Thursday, January 17, 2008

I Get Letters: How to succeed in card blogging without even trying.

In case you haven't noticed, the cardblogosphere is blowing up. Everyday it seems, somebody establishes a new baseball cardblog. And sure enough, just as soon as a new blog opens for business, I get an e-mail (usually mixed in with the dozens of MySpace Friend Requests that front for porn sites) from it's writer begging me to check out their site.

And whose cardblog wouldn't want the "Stale Gum Seal of Approval?" While it is encouraging to see many new cardblogs spring up -- especially since many of these cardbloggers are from the "lost generation" of collectors -- there's a problem with many of these sites. Many of these are so new, they have very little original content. I can't possibly give an honest review of something that really hasn't fully developed.

Recently, in between the MySpace Friend Requests from "Tiphany," "Jasime," and "Ashley," (like that's their real names) I received an e-mail from a collector who wanted to start his own blog, and sought my advice. "How do you do it, Chris?"

And so, on this the tenth anniversary of the incident that inspired the creation of Stale Gum, I bequeath you, the new and future cardbloggers, this sage advice. For those about to cardblog, (FIRE!) I salute you.

Twelve Tips for the Budding Baseball Cardblogger.

1) Write, write, write.

Ask yourself this: "Am I a good writer, or do I suck at it?"

If you answered the latter, fear not. Writing is a skill that can be learned and improved -- but only with practice.

I'll freely admit, when I started this thing ten years ago I wasn't the greatest writer in the world either. In fact, I was terrible. But I wrote anyway. And I wrote. And I wrote. After ten years, I like to think that I'm a halfway decent writer. Granted, no one will ever confuse my prose with that of Grantland Rice, or Peggy Noonan, or H.L. Mencken, but I'm OK with that.

But you can only improve your writing skills with practice. Lots of practice. But don't take my word for it, take A.I.'s



2) Know what it is you're blogging about.

Of all the points, this is probably the most important. If you don't know shit about cards, then what's the point blogging about them?

It's like what Ricky Roma said in Glengarry Glen Ross: (And you'd know it if you ever collected a day in your life.) "You never open your mouth, until you know what the shot is."

3) More is not better.

One of the great advantages of the blog format is that there are no set-in-stone deadlines. You don't have to come out with a new story everyday -- unless you're the Cardboard Junkie. There are some weeks where I've posted five, six, even seven stories. But then again, I've gone weeks without posting a single story.

The principle here is, quality over quantity. If you don't have anything worthwhile to say, then don't say it.

4) Have a take, and don't suck.

Ah yes, sage advice from Mr. Jim Rome. When you blog, come up with something fresh and original. THINK! USE YOUR NOODLE! Don't just cut-and-paste the press release Upper Deck just e-mailed you (and everyone else who has a card blog), and post it. There are other websites that specialize in that.

Cut-and-paste that press release to your blog and tell us what you think (there's that word again) about that new $500/pack UD product.

5) Be fearless.

DO NOT BE AFRAID to piss people off. If you think that $500/pack UD product sucks, say so. What's Upper Deck going to do, sue you? Sue a blogger?

6) Remember "The 5WH"

5WH stands for: who? what? where? when? why? and how? Ask yourself these questions whenever you write -- especially if you're doing a product review. For example:

"HOW many cards did I get in pack, and HOW much did I pay for it?"

"WHO is the target audience for this product?"

"WHAT do I think of the cards I pulled?"

"WHY did I like/hate this set?"

"WHAT would I have done differently."

You get the idea.

7) Lern two youse spelchek.

This should be obvious.

8) Don't use a "dollar" word, when a "fifty-cent" word will do.

Oh sure, you may have a Ph.D. from an Ivy League university hanging up on your wall, or in my case a BA from a rather prestigious state school; but you're not writing for a serious academic journal. YOU'RE WRITING ABOUT BASEBALL CARDS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

Write as if your audience is, well, a bunch of card collectors. You know that guy you bought that waxbox off of at the card show? Write as if he's your sole reader.

9) Read.

Read. Read a lot, and absorb from your favorite authors and journalists. For example, one of my favorite authors is the humorist and gonzo-journalist P.J. O'Rourke. If you were to ask me who the biggest influence on my writing style is, it would be O'Rourke.

10) Be yourself. After all, it's your blog.

Speaking of style, develop one of your own. If you think you're funny, then write funny. If you're more serious, write serious.

Also, don't be afraid to tell the audience a little about yourself. For example, in this entry I mentioned that I have a BA from a prestigious state school. You don't have to post your Social Security number, but post what you're comfortable with.

11) Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was the cardblogosphere.

How does that old shampoo commercial go? "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Yeah, link exchanges can be a great way to promote your blog. But if you only been around for a week, and you only have a handful of blog entries, then what's the point?

If you just started a blog, write for a couple of weeks (make that months). Then, write for a couple of more weeks. Then, write for a few more weeks. If you haven't abandoned your blog by this point, then ask if you want to link swap.

12) Don't be afraid to fail.

I've been at this (on and off) for almost ten years. But it's only been in the last year that I've been able to reach a significant audience.

... and one more for good luck.

13) HAVE FUN! And don't take yourself too seriously.

Always Be Collecting,
Chris Harris

6 comments:

dayf said...

so... was that a compliment or a shot? I'm confused. Aw fuck it, I'm gonna go write something.

I love capchas. I just got ooorv!

Wax Heaven said...

Great article from the Card Blogging Old Timer!

For the record, when I started my blog I had something like 50+ blogs already and only like 7 comments and two were from me. I began to panic but patience, more blogs, and more patience paid of huge!

Michael said...

Chris,

Great post! I had 4 blogs prior to badwax and I think I finally found something I love to write about everyday. Keep the great posts coming, I think we all should aspire to have a site like yours. Now I shall get up, stop kissing your ass, and write to my blog.

Thanks again!

Chuck said...

Chris, as a new blogger, I find your tips invaluable. Thanks for the advice. I hope to one day be celebrating my 10th anniversary!!

Chuck

Harner said...

As a journalist and a card blogger, I echo everything you have just said.

I would also suggest getting a StatCounter as this will show if you have regular readership and from where it is coming from.

thewritersjourney said...

I started my blog for a completely different purpose than it is now used. And generally, I don't ask for link exchanges. I post links of sites that I like to check every day or two, and usually leave comments on their blogs. If they reciprocate, cool...if not, oh well. I will still check their sites and comment. And hope they check mine and comment, but I ain't gonna beg. I mean, if you want to add my link to your list, go right ahead. I'm not going to stop you. In fact, I would be most honored. But I will not get on my hands and knees and grovel and offer to kiss your feet.