Friday, September 11, 2015

Book Publishing Lessons From The US Open

I never gave the sport of tennis much thought until my wife and I started to go every year to the US Open from the time we had met back in 2000.  At first, I tagged along because it seemed important to her.  Then I fell in love with it.  I almost never watch tennis – except for an occassional Grand Slam championship – on television, but I now like to play it and I certainly enjoy our annual trek to Flushing, Queens and seeing the world’s elite sweat a green ball that they call yellow.  This year was no different.  In watching a number of matches, it occurred to me there’s a book publishing lesson in all of this.

The players that performed well did a number of things. They:

·         Reacted to an opponent’s weakness
·         Played up to their own strengths
·         Changed tactics based on the score and court conditions
·         Prepared for the match with hard training
·         Informed themselves of their opposing player’s style, habits, and traits
·         Played to the crowd’s support or learned to shut it out if not so supportive
·         Made adjustments to what their opponents were doing

Writers can do this too, when it comes to what they look to write, publish, and promote.  You should:

·         React to the weaknesses in your genre’s marketplace – write what’s missing
·         Play up to your own strengths – milk your writing abilities and perfect what you’re already good at
·         Change tactics based on the changing tastes or demands of readers
·         Keep honing and practicing your craft – never stop learning
·         Be knowledgeable of the different writing and marketing styles of your competition
·         Have a thick skin when it comes to bad reviews but celebrate your writing success with fans and build up your social media interactions
·         Adjust your writing so it sticks out compared to your competition

Okay, so tennis is not exactly like writing, but there are many similar battles that athletes and authors fight.  Certainly they both have to find a will to triumph, an ability to overcome naysayers, the motivation to best their competition, and the raw talent and conviction to play on the big stage.

As I watched match after match – men’s, women’s, doubles, and mixed doubles, I kept concluding that not much separates a winner or a loser of a single match, and that over time, one can amass a lot more wins than others simply by winning a lot of close competitions.  Few are dominant for long.

Just a few things that go the other way could alter a match’s result.  But somehow, the better player consistently makes fewer mistakes and finds a way to come up big in key moments.

It befuddles me that the court dictates so much of the action.  The physical dimensions of the playing surface is what signals what comes next, based on a player’s position on the court and his or her ability to cover the open gaps.  Book publishing doesn’t have that, exactly.  There is no court, but there is a marketplace, from Amazon and B&N, to Indies and bulk stores.  Writers have more fields to compete on and these choices allow them to find their readership through any number of channels.  So where the tennis players have to hit a ball within a prescribed area in order to win, authors have no boundaries.

One thing that I don’t appreciate is the sport’s attempt to segregate fans based on the nationality of a player, in a marketing ploy that goes back to the Olympics and that is played out by other sports such as soccer. Tennis hopes you’ll sustain interest in a match by rooting or one nation over another. On the other hand, authors could take a page from this and play up some geographic marker or some other demographic identifier.  Many do.  Women tend to play up their gender, such as with genres like “women’s studies” and “chick lit.”  Others highlight their hometowns and some will play the race card when they purposely identify their ethnicity, even when it’s not relevant to their writing.

Whether tennis resembles book publishing is up for debate, but one thing is clear, one must take the courage to get up every day and play to win, whether an athlete or a writer.  

Do your best and keep changing your approach and you may find you have what it takes to score better than others.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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