keys to that car roll their eyes at reviewers with racing ambitions. They are scary,  they cause accidents. People don’t want to read about your heels and toes. They want a car to drive to work.

6) Here’s surefire advice on how to get a gig at TTAC, or any other North American publication. Or a book deal.

 Go get a job in the industry. Working at a dealership is ok, but may not get you too far. Working at an OEM is also good. Working at a car factory is better. Working at a UAW plant is the Mount Everest. Even if it’s just sweeping the floors. You will have years of original content, insights that no professional “journalist” will ever have and the kind of life experience that will make you an interesting person to talk to at parties. Most importantly, you will have a story to tell. One that doesn’t involve how much better the Eden Roc is than the bullshit Mandarin Oriental that the OEM has dared to put you up in after flying economy. We desperately need new blood in this business. If you’re already out there, have an itch to write and are willing to break any NDA’s you’ve signed, write to editors@ttac.com and enclose 400 words of your prose. If you don’t hear back from us, we weren’t impressed.

 

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

58 Comments on “How To Succeed At Automotive Journalism: A Primer For Neophytes...”


  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, I certainly qualify as to point # 2. ;-)

    But here’s the question for you: “automotive journalism” FWIW was defined in the 1950s by Tom McCahill, Donald E. Davis and some others as being about 75% car reviews, the rest being other car-related stuff. Say what you will about it, but enough people liked the product to buy it and support two or three or four general automotive magazines in the pre-Internet days (not counting the myriad specialty rags devoted to Mustangs, Corvettes, Hot Rods, etc.) Davis, with his typical audacity, founded Automobile Magazine and proclaimed the lack of need for instrumented testing (probably because they couldn’t afford the hardware and/or didn’t want to pay for the use of a track). Yet, eventually, even Automobile succumbed to the numbers gang.

    So why is it that you think the basis for a commercially-successful web site is a different formula?

    [not that I\'m complaining about your efforts in that regard]

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve never had a single person ever offer to do instrumented testing (nonwithstanding Alex Dykes, who does some tests). Like you mentioned, track time and the proper gear is expensive and conducting it is time consuming. The other side of the coin is most people are interested in a free car and write about it because they have to. Some really want to write an article about the car. And the few, like Jack or Brendan, who can tell a story, get published.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’m no journalist, but that photo you chose is simply…obscene.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Well, I’m disqualified on most of Number 2. Being a journalist at a weekly newspaper, I can certainly write prose. Maybe it doesn’t blow people away, but in the straight-laced world of (most) newspapers, the day-to-day grind is not about pretty words, it’s about clarity and conciseness.

    I’ll admit, I have written a couple of pieces and thought of sending them to TTAC. Probably for the best I never did. After I went back and read them after not looking at them for a couple of years, I hated them. Maybe I’m my harshest critic, I dunno.

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      I will add that perhaps my only somewhat unique qualification is my fascination with cars nobody else seems to desire. I love weird stuff, cheap stuff, commercial vehicles, and any combination of the three.

      None of my friends understands my frustration at not being able to find a base model of the new Nissan Versa sedan with a manual transmission to test drive, for example. Nor do they understand my frustration at Ford’s killing the Ranger in North America (e.g. “Why wouldn’t you just buy an F-150?” is the question I most often get in those conversations.) Hell, I even started to find things to like about the base Toyota Yaris sedan rental I had for a week last year while my truck was getting hail damage repaired.

      So I guess there’s the weirdo aspect, but that’s not all too unique in this business. Just look at Automobile’s Jamie Kitman. I can’t out-weird that.

      • 0 avatar
        Monty

        Holy cow, I found another of us – “strippo baby, strippo”, is my motto when it comes to vehicles of choice. I just drove 3300 kms from Arizona to bring home a Ranger S (2.3 4 cyl., manual tranny, no accessories whatsoever); it was the cheapest Ranger one could buy new in 2002.

        I love orphan brands, and I love non-North American cars (I noticed a Vitz in traffic the other day, and I had to explain to my wife why it wasn’t a Toyota Echo!).

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        Monty, I salute your fine choice of transportation, and the lengths to which you have gone to obtain it. As an owner of a stripped (but relative to my previous two small pickup trucks, well-equipped) 2006 Ford Ranger XL regular cab with the 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission, I do love the little trucks. They’re honest and small, but not afraid to haul. I hauled 1,220 lbs. of scrap steel in mine last summer. Didn’t even hit the bump stops.

