What Olympians Can Teach Us about Getting Published

Recently I read an article about the cost of becoming an Olympic athlete. It mentioned that former U.S. speed skater Eric Flaim, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, estimated that his decade-long training amounted to at least $250,000.

“. . . Like many Olympians, Flaim describes plenty of tough times, when he and his parents faced having to pay for big-ticket items (say, a pair of custom-molded boots for $1,500) or ongoing expenses (private coaching could run up to five grand annually.) To make ends meet, Flaim often worked in gyms, cleaning lockers after patrons departed. Even with a medal around his neck – he won his first at the 1988 winter games in Calgary — life didn’t become particularly easy. Flaim says in his best years as an athlete, he might have earned $75,000 from prizes, honorarium, and sponsorships. ‘It was not million-dollar money,’ he adds.

But at least he made money. Athletes who aren’t seen as strong medal contenders are less likely to receive significant support from their sponsors, let alone their sport’s governing board. And if they’re competing in a less-heralded sport, the problems are compounded . . .

. . . for another Olympian, Rick Hawn, a U.S. judo competitor at the 2004 Olympics in Athens who also tried out for the 2008 games, it all added up to a significant tab during his Olympic career. ‘My parents nearly went bankrupt. They put whatever they could into me and I’m the oldest of six kids.’”

iStock_000001330542XSmallIt takes a very special blend of character traits to become an Olympian. The cost in time, energy, and money rarely makes a return on the investment, so Olympians must have skill, drive, persistence, and a belief that getting to the Olympics is its own reward.

Becoming a published author is a lot like that. Many people have the desire to be published. But it takes more than desire. Over dinner the other night my husband and I talked about the people we know who want to publish a book, but probably never will, because they don’t have the special blend of character traits.

  • The first person we thought of has written many books but has failed to get published. That’s because she doesn’t want to learn the rules. She doesn’t want to attend writers groups or conferences to understand how the industry works so she sits at home writing, hoping someone will come along to publish her work. In order to get a book published you have to know the basics: how to query an agent and how to create a proposal. I spent six months working on the proposal for my book, and it was about 80 pages in length. In your proposal, you have to be able to show editors and agents that you know the competition. You have to describe your platform, and you have to lay out your marketing strategy. Your learn how to do this by investing in conferences, writers groups, and reading books. 
  • The second person we thought about is brilliant. He has wisdom that could really help people. But he doesn’t discipline himself to write. He spends all week at a job and relaxes on the weekend. I don’t blame him. But to get published, you have to discipline yourself to write when you’d rather be relaxing.
  • The third person wants to be published but he doesn’t have the persistence. He has a great idea, writes about it for a few weeks, and then gives up. And since most authors don’t make money at this gig, there has to be a reason bigger than money that would make you spend years trying to get published. Can you envision devoting five to ten years researching and writing about a particular topic?

All writers must have skill, and they must have an important message told in a fresh way.  They must learn and follow the rules of publishing, and they will probably have to persist for years. Lastly, they must believe that getting published—not getting rich—is its own reward.

What other traits do you think are necessary for becoming published? 

2 Replies to “What Olympians Can Teach Us about Getting Published”

  1. frankly, i am unmoved by this article. there are no “rules” to publishing. name me a dozen published authors who have spent time and money attending writer conferences and workshops and i can match you a dozen equally (or more) successful published authors who have not. it ticks me off when writers try to push upon the writing community that way or a popular way is the only way. it is most certainly not.

  2. Great thoughts, Lucille! I think in a competitive environment like writing for publication, perseverance is an invaluable asset. And I’m hoping and praying that’s true! 😉

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