Play Like a 15 Seed

Anything can happen during March Madness, and we root for the underdog, but how many go so far as to put the underdogs within their final brackets?

How many had 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast University going this far? Doesn’t make sense. There’s never been a 15 seed to make the Sweet Sixteen . . . Until now. . .

* * *

Imagine this: You have a new book and you’re sitting around, talking about marketing and PR with your publisher. Everyone’s cheering. They’re in your corner. Rah. Rah. Rah. But when you leave, the next author comes in and it’s the same thing. In the end, the publishers don’t have all of their authors ranked number one. They have a bracket  system. They’re rooting for everyone, but when they really sit down and have to put it in writing, there are tiers. They expect one book and author to do X and another to do Y. If X doesn’t go that far, fine, it met expectations. If Y exceeds, everyone is surprised and revisits the brackets.

And for those that are ranked on top? There’s no guarantee that your publisher’s efforts will turn your next project into a bestseller.

So what do you do? Do you hope the publisher will pull out all the stops and win the game for you? No. You fight like a 15 seed that no one expects to win.

You fight to get in the game.

Figure out what your publisher will or won’t do. If you don’t have a publisher or your publisher doesn’t even have you in the tournament, you come up with your own game plan. Take the truths—be persistent, find your crossover audience, pay attention to the signsaim for passion within your workremain open to change, stay in it for the long haul (but mind moderation), do something every daysay thank you—and figure out how you can use them. Learn what others have done to get into the game, but take those elements and match them to your style, your play.

You fight to stay in the game.

Whatever your publisher won’t do? You do. And you do a little bit every day.

You fight to obliterate the brackets.

You stay in the game for the long haul. If you don’t rank this year, you go for it next year. Then the year you land a 15 seed spot, you take it one game at a time. You can only go higher.

You fight to make it to the championship game.

Yes, your team mates matter.

Yes, your skill matters.

Yes, playing hard matters.

But how you play—what you do with what you have—matters the most.

And next year, when the prez and everyone else is tending to their brackets, you don’t pay any mind to where they place you. You play on as your own advocate and advance anyway.

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Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Basilis on March 29, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Unfortunately, Callie, “oh yes” to everything you shared with us.

    It would be nice to -allow me this word- “rely” on publishers, but it’s not how things works these days, isn’t it?

    I talk not only as an unknown writer trying to make “the breakthrough”, but as an observer who sees big names (in his country) almost struggle to bring their next book into the light…

    From this post, I’ll remember mostly the phrase: what do you do with what you have, matters the most.

  2. S. J. Crown on March 29, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Agree with all this, especially the “aim for passion within your work.” FGCU plays like they are having the time of their life. Win or lose, they appreciate the pure joy of playing basketball, and they perform better because of it.
    When we writers think about all the tasks we’re supposed to do, it’s easy to let those things stifle the passion that leads us to write in the first place.
    Thanks for the reminder.
    Go Jayhawks!

  3. Paul C on March 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Tom Izzo has a philosophy of how you start is how you finish. If you work hard when no one is paying attention, you’ll finish hard. At a Michigan State Midnight Madness a couple of years ago, Izzo dressed up as King Leonidas and the actor Gerard Butler led the pep rally. I’m sure there are several copies of “Gates of Fire” around their athletic department.

  4. Kathy Ostman-Magnusen on April 4, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Dang, I feel pumped! As I read this article written by Callie Oettinger, I believed in myself more. I “can” do it, despite the odds. I am my own hero and there is no reason for me not to push forward representing my own interests. To hell with the odds. Do the work! Thank you Callie, I loved it.

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  6. Nayan Warrior on June 13, 2023 at 10:08 am

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