        Presently, I’m lusting after a base Nissan Cube. Good luck finding one of *those.* I think one dealer in the whole state has one, and they’re not moving on price. MSRP or bust.

        It’s not a cheapness thing, honestly. My wife’s daily is a relatively loaded Cube (cruise, Bluetooth, the works) and I enjoy those things. But I think I’m a minimalist at heart, so I want just what I need to accomplish the job. That’s part of why commercial vehicles appeal to me. Those are some vehicles designed to do a particular set of tasks and do them better than any “civilian” vehicle could. For example, the Ford Transit Connect does tug at my heartstrings, but as the founder of the Manual Transmission Preservation Society (look us up on Facebook, I kid you not), I’m disheartened at its lack of stick-shift option.

        I recently gave serious consideration to buying a 1997 Subaru Sambar Classic kei truck from a local dealership that had taken it on trade. My wife was kind enough to play along, up until she heard the asking price of $4,500 was as low as the dealer would go. I’ve slowly converted her to weirdness. It’s part of the reason she drives a Cube, after all. She hated the Cubes at first, but once I got her to sit in one, it was love.

      • 0 avatar
        windnsea00

        Class 4-6 trucks (medium duty) are of great interest to me but no one bothers with them since they are mostly a commercial appliance. I had my hand in these class of vehicles for a short period of time in the rental car business.

      • 0 avatar
        jogrd

        Another fan of Medium Duties as well. When I want to haul something I want to haul something. Otherwise I’d take my bike or drive a car. It’s hard to find many that aren’t used up though. Information about them is pretty scattered.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I like to see more reviews of stripped down commercial vehicles. I also enjoy humorous articles about cheap used cars. Car and Driver Battle of the Beaters is a great example.
        http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/battle-of-the-beaters-archived-comparison

      • 0 avatar
        windnsea00

        Time for me to start “TTACV,” The Truth About Commercial Vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        “Time for me to start TTACV….”

        Do it! I’ll be your point-man on vans and low cab-forward trucks. I do love these two classes of vehicles.

        I’ve always kind of fantasized about being able to buy the Class 2/3 LCF trucks the Japanese and other nations get. They’re slightly smaller in footprint than an F-150, typically, but do the hauling work of an F-350, judging from the pictures I’ve seen of them. Most of the Isuzu N- and F-series trucks imported to the U.S. (not to mention the Mitsubishi Fusos and what few UD-Nissan Diesels we still get) are quite a bit larger and more capable than those, so not practical for a lot of small businesses. Look up a Mazda Bongo for a smallish example, or an Isuzu NHR for a slightly larger example. So cool!

      • 0 avatar

        Since I started Cars In Depth about a year and a half ago, I’ve probably taken over 10,000 photo pairs (I stopped counting at 6,000) and maybe 350 videos at auto shows, car shows, and museums. I generally will walk past a dozen ’57 Chevys and ’69 Camaros to get a photo of one AMC product. If I had to pick between shooting a Corvette and shooting a Corvair, unless it would be a very special Vette, it’s going to be the Corvair. I was able to get to the Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti last year and you’d love it. Nothing but oddball cars and even trucks for your commercial vehicle jones.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    I would love it if TTAC hired someone that has thorough manufacturing experience. I’m on my 4th North American plant. There are so many stories I have heard from consolidated hourly workers from plants that no longer exist. I still have beer in fridges of UAW specialists accross the country and in Canada. TTAC needs to tap into that sort of knowledge base. Stories of ‘larger than life’ plant managers, helicopters dropping off parts to prevent line stoppages, etc.

    Assembling cars is over 100 years old, yet there are few publications that have documented the pulse of the OEM/Supplier plant life.

    • 0 avatar
      Gannet

      I’ve seen the helicopters dropping off parts thing.

      When I was at Wixom in the 1970s, we were running at 42 cars an hour. Let’s call the average retail price $15k (I was there 10 years, it was less in the beginning, more later). That’s $630,000 an hour. In today’s money, what, $2.5M?

      So yeah, if there was some glitch, maybe a strike at a supplier, or a bad batch of parts, they absolutely would use aircraft to bring in parts if that kept the line from going down. $630k buys a lot of flight time. Sure, cost is not retail, but still.

