I'm probably making a bigger deal about my appearance in Beckett's vintage magazine than some feel it warrants.
Who cares, right? Nobody reads magazines anymore. It's not like it's Time or Sports Illustrated. Some old set from the '70s? You just have yourself that little party, old man.
OK, I will. For me, from an early age, the folks whose names appeared as the bylines in magazines were even more fascinating and mysterious than the people they were chronicling. I saw pictures of the people being featured. I read their thoughts and learned their backgrounds. I knew stuff about them. The person writing it? I didn't know one thing about them.
I read a lot of magazines as a youngster and into my teenage years and then in college. Time. Sports Illustrated. Inside Sports. Baseball Digest. Baseball Magazine. Life. Newsweek. The New Yorker. Mad. Cracked. Rolling Stone. Spin. National Geographic. Ranger Rick. Sesame Street Magazine. People. Us. TV Guide. Reader's Digest. The Saturday Evening Post. Billboard. U.S. News and World Report. Yankee. Highlights. The Sporting News. Baseball Card Magazine.
In most cases, I noticed the writer of the articles I read. I wondered what that was like, being a magazine writer. What was it like writing long-form articles? Having your words presented in an appealing fashion through photos or graphic design? That added weight to your words that a glossy, bound publication offered?
I wondered all of that.
So, why not give people somewhat of a view of what it's like?
Now, as far as magazines go, I'm just a freelance writer with one article under my belt. There are probably more to come but it's still very early. I'm not William Nack or Steve Rushin. But come on, this will be fun.
First off, I'd never get this gig without the blog. I've been writing it for awhile and I have an audience. Also, it's because of bloggers that the article -- an account of the 1976 SSPC baseball set -- even exists. Former blogger Ryan Cracknell, who works at Beckett, turned the editorial director on to the possibility of me writing for the magazine back in August. Also, the SSPC cards that accompany the article are, for the most part, images of ones in my collection. And those cards came directly from blogger Scott Crawford, who had an SSPC set to trade.
Also, the most work for this article involved research. Truthfully, there isn't a lot of information out there about the SSPC set. I am fortunate that I knew a lot about it already, but I had to scrape and scrounge for information. Some of that info came from card bloggers that I know. I hope they aren't too disappointed that I made sure I confirmed their info with a second source.
Mostly what got me through completion of the article is a love for the set. It is one of my all-time favorites. Probably in the top 10 (hey, that's a future blog post). I can't help but write a lot of words about a set that I love. And writing it was like writing another blog post.
That's another great part of writing for magazines. They're not holding you to 18 inches, like at a newspaper.
So, I was contacted by Mike Payne, the editorial director at Beckett Vintage Collector, and he told me what he was looking for, and fortunately, I knew exactly what he meant. I wrote the story late in September and submitted it in early October. Sending the images was next and that was a bit tricky as I didn't know that magazines require much better quality photographs. But I figured out how to send those and I sent more than he needed. Here are some cards I sent that didn't make the article:
Some of the images used with the article actually aren't part of the '76 SSPC set. SSPC gets confusing because it issued other sets around the same time with a design that looks exactly like the '76 SSPC set. For example, the Lou Piniella card that's shown with the article is actually from the SSPC New York Yankees team set issued in '75, I believe. The only cards I sent for the story were from the main '76 SSPC set.
I received my pay for the story shortly after submitting it, so I figured I'd see the article in print at some point. But I had no idea when it would show because -- here's an embarrassing admission -- I had never seen Beckett Vintage Collector before. I've never been a Beckett subscriber, I quit Baseball Card Magazine before Beckett even took it over.
So I didn't know how often the magazine was issued and initially assumed it would just show up the month after I wrote it. That's a magazine-writing newbie for ya. No idea.
Once I got a handle on the magazine's publishing cycle, I figured it'd appear in the early part of 2019. But I was guessing at some point in February. So I was shocked when Nick from Dime Boxes announced last Thursday that he had found the magazine and the story within while stocking shelves.
Like I mentioned earlier, I found the magazine the next day while on a road trip. My wife and I stopped at a Barnes and Noble in a Syracuse suburb. Every time I walk into a Barnes and Noble I want to spend the next eight hours there and I curse my town's inability to support a bookstore.
I walked immediately to the magazine back wall. Anyone who has been in a Barnes and Noble probably knows that many of them devote a length of wall to magazines. This particular one, however, is one of the biggest I've ever seen. You would never know that the magazine industry is struggling mightily by looking at that thing. I've never seen so many magazines in one place.
Looking for the Beckett Vintage magazine was like hunting for a book in the library without knowing the subject or the author. I tried the hobby section. But all I saw were knitting magazines (it's bizarre how many of those there are). I tried the sports section. But I was overloaded by fantasy sports magazines. I started to think they didn't carry it.
But then I saw it. It was down below, at knee level, next to the Beckett Baseball issues. My heart leapt. My wife immediately grabbed two. I grabbed one and looked for the table of contents. There is no table of contents. So then I just started leafing through the pages until I got to the middle. Page 64. My article. Pure Fun.
All of my thoughts from childhood of what the magazine story would look like when I wrote it rushed forward. This was for you, 10-year-old boy who used to create his own magazines with paper stapled together.
I grabbed another copy. Between the two of us, we had four copies. I left two behind. Then -- because I'm a collector sometimes obsessed with condition -- I put one of the magazines back, because it had a dented corner and took a different one.
After buying some drinks (the amount of time people take to place their drink order at a bookstore is obscene. Why is it so involved?), we paid for the copies ($9.99 each, magazines are a lot more expensive than I remember!), and the clerk didn't even ask me why I was buying four copies.
I spent the next hour-plus driving home in the best mood. Once home, I combed my story for stupid mistakes or wording. I found a couple things, mostly because I'm a writer and we critique ourselves all the time. But I was surprised to see that there was very little -- if any -- editing of my story. I'm going to chalk that up to it being perfect copy (ha!), but I'm not used to that at all. In newspaper land, even the cleanest copy is usually tweaked.
I know some people have issues with Beckett magazine, and I understand where they're coming from. Some of their collecting philosophies, etc., are not mine. For example, I would never get a card graded. Ever. Back in the early days of this blog I railed about Beckett's reputation somewhat, like a lot of bloggers did then. However, I've scaled back on stuff like that, and the Vintage Collector magazine is a different animal to me. Plus, I think with the recent history of other bloggers writing for Beckett, such as Ben at Cardboard Icons and Sooz and Ryan, there are other blogger-friendly viewpoints coming from that space. And, with the addition of little ol' night owl, I could add yet another brand new viewpoint to Beckett.
The magazine actually looks very interesting. It reminds me of the days of Baseball Card Magazine. Long, detailed stories about different sports collecting topics. I'm going to enjoy reading the other articles in it.
The whole experience was a thrill and, yes, I'm ready to do it again. I'm going to offer up some story ideas and hopefully one will be chosen for the next article I write. I'm pretty damn excited to get paid to write about baseball cards, in a magazine that is shipped all across the country.
So, that's my first experience as a magazine writer.
And for once, you know a little more about the person whose byline is on the article than just that person's name.