Q. I have completed several chapters of a nonfiction work dealing with a subject that has not been previously written about in other publications. I am confident that I can speak in front of many professional organizations on my topic, as it is unique, and relevant to the field. I also feel it will be a topic that can attract the lay public. I also know I will be submitting articles on the topic for publication. However, this is my dilemma: Should I first approach agents with a strong platform for speaking at these conferences, as well as publishing in many periodicals, both professional and for the lay person? Or should I first submit my ideas to professional organizations to be featured as a speaker? I am concerned that by first speaking on the topic, without having my book submitted for publication, that the concept and/or title of my book can be used by others. My professional friends are urging me to secure an agent first.
A. Hmmm. Tough question. I understand your trepidation in writing articles and doing public speaking about a subject that you want to protect. This makes sense and I've been there. But what is the alternative? Try to secure an agent? How can this be done without a platform? You could have all kinds of ideas for articles and speaking and media and marketing, but none of it will be proven yet, correct? It will all be in theory.
Here's what I would do. Try to secure speaking engagements and start pitching periodicals with articles. If your idea catches anywhere, it will be "down the road." Magazines work about six months ahead on average. And if you speak to a local group, ask to secure a date several months out. That way, you will be building up your platform but not "releasing" your idea out there yet. In the interim, write your proposal and seak an agent.