      I think Connie Kallita’s flying service got started doing this sort of work.

      When you haven’t worked in a big industrial facility going flat-out it’s hard to picture just what a huge operation it all is. I actually think it’s sad that most kids in the US don’t get to see that anymore. They think stuff comes from stores, or Amazon. Wrong. Every single thing in your life gets made in a factory somewhere, by somebody.

      The work was hard as hell, but when I got to the end of my shift I felt I had done something. There was a couple of million dollars worth of New Stuff in the world, and I helped.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        Man, I’m still under 30 and I consider myself to be lucky. The consolidation of so many plants and the jobs bank is why there isn’t any new blood in the workforce. It’s the nature of the beast. When I was working below the Mason Dixon Line, I had crews on afternoon and night shifts that were younger than me. It was awesome to see such a young workforce come together in continuous improvement (Kaizen events blah) meetings and take part of layouts and workstation designs.

        In all honesty, the plants I deal with up North aren’t really all that different. There has been a bit of a culture change, even in the old school plants in Ontario. A lot of people are just thankful to be working and building cars.

        You probably built my project car and that made my day. If you were in Wixom in 1984, I have been restoring a diesel Continental you guys put together. I love the car and it’s factory paint was superb. Great coverage on the door jams, no orange peel, thick, thick even layers. Wet on dry two tone, hand masked. I had to repaint it, but the body shop and myself marveled at what was left from 20+ years baking in upstate SC. Your plant was the favorite amongst so many engineers, managers and the like. I was there in 2007 ripping out some DC control boxes off the final line. I never saw it run, but I am glad I got to be a part of that plant’s history. Cheers to you!

  • avatar

    I make $300 a month on Youtube ADSENSE making car reviews. No they aren’t great quality, but, I’m getting better :P

    I don’t even care about the money. It’s just FUN!

  • avatar
    Gannet

    Heck man, if I was a writer I’d be in good shape. I spent ten years on the line at Wixom and painted over half a million Lincolns (and T-Birds). Then I took my GED scores and went to University of Michigan-Dearborn, Mechanical Engineering. Got a co-op job at GM, assigned to the Proving Ground, worked at Milford for about 4 years as a Test Engineer and Mesa for about 4. Got laid off there, went to aircraft mechanic’s school, got my A&P, and went to work for an aircraft and gun collector who flew armed missions out of Scottsdale. Yeah, I got stories. :)

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    Gen “Why” automobile obsessed individual here since a very young age! My automotive related work has been owning an exotic detailing business, management in the rental car industry, and now currently working for a worldwide corporation that creates software for body shops. Funny enough a decade ago (in high school) I started a blog aimed at Gen X and Y drivers but didn’t stick with it, for shame!

  • avatar
    Byron Hurd

    I’ll just mention (from personal experience) that being an “independent blogger” with a “real” 9-5 isn’t such a bad gig if you enjoy (or can at least live comfortably on) your 9-5. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a Verizon store, but you get the idea.

    The OEMs will expect the same quality of work from you as any other working journalist, however, so it’s not a one-way ticket to free cars at your leisure. You still gotta publish.

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    If you know enough people, someone will let you write about cars.

    As much as I love TTAC, I’m not sure you guys should be giving advice on how to get “into the biz.” A friend of mine supposedly knew a guy who got an internship at one of the buff-books because he cataloged his restoration of an old BMW 2002.

    I just started writing about cars as soon as I found someone who would have me. At SEMA 2007, I got about 60 biz cards from every media type I could find. 5 of them replied to my emails, and only one gave me a job.

    But it turned out to be a cover story.

    Alas, I have become disenfranchised with the entire business. TTAC aside, most auto journalists are simply marketing tools for automakers. The best part of having media credentials to me is getting to talk not to PR people, but engineers and designers. They’ll still try to sell you the car, but they’ll give you better reasons than class-leading headroom.

    I feel like I came as close as anyone has to becoming an “auto jouranlist”, but once I saw the reality of it…kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

    Which is funny, because some of the best meals I have ever eaten have been at an automaker’s expense. SIGH.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    Never really thought about being an auto journalist. More interested in starting my own car company or taking over a potentially great car company like Honda and pointing it in the right direction.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    This is a pretty good article.

