WHAT: Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder & gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute! Many writers have gone from talented amateurs to professionally published authors as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza, including Genn Albin, our KC winner who got a 3-book mid-six figure deal with Farrar Straus & Giroux.
WHO: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 13 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.
HOW: At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for one and all. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.
PRIZE: At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book.
PRICE OF ADMISSION: To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who buys a copy of receives a FREE 20 minute consultation, a $100 value. If you don’t want to pitch, the event is FREE.
WHEN: September 18, 7pm
WHERE: Brooklyn Book Festival http://www.
New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/
Pitchapalooza mini movie: http://bit.ly/vm9YSu
Pitchapalooza on NBC: http://www.
Here’s what people are saying about Pitchapalooza:
“We came to Pitchapalooza with an idea and six months later we got a book deal with a prominent publisher. We simply couldn’t have done this without this opportunity and without David and Arielle. We had been working on this project for several years, on our own, and struggling without any guidance. We were really discouraged by the entire process. Winning Pitchapalooza, and working with these two, really helped us focus and renew our enthusiasm in the project. And now we’re going to be published authors!”—Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu, Pitchapalooza winners Litquke, San Francisco, Oct. 2010
Here’s what people are saying about The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published:
“I started with nothing but an idea, and then I bought this book. Soon I had an A-list agent, a near six-figure advance, and multiple TV deals in the works. Buy it and memorize it. This little tome is the quiet secret of rockstar authors.”—New York Times best-selling author Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
“One time, I only held a job for three hours. I hired as a lighting technician at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the early 1970s,” recalled author Steve Turtell. “I nearly killed someone when I lost my grip on a ladder that I was holding up—it just started falling and I froze! Luckily, a lighting cable stopped it from falling all the way over. After that, the guy who hired me asked me to leave.”
Mr. Turtell was in the sunken auditorium at the office of Workman Publishing, an independent publishing house in the West Village on Thursday evening, ready to pitch his book “50/50: 50 Jobs in 50 Years, a Working Tour of My Life.” (He has also worked as a nude artists’ model; a research assistant at PBS; a janitor at Gimbel Brothers; a fashion coordinator at Joyce Leslie; a butcher; a baker; and the director of public programs at the New-York Historical Society.)
Click —> HERE to read the full story on the Wall Street Journal.
Thanks to Public Radio, , Rebecca Kruth, Becky Anderson, and all the great people at Anderson’s Bookshop. Here’s the piece!
Wonderful article by the wonderful writer CLAUDIA GRYVATZ COPQUIN, many thanks to Ellen Meister!
Washington Post with a lovely piece about David Henry Sterry, Arielle Eckstut, P0litics & Prose, The Book Doctors & Pitchapalooza
Last summer I went to the Chester County Book Store in West Chester, Pennsylvania to pitch my book, The Biggest Scam You Never Heard Of at Pitchapalooza, which was billed as “American Idol for authors (only without Simon.).”
The creators of Pitchapalooza are the husband and wife author team of David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut. Approximately 25 contestant’s names were picked at random, and each person selected would have a maximum of 60 seconds to deliver a pitch of their story. But not one nano-second longer than 60 seconds!
The advertisement said that the Pitchapalooza winner would be introduced to a literary agent who is appropriate for their book – who would help them get published. That caught my attention right away. It’s something that I was trying to figure out how to do for the past year. I’ve had a potential non-fiction story that’s been gnawing at my insides for over 5 years, and I was hoping this might be the forum for my project to finally gain momentum. I was in the process of writing a book proposal by using a template that a published writer friend – Randy Radic – had sent me. But if I could figure out a way to win Pitchapalooza, it seemed like I could cut out the middle man and get a direct introduction to a literary agent. Which – as an aspiring writer – is like getting fixed up with the hottest girl at the party.
Now I had to get prepared to go into battle. I’ve worked in financial services marketing and writing for over 15 years. I’ve written everything from national TV commercials at Aegon to website content for Vanguard and executed complex marketing plans for other companies in between. I’ve always worked well with deadlines – often thriving with them. When I was a writer at Aegon, I remember conceiving the guts of a TV commercial on the back of a bar napkin at Flannigan’s Boathouse near closing time. That TV commercial – originally sketched out on the napkin – eventually generated millions of dollars in premiums for Aegon. But that seemed easy…because I was writing about fictional characters in a life insurance commercial…not about my own personal story about being a victim turned Federal Witness in The Biggest Scam You’ve Never Heard Of.
