In 2001, McFarland Publishing of Jefferson, North Carolina, published my first and only book, Sports Nicknames: 20,000 Professionals Worldwide. I began writing the reference book after reading an article in a magazine that sports nickname no longer existed. I disagreed with the statement and began researching to dispute the article. Two things then happened: I found an overwhelming amount of nicknames and I really liked researching sports nicknames. It was enjoyable, relaxing, and addictive.
From the early 1990s and until the time the book was published, I researched in my spare time and looked forward to researching. I went through every Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News from the late ’60s through archived magazines and microfiche. I went through every sports magazine I could get my hands on and, mind you, this was before Al Gore’s Internet became widely accessible, so this was hard copy research. I skimmed through sports books, especially autobiographies, for nicknames, spending countless hours at Barnes & Nobles, other bookstores, and libraries. I was even locked in the archives of a library after it closed one afternoon. Over 10 years, I collected 20,000 nicknames and the reason for many of these nicknames. I documented each nickname as well.
So what happened next? I picked the brains of my former college professors, and they read what I had. Most were not supportive and could not see my idea of a sports nickname reference book ever being published, but one suggested The Writer’s Market. I pushed on and bought a copy. I read about cover letters and query letters. I researched publishers in The Writer’s Market who accepted work from first-time writers and publishers who did not require a “recognized agent.” Then I began sending those letters out along with 25 pages of my book to every publisher that fit my criteria.
I estimated that I sent submissions out to nearly 60 publishers before McFarland Publishing sent me a letter of interest. We talked about publishing my book, but they suggested I make some changes. One of these changes involved changing the endnotes I used for documentation to a works cited with in-text citation. With approximately 20,000 endnotes and figuring that it would take me at least four minutes to change each one, it took me 80,000 minutes or 1,333 hours or 166 days working eight hours a day. Additionally, McFarland Publishing suggested that I create an index listing the nickname and then the player the nickname belonged to. This took nearly as many hours to complete the index.
Even though it took me so much time to complete these tasks, I knew McFarland Publishing was correct in suggesting these ideas to improve my book. I also know that they became frustrate with my naivety in regards to publishing. However, in the end, when the book was published, we had a book Booklist (American Library Association) said was “a specialized but comprehensive reference source for all libraries that can afford it.”
Monetarily, I made little for the hours I put in the book, but made up for that in writing credibility that allowed me to teach writing at two universities and three newspapers. I receive self-satisfaction in seeing my book listed at the Library of Congress and many libraries such as the New York Public Library. I know that there is no other sports nickname book in the world as extensive as mine. I have been contracted by talk radio, ESPN, the Los Angeles Times, and other media for my take on sports nicknames. I was also a contributing writer to The Gospel According to ESPN: The Saints, Saviors, and Sinners of Sports and asked by ESPN the Magazine about nickname in a 2011 “Best of Everything” issue.
Since 2001, I have added over 10,000 more nicknames and I am looking to publish an updated version of my book: Sports Nicknames: 30,000 Professionals Worldwide.
Tip: Don’t ever give up on your writing or an idea that you believe in. Friends thought I was crazy. Family believed I was insane, but I continue writing and researching.