Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Authors and Olympic athletes

 I don’t want to get a nasty message from the IOC for infringing their copyright or trademark, so I won’t use the Olympic rings as a graphic for this post. Instead, I’ll ask you to imagine it, in full colour. Not even the IOC can do anything about that.

I respect copyright — of course I do, I’m an author — but while the IOC is going too far, wielding their power and their money like a playground bully, I’d rather focus on the Olympic athletes.

Bully image courtesy Business Spotlight

What’s the connection between writing and Olympic athletes? Both authors and athletes face a long, rough road. For most athletes, just getting to the Games is a thrill. Only a tiny minority take home a medal.

Watching events like this, hearing interviews with sprinters and divers and participants in so many other events, you begin to appreciate that there is much, much more to every event than what’s on the front pages of the newspapers or in the TV reports. For every spectacular photo of a medalist in action, there are hundreds of other athletes all giving the same effort without the glory.

None of those medal winners could climb the podium without the efforts of thousands of other people: coaches, assistants, organizers and especially all the other competitors, from the local leagues and events, through all the regional, national and international events.

The long, rough track ahead

While the Olympics are the glory events, there is so much more sweat, blood and commitment at the other levels. I have more respect for those competitors, those who give their sport everything they have, even while knowing how long their road ahead is, from the local competition to the world stage.

The writer faces a similar road. It’s a long way from that first idea, through outlines and drafts and rewrites, beta reading, critique circles, rewriting, editing, copy-editing ... you know the drill. And that’s just to get the book produced. Then there’s another, even rougher road to get the book into the hands (or in front of the eyeballs) of an audience. A very few become best-sellers, but there are many, many worthy books that, due to may constellations of luck and circumstance, just don’t get the recognition.

Speed bumps

Yesterday, I watched the Triathlon. Like probably every other Canadian, I hoped that our flag-bearer Simon Whitfield, who won the gold medal in 2000 in Sydney and the silver in 2008, would take the gold again. But after working his way to a good position after the foot race, he crashed moments after getting on his bike and injured himself badly enough to have to withdraw.

Did he deserve to win? Sure: he put in the hours in training, he had the talent, he obviously had the ability, but luck got in the way. He hit that speed bump just wrong, and he’s out.

So much in publishing success depends on luck, too. Who would have predicted the runaway success of 50 Shades of Gray? How many publishing professionals predicted that Harry Potter would go nowhere, and rejected JK Rowling’s manuscript?

On the road

Where am I on the road, right now? I can’t say I’m thrilled about the total sales of any of my titles. But I sold a few copies in the past week. I know it’s a tiny number, but I’m happy about any sales.

It’s a long, long road, after all.


  1. As you say it is a long road. I've never won a medal of any kind but I doubt the pleasure of receiving one is much greater than that of opening my sales reports and seeing a higher number than the day before.

  2. Well said, Scott. And well done.