Sunday, March 16, 2014

You're a Hitter, Now!

Softball season is well underway, here. At least, it is for me, since I count the beginning of the season from the point when my daughter starts practice. The actual season has also started. Games began last week. [And here is where I'm tempted to start talking about my daughter and how it looks like she's going to be an awesome catcher, but I'm not going to do that. That's not what this post is about. I'm sure that will come later, though.]

Hitting during a game is an especially difficult thing for this age range, due in no small part to the erratic-ness of the pitching. Many of the girls are so scared of being hit by the ball that they jump out of the box every time a pitch is thrown. And they all get hit at some point, so it's not an irrational fear. And, because so many of the pitches are balls, the girls have a difficult time discerning what to swing at. I don't envy them.

Amidst that, one of the girls on the other team got her first hit during the first game. It was a nice, solid fly ball. A foul, fly ball (right at me, actually, so I'm glad there was a fence there). Of course, a foul ball is a strike, so, on the one hand, it wasn't a successful hit, but, on the other hand, she hit the ball. In fact, her coach yelled at her after she'd returned to the plate, "You're a hitter, now!" and, maybe, something about doing it again. What came after wasn't important. The "you're a hitter, now," though, is very important.

There's a particular confidence that comes from knowing you can hit the ball. Actually make the bat connect with the ball. If you can do that, no matter where it goes the first time, you will eventually be able to get a base hit. You have to get on base to score.

Now, follow along with me here, and let me know when you get what I'm saying. [Note: I am not going back and sourcing this information, but this is all based on a few articles and reports I've read in the last few weeks.]

At the moment, indie books are being published at about the same rate as traditionally published books (despite claims by people supporting traditional publishing saying that indie authors are "flooding the market" (with crap) and making books indistinguishable for readers). That means for every 1000 indie books that are released there are 1000 traditionally published books released. But let's look at what that really means.
[There will be math involved, which will make Tina happy, but, despite anything she says, this is not "everyday" math.]

For every 1000 indie books published, that's like 1000 girls getting a piece of the softball with their bats. They won't all score or even get on base, but, hey, they hit the ball. They can say, "I'm a published author." If they keep at it, eventually, they will score. Now, here's the part you have to understand; that's a 100% success rate. Beyond that, two or three of them will do well enough to be able to go on and earn a living just playing softball.

But let's look at the traditionally published books. For every 1 of those 1000 girls at bat, there were anywhere between 500 and 1000 more girls told they couldn't play on the team. No particular reason, just "you can't play." So you have the same 1000 girls getting a piece of the ball, but the success rate is way less than 1%. In fact, it's as bad as 0.1%. Instead of 1000 out of 1000 being able to say "I'm a published author," you have 1000 out of 500,000 to 1,000,000 being able to say it. Those are bad odds. And you're no more likely to be able to go on to earn a living playing softball as a traditionally published author than you are as an indie author. In fact, instead of it being two or three out of the 1000, it's only one or two.

And the traditional publishing industry doesn't want you to know about the 1,000,000 kids, the 1,000,000 little girls, they turned away. Oh, wait, the 999,000.

And, yes, before anyone says anything, I know my analogy is not exact. For one thing, I'm assuming that every girl that gets up to bat will get a hit, but it worked for the analogy because that's what gave me the thought, "You're a hitter, now!" "You're a published author, now!" On that basis, it works.

The point is is that the traditional publishing industry survives by keeping kids off the field. By not letting them play. At all. Then they tell everyone that they picked the best players. That all falls apart, though, when you look over at the kids playing on the indie field, even some of those making a living wage at it, and you find out they were some of the same ones told by the gatekeepers of the traditional fields to get lost.

Look, we all want to score a run or two. At least bat someone else in, right? That can only happen if we can get out on the field and play. Personally, I believe in the system that lets people that want to play the game, play the game. Right now, I can say, "I'm a published author." I'm getting to play the game. Right now. I'm doing it. I'm not waiting in line over and over again to be repeatedly turned away hoping there will be an opening just when I happen to show up.

In the end, that's really what it comes down to for me: Are you going to let me play the game or not? As it happens, the indie field is open and has plenty of room for people to play the game. I'm not much fond of being told to take my ball and go home.

