The Book Doctors will make a house call in San Francisco, and they want YOU to PITCH your BOOK at their Pitchapalooza.
It’s like American Idol for books, only without the Simon. Writers get one minute to pitch their book ideas to a once-in-a-lifetime All-Star cast of publishing experts. Joining them this evening are Chris Baty, Founder of NaNoWriMo and author of No Plot? No Problem! and Laura Mazer, Managing Editor of Counterpoint.
Plus: every writer who buys a book at The Booksmith will receive a free consultation with The Book Doctors, a $100 value!
The Essential Guide Tour Pitchapalooza, Long Island #17: White Knuckles, Crime & Punishment, and Transcendent Triumph in Long Island
We hope and pray you never get stuck on Northern Blvd. in Long Island during rush hour when you have to be at your bookstore event by 7. It plum wears you out. It took us longer to travel 10 miles in Long Island than it did to get from New Jersey to Great Neck. At 6:48 David was into full-blown white-knuckle mode, and the knots in Arielle neck had migrated into her belly. Naturally, when we finally arrived, there was nowhere to park. But we finally slammed out of the car, and ran the two blocks back to the bookstore.
The second we entered Book Revue, all anxiety melted away. It was packed beyond the gills, ripe and swollen with 250 writers just waiting for us to hear them pitch their books. It was an absolute mob scene. From 12-year-olds to 90-year-olds, pierced to permed, ex-junkie to a man who’s run marathons in every state.
We were again blessed with a fantastic panel: James Levine, founder of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, author, golfer, and a man who’s helped dozens and dozens and dozens of writers, thinkers and businessmen become successfully published authors; and one of the great book dudes in the business, Mauro DiPreta, Executive Editor at It Books/HarperCollins, who has shepherd mega-bestsellers like Marley and Me onto the New York Times bestseller list. Oh, and he’s also a children’s book author. Not only are these men spectacularly articulate about the book business, they both have a ribald sense of humor. It was kind of like getting to have Derek Jeter and Tom Brady both on your team.
And then it was ON! A rhyming scratch’n’sniff pitch. A weight loss pitch with a bold new twist. A literary novel that was somehow Portnoy’s Complaint meeting Crime and Punishment. Swami Pajamananda dispensing equal parts spiritual wisdom and comedy. The winner gave a beautiful pitch about plunging from business executive to homeless heroin addict. Arielle had welled up by the end of the pitch. The whole thing was yet another vivid illustration of just how many Americans, from every walk of life imaginable, have books inside them that they desperately want to share with the world. Looking out over that vast sea of aspiring writer faces, our hearts and minds were filled with a real sense of happy accomplishment.
The pitches went by so fast, all of a sudden it was 8:30–time to wrap it up. Only about 20 people got pitch, and an audible groan came up from the crowd when we announced our last pitcher. But we offered up a new deal: anyone who buys a copy of our book gets a free consultation, and this seemed to soothe the savage beast. Julianne, the events coordinator, who was in large part responsible for getting the word out about this event, whisked us upstairs to a signing table. The line to buy the book literally went around two different corners and down a flight of stairs.
We ended up selling 100 books. If you’ve never actually tried to sell a book, that might not seem like much. But this is a niche reference book, on a Thursday night, in the middle of Long Island. It was the closest we’ve come to being Justin Bieber.
Spent and drained, but gratified and ecstatic, we hauled our asses back to Montclair, New Jersey. In half the time it took us to get to Long Island. But we were reminded how the hundreds and hundreds of hours spent writing the book, sending out the e-mails, putting together the website, the often dull, tedious, frankly painful work that’s gone into making and marketing this book, can sometimes, when the stars line up just right, lead to a transcendent triumph that lifts the spirit high, higher, highest.
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.”
Click here for article.
From Author Enablers, Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry…
“We have a time-honored tradition of providing our readers with gift book suggestions from noted authors. This year, we’ve decided to put in our own two cents with a list of the very best books—some new and some classics—for the writer in your life, even if that writer is you.
The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry is an updated version of Putting Your Passion into Print, a book we’ve recommended before. Eckstut and Sterry leave no stone unturned in this comprehensive look at the current landscape of publishing.”
For the rest of the list, go to Book Page.
The Writer Magazine Names The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published One of Its Top 10 for 2010
From The Writer Magazine…
We at The Writer work hard all year round to bring you reviews of great writing books that provide “advice and inspiration for today’s writer.” Among the 30 or so books we’ve featured in 2010 have been practical manuals to help improve your writing skills (The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel: A Step-by-Step Guide to Perfecting Your Work), books to refresh your grammar (The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English), books filled with insightful interviews from successful writers (Tales From the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories), and books that inspire by revealing important truths about the challenges of the writing life (Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life).
