Considering the number of soccer fans in North America, sales of 'Rock n Roll Soccer' in the continent have been, frankly, more than disappointing. As a writer, you can rationalise a book's failure in order to distract yourself from a creeping insecurity about your own abilities. That is, you find someone or something else to blame besides yourself. The following reasons, I've speculated, may all be the cause of public indifference to an analysis and history of the North American Soccer League:
- a very poor publicity effort by the publisher, St. Martin's Press. "If it's not made the NY Bestsellers' List in two weeks, publishers lose interest," an insider told me. They certainly did. A planned book tour was supported in theory, but not with anything as helpful as cash or staff.
- sparse coverage from the mainstream sports media. All the major national print and broadcast outlets ignored the book - no surprise, given my lack of both fame and extensive contacts. The author's name is often way more important than the contents of their book. An old buddy from the press box? Sure, we'll mention your book! Known for spouting off shite on social media to several thousand followers? You're in!
- a lack of interest in North America's soccer history both among fans (see book sales) and teams - not a single Major League Soccer or NASL Mark 2 club was interested in or, in most cases, even had the courtesy to respond to my requests to host a reading. Even though this lack of interest was, ironically, something that the book sought to rectify. This may be down to the fragmented nature of US soccer history, or it may be due to the relentlessly forward-looking norms of a sport that still considers itself to be on the rise.
The 50th anniversary of the NASL's kick-off this year and the rapid success of MLS new boys Atlanta United may both have been a potential peg to revive interest in the subject, but I've lost so much money on the book by now that it hasn't been worth the risk of investing more unpaid time. Still, I was intrigued to see an interview run by the Associated Press last week with the former chief executive of NASL co-founders the Atlanta Chiefs, Dick Cecil, that ran across several media. Including the Washington Post and the New York Times, both of whom ignored 'Rock n Roll Soccer'.
Around two-thirds of the way through the piece, the writer Paul Newberry mentions how the Chiefs achieved some measure of international fame in their first year by twice beating English champions Manchester City. I quote, without permission:
Cecil gleefully pulls out a book about the history of the NASL.
“Look at the title of the first chapter,” he says.
I thumb quickly to the table of contents.
“Atlanta, Champions of England,” it says.
“I love that!” Cecil says, erupting in a laugh pulled straight from the belly.
|"I love that!"|
My book! But the Associated Press doesn't cite the title of the book, doesn't mention the name of the author. I continue reading to the end of the interview, feeling that I am waving goodbye to a ship that was supposed to take me off the island, but which is now steaming over the horizon without a backward glance. Is there anything left for me to eat on the island? I turn around, and there are on the beach are several piles of unsold copies of 'Rock n Roll Soccer'...
The publisher did write to me last year and offer me its "overstock" of 697 copies at a not particularly bargain price. Otherwise, their fate was unclear - pulped or remaindered? I suggested that they should be donated to the libraries of the country's state and federal prisons, which more than outnumber the overstocked books. They must still be thinking about that option, as I've yet to receive a reply.