23 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Keeping kids off the field. That is a good analogy.
If you think about it, writing is one of the few art forms that still draw the line. Want to be in a band? You can can play small venues and pull together enough money to do your own record. And it's acceptable. Independent labels have been around for years.
Damn, I really should've started this music thing much sooner...

Alex Hurst said...

I really enjoyed this post, Andrew. Very nice analogy. There are a few people that I think would enjoy it, so I'm going to send it their way. :)

A Beer For The Shower said...

When I first saw this in my Facebook feed I thought it said "You're a Hitler now!"

Let's also not forget that those who are in traditional publishing get this: "Um, you might be able to bat for us. Maybe. Let me get back to you in 6 months." 6 months later: "We liked your batting sample. Can you please send us a full batting demonstration? Great, we'll get back to you in another 6 months."

Not having to wait around forever just for someone to say our story is great but it's too unique and therefore too hard to sell is such a huge weight off both of our shoulders.

(Oh, and expect an e-mail this week. My fridge 'sploded so I've been dealing with that)

Pat Dilloway said...

Traditional publishing lost its credibility at picking "the best" when A) They bought up indie authors like Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking and B) They published "authors" like Snooki or Paris Hilton. A means they do obviously make mistakes and B means they care more about the bottom line than quality.

Elsie Amata said...

I'm glad Bryan saw the Hitler thing too. Whew!

This was a great analogy, Andrew. You're right, you have to get up to bat in order to see if you'll hit the ball. Keeping writers out of the arena means potentially never being able to read their work. Just because one person says an author's book isn't good enough, doesn't mean it's true. That's just one publishers opinion.

(I hope that makes sense, I'm typing with a migraine.)

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I also got confused and saw the "Hitler" word first. Weird how my eyes play tricks on me like that.

Andrew Leon said...

To Everyone: I wrote the title and knew what it said, and I still saw Hitler a couple of times while I was working on it. Had one of those, "Oh, crap!" moments where I thought I'd actually typed in "Hitler." I am not sure what that says about all of us.

Alex C: That's true. It's actually cool to be an indie musician, but indie authors are still being vilified.

Alex H: Well, awesome. Thanks! And glad you liked it.

ABftS: Yeah, no kidding. That's like, "Please step to the end of the line."
And that sucks about your fridge.

Pat: I agree with you in theory, but I don't think "people" agree with you. Those same people are buying the Snooki stuff and still tend to think, overall, that traditional publishers are doing their "jobs."

Elsie: Yes, that makes sense. And, yes, that's correct.

Michael: I have no other comment than the disclaimer I made above.

L.G. Smith said...

It's true that anyone who hits "publish" these days is a published author. I don't quite understand all the vitriol back and forth between the Indies and the Traditionalists. There are pros and cons to each, it seems to me.

Andrew Leon said...

L.G.: Honestly, I would have no issue with the traditional publishing industry if they weren't always trying to hide the facts of what's going on. And continuing with their belittling of anyone published outside of them. And, well, if you have some pros of traditional publishing, pros that still exist, I'm willing to listen.

Arlee Bird said...

Count me in with the "Hitler" crowd--I mean thinking I saw it.

Interesting bit of math and nice analogy. I might also compare it to playing pro ball as opposed to being on a college team or some amateur league. You might picked up by a major league team or even a minor league team and you could mostly sit on the bench or have little significance in any games. But there is a prestige involved.

I'd say the dream of most school ball players or amateurs would be to get spotted and recruited for a professional paying ball team job. To be in the industry that you love you might not be a big player but you're at least in the league with the big guys. And there's always that chance.

I wonder what the numbers are of people who have written "a book" that never saw any kind of publishing.

Lee
Wrote By Rote
An A to Z Co-host blog

randi lee said...

Agree with the others: great analogy! Very much enjoyed this post.

Tina said...

Oh Andrew, how I love your analogies. And math. And that you mentioned me. And math. In the same sentence.
Yes, being told you can't play is devastating. You just have to go join a different team where everyone can play. Some are good, some are bad, some are awful, and some are just plain fantastic. I think indie is going to take over. Personal prediction.
I want to be a hitter...
Tina @ Life is Good
A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014

Andrew Leon said...

