“Good writers are a dime a dozen. What makes you appealing?” — C. Hope Clark
When we go to a major league ball park, we expect the baseball players’ skill and professionalism to be very basic credentials for their being on the team. Ultimately, a few of them really begin to stand out. Die-hard baseball fans love their statistics, and they can tell you who got the most home runs, the most stolen bases and the best earned run average.
That is, who was better than good?
After a good ball game, fans have plenty to talk about. Often, the beer-and-bratwurst talk after the game focuses on what the players did: who made the best plays of the game and what kind of flair or attitude or extra effort did they display in the process?
In a recent writers newsletter, Hope Clark asked her readers to look at their writing and their writing platforms and figure out what they were doing or saying that might catch the attention of a reader or agent. She used a gardening analogy:
We’re all green plants to an agent or editor. Writers look
alike in that mile-high slush pile of mediocrity. Yes, that’s
how they see us . . . except for those with personality.
I’m more comfortable with baseball and other public figure analogies. So, staying away from the kinds of behavior that gets a lot of negative press, we can sat that some ball players, actors, actresses and (yes) even politicians attract our attention for positive reasons. They stand out from the crowd because they display more dedication, unique qualities and points of view, relevant comments about their profession, and have a style or attitude that calls for our respect and admiration.
Before a man or woman goes out on a date, their friends often advise them to “just be yourself.” That advice works for writers, too, in that you’ll come across as a lot more honest and sincere if you really are who you seem to be. On a date, we need to connect with just one person. As writers, we have to connect with thousands.
Changes in the publishing world are presenting prospective readers with more and more possibilities. Print-on-demand publishing and electronic publishing are bringing more and more writers out to the figurative ballpark where they plan to try out for the team. In this case, the “team” is made up of those writers who meet their goals whether it’s to sell books, win short story contests, find viable agents, have a large public following, or appeal to a specialize niche audience.
Hope Clark might ask what makes you different from the other plants in the yard (including the weeds). But sticking with baseball, I’m asking what do you do at the ballpark that brings fans out to see you play even when the rest of the team is having a lousy season?
Without getting lost in the analogies here, what exactly are you doing as a writer that will make a prospective publisher sell your book or a prospective reader pick it up and then tell his friends about it?
Being a good writer just isn’t enough.