In the game of baseball, multiple skills are necessary. Most players are known for one or two specific key talents, say hitting or fielding. But if a player can hit for average, hit for power, run fast, and catch and throw skillfully, they are known as “five-tool players.”
One might consider a similar dynamic for authors. Some are better at one element of writing and maybe not others. What would qualify an author as a “five-tool author?”
First there must be the idea, or the inspiration. Whether fiction or non-fiction, there must be a story to be told, the initial creative phase. Then the story, memoir, history, or whatever genre must be polished to readable sentences and paragraphs, all presented in a narrative that is rewarding to a reader.
Then comes the obvious baseball reference; the author needs to know how to “pitch.” The author must be skillful in print or spoken word in giving a concise and appealing description of the writing to a potential reader.
At all steps of development for an author, it is important to connect to other authors, to publishers, editors, critics, and a multitude of others who can both influence and spread the word about the writing. Several years ago, the North Carolina Writers Network proposed the following theme: “No one writes alone.”
Finally, an author must be media savvy. “Book tour” once meant the author driving from place to place with a trunk full of books, hoping that interest would evolve. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (and more) plus Soundcloud and YouTube…I could go on.
A five-tool author must be able to create, polish, pitch, connect to people, and master the “matrix.” Perhaps then, the “hall of fame” may come calling. Hey, a boy can dream.
Hey, it’s personal. I did the work to create this book. I did the work to market it, to put it out there for others to judge… and to purchase. Fortunately, I’ve been through this a few times. This is not my first book. I’ve been rewarded with praise and humbled by indifference.
I also have the experience of once owning a bookstore and in that role hosted at least sixty events for other authors. Some of these authors, irrespective of the value of their work, managed their expectations well. Others not so much.
More than once I had authors angry with me for a rather small turnout of readers. This led me to create a short, written guide to the authors about what to expect from a store like mine. I gave suggestions as to what is necessary to gather an audience.
There were other times when the visiting author was genuinely delighted even though only a handful of people showed up. You could sense the appreciation felt that anyone would take the better part of an afternoon or evening to show interest in the book.
Some authors are thrilled to simply have brought a book to completion. Others feel a personal injury about not having sold a million copies. I’m somewhere in the middle. Hey, a boy can dream!
Beyond the above, I do expect a few things to happen. I will meet other people, authors and editors, (virtually for now) and be rewarded by the experience. I will read things that are new in the world or legacy writing that I once ignored. These things will assist me in my future writing efforts, and I will keep writing. I expect to be surprised by what I will write in the future.
I read. I write. I learn. I’m in a writing group and I have four published books. I’m still pretty sure I’m not Steinbeck, but my heart and soul have found their way back to where they should be.