Lee: Well, sure, there is a certain amount of (false) prestige in being able to say "I'm published by " and some people really want that. I get it. But a baseball player is much more quantifiable than a writer. Not entirely so but more so.

randi: Glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping by.

Tina: I don't think indie will take over, but it certainly is going to become an actual, recognized thing, just like indie music. There will always (probably) be room for the big publishers, at least as long as physical books are still being made, because they still have a better capacity to produce books in large numbers. However, as the production physical books continues to dwindle, they may become more of a nostalgia thing. I guess, at that point, indie will have taken over.

Jo said...

Only problem is, there is an awful lot of crap getting onto the indie market. Even if it's only crap because it's badly edited, or proofed, or something. Although that is not the only case.

Andrew Leon said...

Jo: And there's an awful lot of crap coming out of the traditional market. In the last couple of years, some of the worst edited books I've seen were traditionally published.

J E Oneil said...

Is it like one of those sports movies where all the kids that were cut from the team get together and form their own team and beat the team that cut them? Because I could get in on that.

The Armchair Squid said...

Nice analogy.

Softball... that means spring is coming soon, right?

Andrew Leon said...

Jeanne: Actually, yes, it's very like that.

TAS: I think it's here. I mean, where I am, it is.

Jessica Lawson said...

Yep, I also read it as "Hitler" by mistake.

Spring baseball season kicks off this weekend for us. On top of the current season, decisions about summer teams are being made. The politics that go into having kids try-out to gain placement on different summer teams is...frustrating. I feel like those decisions and placements can affect the players' self-esteem and performance during the spring season. The kids are so in love with the sport and they just want to play, and the adults are weeding them into different groups and abilities...it's hard to watch as a parent. Even if your kid makes an "elite" team, they often don't get playing time, which was kind of the point in the first place. Good post.

Maurice Mitchell said...

This is the key to confidence Andrew. Knowing you'll hit it and aiming for the fences. Good advice.

Andrew Leon said...

Jessica: At the kid level, teams should be more balanced. It's just no fun to be playing in a league where one coach made sure he got all the "good" kids. (Until you beat them in the playoffs, which my girl's team did the first year she played.)

Maurice: I tell my daughter that every time she goes to bat; she always responds, "I can't hit it that far, Dad," and I say, "Yeah, but keep trying and one day you will."

Joy Pagel said...

What an awesome analogy.

The thing people forget about traditional publishing is that it's a moneymaking business, not an artistic business.

To make money at something like music, movies, writing, publishing, you've got to convince people to buy what you have to sell, the same as McDonald's or Burger King. And look what they do: cram junk food down our throats (look, I love McDonald's cheeseburgers but I know how bad they are for us) and copy each other.

Another way is to convince people that what you have is what they want. I remember reading an article about movie ads that talked about how execs could almost predict how many people would see a movie on opening weekend based on how many ad buys they made in the 2 weeks before. They just push it and push it and then we think "oh, we have to buy it."

Books by Paris and Snooki and Sarah Palin exist because they have a built-in market. They are the McRibs of the book industry: awful, derided, laughable, and eaten up by the people who love them. They keep publishing houses alive the way tentpole movies like The Avengers make studios profitable. So to an extent, they make possible the finding of smaller authors whose books would not ordinarily merit any kind of big publishing deal, and to that extent, while I find them annoying, I understand why they exist.

So your analogy of publishing to a sort of pick-up softball game is pretty apt: it's actually more like Major League Baseball's relationship to all those semipro leagues around the country where kids can play for nothing and hope to get picked up by a farm system of a major team. Those leagues have their fans and their championships and lots of people can get into them, but they never quite have the cache of the majors.

I like the idea that our team is more open and anyone can join and be welcomed with open arms, and hope to make it big. Now, we have to convince people that our kind of softball is worth watching.

Andrew Leon said...

Briane: I have not forgotten that about traditional publishing. What I think writers forget is that the goal of traditional publishing is to make money for the publishers, not the writers. That's why writers end up in the subservient role there, not able to make decisions about their own work.
And that analogy extends to baseball as well. In professional baseball, the players are there to make the owners of the team money, not the other way around.