Paperback cover of "The G.O.D. Journal," by Jeff Posey

Seven Ways Publishing is like Baseball, by Jeff Posey

Fortunately, readers are as perceptive as baseball fans.

What’s up with baseball owners, professional players, and sports agents? Can’t they see their commercial value eroding because so many amateurs are flooding the game? Pave over that sandlot!

Worse, vendors are making money off of children’s league and church league audiences (free venues), while amateur high schools and colleges have the nerve to charge fees at the gate.

Fans are going to get confused. They won’t know how to find a quality game to watch, which could put them off baseball for life. Or worse, they’ll find out they can watch the free leagues forever and never buy another major league ticket.

The whole professional baseball system will collapse. The best players won’t be able to get paid for what they do. And we’ll no longer have curated teams of the best players money can buy.

Writers Would Be Working Up Through the Ball Leagues
And Maybe They Are?

Am I mocking professional baseball? Well, of course. But mostly I’m mocking the opinion that fans of fiction can’t tell little league from big league. Which naturally makes me want to compare the two.

1.     Sandlot

This has to be writers’ workshops. It’s like when the kid goes from playing catch with his dad to the sandlot to play with other kids. Some of these writers will choose to self-publish at this point, and a few will be good, but the grownups around them will be discouraging them from jumping forward too fast.

2.     Little League

Your parents made you, didn’t they? Or you thought you should. A few, a minority, join Little League to get better and have fun in the game. This part of the ballgame sounds like MFA creative writing programs. Most players in the program are too blocked to self-publish. They follow the coach’s rules, respectfully.

3.     High School Baseball

Lots of peer pressure here. And everybody has to go to high school and do something they hate. It’s the law. So lots of them join a team, throw a ball and maybe even get some hallway hero status. Some writers at this point do quite well and get enough praise to continue. They learn how to use all the online tools to self-publish and fill up the social media sphere with constant chatter and clueless opinion. They’re teenagers, they’re lovable, and a few, miraculously, have some commercial success.

4.     College Ball

NCAA Novels. Now that’s a brand name they should exploit. Except in writing, the only brand name that means anything is the author’s. Which is exactly what happens in college sports. Individuals begin to stand out by name. They earn their brand after slogging year after year from the sandlot to the college stadium. These, of course, are self-published authors who aren’t yet making any money at it but are doggedly determined to stay the course. They’ve got a team of writers urging them on and possibly a workshop coach as well.

5.     Semi-Pro

You guessed it: Writers who have a day job but are making some money through their novels. This can be self-published or otherwise. Many traditionally published authors fall into this category, and their every free moment is spent practicing the pitch, the catch, the hit.

6.     Minor League

By golly, now you’re living as cheaply as you can and just barely making enough to keep afloat, but you love it and you give it everything you’ve got. You’re out there running bases every single day. These are newly traditionally published authors on the upswing and a large number of self-published novelists.

7.     Big Leagues

This is reserved exclusively for traditionally published books, plus the increasing but small numbers of self-published work that will break into the big time, earning their publishers (themselves) millions. And hitting that novel right out of the ballpark!

* * *

Think about it from the fan’s perspective.

At any given instant, a baseball fan knows whether his rear end is on an uncomfortable kids’ league bleacher or at a big stadium. Thousands of things tell them which is which.

Just as readers can tell a book’s cover is designed rather poorly, the blurb doesn’t quite say what the book is about, it has a few glowing reviews that don’t reveal anything interesting about the story, and more than a dozen misspellings pop out in the sample — without even looking at the cut-rate price, these readers know they’re in for a sandlot-quality reading experience. If they get high school quality out of it, they’ll think they found a gem.

There’s nothing wrong with being a writer in any of these baseball camps. A writer who is straight from the sandlot could and should proudly have a self-made cover on his first novel. But semi-pros and above need to send potential fans a higher-quality message—and then deliver on it with a great story inside. That’s how you build fans. That’s how you get to the Big Leagues.

If you have a published body of work, do you rank them in any way like this?

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