    I write about cars (reviews or otherwise) simply as a hobby because that’s what I enjoyed doing in my spare time. Not that I”ve never considered taking it seriously at one point or another, but these are some good points. My angle was I’d get invited to dealership events like car reveals or customer drives and just write about my experiences. Yes my blog would qualify as one that only sees double digit daily hits but I never really cared about that.

    I remember directing Sajeev to my blog while asking a question for Piston Slap a few months ago. Never heard back soooo….that was a laugh.

    Anyway, these are some good tips and now I’m seriously going to go for it.

    • 0 avatar

      Your query is probably sitting in a queue with the other 90 on my plate. The beauty of being a car blogger is that you can be a full time schmuck in some other industry.
      More to the point, being a part-time auto blogger is the only way to fly, IMO.

  • avatar
    replica

    I’d like to write car reviews but when I think about the format and how I see it in typical car magazines, it’s so dry. When I think about a car, I tend to think of the adventures, stories and so on it gets me in. I see them as platforms, shuffling us from one event to the next.

    I fear most of my reviews would be 25% car review and 75% “so I was driving this new Mustang to the bar….” or “I was having a magical night singing Dio at a karaoke bar and saw the rear quarter panel of a new Mazda3 out the window”m or perhaps “I was profusely vomiting outside of a bar, leaning on a car I later discovered was a sublime new 911.” Life is more interesting than a damn car. However, cars become personalities all their own in the right context.

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    I’d love to be an auto journalist, but I’m old and fat and evidently that means that I’m only good for mocking and giving some people a feeling of superiority.

    • 0 avatar

      A lot of auto journos are old and fat. Don’t let that stop you, ditto “I’m too young,” “I don’t have any experience,” “I’m short,” “I’m gay,” “I don’t know anyone in the business,” “I am not good enough.”

      Look at Michael Moore – household name. Ernest Borgnine. Wayne Knight.

      If you want to find a reason not to do something, you’ll find one. If you’re obsessed with getting something to happen, nothing will stop you.

      And if you think being younger and leaner means nobody mocks you, guess again. I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me a jerk, a know-nothing, a moron, and, once, “A shaved p—y in a pink frilly dress” after I’ve slammed their favorite ride.

    • 0 avatar
      rwb

      Just keep your belly in your shirt and respect should follow.

  • avatar
    ringomon

    Let me know if you’re interested in some original editorial cartoons about the world of autos.

    I already do some sport’s editorial cartoons elsewhere, and I’ve got some ideas (and examples) for automobile ones…

    • 0 avatar

      Ringomon, where can we see your sports cartoons or other things in your portfolio?

      • 0 avatar
        ringomon

        Sorry for the delayed response- I got busy at work after I originally posted.
        (And sorry to other readers as this is not auto-related at all)

        My own site that I do is called Bouncex3:
        http://www.bouncex3.com

        I also do a weekly sports comic for Buzzfeed, and illustrations for some other sites- some samples here:
        http://joapplegate.tumblr.com/

  • avatar
    ringomon

    Let me know if you’re interested in some original editorial cartoons about the world of autos.

    I already do some sports editorial cartoons elsewhere, and I’ve got some ideas (and examples) for automobile ones…

  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    I like that you point out how this is a team effort. Sometimes in college I see these young/new people that think a journalist is like a one man army of information seeking and photo taking and what have you. For example, I’m a photographer, but some one else might do all the fact gathering- it’s a collaborative effort at times.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    After reading so many articles on this site I’d enjoy writing for TTAC, the only problem is that I’m a bit too young to have that much experience in the industry.

    I have more experience with old cars with my first shifting lessons being on an obscure Honda Z600, my first car being a ’75 Beetle, and later fixing up a VW Fastback (while in college).

    If TTAC is interested, I’d love write articles tackling common automibile stereotypes (Volvos being so great), mostly to do with beaters.

    Also, I’d gladly supply cartoons for articles. One of the first things that I could draw well were vintage VW Beetles (with every detail intact).

    I’m not really interested in “reveals” press stuff, or anything like that. I just want to work with who I see as skilled individuals in the world of car journalism and have a chance to drive different cars, no matter how slow or crude.

