Pitchapalooza Comes to Huntington
By Ashley Milligan
More than 100 aspiring authors filled the Book Revue Thursday night, hoping to get the opportunity to pitch their book idea to a panel of people in the publishing industry.
The event, known as Pitchapalooza, is the brainchild of literary agent Arielle Eckstut and author David Henry Sterry. Eckstut and Sterry, who are married, have also co-authored a book together, “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.”
While Pitchapalooza has been happening across the country for the past decade, this Thursday marked the first Pitchapalooza event in Huntington. Two guest panelists joined Eckstut and Sterry: James Levine, founder of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency and Mauro DiPreta, vice president and associate publisher of It Books.
The rules of the event were simple. Audience members were chosen at random from the event’s sign-up sheet. If selected, guests had exactly one minute to pitch their idea to the panel. The four judges then offered feedback to each contestant, ultimately selecting a winner at the end of the two-hour event. The winner would receive an introduction to a literary agent best suited for the genre of their book.
There was no shortage of original and captivating material pitched by contestants. Pitches ranged from funny to serious, fictional to deeply personal and children’s stories to self-help guidebooks. Highlights included Amber Jones’ scratch-and-sniff children’s book about New York City smells, autistic teenager T.J. Dassua’s collection of short stories and Gerald Rosen’s personal account of completing a marathon in each state.
While the panel offered contestants insightful and constructive feedback about each individual pitch, they also gave general pointers for the audience as a whole.
“A nice way to leave a pitch is have it so we don’t know what choice the protagonist is going to make. It keeps people interested,” Eckstut said.
Levine added, “When you make a pitch to the editor, you want to make them feel confident you know where the story is headed.”
The panel also advised hopefuls to give specifics in their pitches, convey the voice of their book within the pitch and use “comp titles,” or reference books similar to theirs, if applicable.
Ultimately, the panel selected Suzanne Wells of Kings Park as the winner of Pitchapalooza. Wells, a yoga, zumba and pilates instructor, as well as freelance writer, so convincingly pitched her personal account of overcoming addiction, divorce and poverty that she left Eckstut in tears.
“I’m totally intrigued,” Eckstut said after Wells finished her pitch.
Wells now has the opportunity to meet with a literary agent to discuss her memoir, tentatively titled “One Wing-The Book.”
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