A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Sunday, April 09, 2006

From Idea to Air: Making Radio with Tod Maffin

Studio 5

I was one of 20 lucky contestants awarded the chance to hang out with Tod Maffin all day Saturday at the CBC. Tod was volunteering his time as part of a fundraising effort for Multiple Sclerosis. He was offering us a full-day workshop “From Idea to Air: Making Radio and Selling it to CBC”. In exchange we were making a donation, or not, to the MS Society.

The workshop was fantastic. It was very practical, and surprisingly the pitch steps are quite similar to the submission stage for manuscripts in a publishing house. Tod is a fantastic speaker and if you’re interested in radio documentaries or producing podcasts, you should definitely attend one of his workshops: www.todmaffin.com/speaking

The ebook for the workshop is also available for purchase from Tod’s site. It is packed with amazing notes: www.todmaffin.com/ideatoair/.

As I mentioned, Tod was donating his time as a fundraising effort for his wife Kim, who has MS. It was a surprise to hear Tod say that MS is a young woman’s disease and that Canada has one of the highest incidences of MS in the world—this has something to do with vitamin D deficiencies, although I may not have understood that correctly. According to the MS pamphlet MS is the most common neurological condition affecting young adults in Canada. Age of onset is between 15 and 40 years, and affects twice as many women as men.

If you’d like to know more about Multiple Sclerosis, check out Kim’s MS blog, it’s www.restperiod.com. She also does a podcast about multiple sclerosis at www.mspodcast.org.

Now because Tod makes his living giving workshops, I’m not going to post my notes, but I did have some interesting thoughts during this adventure in the bowels of the CBC. The first was that the pitch stage is very similar to the submission stage in book publishing.

In radio:
- Listen to the program you want to pitch your idea to, listen to it more than once.
- Find out who the senior producer is, or at least someone with “producer” in their job title
- When you pitch that person, it is a 2-3 paragraph pitch, which includes what I call the hook—the one sentence description—and then a summary of what the documentary is about, who it’s aimed at and what’s it’s going to say.

There are more specifics in Tod’s ebook, and I don’t think I’m giving anything away here. The basic point is do your research. The second point is be brief, be brilliant, be gone. Don’t send a full script, don’t send a resume and long list of credentials. You’re gauging interest. If the producer is interested, then you can present the longer version. The challenge is that no producer has the time to read through hundreds of pitches in a week and do their job. You have to hook them. The only way that will happen is if it is relevant to their program—you’ve done your research—and they get it right away—in 2-3 paragraphs you’ve conveyed the idea.

This is true for submitting a manuscript.

In book publishing:
- Look at the publisher’s website, look at their catalogue. Read some of the titles that they give a full page to in their catalogue or prominent positioning on their website. In particular, make sure you’re looking at a publisher’s originated list, not the titles that they distribute or that come from their multi-national divisions. Really do your homework.
- Find out who to send the manuscript to. Don’t assume that the editor listed in an outdated book on the writers market is still at the organization.
- When you send your query letter, this is your pitch. You need the one sentence hook and the 2-3 paragraph description of what the book is about, who it’s aimed at and what it’s going to say.

There are of course more specifics in the plethora of books on query letters. The basic point, like with radio documentaries, is do your research. The second point is be brief, be brilliant, be gone. If the publisher’s guidelines say don’t send a full manuscript, don’t. The query letter is about gauging interest. If the publisher or editor is interested, then you can present the longer version. The challenge is that publishers receive hundreds of query letters and submissions a month. You have to hook them. The only way that will happen is if it is relevant to their publishing program—you’ve done your research—and they get it right away—in 2-3 paragraphs you’ve conveyed the idea.

Following these basic steps will put you into the top 10%. They seem simple, but they are the basic steps that most people don’t follow. 

From idea to air—from idea to book.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

In the News

I know this has already gone around the web. I didn’t actually see it, but the 6 pm news reported it last night so it must have come from the web, right? Anyway, this morning, April 5, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 am, the time and date was

01:02:03 04/05/06

Ok, I told you that story so I could tell you this. I was reminded of the funky number pattern by an email newsletter I receive from Peter Morgan, http://www.Morgan-News.com

Peter is my human filter for interesting things in the news and Olympics 2010. And there’s always a fun footer.

Today’s This just in footer: New report says “TV is gooder then books.”

See, it’s all related to books.
Thank you for taking this little mind journey with me.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Oh CBC, Our Home and Native Blogs

CBC Arts & Entertainment has a great round-up of awesome Canadian arts and culture blogs. I say awesome because I do in fact read many of these bloggers. But I have to call out one in particular, which I believe I’ve mentioned before: Drawn.ca

Here’s what the CBC’s Matthew McKinnon has to say:

Drawn! The Illustration Blog
Who: An international squad of seven bloggers who really, really like illustrated arts. The Canadian contingent (who each maintain separate, compelling blogs of their own) comprises John Martz, Patricia Storms, Matt Forsythe and Jay Stephens.

Day jobs: Martz is a freelance illustrator and designer/animator; Storms is a freelance cartoonist, illustrator and designer; Forsythe is a writer, illustrator and comic book creator; Stephens is a children’s magazine cartoonist.

Online since: March 2005

Blogs about: Drawn!’s bloggers scour the web to find the world’s finest illustrations, cartoons and graphic novels, then post sample images with brief critiques and links to their creators’ websites. They also point to interviews with some of their favourite artists. Consider Drawn! a public service in the name of beauty.

Typical post: “Wowzers. The most difficult thing with posting a link to Igor Olejnikov is choosing which image to use here. Each piece is [a] lush, expressive masterpiece. Don’t miss the little ‘previous’ link on the bottom of the pages — they lead to more and more illustrations.”

Truly, if you like art—pop art or high brow, there’s something here that you’ll enjoy.