While we seek to be your trusted source for suggestions about new writing books, we can’t possibly cover this massive landscape in the limited space we have (numerous writing books are published each year). As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 12:12, “of making many books there is no end,” but our time (and editorial space) is limited. So we make choices as best we can, knowing full well we can’t cast our net over all the freshly spawned writing books that constantly wash upon our shores.
To help widen our net, we’ve pulled together a list of 10 outstanding writing books, the ones that almost got away. Whether you’re reading for your own pleasure, seeking to enhance your writing skills by incorporating the advice of experienced practitioners, looking for inspiration to get you through the rough patches, or simply searching for great, writer-friendly gifts for the holidays, this crop of terrific books should feed your appetite.
The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. Workman Publishing, 480 pages. Paper, $14.95.
Written by two veteran publishing insiders (Eckstut is a literary agent, Sterry a book doctor), this real-world guidebook demystifies the entire publishing process, showing you how to create an effective book proposal, comprehend the legal complexities of a book contract, develop the publicity skills you’ll need to succeed, and, if necessary, self-publish. There’s lengthy advice on using the Web to market your book, and even help with producing a video book trailer. The authors include interviews with hundreds of publishing insiders and writers. This valuable how-to also offers sample book proposals, query letters and more.
To read the rest of The Writer Magazine’s Favorite books of 2010, click here.
Thanks once again to Huff Po! And thanks to the Book Maven for guiding us through our first live Twitter event, and leading us into the Future.
The reports of the death of the book have been slightly exaggerated. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, we can tell you most assuredly that the book is alive and well, if the Miami International Book Festival is any indication. Hundreds of authors from Carl Hiaason to Patti Smith to Montclair New Jersey’s own Ian Fraser held court for tens of thousands of book lovers. Also on the scene were former president George Bush, Oprah-disser then Oprah-kisser Jonathan Franzen, and Clifford the Big Read Dog.
We arrived in Miami from Seattle on Saturday, and headed out to the old-school Cuban restaurant Versailles, where Jews and Cubans find a common ground: inexpensive and tasty food. Arielle’s grandmother took her there when she was a child, so this was a special familial ancestral residence for her as she dove into her black beans and yellow rice cooked in gobs of chicken fat. Yum!
On Sunday downtown Miami was buzzing with books, authors and those who love them. It was startling and inspiring to see all the different kinds of writers and books in their booths, from the highest brow to the lowest.
Out of the blue we ran into our compadre Roxanna Elden, who took our class in Miami and rocked our Pitchapalooza that was at one of our ATF bookstores, Books & Books, 5 years ago. Ever since the first time she pitched us, we knew there was a book there, long before she’d found an agent, written her book and got it published. All of which she did, step-by-step, yard by yard, mile by mile. It took her a couple of years and many rejections, but her book See Me After Class was published in June, 2, 2009, (David’s birthday) by Kaplan Publishing. It always makes our hearts happy when we see Roxanna not only because she’s such a funny, grateful, gracious, and exuberant person, but also because we have a sense of pride that we helped guide her from talented amateur to professionally published author. We’re very excited to report she’s working on a new book, a novel. Can’t wait to read it.
Our Miami event was our only non-Pitchapalooza, and we were sharing a panel with Betsy Lerner, author/editor/agent/quarter-century-veteran-of-the-publishing-wars. She has a new book out, or rather a new edition of what has become a publishing classic, The Forest for the Trees: An Editors Advice to Writers. It’s a must read for writers: veteran, neophyte or anything in between.
Five minutes before the event there were only 25 audience members, and no Betsy. Then suddenly the audience poured in like prospectors at the Gold Rush. In an instant there were 100 people. And there was Betsy. Right on time. There was no moderator, so it was interesting sharing a stage with someone else, just freeform talking about anything we wanted to talk about. It was a little like playing jazz with someone you never met before, and someone you played with for 10 years at gigs all over the country. Luckily, Betsy is a virtuoso, she had such smart stuff to say. For example, if you are querying an agent, don’t tell the agent that you two are soulmates. Don’t send a love letter. When the agent sells your book, then you can send flowers and candy and be best buddies. And don’t say you’re the next Eat, Pray, Love or Harry Potter. You are almost certainly not. Just makes you seem like an amateur. Think carefully about what your goal is as a writer. How do you define success? And for goodness sake, don’t rely on your husband/wife/mother/father for literary/publishing advice. Unless of course you’re married to Arielle Eckstut or Betsy Lerner. We focused on our 4 Principles of Successful Publishing: Research, Network, Write, Persevere.
