Publish or Perish

By David

About six years ago, I published a book on Lydiard’s training methods as they applied to swimming. The process was amazingly simple. Lydiard wrote a prologue and the manuscript was sent to Meyer & Meyer, a leading German publisher of sports books. Eight months later, the book was selling well and reached number seven on the Amazon’s water sport’s best selling list. “Swim to the Top”, that’s the book’s name, has slipped in the ranking since then but had done well enough that Meyer&Meyer asked if I could put together a second book on swimming training.

A year later, Jane and I completed the manuscript of “Swimming – A Training Program” and sent it off to see what Meyer & Meyer thought. They seemed happy and in 2004 the second book was published. I had the fun of finding the book in our local Barnes and Noble store and telling the shop assistant that I knew the authors. Jane and I are not going to be able to buy a corporate jet with the annual royalties but its fun enough to have the books in print and be part of spreading the Lydiard philosophy.

Flushed with success I decided it was time to write a novel with a swimming theme. 114,000 words later “Thirty Pieces of Silver” was a completed manuscript ready for publication. Since then things have gone from bad to worse. Meyer & Meyer don’t do fiction so I sent the manuscript to three New Zealand publishers, thinking my association with swimming in that fair land might make the manuscript more interesting. It seems not; “unfortunately” they were “too busy with current projects”.

Perhaps, I thought, the United States would be different. I sent the manuscript to five publishers selected scientifically by stabbing my finger at a list on the internet. The response was overwhelming. All five said they’d read it, all five “loved” it, all five said we were “great” writers; the manuscript was just what every passenger on every jet in every state of the United States was waiting to read. All five sent a contract that we should sign and return as soon as possible. Things did seem too good to be true. I decided to investigate.

Dorrance Publishing wanted me to pay them $17,900 to publish the book. Publish America would do it for free, but there were some pretty awful warnings about them on the internet. American Book Publishing appeared respectable but wanted $9000 up front. Clare Smith sent me an acceptance letter dated May 18, 2008 in November 2007. My impression was of an industry with more than its fair share of sharks circling and waiting to take advantage of vanity; to hit on anyone who had written a few thousand words and wanted to see them on a bookshelf. There are honest publishers in the world. Meyer & Meyer are one of them. The problem for the novice is simply finding out who are honest and who aren’t. If anyone can help answer that question we’d love to hear from you.

So, what’s “Thirty Pieces of Silver” about? It tells the story of the escape from East Germany of the National Swimming Coach and his eventual immigration to New Zealand. The East German secret police track him down and execute two assassination attempts. Through these and other difficulties and by employing Lydiard’s training methods the coach eventually wins three gold medals at the Olympic Games.

The book is entirely fiction but like all make-believe does rely on the author’s personal experience. For example the East German connection is based on when I employed the East German National Coach, Mike Regner. One of the assassination attempts is a distant parallel to the Australian based plan to kill one of Toni Jeffs’ sponsors, Brian LeGros. The airplane forced landing is a description of when I had an engine failure and landed my Piper Arrow in a barley field outside of Wanganui. Jane’s description of the Virgin Islands is from two hot summers spent sweltering in that place. Her knowledge of Lydiard’s training is from ten years spent doing nothing else. Sadly many of the “swimming official” stories actually happened.

But first we’ve got to get the thing published. Perhaps we should just serialize it on Swimwatch, or perhaps you know a better idea.