Did you know there are nine ways for a batter to reach first base in the game of baseball?
A few are obvious, of course. The batter could get a hit. Or a walk. Or even be hit by a pitch.
But those are not the only options. The batter could reach on a fielding error. Or hit into a fielder’s choice, a play in which the fielder could throw him out at first but instead chooses to throw to another base. Or dash to first base when a third strike is dropped or passes by the catcher. If a catcher interferes with a pitch, the batter is awarded first base, as also happens if a fielder interferes with the batter’s progress to first base. The batter could even reach first base if his batted ball hits a teammate on the base path before contact with a defensive player.
If you’re keeping score, that’s nine ways a batter can reach first base (hold the juvenile jokes, please). Some list even more, but those are usually variations of the above.
So what does this have to do with writing for publication?
I’m glad you asked. I meet many writers who focus all their efforts on one way to reach first base, so to speak. “I just need someone to publish my memoir,” they say. Or, “I’ve written six vampire novels, and no one will give them a second look.”
It’s possible, of course, for such a writer to succeed. But I more often see publishing success among writers who pursue various paths to publication.
If you have a beautifully-written, unique memoir, get that puppy into proposal and see if someone recognizes its charm. But don’t stop there. Launch a blog and write regular, focused blog posts on a subject about which you’re passionate. Guest post on someone else’s blog or website. Write and submit reviews of books you’ve enjoyed. Interact online and in groups with readers who love the things you love. Enter your work into contests. Come up with another book idea or two. Spin off a speech or seminar on those ideas.
The principle applies to short form as well. Sure, a byline in The New Yorker would be nice, but why not also try other forms and markets? Flash fiction? A devotion? Trade magazines? Your local newspaper? (I was such a regular letter-to-the-editor writer in our town newspaper that when I eventually pitched a regular column—for pay!—to the Op/Ed page editor, he agreed).
Years ago, I coached a friend who had worked and reworked a nonfiction book manuscript. Though I didn’t see much promise in the manuscript, I helped him develop a proposal to take to a writer’s conference where he would meet with agents and editors. I also suggested that he come up with another idea, in case his pet project failed to generate any interest. He took my advice, and wrote a one-page query to keep in his “back pocket.” That query led to his first book. Which led to his second, third, and fourth books. His pet project never made it to publication.
Imagine if he had insisted on that one path to first base, so to speak. Would he have become discouraged and disillusioned? Would he have given up? Would he still be writing and publishing today?
It’s impossible to know, of course. We could speculate, but we don’t have to, because he was willing to put the ball into play, so to speak, any number of ways.