About my story… I was one of thousands of victims in the largest securities fraud in U.S. history involving a privately held company – National Century Financial Enterprises (NCFE). The fraud started in the mid-1990’s and was exposed in 2002 when $3 Billion of funds was suddenly missing from NCFE’s accounting bank accounts. (Whoops!) NCFE was essentially a bank for over 300 healthcare companies. NCFE soon filed for bankruptcy, creating a vortex of financial doom that sucked in over 275 of their healthcare client companies, driving them into bankruptcy as well. This included the healthcare software company where I – and thousands of other people – invested our hard-earned money.
In 1999 – thinking everything was smooth sailing – I started investing in one of NCFE’s partner companies…a high-flying publicly-traded software company that NCFE and their pals secretly owned, controlled and eventually looted.
Based on slick press releases and insider message board hype, my fellow investors and I were a fraudster’s wet dream – buying stock at a frenzied pace – like heroin addicts going on a year-long binge. We didn’t have needle marks on our arms, but we had empty brokerage accounts and wallets that were in pain.
Unbeknownst to my fellow shareholders and I at the time…the company we invested in was a technology company with no technology (vaporware)…funded by a bank with no money (NCFE)…listed on a stock exchange with lax rules (American Stock Exchange)…overseen by a government agency with no perceived teeth (Securities & Exchange Commission). In hindsight, my fellow shareholder victims and I never had a chance, as we became lambs led to the slaughter.
By November 2002 – $3 Billion of investor funds was discovered to be missing from NCFE’s bank accounts – prompting the FBI to swiftly raid NCFE’s offices in Columbus, Ohio. It was now painfully obvious that my fellow shareholders and I had our financial throats slit by the NCFE crooks and their pals. The scam was being referred to as “The Enron of the Healthcare Industry” by a few bloggers. I had lost a pile of dough – over 6-figures – as well as lost my faith in humanity. Now I had a choice. I could wallow in self-pity, or become an empowered victim and try to help solve the crime. I chose the latter.
On the Yahoo financial message boards, I created 25 unique aliases to stir the pot and to attempt to draw out information from anyone who would provide it. I hit the jackpot. Company insiders – along with their friends, enemies, and ex-spouses – started discussing what they knew about the fraud. Insiders were actually casting the blame at each other…and in some cases…providing details about how their former alleged cohorts (and spouses) were involved in the scam.
As I continued to post my findings, I made dozens of friends – and enemies – on the Yahoo financial message boards. More importantly, the predators were now becoming the prey. In 2006, I received a death threat from one of the company insiders, based on my fact findings and aggressive message board postings. When the death threat didn’t shut me up, some of my Yahoo message board aliases were sued for slander by a company insider.
Being sued was something that wasn’t in the gameplan. I didn’t have the funds to hire a hot-shot greaseball attorney to defend myself. So I improvised. I was about to become something I despised as much as a politician, a telemarketer, or a used car salesman. I became a practicing California attorney and successfully defended myself against a frivolous lawsuit. Armed with only a Broadcast Journalism degree from Penn State and the stubbornness of a mule, I became victorious, and I’m currently 1 and 0 as a practicing attorney!
My work on the message boards was gaining the attention of Federal Agents – and I couldn’t have been happier. In September 2006, I gave my Grand Jury testimony to a DOJ agent and an armed Postal Inspector in Room 420 of the Hampton Inn in Lionville, PA – about 100 yards from where I played Little League baseball 30 years earlier. Talking about my knowledge of the scam was one of my favorite pastimes. During downtime in my first 5-hour meeting with the DOJ, we also talked about sports, Philly cheesesteaks and offshore money laundering. I had a blast with the Feds! They loved my knowledge of the scam and I loved their fight for justice.
My personal investigation continued. My Dad always told me that spreadsheets don’t lie – so I used them to chart my data. I scoured old SEC filings and other online financial documents, and discovered a slew of insider trading data. Sometimes insiders held company stock in their girlfriend’s or kid’s names…and sometimes they held it in layers of obfuscation within family trusts. According to some insiders who tattled on each – some of the proceeds from the stock sales were illegally moved overseas. One husband and wife team – nicknamed “The Bonnie & Clyde of Penny Stock Scams” – used a family trust, held in the wife’s undisclosed maiden name, to attempt to throw people off the scent. But I was developing the nose of a German shepherd (better late than never) and was learning how to think like these jokers…and pick up their fraudulent scent.
