Interview with Author Howard Megdal: “Taking the Field: A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves”
Posted by MLB reports
Sunday June 5, 2011
MLB reports: We are pleased to feature today our interview with baseball author Howard Megdal. After the success of his first baseball literary work “The Baseball Talmud”, Howard has followed up with his just recently published book: “Taking the Field: A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves.” The press release for the book by Bloomsbury USA describes it as “the true-life story of a baseball fan brave enough to try what all fans wish they could: take over his team and turn it around.” Howard is first and foremost a Mets fan, but loves the game of baseball as a whole. A talented writer, Howard’s books have received great acclaim. For all our baseball fans and aspiring writers, MLB reports is proud to present Howard Megdal.
MLB reports: Howard, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Taking a look at your resume, you have quite the extensive baseball writing background. From two published books and articles for many major publications, including the New York Times, ESPN.com, New York Baseball Digest and mlbtraderumors.com. How did you get your start in writing Howard? What led you to writing and specifically, baseball writing?
MEGDAL: Well, I’ve always loved to write. When I got to college, I found that the on-campus publication only published once every 1-2 months, so I started my own. From there, I used that experience to land a job at a daily right nearby, eventually rising to sports editor. And whenever I had the chance to cover baseball, at any level, I just loved it.
MLB reports: What was your first “big break” in your writing career? Please provide details as to how you landed your first big role and the doors that it opened for you.
MEGDAL: I’d have to point to a pair of moments. One is, Mark Healey over at Gotham Baseball gave me the opportunity to cover the Mets and Yankees. It was my first credential at each stadium, and I remember the feeling of standing on the dirt at Yankee Stadium, just awestruck. From there, getting the chance to write for the New York Observer was critical, not only for the wider exposure, but because I work with my editor from there to this day, though now at Capital New York.
MLB reports: It is the dream of all sports writers to be a published author. Your first book was the “Baseball Talmud- The definitive position-by-position ranking of baseball’s chosen players.” How did you score the book deal? In addition to getting signed, how was the topic of the “Baseball Talmud” born? Was this an original creation that you shopped around, or did you get signed first and then came up with the topic?
MEGDAL: Regarding the deal, that was just persistence. I had wanted to write that book since college, and so I wrote up a sample chapter and proposal, and sent it to around 200 literary agents. That was harder even a few years ago; most required a hard copy. But my wife helped me put together the envelopes. And I remember getting a call when I was sick with a fever, and not quite believing it.
MLB reports: How long did it take you to write your first book? Please give us an idea as to how the book writing process worked for you, from finding the topic to polishing off the final draft of the book for publishing.
MEGDAL: Like I said, I knew what I wanted to write a Jewish Bill James-style book. The process of writing it took around 14 months, and the process was pretty straightforward. I made my days about writing the book, so once I ate breakfast, a cat jumped in my lap- we have two, so they took shifts and I went to work.
MLB reports: How did your life change after the “Baseball Talmud” was published? We are curious as to the work and promotions that went into effect after the book hit stores. Did you tour much for signings and give interviews promoting the book? How did your career change post-Baseball Talmud?
MEGDAL: Well, I was fortunate to find a wide audience for the book, and had the pleasure of traveling all over the country to give talks and signings. What changed, I guess, was getting to meet people who were familiar with the work and discussing it with them- instead of just sending my pieces into the void and seeing stray comments for or against them. It was gratifying.
MLB reports: What were your goals when you entered the business and how have they evolved since?
MEGDAL: My goals have always been to figure out who I wanted to write for, and make a point of doing so. That hasn’t really changed- I still love that I get to write what I want when I want. It seems kind of ridiculous, actually.
MLB reports: The title of your new book is absolutely captivating: “Taking the Field- A fan’s quest to run the team that he loves.” Please describe how you came up with the title to the book and if you can give the readers a little teaser about what the book is about in your own words.
MEGDAL: The title came from extended brainstorming from my fantastic editor at Bloomsbury, Ben Adams. The book itself is the story of my run to become General Manager of the New York Mets, which I treated like a political campaign, and simultaneously introduced baseball to my newborn daughter, Mirabelle. I spend time in the book dissecting how the Mets should have been run, and the effect their mismanagement through the years had on my family.
MLB reports: Book #2: Was it different to obtain a publishing deal for it in comparison to your first work? How was the idea born and how did you go about writing such an interesting topic?
MEGDAL: The process was a bit different this time; I met with several publishers, and we finally settled on Bloomsbury as the best fit this time around. I knew I wanted to write something more personal this time, and I also believed the time for this idea had come. I’d batted it around in my own mind for years, simply because I wanted to find a way to make the larger points about how the New York Mets should be run. This struck me as the perfect marriage of opportunity and timing.
MLB reports: “Taking the Field” was just published and is available for orders. Where is the book available for purchase? What forms are you selling the book (i.e. hard copy, digital and on tape?) Is there a book signing tour planned?
MEGDAL: The book is available everywhere- Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the Borders shops that haven’t yet closed… also the Kindle and Nook. I’ll be appearing in a number of places- HowardMegdal.com is probably your best bet to find out tour dates/times.
MLB reports: In comparing your two books, was it easier to write a book the second time around? How did the process and time lines for the books compare?
MEGDAL: Totally different. Second time around, I was writing to a much shorter deadline, and writing about myself. It was far more intense.
MLB reports: With your second book published, what are the goals for Howard Megdal from here? Are more books planned down the road and will they only be focused on baseball?
MEGDAL: Ah, great question. Still trying to figure that out with my agent. I would be surprised if I only wrote baseball books from here, though I have so many baseball ideas alone that it could sustain me for the duration. I love not knowing, though.
MLB reports: Being an obvious baseball fan and supporter of the game, how would you best sum up the state of the sport as it stands today? What do you love about the game and are there things you would change about it?
MEGDAL: The game has never been better. What I would change is simple: I’d eliminate the DH, move the Dodgers back to Brooklyn, keep the playoffs small and mandate scheduled double-headers.
MLB reports: For the future baseball writer reading this interview, what recommendations can you give for them to crack this industry? How does a person become the next Howard Megdal and write baseball columns and become a published baseball author one day? What is the secret of your success?
MEGDAL: Persistence. Write as often as you can, and for anyone who will publish you. Keep sending out pitches to editors, and gradually you will develop a following. Really, that’s all it is; keep knocking on doors.
MLB reports: Thank you for speaking with us today Howard. We wish you the best of luck with “Taking the Field”. It was a pleasure getting to know you and we look forward to publishing our own review of the book. It sounds like a great read and we encourage our readers to check it out.
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