Self-Publishing Is Like Golf
- Both seem easy until you try them. You think you’re gonna make a hole-in-one the first time out on the golf course. You think you’re going to sell 100,000 books your first year. Whoa! Where’s that easy button when you need it? Reality check in aisle three.
- One little mistake and you can look pretty silly. Great big swing… ball goes almost nowhere. Oops! Did I just do that? No, it was a practice swing. Honest! Misspelled the title. Three whole pages in italics. Paragraph gone missing. Page numbers out of order. Feel like crawling under a rock now?
- The easiest things can be the most frustrating. Miss a two-foot putt? Whiff the ball? Try not to break your club. Misspell your name? Accidentally upload the wrong file? Don’t smack your forehead too hard.
- There is always a silver lining. You can have 17 miserable holes, but if you get one birdie, it makes your day, it brings you back to the course. Even if you hit 100 miserable shots, you’re bound to have one good one, so that even your worst rounds leave something positive to provide encouragement. Whether your self-publishing venture seems like a success or failure, there must be something good you can take out of it. If nothing else, you’re a published author. You can see your book in print. Your first book is a learning experience. Kind of like being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool. Infested with crocodiles. Hungry crocodiles.
- Mulligans are tempting. It’s easy to shank your teeshot on the first hole, and tempting to start over by taking a mulligan. It’s hard to nail that first book, too. Don’t worry too much. Pen names can help with that.
- You’re expected to observe proper etiquette. Don’t talk while your opponent is swinging. Don’t walk in your opponent’s line. Don’t spam your friends with repeated advertisements for your book. Don’t pester your ex-girlfriends for reviews.
- You can spend a ton of money that won’t necessarily help. Seven bucks for one ball that might not last more than one shot. A few hundred bucks on one club. Thousands on equipment. Hundreds more to dress like a golfer. The shot might look ugly, but you’ll look great on the course. You can spend hundreds on a cover, hundreds on editing, thousands on marketing. But if the content reads like a slice in the water hazard, it could be a book that looks great, yet doesn’t sell. Except to your mom.
- There is a ton to learn. It takes time and patience. Lessons can help, if the instructor knows what he’s doing. Even if you receive great advice, it’s easy and common to go against it. Because you’re the one newbie who isn’t going to make any mistakes, right?
- Out of bounds hurts. In golf, it costs you a stroke and distance (and a seven-dollar ball). There are boundaries in self-publishing, too. Like not commenting on all your reviews, telling your fans whether you wear boxers or briefs (maybe this is one time when telling is better than showing!), promoting your book on your competition’s blog, or reviewing your own book. You will get caught and the penalties will be severe. We’re talking tar and feathers.
- You must clean up your mess. When you take a divot that goes further than the ball, you must repair the real estate. When it takes five shots to get out of the bunker, as an added bonus, you get to rake your mess. When you discover typos in your book, whether it’s selling or not, you fix them. It’s just the proper thing to do. Like covering a puddle with your new leather jacket so a woman you don’t know can walk across the street without getting her feet soaked.
- All golfers, golf-courses, books, and authors are not created equal. Some courses are much easier than others. Some golfers are much better than others. Some books have wider appeal than others. Some authors have more talent or experience than others. But it can still be fun for everyone to play the game. And when it isn’t fun, you get to exercise your vocabulary of four-letter words. All too often.
- There are rules to be followed. On the course, a marshal looks for signs of slow play, un-raked sand traps, and high heels on the greens. A rulebook dictates how to determine relief and penalties. Competitors attest your score. Retailers decide what can or can’t be published. Amazon determines what is or isn’t acceptable behavior. Yes, the rules do apply to you.
- Luck is involved. The ball doesn’t always bounce the way you’d expect. Sometimes it skips across the pond. Other times it hits a sprinkler in the middle of the fairway and rolls out of bounds. A great book can get a lousy review right off the bat. Or the right person can fall in love with your book and tell hundreds of people about it. Or your boss can discover you’ve been moonlighting as an author.
- Never fear, help is near. You can have a caddie carry your bag, help you choose the right club, walk off the yardage, tell you which way the putt breaks. Experienced authors can help you with formatting, publishing tips, marketing advice, which finger to pick your nose with.
- Practice can help. Hit a bucket of range balls. Spend time on the putting green. Write, write, and write some more. Read, read, and read more, too. And when nothing seems to help, maybe try some of that advice you’ve been ignoring. You know, the advice that requires doing hard work. But not that advice promising amazing results with super shortcuts. That’s the kind of advice where you pay hundreds of dollars for someone to toss you into a dumpster. And then you try it again because it didn’t work out the first time.
- Golf and self-publishing are both spectator sports. There is a gallery in golf to watch the pros, and millions of viewers on t.v. to support the sport. Authors have readers. A pro has a fan base in the crowd to support him. Authors have small followings, too. Whoa, dude! You’re, like, famous now!
- Starting out, you have a ton of anxiety for no good reason. On the first tee, you’re highly visible. People on the putting green, at the driving range, in the clubhouse, pulling up in the parking lot, or walking by can see your shot. Why do you have all those butterflies? It’s not like your name is Jack Nicklaus. You’re not expected to drive the ball 350 yards down the middle of the fairway. All those butterflies show up when you press that publish button, too. You don’t even have a gallery yet.
- Natural talent and years of hard work can pay off big time. You could become a scratch golfer. You could finally become a bestseller. Then, of course, you’ll meet that perfect someone and drift off into the sunset.
- Whether you finish a round of golf or a book, you deserve a little time to celebrate. If you make a hole-in-one or become a bestseller, the drinks are on you. Whether you can afford it or not.
Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen
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