Once, during my lunch break, I found out how some of the company insiders secretly funneled approximately $100 Million in shady stock sales through a tiny P.O. Box in Beverly Hills. It was not their only suspicious activity. Not by a long shot.
The DOJ Agent who took my Grand Jury testimony described me as “an air traffic controller of information”. I had become somewhat of an Information Broker, and was adept at getting the right information into the right hands – especially with the Feds. That DOJ Agent also said that if the scam was a game of Trivial Pursuit, that I “would clearly be the winner.” He has become a good fried of mine over the years.
Along my quest for the truth, I wore many hats, including: mortician, private investigator, attorney, fisherman, air traffic controller, therapist, computer hacker and priest. My Pennsylvania Dutch heritage would come in handy. Aside from having tremendous bacon cravings and wide feet, we’re known for our off-the-charts stubbornness and determination. I was not going to stop until my mission was accomplished.
By 2010, a dozen people connected to the scam went to prison for securities fraud, money laundering, tax fraud and witness tampering. Their sentences ranged from 5 to 30 years. It ended up being one of the most prolific and colorful scams in U.S. history, but it never quite gained the national attention of other colorful scams like Bernie Madoff, Enron, WorldCom and Tyco. I was hoping to change that. Which is why I knew I had to attend Pitchapalooza and hope I’d get the chance to tell my story.
Once I committed to attending Pitchapalooza, I knew I had to get prepared…pronto. I was reverting back to my high school and college days, when I got an adrenaline rush from doing homework at the last minute. For some reason I seemed to thrive in the creative process when I was knee deep in chaos. Which I was.
The night before Pitchapalooza, my first practice pitch timed out at 2 minutes and 37 seconds. Ummm…Houston, we have a problem! It reminded me of an appearance by Dolly Parton on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson when I was a kid. She was talking about her top-heavy figure, and how sometimes she was prone to wardrobe malfunctions. Dolly described it as trying to fit 20 pounds of potatoes into a 10 pound sack. I could relate. I had quite a few extra potatoes in my pitch that I need to deal with. But by the next morning – a few hours before the event – I had gotten my pitch down to a consistent 58.5 seconds…and all my potatoes were accounted for.
At the Pitchapalooza event, I first bought David and Arielle’s book – The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Then I was hoping I would be one of the 25 or so lucky people that would be randomly drawn to give their pitch. I knew that even if I didn’t get called, I had just bought a really helpful book, which came with a special 20-minute phone consultation with David. Not a bad deal at all. Suddenly I heard my name called to be “on deck”…and I got a little nervous.
When I’m on deck in a softball game, I know exactly what to do. Swing a bat a few times, stretch, scratch myself, and maybe spit at something on the ground. It’s familiar turf. As the on deck person at Pitchapalooza, I stood apart from the group, about 20 feet from the podium while the person ahead of me did their pitch. I didn’t know what to do. Should I try to seem confident? Or would that be perceived as cocky? Oh crap…now I was starting to get nervous. What if I looked too nervous? Thank God I could stand behind a podium. It would keep people from seeing my leg twitching. I tried to keep calm with some deep breathing…which only made my heart beat faster…like a little bunny. Then I just thought to myself…dude, keep it together. You’ve no better or worse than anyone here. You’re just a guy that wants to tell a story…
Before I knew it, I was called to the podium. It was show time. I hoped my preparation served me well. Then I gave my pitch:
In 1999, I invested in a company that ended up being part of the largest securities fraud in U.S. history involving a private company. $3 Billion was suddenly missing – then the company went bankrupt.
I went from being poor to a millionaire to completely broke by 2002.
Rather than wallow in self-pity, I became determined to find out how I got scammed. I went undercover on a financial message board using over 25 different aliases to meet other victims and gather information.
I became a self-taught expert in money laundering investigations. Once during my lunch break, I pieced together how one of the crooks secretly laundered $100 Million through a PO Box in Beverly Hills.
I received a death threat from one of the crooks in 2006 then became a Federal Witness. Along the way I assumed the roles of coroner, fisherman, therapist, private detective, computer hacker, air traffic controller, librarian and attorney.
In the end, I helped justice be served. My story is called: THE BIGGEST SCAM YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
It’s Erin Brockovich meets Boiler Room meets Invincible. You’ll laugh…you’ll cry…you’ll clutch your wallet in fear.
