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From Book to…Blog? Inspiration for the Aspiring Nonfiction Author

By David Krell

You’ve heard the the old sports cliche about the consequence of avoiding risk: “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.”

David Krell

This applies to non-fiction authors more than we realize.

Presently, I am writing my first book – Blue Magic: The Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field, and the Battle for Baseball’s Soul.  It will be a historical narrative enhanced by interviews with fans, historians, journalists, and the children of the Brooklyn Dodgers from the 1950s glory years.

I was fortunate to land an agent — Jason Ashlock of Movable Type Management — someone steeped in candor, analytical thinking, and passion, who seems to see around corners where others cannot even recognize the corners.

Ok, I have an agent. But Jason’s opportunities to sell Blue Magic to a publisher only expand as my marketability increases. But I have no web site. I have no blog. I don’t have a job with Major League Baseball or a team in the baseball industry. I don’t even have any real baseball contacts.

So, how is this going to work? Well, I began by taking shots that I once thought impossible, at least highly improbable, regarding my author platform.

The lessons I learned are invaluable. Their impact, immeasurable.

#1: Never Assume That Someone Will Say No

I have reached out to people with the simple explanation that I’m writing a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers and requesting an interview. The subject line of the email reads “Media Interview Request – Brooklyn Dodgers” so they know immediately why I’m writing.

The result has been extraordinary. Interviews are granted with pleasure to participate.

In addition, I am deeply appreciative that the Forewords to Blue Magic will be written by two exceptional people dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Brooklyn Dodgers – 1) Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson, and 2) Branch Rickey III, the grandson of Branch Rickey, the Dodgers executive that signed Robinson to break the color barrier in baseball.

Even if you’ve never written a book before, send a request to people whom you want to interview. You might hit a home run!

#2: Don’t Wait For the Perfect Shot

You cannot wait until you complete your research, sign with an agent, and get a publishing deal. That could be months away. Maybe years. Start compiling your target interview list now.

And remember that each interview might yield an expansion of your network. Several times, interviewees offered to put me in touch with friends and colleagues. The stronger your network, the stronger your research.

#3: Speak Loud and Proud

There are conferences, associations, and other opportunities related to your topic. Find them! A few Google searches yielded me a wealth of baseball conferences with speaking opportunities. So far, I have been accepted to: The New York Mets 50th Anniversary Conference, Society for American Baseball Research’s Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Baseball Conference, National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and the American Culture, and the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention.

Your book’s topic is like a wheel – a hub with many spokes. Consequently, tailor your topic to the conference audience with the appropriate spoke. For the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, I pitched the nostalgia angle of the Brooklyn Dodgers immediately in the title:  The Brooklyn Dodgers – Nostalgia’s Team.

#4: Expand Your Horizon

At the Writer’s Digest Conference in January, a friend suggested that I apply to speak at the Urban History Association’s conferences. When I asked why, she responded with the beauty of simplicity, “Didn’t you just tell me that the Dodgers were synonymous with Brooklyn back in the day? And didn’t you also say that the team got a sweetheart deal for the Dodger Stadium site in Los Angeles? That’s urban history, my friend!”

So, I applied to be a speaker at the UHA annual conference in the Fall. According to the UHA’s web site, I should get an acceptance or rejection by April 15th. I’m hoping for the former, of course. But, if my proposal is rejected, I will take the motto of the Brooklyn Dodgers fans to heart: Wait Till Next Year!

#5: A Whiteboard Is An Author’s Best Friend

Taking a page from Dr. Gregory House, I bought a white board and easel from Staples. Any brainstorm goes immediately on the white board. It’s all there. Target interviews. Deadlines. Writers conferences.

No Excel spreadsheet with thousands of rectangles mocking me with their blankness. No legal pads with scribbles created frantically out of enthusiasm that appear disorganized, unreadable, and useless to the sober eye a week later. No relegating to my memory bank with the faulty belief that I can retrieve any idea at a moment’s notice.

And when I finish a task, I erase it. For example, I just erased this task: Finish Publishing Perspectives Article.

A sense of completion fills me with energy to fill the board again. I think that’s my cue to start developing www.davidkrell.com and a blog!

DISCUSS: What Comes First, the Platform or the Book?

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4 Comments

  1. Erin L. Cox
    Posted March 30, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    All great advice and, of course, it will help him get more attention from editors…but doing all of this work will not necessarily guarantee that Jason will be able to sell the book (not that he isn’t an amazing agent), but it all depends on how it all pans out.

  2. Posted March 30, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Put me down for a copy please! Wickedest man in the history of my childhood was Walter O’Malley.
    Good luck!
    Rick

  3. Posted March 30, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Great advice! Scoring forewords by recognizable names can really propel the book. I like the idea of taking speaking engagements even before the book is published because a) it forces you to think about who your audience is and how to market and b) the Q&A time might garner new angles you hadn’t yet thought of for the book.

  4. Posted April 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    @Erin L. Cox – which harkens back to the axiom at the beginning of the article – “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

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