Write a book proposal? Check.
Get a literary agent? Check.
Research the Brooklyn Dodgers topic and begin drafting the book? Double check.
Not enough. Not in today’s market.
An author needs a platform, that crucial element answering the dual question, “Who are you and why should I care?”
A platform reflects the expertise, visibility, target audience, and reach of the author in the marketplace. Building a platform is somewhat Sisyphean in its task. As soon as you move the boulder up the hill, it falls down the other side. You’re never truly done.
Conferences related to the author’s topic are great outlets for strengthening the author platform. To be an author is to be a self-promoter speaking about your book topic or a related topic. For example, an author of a book about George Washington’s military career will easily find conferences concerning the Revolutionary War, American history, and military history.
Typically, conference producers want a presentation abstract or proposal, a summary no longer than a page. In some cases, they require the applicant to submit the entire paper. Whatever its length, the submission serves as a basis for selection. Or rejection.
Easier said than done.
Earlier this year, I learned about a conference sponsored by Hofstra University celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets. It was a natural fit for an author establishing credibility in the baseball history genre.
I pitched. I went. I spoke.
Choosing a topic and corresponding title can be a challenge. But careful thought increases the chance of selection by the conference producers.
Topic: Find the niche within the niche.
The 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets immediately triggers thoughts of Tom Seaver, Mr. Met, Shea Stadium, Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the Mets’ World Series championship teams of 1969 and 1986, and the infamous 1962 Mets managed by Casey Stengel. They’re obvious topics – all valid, natural, and appealing.
I went a different route, pitching a topic at once recognizable but not necessarily obvious. Meet the Mets. The song is as much a signature of the team as the aforementioned topics. But the competition, I theorized, would be thinner regarding the Mets and popular culture, specifically, Meet the Mets.
I was right.
Title: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Choose the title for your topic wisely. It is the first item that the conference producer will see. It must stand apart from the crowd, resonate with the reader, and offer unique information. Benign is the enemy.
My title for the Meet the Mets topic could very easily have gone into enemy territory:
The Creation of Meet the Mets
Why Meet the Mets Endures
Meet the Mets: The Anthem of the Mets
These titles are one-dimensional. That is to say, they are boring.
I used Meet the Mets – A Song, A Team, A History. Ok, it’s not the most exciting title I’ve ever seen. But it conveyed the point that my presentation covered multiple levels of Meet the Mets, including its place in music, its significance as a Mets hallmark, its genesis.
Tomorrow: Part 2