Editor’s Note: Caswell Messenger columnist Mike Floyd has written and published a fascinating book on his years in pro ball. He shares his adventure with us this week as the book goes on sale.
“You ought to write a book!”
Well, guess what? I did! After years and years of thinking about it, I sat down in 2020 and started putting one together about my career in professional baseball. I knew I had enough material; it was just a matter of making it interesting and coherent.
It helps a lot if you have writing experience, have a great memory and have a writing style that appeals to your audience and market.
Who doesn’t like baseball, right? And baseball the way it was 50 years ago when I was playing was much more colorful than today’s millionaire’s game. The market for baseball books, autographs, and trading cards is huge. It was just a matter of writing to that segment, and I definitely had the experiences along with recognizable names of the players from the 1960’s. Although some of chapters were on obscure players that few ever knew or remembered, it doesn’t matter. What these players did on and off the field is what interests readers.
I didn’t write a chronological diary of the nine years I played. I jumped around and wrote amusing vignettes, descriptions of players, about long home runs, and the sound that Nolan Ryan’s 105 mph fast ball made rocketing to the plate. It hissed! My buddy, catcher Art Kusnyer, caught Ryan and one of his no-hitters and he describes, in this book, what it was like catching him.
And one of my other buddies, Mike Adams, writes in his own words, what it was like to hit off the “Ryan Express,” when he was playing for the Minnesota Twins.
I mentioned memory and it really helps when you are writing non-fiction. I have a gift of a super-good memory and can recall events and minutia from 50-60 years ago like it was yesterday. I didn’t have to do much research on events because it was all stored in my head.
The research I spent months on was verifying the dates and places where my stories took place!
I know how fanatical baseball fans are about data and statistics so I triple-checked my content so I wouldn’t be getting any “ah-ha’s” or “gotcha’s” after it was read. I probably didn’t find them all, so I expect to hear some feed-back.
That’s another thing: don’t be afraid of a little criticism or a harsh review. It comes with the territory and if you’re a timid person, writing may not be for you. I played pro ball and my playing was both booed and cheered for years and that yielded self-confidence and a pretty, thick skin.
A good comeback is, “How many books have you written?”
There are many publishing houses that will gladly help you write your book, provide a ghost writer to write it, schedule book tours, and market it for you. The problem is that it’s expensive and you, the author, must usually order a minimum of 1,000 copies of your own book.
That is how they make their money! After your family and friends finish buying the first copies then you’ve got hundreds of books left.
Then, what do you do?
That means you will be the marketing director and you will have to start calling potential buyers or bookstores that might want to carry your book. Unless you are a known writer, you’ll have to send copies, at your expense, and hope they will like it and order a dozen.
It really gets expensive going that route.
I was lucky I met Cliff and Stacie Matkins at a Caswell Council for the Arts reception last year at CoSquare in downtown Yanceyville. Stacie told me they had a publishing company called Lea Street Press right here in Caswell County. They had published several of her children’s books, a science-fiction novel, and a cool little “how-to” book written by a local couple, Celia Spillman and Mathew Hoagland, about adjusting from big-city life to country living. Great idea and the book sold well.
I then met with the Matkins for lunch at Caswell Pines Golf Club and we signed a contract to publish my book. All I had to do was come up with a book manuscript, whenever, and they would start the wheels moving forward. It was decided that I would self-publish through Amazon.com and that was last September. I would supply the content, the graphics and pictures, the book’s cover, and the title.
Fortunately, I have been writing for newspapers and magazines for the last 30 years, so I didn’t have to dust off any writing or copy-editing skills. There are plenty of copy-editors available, but they can charge $40-$60 an hour so we’re talking around $800.00 to check over my 311-page book. No way. I did it myself and wound up farming out some chapters to both of my sisters, Pat, and Deb, who were well-educated in language and then to my daughter, Nicole. She checked the whole book and sent me all the typos and corrections by e-mail. What a help that was!
