Friday, October 16, 2015

Writing: It's Just Like Baseball

Some of you who read this blog, especially my Friday posts about the writing life, are writers yourselves. You may or may not be published, either through a traditional publishing contract or self-published. But we're all trying to understand the constantly shifting sands on which we stand.

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.


Carol Garvin said...

If we're trying to make money with our writing, then obviously it must be viewed as a business model. Self-publishing shifts the responsibility for marketing and earning onto the individual and I wonder if many of us have the business acumen to handle that (or manage a baseball team!). Only if the money aspect is secondary, does self-publishing seem like a viable option to me but that might be because I don't relish full time marketing. I've self-pubbed two books but only because I intended a very specific, limited audience that didn't require promotion. I'm still hoping to go the traditional publishing route with my novels.

Patricia Bradley said...

I'm a hybrid now, with contracts with traditional publishers and just this week a Christmas anthology. There are pros and cons of both. I was fortunate to write with a wonderful group of authors, some who really knew what needed to be done in the Indie world. I'm learning a lot and I'd do it again in a heartbeat with these authors!

Richard Mabry said...

Carol, I self-published my novella, Rx Murder, because of the lag time between publication of my book before that and the one after that--a result of switching publishers. I'm going to do another one, primarily to get my name out and satisfy readers who ask, "When's the next one?" I don't like marketing, but you'll have to admit that even when we have a traditional contract, a lot of marketing is up to us.

Patricia, it seems funny to say that I'm a hybrid, but I suppose I am...and I have a hunch that there will be even more authors who join us. Times are changing.

Cindy Thomson said...

I understand what you are saying, Richard, being both an author and huge baseball fan. There is a difference I see, and that's that the baseball player is pretty much sunk if he can't get someone to sign him. For him, the number of fans doesn't matter. He must still get a traditional contract if any of the fans are going to see him play. For authors who go the indie route, there is still the possibility of reaching readers, and even of making a living by self-publishing. More and more authors are doing so all the time. You are correct that times are changing.

Richard Mabry said...

Cindy, to take the analogy a step further, some baseball players (acting through their agents) choose to accept offers from teams in Japan or Mexico, while others sign minor league contracts (hoping to get called up to the Bigs). To my mind, this is like authors choosing to e-publish. Thanks for your comment.