With the debut of my first romance novel, Better Than Perfect, coming shortly after Opening Day of Major League Baseball, I can’t help but draw parallels between writing and sports.
I read somewhere that 80% of Americans would like to write a book someday. Probably about that many kids dream of playing professional sports. The odds are strongly against both dreams. But there is one thing professional authors and professional athletes have in common. Perseverance. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and training to make it in either profession.
Now, I’m not famous. Maybe I will be, someday. Hopefully I’ll be one of those writers who has a solid career lasting many years. According to several sources, the average length of a MLB player is 5.6 years. This takes into account players who may have played one game as well as those who’ve had careers of over twenty years.
Baseball players are into stats. Their careers depend on numbers. If they are a hitter, they keep track of their batting average, RBI totals and then there are more advanced stats like OBP or On Base Percentage, which is the number of times a batter reaches base divided by plate appearances. SLG or Slugging Percentage that measures power by dividing the total number of bases divided by number of at bats. Then you get into OPS (On Base Percentage plus Slugging) and from there you get into WAR and other stats to measure a player’s worth.
An author relies on sales totals, reviews and Amazon ranking to judge the value of the work. And like any statistics, these numbers really only paint an accurate picture over time. Like a 0.00 ERA after three or four games isn’t likely to hold up, one five star review the first day a book comes out doesn’t guarantee a best seller. Conversely, a pitcher can give up two runs in three innings pitched and have an ERA of 9.00, but I’d have to think Javier Lopez’s career ERA of 2.22 is much more accurate than one bad outing during a wild Spring Training game. So I won’t let a few one or two star reviews cause me to give up on writing.
Books like baseball players draw fans. As an author it is a little surreal to see people reviewing and talking about my books. Most jobs don’t give that kind of feedback. If anything, they get once a year reviews. But for an author, reviews can come in daily. I have only a handful of reviews, but then my book isn’t out yet. Book bloggers and reviewers were able to get Advance Review Copies to read in exchange for honest reviews. Most have been pretty positive. Even the less stellar reviews had a lot of good things to say and gave me some things to think about.
Baseball players get a lot of accolades, and with social media, they also get a ton of criticism. I follow several “Fan Groups” on Facebook. Most people are pretty positive, sharing the joys of victory and lamenting the tough losses. But there are always a few fans who are pretty harsh in their criticism. They forget that these are human beings they are attacking.
To achieve at any level in sports or publishing requires a great deal of passion. How else can one deal with the long hours, the non-stop need to improve, and the secret fear that you’ll never be good enough? There is a part of you that would still perform even if there was no one watching. But there is the other part that wants to be compensated for the work. And yeah, you look around at what others are making. It’s a business. It’s a passion but it’s also a way to make a living. And when you see others who do what you do are making big money, you want some of that, too. You want to work for it. You want to earn it.
Yes, writing is a solitary activity. What I do comes down to me and my imagination. No one can write the book for me. No one can take my characters and make them real. I have to sit down and write.
A baseball player faces the pitcher alone. It’s up to him to make contact, to hit it where they ain’t, and to get on base. It’s the pitcher’s job to make a good pitch, but not too good. He needs to keep it close enough to the strike zone to fool the hitter into swinging or the umpire into calling it a strike. If he get’s too much of the strike zone, the hitter is going to take advantage.
But both authors and ballplayers rely on their teammates. Matt Cain wouldn’t have pitched a perfect game without Gregor Blanco’s spectacular catch. A hitter isn’t going to get high RBI totals without men on base in front of him. An author doesn’t get her work on Amazon without the support of editors, beta readers, and writer’s groups.
I know I have so many people who have coached me on my journey.