RF has an open door policy for new writers. “If you can write about watches, you can write about watches for TTAW, no matter what your experience level,” RF assured me back in the day. “Just tell the truth, check your facts and don’t be dull.” Actually, there’s a bit more to how to write an article for TTAW. As someone who’s made the jump from horological hype space to truthiness, I’m here to help aspiring watch writers join the team. Here’s the unofficial tip sheet and guidelines. Let’s start with what’s not required . . .
- Luxurious urbane lifestyle encompassing international travel, fine wine, five-star dining, Cuban cigars, exotic cars and a collection of rare timepieces that slot under your Italian sports jackets
- Ivy League or other prestigious education encompassing literature, history, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and art appreciation
- Published articles in The New Yorker
- English as a first language
- A penis
I meet all these non-requirements, except for my reproductive system and being a native English speaker. How to write for TTAW if you don’t speak-a-de-English? Use Google translate. RF enjoys editing like a surgeon enjoys removing cancer – although he reserves the right to leave stilted grammar unmolested, to give the site foreign flavor. [Note: TTAW has a lot of foreign readers. Hence the red links to definitions.]
TTAW doesn’t mind if you’re a humdrum nobody eking it out in the hinterlands who hasn’t written an essay since they were climbing ropes for gym class. (Don’t ask me how I know.) These days, everyone is an online content generator. If you write the occasional social media post, if you’re not illiterate or utterly devoid of opinion and original thought, writing for TTAW isn’t a big leap.
This is a site about truth. If you are a pathological liar or a watch industry shill, that might be a problem. But if that’s stated up front and RF’s ready to add italicized snark, it may be workable. In terms of a “style guide,” I’ll save the publisher from repeating himself by sharing the tips he’s dropped on me.
- Don’t do a boilerplate rehashing of publicly available information (i.e., don’t be every other watch website extant). Opinion and insight is TTAW’s stock-in-trade. Editorializing – making it all about you and your experience – is the thing. You are free to be as unprofessional, opinionated, sarcastic, enigmatic, you as you wish.
- Photographing watches is a bitch. Glare and reflections (to include you or the camera) are the enemy. TTAW suggests holstering a bottle of Wrist Clean to avoid photos with fingerprints and flecks of dust (that’s a little more truth than anyone wants). It’s best to shoot in natural sunlight on a cloudy day; the golden hours around sunrise and sunset. The cabin of a car seems to work well at blocking overhead light and other reflections while allowing soft light, so that is why you see so many steering wheel shots.
Try to avoid eBay style mugshots. There are only so many ways to pose a watch, and you definitely want to show all sides – but be artistic. Have you seen Mr. Farago’s pics of watches on produce, in the refrigerator, atop a sleeping puppy? Aim for an interesting backdrop. I try for something relevant to the motif of the watch using household possessions.
Finished image size should be 600 pixels for horizontal pics, 350 for rectangular and 450 for square. Avoid copyrighted images like the proverbial plague, meaning photos from websites other than the manufacturer. Some images can be republished with attribution and a link, but play it safe. One lawsuit can ruin RF’s whole day.
- This site uses WordPress. The on-board SEO software has a widget that makes sensible suggestions that disappear as they’re fulfilled (e.g., internal links). I aim for ye olde 800-word limit (excluding specs and ratings) that the publisher had as a hard rule back on The Truth About Cars (which he now regrets). The current max is around 1200 words. If that chafes, RF will happily break an interesting article into multiple posts. In all cases the goal is easily digestible articles.
- Their search engine optimization requires a “focus key phrase.” That’s why you’ll see the words “how to write for TTAW” throughout this article, and the whole damn name of the watch spelled out multiple times in a review.
- Anonymity available! Don’t want the rest of the board of directors to run across you goofing on watches on the internet? Pseudonyms and noms de plume are a thing here.
Remember the Dunning-Kruger effect. The most capable people will underrate themselves the most. You can do it! Email your copy and photos to email@example.com. If you have more questions, send your phone number to RF at that email address and he’ll call you back. Oh and RF says when the site starts making money, the writers will be the first paid. And that’s the truth.