Review: Ducksnorts 2007 Baseball Annual

by Bill Ferris on March 24, 2007 · 1 comment

in Blogs to Books,Making Money

Geoff Young created Ducksnorts nearly a decade ago to celebrate all things San Diego Padres. Like many of us, the site was a hobby. That was until he left his day job to take on blogging and compiling his first book full time. The byproduct is the Ducksnorts 2007 Annual.

The book is 193 pages and, well it’s about the Padres. Being that it is an annual the biggest section (about a third of the book) is a detailed look back at the season that was in 2006. Readers will learn exactly how the 2006 edition of the Padres were constructed, how Petco Park impacted the team, and what went wrong in the playoffs. It also has a detailed look back at the Padres game of the year.

In addition to narrating the 2006 season Young looks back farther with a retrospective on the 1998 World Series appearance and a detailed examination of Kevin Towers defining deals. Broader baseball topics explore the Twins and A’s continued small market success and candidates for building a bullpen with a tight budget.

Now I’m not particularly a Padres fan, but you don’t really need to be. Young paints a picture compelling enough that any fan of baseball will enjoy it. He also writes in an easily digestable style where it’s easy to quickly rip through a section.

There are stats in the book, but it isn’t a book of statistics. Geoff uses the graphs and tables to enhance and clarify, but not to tell the story. Because of this it the book is accessible to a wide audience.

I was going to say this is a great first effort, but it’s a great effort regardless.

Now because this is a blog for other bloggers, I thought that it might be valuable to learn about the process that Geoff went through. The idea of a Tiger book is something that crossed my mind, but the project always seemed so daunting. Geoff was kind enough to answer some questions about how the book came together:

BB Why did you decide to write the book?

GY I’ve been reading baseball annuals since I was a kid — Bill James, Bill Mazeroski, Street & Smith — and I’ve always enjoyed the format. When I see those types of publications in bookstores, it sends a signal to my brain that baseball season is just around the corner.

The one gripe I have with annuals — and it’s the nature of the medium — is that they don’t drill down into any one topic as much as I’d like. When I get to the part about the Padres, for example, I find myself craving more. I want an entire book that goes into obsessive detail about the team I follow. Nothing like that existed, so I figured I could either whine about it and be frustrated or do something and be happy. I chose the latter.
The other thing is that Ducksnorts turns 10 this September. I’m not huge on anniversaries, but I guess that’s a long time in Internet years, so this is a way to celebrate with my readers. Plus, I didn’t know if I could actually write a book; what better way to find out?

BB How long did it take you to write it? You gave up your day job to
work on it, is there any way someone could tackle this in their “spare time”

GY I first proposed the idea in August 2006. After a couple months of hashing out ideas with my readers on what should go in the book, I started doing the research. I managed to complete two chapters before I quit my job, but with work, the book, and my normal blogging activities, I was putting in 15-17 hours a day and it was killing me. At that point, I decided that one of two things had to go, and I wasn’t willing to give up on the book. My wife and I had a talk, and unbelievably, she agreed with me. I left a good job with great people at the end of November and got serious with my writing. From then until mid-March, working on the book was pretty much a full-time job. Between researching, writing, self-publishing, and figuring out how to promote the book, you’re probably looking at 600 or so hours.

As for whether someone could tackle this in their spare time, I’ll answer by saying that I couldn’t do it. Then again, there are a lot of talented people in the world, so I won’t say it’s impossible. Such an undertaking would take a tremendous amount of discipline and energy. Also, if you’re aiming for a March release, don’t wait until the previous November to get started. There is so much involved in publishing a book that you might not think about, and things go wrong. Give yourself as much time as possible. To give you an idea, I’m already drawing up plans for the 2008 book.

BB Do you have any sales targets in mind for this to be deemed a success?

GY I do have sales targets in mind, but I have no idea whether they’re realistic. This is the first time I’ve ever published a book and I don’t know what benchmarks to use. That’s something I need to learn more about for next year’s book. I’m working in an extreme niche market, so I consider that when making projections and setting expectations. But I have rough figures in mind for what would give me satisfaction, make me ecstatic, or cause me to question my own existence. I’m reluctant to say out loud what those figures are because, again, I don’t know that they’re realistic.

In another sense, though, the project is already a success in my mind. I completed a book. Not everyone can say that, and now I can. Part of the
impetus for writing the book was to see if I could do it. The next step is trying to do it better. So the book itself is a success. If enough people buy it, maybe I can get someone else to take care of the publishing aspects (typesetting, cover design, promotion, etc.) in the future and leave me to focus on writing. That would be nice. But even if it doesn’t work out that way, I can’t complain.

This is one of the most personally rewarding things I’ve done in life — I gave an honest effort and achieved results that please me. It’s hard not to be happy with that.

BB Going the self-publishing route you’re also in charge of your own publicity. Is there a Geoff Young book tour in the works and are you promoting the book other places besides the blog circuit?

GY The whole PR and marketing game is a complete mystery to me, but I’m learning. There isn’t a tour per se, although I’m open to ideas. One thing I’ll be doing is driving from San Diego to Cooperstown in July to see Tony Gwynn inducted into the Hall of Fame. I’m planning on watching games in about 10 different minor-league towns along the way. Depending on what kind of sponsorship I’m able to get for this event, it’ll either be just one guy trekking across the country or a bunch of us piled into a limousine. I’m sure I’ll try to work a book tie-in, given that Gwynn is featured prominently in several chapters.

As for promoting outside the blog circuit, the honest answer is, I hope so. I’m knocking on doors, but if you don’t have someone on the payroll doing this stuff (and doing it well), I suspect it’s not the sort of thing that happens overnight. I’ll just keep knocking; eventually someone will listen.

BB Now with it being called an Annual, it implies there’ll be another one next year. I’m sure you’re taking a break, but when does work begin on the 2008 edition?

GY This is a little trick I played on myself. I called it an “annual” so I wouldn’t have an easy way out if I decided to flake. Sticking that word in the title commits me to at least one more of these. And even though there was a lot involved in putting this book together, I feel like I’ve learned a great deal during the process that I can apply to next year’s edition.

Break? Not really. I left a good job to do this; my wife has placed a tremendous amount of faith in me to make something happen and I need to honor that. I’ll take a break when I’m dead. Right now, I’m gathering ideas for the 2008 edition — getting feedback on the current book, scribbling notes to myself, etc. I don’t have anything concrete in mind yet, but one of the biggest lessons learned is that 4-5 months isn’t nearly enough time for a project of this magnitude. The sooner I start planning, the more it’s just a matter of putting things in their proper place come crunch time.

The great thing about self-publishing is that it doesn’t matter whether anyone else wants a second book. If I want one, then it’s going to happen. Well, I want one.

The book is available in paperback (17.95) and as an e-book (9.56). There is a ton to like about this book if you’re a Padres fan, a fan of an NL West team, or just a baseball fan in general. Alternately, if you’re a blogger and have been toying with the idea of publishing a book, I’d recommend picking it up as due diligence. You can see an example of a successful product, and see just how much is entailed in putting it together.