It’s not easy to make the transition from a misanthropic and socially anxious writer to a self-promoting suckup, and the biggest reason I published this first book on my own was because I’ve been losing my mind trying to get agents to even agree to peek at the manuscript for my novel, which is a whole other story.
Trying to get them to read and approve of a collection of drug-fueled, anti-establishment essays about how frustrating it is to spend my time rooting for losers like the U.S. government and my favorite sports teams was something I just couldn’t imagine.
For my whole life I’ve been an avid sports fan. You don’t grow up obsessively following teams like the Buffalo Bills without experiencing some rather acute psychological and social devastation, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to start using it as material for my writing.
But between 2006 and 2008, it was the Buffalo hockey team—the Sabres—who really did me in. Just as I was starting to get excited about the fact that the Bush administration was on its last legs, the Sabres—perennial also-rans with a habit of blowing their best chances or simply falling prey to either Fate or a curse, depending on your belief system—went from the best team in the NHL to watching the future of the league blow into town on a snowstorm and sap what was left of their strength.
The 35 short pieces in It’s Not Just a Ballgame Anymore don’t only follow that painful experience, they also examine the political and social climate of America as we struggled with much bigger problems, such as commercialism, greed, economic instability, government corruption, and war.
They were collected from articles I published at Newsvine at the time. I spent several weeks editing the hell out of it, and that was a great learning experience. I can certainly appreciate how difficult it is for editors and publishers to produce a book that isn’t littered with mistakes. Especially when you’re reading someone else’s work, even the tiniest typos stand out like Michael Vick at a dog show, and I wanted to avoid giving the insane impression that I had thrown this thing together.
I checked out quite a few sites before going with Smashwords, and I’m so far glad I did. The book’s formatting is pretty simple, and it only took a few tries to upload something that looked the way I wanted it to, and I was pleasantly shocked out of my chair when it was accepted into Smashwords’ Premium Catalog in a matter of hours. Smashwords pays a little better than Amazon, and even though I was also successful in uploading a file to Amazon’s Kindle site, I direct people to Smashwords, because they have all the formats, anyway.
If I can get its cover image print-ready, I plan on doing a P.O.D. version on Amazon’s Createspace as soon as I can. The interior pages are ready to go, in fact, but I’m not a Photoshop expert and my digital camera is older than the son of mine into whose mouth I stuck a hockey puck for the pose, so it’s going to take a bit of work to get that up to snuff.
My influences vary in style but most of them are or used to be fairly pissed-off writers. There’s no question that Hunter Thompson’s sports writing was a big inspiration, but I was also heavily influenced by the free association of Kerouac and a real stab (wait for it..) at capturing the detail and knowledge of the subjects that people like Norman Mailer brought to both sports and political writing.
I can’t give much insight into my writing habits because it’s too embarrassing. I write because I have to, during times I should probably be doing other things, and it can be an often ugly experience. But I think what hits the page makes it worthwhile, and, in the end, the essays try simply to be what all men try to be—funny and smart, to make up for the masculine ugliness that lies beneath. I also usually try to grab a little extra compassion along the way, to offset the love of violence that any good fan needs to have before watching finely tuned athletes collide at high rates of speed.
I’m about nine months into a desperate attempt to get the manuscript of my novel represented, and it’s something of a time-sensitive subject, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can from the experience of producing this ebook in case I decide to self-publish the novel, too. I’d rather not have it get to that point, but it’s good to keep your options open, or so I’ve been told.
My advice would be to avoid services that require up-front fees as much as possible, and try like hell to read and re-read and proofread until your eyes bleed. And avoid bad rhymes, especially in prose.