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Hottest threads from the Cue Chalk Board
From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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May: Experts by Association
May 2010
SO I came into the office the other morning to find a book on my desk chair. It was a big, thick (370 pages!) monster of a book, black and bright yellow, with the unmistakable “For Dummies” lettering across the front. This particular edition of the popular instructional book series was titled, “Pool & Billiards For Dummies.”

And stuck to the book’s cover was a hand-written blue Post-It note, which read, “For Dummies, By Morons…”

The moron in question, as it turned out, was Nicholas Leider, the book’s author.

Of course, Nick is also the Managing Editor of Billiards Digest, and Nick’s no moron! (Although I do enjoy self-deprecating humor!) After completing his Masters in journalism in 2006, Nick began his career at Billiards Digest as an intern for then-Managing Editor Mason King. In 2007, he replaced departing Associate Editor Audra Quinn. And a little more than a year ago, Nick took over the helm of BD after King left. He’s done an amazing job of maintaining the magazine’s high standards despite shrinking ad revenue and a pared down staff.

“Pool & Billiards For Dummies” (Wiley Publishing, Inc., $19.99) contains all the requisite information for a good instructional book on the game — chapters on fundamentals, the various pocket billiard games, cue ball control, aiming, English, strategies, etc. It’s well organized, including all the cool little icons that alert readers of special information … tips, reminders, warnings and odd bits of information.

But this isn’t a review of Nick’s new book.

Just seeing the book on my chair and knowing that Nick cranked that out while running Billiards Digest made me reflect about the work and effort that must have gone into it. How he managed to fit a book into his time is a question I’m afraid to even ask.

I say I’m afraid because I know exactly how he managed. I went through the same exercise more than 20 years ago when I wrote my first book with Steve Mizerak, called “Steve Mizerak’s Complete Book of Pool & Billiards.” (See how quickly and cleverly I shifted the focus of this column from being about Nick to being about me? It really wasn’t that hard. It’s a gift, I know.)

I think virtually every journalist feels the need to pen a book during his or her career. I don’t think it matters whether the person is a bottom-of-the-ladder reporter for a daily newspaper, a popular columnist, a magazine writer or one of the new breed of online journalists. Writing a book is a challenge. It doesn’t have to be the Great American Novel, either. It’s the process of organizing something on a larger scale that’s the challenge. It’s quite a different process than what writers go through in meeting daily, weekly or even monthly deadlines.

And, for most of us, authoring that first book is something we do in our “spare time.” I’ll never forget my meetings with what was then Contemporary Books prior to my first Mizerak book. Steve and I met with the editor and outlined what the book would entail. They gave us the green light and we signed a contract that had very specific deadlines spelled out. Naturally, I did as we all tend to do. I said, “I can do this.” And the moment I walked out the door I thought to myself, “How the heck am I going to do this!”

What followed were endless days devoted to billiards. Eight-plus hours at the Billiards Digest office, followed by five or six hours each night grinding out copy for the book. On weekends I’d put in even longer hours. One weekend I flew to Pittsburgh to scour through articles and photos at Mike Shamos’ Billiard Archive. Another weekend I flew to Florida to shoot the instructional photos with Steve.

One of the things that scared me most was the fact that I’m no pool player. I enjoy playing, but I’m not now, nor was I then, an expert player. (Although having Steve Mizerak as your co-author certainly did make it a little easier!) What I was — and what Nick is — is what I call an “expert by association.” We’re around the sport so much, we can sound like we know what we’re talking about! I think it’s that way with a lot of authors in the “how-to” genre of books.

Not surprisingly, on more than a few occasions I found myself panicking, thinking, “I can’t possibly finish this on time.”

But you push on and get it done. And when it’s finished and in print there is both relief and pride. I remember getting my first copy of the book. Two thoughts went through my mind. “This is really cool!” And, “I’ll never do this to myself again!” (Of course, I did it to myself two more times, but neither effort was nearly as taxing as the first.)

Beyond the satisfaction of having completed such a hefty project, there is the knowledge that your name will forever be etched in the Library of Congress. That’s a pretty cool feeling. I mean, think about it. The name Michael Panozzo is right in there, shortly after Sarah Palin and a little before Edgar Allen Poe.

So, I felt like a had a little better sense of understanding of Nick’s pride in having produced “Pool & Billiards For Dummies.” And I’m proud of him for having completed the task, particularly since he did so with little disruption in his duties as BD editor.

Congratulations, Nick.

And I’m glad you survived with your sense of humor intact.


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