We only had 50 minutes, so between the three of us, there wasn’t actually all that much time to talk before we opened up the room to a Q&A. At the end of the event, we tried a technique David used on his Art of the Memoir tour. We offered a free consultation to anyone who bought a book. At the signing table they lined up by the score. We must’ve sold 50 books. That may not sound like a lot. Until you’ve tried to sell a book. We’ve had events attended by 100 people and sold 4 books. People don’t understand that authors are generally not paid to do events. Authors do events to connect with their audience, to celebrate their publication, but they are there primarily to sell books. And despite having written the book on the subject, we have found this part of our job to be continuously challenging.
Afterwards we ran into our Hoboken homey, Caroline Leavitt, one of the nicest and most talented authors we know.
Her new book, Pictures of You, is already in its second printing and won’t even be published until January. We each bought each others’ books at the fair and Arielle started reading Pictures of You on the plane home. She got through 125 pages in 3 hours (and she’s a slow reader) because it was so crazily compelling. She finished it two days later—even though we came home to piles and piles of stuff to do after having been away for a month. She just had to finish it. For all those literary fiction lovers out there, you are in for such a treat. Pictures of You is Arielle’s favorite book of the year. It’s delectable!!!
It was tremendously gratifying/satisfying to end the first half of our tour with a great success. Riding high, we decided to cheat ourselves and go for it decadent brunch at the Ritz-Carlton in South Beach. It’s a pastel happy fantastical melting pot of Cuban ex-pat immigrants, flashy trashy fashion pioneers and victims, touristas, bikers, muscleheads and plastic surgery lovers. The brunch at the Ritz-Carlton has a very Fall of Rome feel to it. The people who work there don’t just serve, they seem like they’re happy to serve. Dining poolside was divine. California hand rolls, pancakes with fresh berry compote, roast beast, crab legs extraordinaire, and cheesecake popsicles. Yes, cheesecake popsicles.
David had a fascinating confrontation with a surgically enhanced 50-something. The server brought out two raspberry chocolate treats on a tray and presented them to David, Surgically Enhanced and her daughter. Surgically Enhanced grabbed both of them. Her daughter, clearly embarrassed, said, “Mom, maybe he wants one.” He being Me. Who said, “Yes, actually I would like one of them.” Surgically Enhanced just shrugged, took both chocolate raspberry treats and slouched away, clearly succumbing to one of the type 7 Deadly sins: Gluttony. Speaking of gluttony, stuffed and bloated we waddled out onto the beach. The ocean breeze was a gentle tonic, and we basked in the sun, sea and sand.
Finally, we wanted to give a shout out to the face, brains and heart of the Miami International Book Festival: Mitchell Kaplan. He’s is that rarest of birds: a brilliant businessman who also makes everyone he touches feel special. He had some fascinating things to say about the present and future of publishing. Amidst all the deathknell doomsaying about the book business, he said he can’t operate from a place of panic or doom. He just keeps doing what he does: loving and selling books. And keeps evolving, changing with the times, which are always a’changing. He was one of the first people to realize that a bookstore could transcend bookstoredom. So he brought in a great chef to Books & Books, and now people go there just to dine. The bookstore also has a beautiful courtyard where people can sit and read and write and talk in the sun. He’s brought in the greatest writers in the world not only to read, but into the bookstore to hang. So you never know who you might be sitting next to as you eat your quiche. Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie. Mitchell said he was starting to shift the fundamental way he does business. He thinks the agency model that Apple and others are using has great potential for independent booksellers as well (we’ll be exploring this more in another post).
We’d like to close by thanking all the booksellers, book buyers, writers, panelists, babysitters, our amazing Workman team, who has made all this travel possible. We’ll leave you with a few lasting images from the festival.
The Essential Guide Tour Pitchapalooza Phoenix #15: Irving Berlin, Women Who Run With Wolves and a Random Act of Kindness
Do yourself a favor and go to the Arizona Biltmore. Our now ecstatically beloved travel agent slotted us there for our Phoenix/Tempe stop, and it was SPEC-TACULAR! A protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright designed this spectacle. Adobe, tile and fountains set like Emerald City jewels into the 24 karat ring of monumental mountains and delirious desert. It’s been a playground for the rich and famous since the 1920s, and if you listen carefully you can hear the ghost of Irving Berlin singing White Christmas, which he famously composed there. Plus, there are not one but TWO golf courses. Sleep deprived as he was, David practically skipped like a schoolgirl to a Justin Bieber concert out to the links and with some high-end Ping rentals birdied three of the 12 holes he played. While David got his golf on, Arielle luxuriated in a tub with designer bath products that smelled like the Garden of Eden.