    I’m sure that anything out there is more pleasing than the 18hp Citroen 2CV I once drove.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      “I’d love write articles tackling common automibile stereotypes (Volvos being so great), mostly to do with beaters”

      I think that stereotype died about 20 years ago, around the time the 850 came out.

  • avatar

    One of my personal auto journalist gods was Tom McCahill. I wrote a piece about him about for TTAC about three years ago that was a tribute to the guy who molded me as a car kid. He was the best that I ever read and I loved the irreverent style in his car test articles and his Mail for McCahill section.

    I have been a freelancer for about 27 years, mostly in conventional print dailies, but my brother Jerry and I have our collector website because of the influence of Uncle Tom and embracing his love of cars early in our lives.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Looking for writers I take it? Or tired of getting emails from people wanting to work for you?

  • avatar

    One too many “abouts” in my last post or, as Canadians say, “aboots”.

  • avatar
    baggins

    About 12-13 years ago when I in my early 30s, I wanted to get into journalism, business journalism specifically. I had been in corporate life for 10 years, and figured I had some expertise to bring to bear. I was doing an MBA part time, and also wrote for the university paper with the undergrads. I enjoyed it, and realized that writing well is hard work.

    At that time the economy and the stock market was booming, and business journalism seemed like a reasonable career.

    Ultimately, I stayed in finance, and that might be the best decision ever made.

    Journalism has had a really rough go of it lately, lots of contraction. Democratization of news via the internet has reduced the full time journalist employment, avg pay, etc.

    A few years ago, I read a piece in the NYT by one of their business writers about how he lost his house. This was at the peak of foreclosure mania. Basically had a mid life crisis and spent in on a new bride with pricey tastes, along with payments to the ex. It’s the NYT, so of course the default thrust of the piece would be to blame the lender, or the Republicans. But he was just a horny writer, and sort of admitted as much.

    Anyhow, he noted made 120K a year, plus OT. I thought, holy sh**, this guy is near the top of his profession and works for the most prestigious paper in the country, yet I make more than his does. At the time a I was a middle mgt schmuck in corp finance. I would have lucky to earn 1/2 what this NYT Lothario pulled down, had I pursued journalism.

    Unless one generates some sort of celebrity and leverages it financially, journalism has to be a labor of love.

    I didnt love that much.

  • avatar

    Interesting article. For awhile I thought this was the direction I wanted to go and even have the corvette review in this site to prove it. I ended up starting my own Ducati focused site and it is a lot of fun even if it is also the $300 per month Adsense job. I thought about going full on with that but was cautioned about turning my passion into a job. The truth is I can make serious money in my day job whilst the prospects in the automotive writing business are necessarily modest for all but a literal handful. I’ll stick with the joy of my hobby.

  • avatar

    Hi, Derek–

    Thanks for an informative article. As an auto journo of 12 years, I, too, get the question, “How can I get your job?”

    I always answer, “Can you write?” The response is usually “Um…no.”

    I say, “Start there, man.”

    Your article focuses on how to make a living – good. Most people want to make a killing. Not trying to be a killjoy but in the last 3 years, since the big economy crash, I don’t know that any beginning auto journalist is making a killing. If someone is, please point them out to me so I can go and eat them and apply for their job.

    I would say to people wanting to break into any sort of writing gig to become an amazing writer – be able to write about anything and make it compelling. Not praising myself here. But my beat has also included crime, music, my own life, sex, relationships, and anything else anyone wanted to throw at me.

    Also, don’t forget the other attributes that make any employee attractive – filing on time, communicating with your editor if you can’t, getting the facts right including price, horsepower and other essentials, not being a pain in the ass to work with, turning in copy that barely needs fixing if at all, being able to take feedback, even harsh feedback, from your superiors, and not collapse, and the list goes on.

    Quit the porn and the Warcraft and focus on the writing. Write in your journal, write to your family, write a letter with a pen and mail it, write, write, write, write.

    As my late writer father said: Eat, sleep, shit and write and that’s all.

    I would include exercise and sex on the list, too, to keep from going nuts.

    Finally – read. Read classic literature as well as the car mags. Become obsessed with getting better.

    I liked what you said about Karting, too. I’m gonna look into that this coming week. Thanks for the tip, and a great piece.

