Friday, October 16, 2015
Writing: It's Just Like Baseball
Those of you who are readers might be marginally aware of the changes in the publishing industry, but I didn't understand them until I got in the middle of things myself.
A writer recently made a comment on one of the writing sites I follow that seemed brilliant in its clarity. And now I'd like to expand that concept by pointing out a similarity to a sport with which most of us are familiar--professional baseball.
The comment said that a three book contract, even from one of the "big" publishing houses, didn't represent security. The author's work has to sell. Performance in this industry is measured, not by how the words look on the page, but by the money they bring in. Publishers are in business to make a profit, and if an author's work doesn't contribute to that, the writer is let go. It doesn't matter how much the editors and staff like them, how many awards they've won, their past performance. As in so many other things, only current (and future) results count. If not, the commenter points out, there are lots of other writers out there. The publisher can go after them, and if they don't pan out, the house can sign yet another. And eventually, someone will produce a blockbuster...which is, after all, what the publisher is after.
How different, really, is this from baseball? A team may trade for a pitcher or position player because they show potential. Yet if that potential doesn't develop, if it's not demonstrated in earned run average or batting average, if it doesn't show up in performance, the player is traded or let go and another one signed. No matter how much they're liked by manager and teammates, regardless of their being a favorite of a group of fans, a business decision is made and they're gone.
This may be why more and more authors are going the self-publishing route. True, there's a lot of work involved, but the author is in charge of their own fate. They--to carry the metaphor a step further--own the team on which they play. Win, lose, or draw, the results are up to them.
What do you think? Writers, have you considered self-publishing? Readers, does the name on the spine of the book make a difference to you? Or is it what's inside that counts? I'd like to hear.
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NOTE: Thanks to LitFuse and Abingdon Press, there's a new giveaway of five copies of my latest novel, Miracle Drug. Click here for the link, and good luck.