Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen a little meltdown I had yesterday afternoon. I’m all better now. Thank you for your concern. For those of you who don’t or who have learned to tune me out, I was tres bent out of shape by the over and unqualified usage of the term “bestseller” and how often it pops up in author bios. A few deep breaths and everything got better.
Anyway, on an unrelated note, baseball season is almost upon us and I, for one, am eagerly awaiting opening day. I’m a fan of the game, especially its history (the company was even named after one of the great specters of Major League Baseball’s past).
Because last week I talked your ear off about the history of the company and my own history in the publishing world, I figured I’d go brief this week and talk a little baseball. To that end, I’d like to list the three best Hall of Fame outfielders of all-time.
(1) Ty Cobb – I named the company after the guy. He was a fierce competitor, driven by family ghosts, and so singularly focused on winning that he left behind an indelible legacy. When he retired he held all kinds of records. Most important stats .366 lifetime batting average, 897 stolen bases, and 4189 hits.
(2) Ted Williams—another malcontent, another fierce competitor, and another guy that hit everything that got thrown at him. Also, the dude served in WWII and the Korean War during his baseball career, and not as an entertainer playing exhibition baseball games on base far away from conflict, but as a fighter pilot. In addition to being awarded a variety of commendations from the United States Government, he finished with a lifetime batting average of .344, 521 homeruns, and 1839 RBI. Baseball fans will always wonder what the stat line would have looked like if he hadn’t served.
(3) Jeff Taylor—the guy was a three time MVP during the years 2003-2006 and had a .453 career average. Nearly 100 points better than Cobb.
So there you go, Play Ball!, and all of that. I’m really looking forward to baseball season this year (as I always am), even though my beloved Chicago Cubs, on paper, don’t stand much of a chance this year. Oh well, I just love the game...wait...what? You’ve never heard of Jeff Taylor? You don’t remember him being a three time MVP?
I think I see the source of your confusion.
You assumed, because I said the three best Hall of Fame outfielders of all-time that I was talking about Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
But I wasn’t.
Because Jeff Taylor was a high school baseball player in the Woodhaven, Michigan area. I got his stats from his former school district’s website. And I was like, “Damn! Dude hit .453. Cobb only hit .366. Both guys are Hall of Famers, therefore Jeff Taylor has earned the same distinction as Cobb.”
Rightly, you reject that logic. To be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame requires that you excel at the highest level of the game known to man. To be inducted into the Gibralter School District Sports Hall of Fame requires...something else.
And now I’m back to this issue of people slapping “Best Selling Author!” on their author bio when the only argument you can make is through very squinted eyes when you’re looking at a sub-category on Kindle’s hyper specific best-selling list, sometimes in categories that have very limited competition.
“Look ma! I’m #4 on the Mysteries and Crime Fiction --> Iowa setting --> Corn based whodunit --> Tractor mysteries!”
Yeah, sorry, that doesn’t count.
It’s deceitful and self-aggrandizing and just as shitty as the bulk of Saturday morning television ads for toys that don’t hold up to scrutiny (damn you, Hotwheels). I understand the marketplace is really tough and some book promotion person has told you to tout yourself as a “best-selling author,” but that term has meant something, either implicitly or explicitly, for years. It has meant that a book has popped up on a publication such as the New York Times or Publishers Weekly or USA Today’s list.
Can that system be rigged? Certainly. But it gives a general sense of a book’s popularity. Can the Kindle list be gamed? You betcha. And a lot easier than the publications above. And since nobody really knows what Amazon sales ranks translate to, knowing a book has made the Kindle best-seller list is vague at best. It certainly, at this point, draws no parallel credibility to that of placement on the other lists does.
The logical way this plays out is that every author trying to jam a foot in the door will figure out how he/she qualifies as a “best seller” and every book will be written by a “best-selling author!” and what is now a non-specific, semi-confusing term will become meaningless altogether.
Jeff Taylor doesn't sit down next to Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken at autograph signings saying, "For $20 you can get your picture taken with me, Hall of Fame baseball player, Jeff Taylor." If he did, you'd say he was being absurd and you'd point out the whole Gibraltar School District Hall of Fame isn't anywhere near the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
It’s this kind of noise and static that will ultimately push potential readers away because they’re going to feel as though authors are trying to manipulate them. One more self-perpetrated injury in the quest for a bigger audience.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game...
For less surly ramblings about the world and publishing, visit my website www.bejaminleroy.com