I heard someone exclaim: “Wow!” It was David – the co-host of Pitchapalooza! I took that as a good sign. After my pitch, I got some preliminary positive feedback from the David and Arielle (a.k.a. The Book Doctors) as well as from 2 other judges. Then I waited for the rest of the participants to give their pitches.
In the end, I was one of 2 winners chosen. The other winner was a teenaged girl who had pitched an idea that I think was geared to the youth market. Our pitches and backgrounds were night and day…and it was all good. I was just happy that my book project just cleared about 5 major hurdles in a matter of minutes.
As a winner, David and Arielle had plans in place to introduce me to a prominent literary agent in New York City who they worked with on a regular basis. I couldn’t believe it was really happening, but it was. I was officially on the road to becoming a published author. I was finally getting the forum to tell my crazy true story about The Biggest Scam You’ve Never Heard Of…and my role in it.
Since then, David has given me outstanding guidance in preparing my book proposal and marketing plan. I’m not quite finished, but I’m almost there. Then David will deliver my finished book proposal to the waiting literary agent. (When David told me who it was…I looked up his agency…and I was very excited. He’s a heavy hitter with an outstanding reputation.) I’m looking forward to becoming a successful graduate of Pitchapalooza…and I couldn’t have done it without the guidance of David and Arielle and their book – The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.
Thank you David and Arielle for the wonderful experience of Pitchapalooza! I hope to do you proud as I work through the necessary hurdles to become a published author!
John Gregory Dommel
P.S. Please follow my journey to getting published…on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank You!
The first of many podcasts to come, with many thanks to Lori Culwell & Stephan Cox.
The Swiss Army Knife for Books: The Essential Guide to Getting your Book Published Reviewed by Rick Kieffel
a lovely interview by a really interesting guy writes about books
07-27-11: Arielle Eckstutt and David Henry Sterry write ‘The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully!’
I’m a skeptic so far as how-to write books go. Those who want to write will, and those who don’t, won’t. It’s not rocket science. Moreover, the effort required to read a book about how to write generally exceeds the threshold of actually writing something. But once you’ve actually written something that you want somebody else to read, some kind of guidebook can actually be helpful, particularly if you’ve spent more time writing your book than surfing the Internet looking for the means to publicize it.
Arielle Eckstutt and David Henry Sterry call themselves “The Book Doctors,” and if you have been surfing instead of writing, then chances are you have happened across their site. You can now help justify their investment in that site with an investment in your own writing, that is ‘The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully’ (Workman ; November 4, 2011 ; $15.95). It will not write your book for you. It will not sell your book for you. But it will not waste your time, either.
“The Guide,” as I shall henceforth call it, covers pretty much everything with regards to writing and selling a book, and these days, that’s a lot. It’s divided into three parts; “Setting Up Shop,” “Taking Care of Business” and “Getting the Word Out.” Chances are that you won’t need to consult the whole shebang, but also that you’ll be able to find the parts you do need and read them without getting frustrated. Moreover, there are lots of Internet-oriented pointers and recommendations in here that are as up-to-date as can be, since the publishing world has been turned upside-down in the last ten years.
What this translates to is lots of useful, readable and ultimately usable information to help otherwise harried writers wrap their brains around …. I just can’t make myself type that phrase, but you know what I’m talking about, the standardized services that we use instead of email and website hosting. More and more, writers are being told, even famous writers, by New York publishers, that this is a swamp into which they must wade. Consider this book your first set of waders. Good luck! Be sure to shower afterwards. (I do.)
But once you’ve washed your hands of Internet publicity, Eckstutt and Sterry give you some step-by-step advice with regards to bringing your book and your self to the public. Eckstutt was an agent, which lends some street cred to her advice regarding agents. Sterry has twelve books under his belt, and that lends credence to his writing advice, which is engagingly sparse and to the point. There’s no happy wappy here. There are sharp edges that will perhaps inspire you to quit the whole enterprise, and if that happens, you got your money’s worth. But you can also get a few sharp edges yourself when you read this book. They may even help you get your book published.
The critical piece of the puzzle is this; “The Guide” is pretty entertaining even, and perhaps, especially, if you don’t have any intention of becoming an instant celebrity. The advice you find in here can be applied to a wide variety of occupations, whether you’re a plumber or a graphic designer. If you’re a writer, of course, it’s all directly applicable. Look, the chances are in this environment that you won’t succeed. “The Guide” at least gives you the tools to spend a conscionable amount of time mitigating the certainty of failure. And in spite of what every grammarian in the universe will tell you, sometimes a double negative is the best score you can possibly get.