I’ve been working on a book about the public radio pledge drive for about two and a half years. Most of the books about public radio are research oriented, or from a first person perspective. Mine looks at the pledge drive process which I admit, sounds dry. But, I’ve learned that although public radio works extremely hard to make itself seem soupbone simple, at its heart, public radio, and the pledge drive make up an extremely elaborate and complicated infrastructure most of its 37-millions listeners and 3-million supporters know little to nothing about. There is a lot written about public radio and its pledge drives, but almost all of it is for insiders at thinktanks (Poynter), research labs (Harvard’s Nieman) and advocacy organizations (Station Resource Group).
The first few months was listening to a local pledge drive and putting together a list of things that drive does; how often does it ask people to call, how often it announced its goals, etc. Next few months was listening to other pledge drives from elsewhere to see if they do any of the same things. Then, when I got burnt out on that, a graphic artist friend of mine helped me with a front and back cover for a few months. It turned out really well.
Went back to the writing, came up with a draft table of contents and started pushing through it, starting with page one, chapter one. Finding research, reading message boards, submitting FOIA requests, building databases, conducting interviews. Lots of subchapters along the way. I found an editor who has been a super support and guide. So now, I’m at chapter 7 with two more to go. I know what the book is trying to say and where it’s going. In the meantime, I’ve created a bibliography and a glossary. I also don’t want to be too in love with my own words, even though I am really happy with some of the turns of phrase.
So much to think about, like look for an agent or self publish. But, staying focused on the writing, how to share some of what I’ve done so far to know if its any good, if it tells an interesting story? If it adds new or useful information? It’s not character based, but, like Malcolm Gladwell’s books, describes a bunch of little situations that, together, hopefully, tell a larger story. The main point being, does the things public radio does to bring listeners public radio justify some of the ways it does it? And also, that public radio need not be so secretive because when people don’t know what it might be suffering from, they think everything is OK. That is, until stations (as some have), start disappearing. I guess I’m looking for the larger group of NF writers out there to give me their thoughts and ask questions, that I’ll try to answer. Hopefully, both will keep pointed in the right direction to the final goal of getting published.