To put the icing on the cake, my sister, Deb, had a girlfriend in NYC who was a graphic artist, and she designed this fantastic book cover for me “pro-bono” so I was hitting on all cylinders!
My game plan for the book would be to assemble as many chapters as possible on players and events from my playing days and then, the final chapter would be my biggest and best story, Guasave ’71.
That’s a city in Sinaloa, Mexico where I played winter ball in 1971 for three months in a professional league. It was 700 miles below the border and a huge cultural difference for all the Americans who played down there. The season was fun and productive as our team won our league and was scheduled to play in the Caribbean World Series in the Dominican Republic.
Right before that was to take place, our star player, Zelman Jack, died in a mysterious accident that has never been solved nor has the full story ever been told. In my last chapter, its content is devoted to that tragic incident and explains the circumstances as I knew and lived them. It gives the book a slice of how political pro sports can be, too.
So, all I needed now was to name the book, but what? My baby sister, Deb, shot me an e-mail in January and said she woke up and the title, “Bush League Blues,” popped into her head.
Wow, that’s a good one right there and described the contents and theme of the book perfectly so we went with that.
After about two months of intense editing and proofing, we were all ready for the pictures and their placement. I chose not to use many pictures to keep it in a low-key book format where the words paint the pictures. Cliff placed the pictures we did use in the perfect location to pair up with the chapters for relevancy. He really got it right! Cliff also designed the back cover and the artwork for the spine.
He, Stacie, and I agreed that the final, proofed manuscript was ready last week to submit to Amazon and their Kindle Publishing subsidiary. In only two days, Amazon rolled out the finished product and it was selling steadily by Thursday and doing quite well. It was ranked as #14 best seller in the sport’s biography section even ahead of Hall of Famer Henry Aaron’s book!
The finished product is truly beautiful in its 8”x10” format. The font is very easy to read, and the page quality is top shelf. Amazon did a great job, too!
I didn’t have to front any money as Amazon/Kindle Publishing has the book “in stock” and they take care of the ordering, the shipping, and the accounting. They update your sales reports each day, so you know how the book is selling. And they have alternatives, like Kindle Books, to publish and reach a larger audience.
In the meantime, I have been contacting many baseball fan groups and connecting with them, sending a clip about the book, its cover graphic and how to order from Amazon. It takes a lot of time, but self-marketing is an important part of the self-publishing gig. It’s fun to talk to people about your own book and an author can be very effective by engaging his customers.
Another side and backstory is that I’ve been contacted by three sport’s talk radio shows in big city markets like Boston, Baltimore and Tampa for interviews in the next three weeks. That’s perfect for promoting my book and expands my reach to buyers. I have had experience behind a microphone and done on-air interviews so I’m comfortable in that format.
Finally, it’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment to finish a book about yourself, anybody, or anything. If you have a story that needs or should be told, I suggest writing it. I recommend a nice quiet office, a good computer suited for publishing (I use an iMac) with Microsoft Word 365 and a good 3-1 Printer/Scanner. It makes things so much easier compared to the old days of fumbling with a typewriter, typewriter ribbons and the troublesome “White Out” for covering over mistakes. What a pain that was!
Finally, if you are interested in writing and English composition, and you want to really dive into it, the Piedmont Community College Caswell Campus offers five courses in that field. There is nothing more stimulating to me than being in a room full of writers. Their energy and creativity are bound to rub off on the whole class. Call PCC’s Ms. Edna Brown, Director of Student Development, at 336-694-8046 for more information on classes, costs, and recommendations. She’s a pro and will take good care of you.
By the way, my book is “Bush League Blues” by G. Mike Floyd and is available on Amazon.com under the menu on “Books” and then drop-down menu to “Sports Book” and you have found it.
It’s 311 pages, soft cover for $19.95. My sister says it’s a “guy book” and a perfect read for a week at the beach!
So, that’s about the size of it. To be a decent writer, it takes knowledge, practice, and motivation. If you’re not afraid to challenge yourself, I say go for it.