    Regards,

    Josh Max, wishing you luck out there.
    https://www.facebook.com/JoshMaxPower

  • avatar
    shifterbrains

    Derek,
    great article.
    One thing about the internet is that everyone has a chance to voice their opinion and be ‘published’. That doesn’t mean what they have to say is worth reading.
    You’re spot on with many of your comments.
    The bit about guys with manufacturing experience brought to mind some stories a friend of mine who worked for Chrysler for years told me, including shipping cars with known major problems and ‘letting the dealer’s fix them’.
    Hope you find some more gems out there.
    Keep the quality high and the entertainment quotient cranked.

  • avatar

    I’ve thought about writing for ttac ~1-2x in the past; -just no idea on the specific subject.

    Also scared of rejection. Perhaps irrationally-so.

    hrm,…

    .
    @baggins: Good info there!

  • avatar
    demcowrgoodeatin

    Great article, the closest thing to a step-by-step guide the dreamers will ever get.

    I personally would love to read more articles that focused more on the things that frustrate OCD car buyers. Where are the cars being built and who are the suppliers? I am actually interested in where the steel for the frame came from, what grade and alloy, and what are engineering specifications. Where differential made and do other brands use it? I want to know the nuts and bolts of the car as if I built it myself. This is where a retired UAW with a knack for tedium and a great deal of time would come in handy.

    My favorite articles are about emerging and unconventional automotive technologies. For example, Bruce Crower’s six-stroke engine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-stroke_engine

    or Steve Durnin’s CVT transmission that uses no clutch or friction drive components. Imagine the possible applications for this in commercial trucks one day!

  • avatar
    demcowrgoodeatin

    Great article, the closest thing to a step-by-step guide the dreamers will ever get.

    I personally would love to read more articles that focused more on the things that fascinate obsessive car buyers. Where are the cars being built and who are the suppliers? I am actually interested in where the steel for the frame came from, what grade and alloy, and what are engineering specifications. Where differential made and do other brands use it? I want to know the nuts and bolts of the car as if I built it myself. This is where a retired UAW with a knack for tedium and a great deal of time would come in handy.

    My favorite articles are about emerging and unconventional automotive technologies. For example, Bruce Crower’s six-stroke engine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-stroke_engine

    or Steve Durnin’s CVT transmission that uses no clutch or friction drive components. Imagine the possible applications for this in commercial trucks one day!

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Ahh, I figured as much Sajeev.

    Well in that case let me throw it out there.

    http://mytestdrives.blogspot.com

    Its been a constant learning tool for refining my articles but I’m already working on an overhaul.

  • avatar
    koreancowboy

    I’ve been in the auto industry since 1997(third generation, Grandfather worked for GM as a tech, then was a Service Manager for a Buick/Pontiac dealership, Grandmother was an Executive Consultant for an OEM automotive air conditioning supplier, Dad was a ASE Master Certified Technician)…in that time, I’ve been a:

    Detail Porter for a Nissan dealership
    Service Porter for a Ford dealership
    Internet Sales Manager for a Lincoln-Mercury dealership
    Salesperson for Ford and Honda dealerships
    Commercial Account Manager for Ford Motor Company
    Document Management/Credit Analyst for Mercedes Benz Credit
    Senior Technical Advisor for BMW NA
    Consultant for an OEM automotive fabric supplier
    Forum Moderator for Motor Trend

    Currently:

    News Editor for another auto news site
    Webmaster for Toyota recall site
    Mystery shopper for a major automotive dealership corporation

    I completely agree with all of this…I don’t do reviews, simply because everyone is. I mainly cover the news and write editorials from my unique perspective. I strongly recommend getting into the auto industry anyway you can, and network, network, network!

  • avatar
    Anthonyg8

    I am no Automotive Journalist, but I must say this has been my dream job since I was about 7 years old. Im a 22 years old male, since I was 16 I’ve had 15 cars, my brother is a mechanic, and I pretty much learned everything I know about cars from him or experimenting on my own. I have alot of driving experience on and off the track, track meaning (dragstrip). In high school I got nothing but A’s and B’s on writing assignments essays in particular. Where does a guy like me fit into the world of an Automotive Journalist? Im pretty much willing to do whatever it takes, seeing how cars are my life and my passion. Where do I start? there’s major to be an Automotive journalist and I live in Missouri where there seems to be very little, if any opportunity for such careers. Some one help!


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States