The life of a writer
When you’re writing a book, you don’t get to see the final product until months, if not years, later — particularly when you’re working with a traditional publisher.
Just last month — December 2021 — I received a request by my publisher for my sports careers book to edit my manuscript. The contract had stated I was to submit a manuscript with 90,000 words, but I had sent in one with more than 160,000 words, which was well over the maximum number of words the publisher wanted to see.
Of course, it’s easy for an observer to say, “Well, just cut the book in half and then do a second volume.” It doesn’t work like that. That brings me to the following point: I’ve seen reviewers on Amazon criticize fellow sports authors for not including certain information in their book, etc. without realizing that often times publishers dictate some of these things. From personal experience, I know that in my 1988 Dodger book, I had a section with the aftermath of the Mets and A’s, but the publisher said to get rid of all that. Even photos, too. Some reviewers will mock fellow sports authors for being too “cheap” to put photos in the book without realizing sometimes the costs are massive. To give a personal example, one professional sports franchise wanted to charge me $1,000 per image to use in my book, so I said no and went elsewhere.
Anyway, getting back to my Christmas “break” in December 2021, it wasn’t much of a break. My publisher contacted me on Dec. 20th and wanted me to cut the 160,000 words to 90,000-100,000 max. And they were expecting me to have this done by Dec. 29th.
So, every day I worked on this bit by bit, cutting out massive chunks of content. In the background, I had MLB Network on for a distraction here and there. (Now, not to go off on a tangent, but MLB Network during the off-season is awful. I literally charted this and noticed the programs just kept repeating themselves. For example, the Billy Martin documentary would air on a Tuesday at multiple times and then re-air on Saturday and again the following week on two different days. Same with the Johnny Bench, 1988 Dodgers, Randy Johnson, etc. documentaries. They would air it on a Thursday at multiple times, and then repeat the same documentary the following Monday and then Friday, and then the following week again.)
When I cut out 500 words from one chapter, I considered it a major victory, only to realize that it didn’t move the goalpost much, so to speak. In a few chapters, I literally cut out half of the content, making sure things still flowed. I did this every single day, staying up past 1 am some nights. Finally, on the night of Dec. 28, I kept going at it until past 1:30 am, and completed all these cuts and managed to have the manuscript at roughly 108,000.
Since the due date for these cuts was Dec. 29, and the publisher worked on the East Coast (while I’m out west, three hours behind), I knew I would not have any significant changes on Dec. 29 itself. So, at 2 am, I submitted everything by email and then went off to bed.
But it was a difficult week, editing my work and going hours and hours at it, all the way until the night of Dec. 28 and finishing just before 2 am (on Dec. 29). It was tough.
After that, I took some time off writing. Even now, in mid-January, I’m still not doing any writing. It’s tough to stay motivated, so to speak, or have that drive to keep going — especially after that final week in December.
It’s tough, especially when there isn’t a lot of support from peers and others around me. In fact, I’ll say almost none.
I can recall the time when I was writing the 1988 Dodger book, and someone I considered a friend responded in a patronizing tone “So what?” when I was discussing the fact that it was the 30th anniversary of the Dodgers’ championship season. This was from a sports fan. When I chose to be upset because of his comment, he disowned me as a friend. He no longer responds to my calls and texts.
There was a guy, Rod, who basically is a troll. I was explaining that I was heading to LA for a charity golf event, and I was invited by the former GM of the Dodgers. It was like an extension of the book that I had written, having a chance to be introduced to some of those former players. Rod scoffed and said those peple were just using me and just wanted me to donate my own money, etc. etc. Very negative comments. Why are people so negative?
During the process of writing the sports careers book, numerous people whom I reached out to chose not to respond. For professional purposes where people don’t respond, that’s very deflating and demotivating. It’s changed me in the sense that I find it difficult to stay motivated — it’s like people are cancelling me or don’t want me to succeed, FOR A BOOK AIMED TO HELP YOUNG PEOPLE!! Hello? Do people want to see my book fail? One that’s aimed to help students and others looking for a career in sports business?
Then, there was a publisher from Montana who asked me to write a book about baseball cards, and that publisher then bailed on me. He said he would connect me with others in the industry, and when I responded the same day via email, he completely ignored my email and follow-ups. Why do people do that?
So, I’m tired. I’m sick. If you’re getting an email or request from me — and follow-ups — and it’s for a professional purpose, and you’re choosing to ignore it, then I’m going to say you want me to fail. You don’t care about helping people. That’s very unfortunate. But I guess that’s what a lot of people are like.
Yes, there were some great moments along the way. But the bad ones stick out. Those make me question humankind.
And before we leave this subject, peers who are posting garbage like “This is why I NEVER buy anything from Amazon” and similar posts with a story about what Amazon has done wrong, etc., again, these people are simply wishing for me (and other writers) to fail, particularly when authors rely on Amazon for book sales. So, do these peers really wat me to fail?
Finally, podcasters: I’m grateful to go on a podcast, but it’s painful when hosts don’t take the time to do some prep. There was a podcaster whom I got to know. He had me on to talk about my John Cangelosi book but didn’t know how to pronounce the former MLB outfielder’s last name. I told him off-air and also said it on-air, and the podcaster kept butchering the name throughout. Like, do you think I would be proud to share this with others? How do you think John would feel if he hears this?
Anyway, we’ll see when I decide to get back into writing again. Maybe if people don’t want to talk to me or respond to me, I’ll do what a former 1986 Montreal Canadien Cup champion told me (very abruptly): “Why are you asking me what the coach said in the locker room [prior to a key Game Seven which the team actually won]? Go Google that s@%£!”
Yup, I guess I’ll just go Google that s@%£ if I choose to write again — if I get ignored by people whom I reach out to.