During last year’s NBA Finals, I wrote an article reminiscing about the times I guarded Golden State Warriors’ All-Star Draymond Green back in our high school basketball days. It was going to be super timely, especially as I watched Draymond knock down five threes in the first half of Game 7. He was playing like the best player on the court, well on pace to become the NBA Finals MVP.
The Cavs came back, Draymond didn’t win MVP, but I still published my post. I also reached out to the sports editor back at my hometown newspaper, sent the article to him in hopes they would run it. Maybe a big Sunday spread in the sports section!
I never heard anything back.
Fast forward almost a year later, and I saw the following post on LinkedIn from the same sports editor: Hi friends, I just want to let you know that my position of sports editor has been eliminated.
Not fired, eliminated. The role of sports editor at that paper no longer exists. And before I get into that, I’ve got one more related story.
In June, I am self-publishing a novel that I’ve been working on since the fall of 2008. I’ve wrestled with the self-publish vs. try to publish traditionally question for over three years (I’ll have many posts to come on this very subject). One of the reasons I decided to pull the trigger on the self-publishing route was the thought, “Hey, I won’t be able to get into Barnes & Noble, or airport bookstores, but maybe I could channel my door-to-door salesman side and get into local bookstores. And, since my novel takes place in my hometown, maybe my favorite hometown bookstore (Sleepy Hollow) would carry it.”
I Googled “Sleepy Hollow, ” and the top article was an article from July of 2016, “The final chapter. Sleepy Hollow Bookshop plans to close.” The next result was Sleepy Hollow’s listing on Yelp marked, “Sleepy Hollow Bookshop – CLOSED.”
. . . .
Twenty years ago, hell, maybe even just five years ago, an 18-year-old could’ve said, “I want to be a sports writer, so I’m gonna go to a great journalism school, get into a great graduate school, get an internship at a great newspaper, work my way up. At first I’ll be writing stories about grade school basketball, then middle school, high school, all the way up to the NBA. After 20, 30 years, I’ll be one of those people on ESPN’s Around the Horn. And THEN, once I have a big name for myself, I’ll write a book and it’ll be in every bookstore around the country, including my hometown store, where I’ll set up a table and sign autographs. I’ll tell a kid wearing a Chicago Bulls hat, ‘Now, make sure to study hard in school young lad, one day you can be right here.”
Where does that story fit into the 2017 landscape? Every step of that defined process is now in question. Newspapers struggling, bookstores struggling, many shutting down altogether. I mean even the value of a college journalism degree or graduate degree is in question.
. . . .
So yeah, I think it’s a terrible time to be a writer IF you’re using yesterday’s blueprint. It can lead to a devastating place where you’re left saying, “This isn’t fair. I played the game. I followed the rules. And this is what I have to show for it?”
. . . .
Would you rather…
Write a book, send it off to 5+ literary agents, wait, wait some more. Get rejected, send out another 5+, wait again, more rejections, then maybe, maybe, one finally takes a chance on you. They now try and sell your work to a publisher, the literary agent’s going to get 10-15 percent of the sales, the publisher needs to make money too, but that’s ok, because a year, two years, five years later they got you into a bookstore, you see the physical copy of your book on the shelf only to see out of the corner of your eye a sign reading, “80 percent off, going out of business sale.”
Start writing the book tomorrow. Tonight. Ask friends for editing help. Go on any of the hundreds of freelance sites to find some more editing help, grammar help, book cover design, formatting, etc., and then, when it’s all finished, throw it right up on Amazon. One click away.
P.S. Amazon is opening physical bookstores too… just saying.
Link to the rest at ChicagoNow