Arielle had flown the night before from Seattle to Newark, then the next morning, dropped the ridiculously exhausted three-year-old Olive off with her beloved babysitter, turned around and did Newark to Phoenix, having a severe case of simultaneous déjà vu and road burn.
David stayed in Seattle and hit up two great bookstores, Elliott Bay and Queen Anne. Even having been away from her for a mere matter of hours, David and Arielle missed Olive like a couple of stone cold junkies used to mainlining China White. Lucky for us, we got put in the Ocatilla executive suite wing where they do everything for you accept put on a private floor show while you poop. (Something, by the way, that Olive absolutely insists upon). They have an executive lounge where a continuous supply of high-end goodies are whisked out from behind closed doors, as if the caterer were Willy Wonka. We do believe in a classless society, where all are treated equally, and everyone gives according to ability and gets according to need. But there’s no way to deny that you just feel happy and pampered when you breathe in that rarified air.
Then we were whisked away to Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, where we were greeted and fêted like royalty. It’s a grand bookstore that makes you overjoyed to be in the ridiculous book business. Due to confusion beyond our control, the bookstore had not been alerted to the fact that we were doing a Patchapalooza, but there were still 30 able-minded writers waiting for us. When we asked them if they would like to pitch their books, giddy ecstasy swept through the room. Sure enough we heard a dozen most excellent pitches. Historical fiction, a suicide novel, a Crash-like Vietnam-based story, a warm and honest memoir/how-to from an ADD sufferer, and a money management tome. The winner gave a great pitch for her book about ordinary women telling extraordinary stories. Sort of The Artists Way meets Women Who Run with Wolves.
We sold books to almost everyone there, and Arielle was in rare form, cracking wise about the difficulty of communication when married to a clueless doofus.
We also had the great pleasure of having our friend Terry Whalin show up. Terry is the author of over 60 books (that’s not a typo, we meant 60)! He also has been an editor, publisher and agent, so knows every side of the publishing biz. We had just finished interviewing Terry over email the week before (check back soon for the post of this interview). So it was particularly nice to see him in person. Check out Terry’s website for lots of amazing tips on how to be a working and published writer.
After the PItchaplooza was over, the lovely folks at Changing Hands offered us each a free T-shirt. David, appropriately, chose one that said, “Fictional Character” on its chest. Then Shelly Segal, an employee at Changing Hands who also pitched a very cool kids book, gave us a ride back to Shangri-La even though she lived around the corner from the bookstore. Yet another random act of kindness from a stranger who became a friend! We dined late and high on the hog then collapsed back in the silky luxury of our beautiful cocoon.
As we left the next morning, our only regret was that we couldn’t move into the Arizona Biltmore and hold an event every night at Changing Hands.
The Essential Guide Tour Pitchapalooza #14, Seattle: Mexican Prisons, Sea-Salted Pate & Losing Your Innocence to Jimmy Carter
A cruel wind blew up our metaphoric skirts and chilled our gizzards with a damp shivery wetness as we stepped into Seattle. “Dad, it’s too cold!” Olive declared. We bundled and trundled into a taxi and cranked up the heat in our hotel, just off the blustery bay from Pike’s Place Market, where fish go to be turned into flying dead acrobats by monger/jugglers.
We decided to have a late lunch/early dinner, and wandered the market looking for something hot and excellent to eat. “Dad, it smells funny!” Olive declared. After a 10 minute walk that took about six weeks, with our extremities numbing and our bellies rumbling, we settled into a bistro called Pichet.
We struck pay dirt. Exquisite french fries. Creamy sea-salted pate. And the piece de resistance: French onion soup that was so transcendent when you close your eyes you could actually hear Edith Piaf singing like a little sparrow with a quivering voice and a broken heart. Sated, we went back to our room, tried to answer the 47,841 e-mails in our inboxes, while telling, re-telling, and re-re-telling Olive’s favorite new story: The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Then it was off to Third Place Books. We were a little leery because it was deep in the depths of the burbs. But we had a spectacular panel that had tweeted and Facebooked about the event, so a few dozen writers showed up armed and fully-loaded with their pitches. On of these panelists was Kurtis Lowe, the head honcho at Traveler’s Group West, a leading book repping firm. He is Workman’s West Coast rep as well as a writer’s best friend. Not only is he wildly knowledgeable and articulate, he just loves books and authors. He bought us tea, he promoted our book, he even found this a boo-yeah babysitter for Olive. He also brought in the other panelist Johnny Evison, author of All About Lulu and the forthcoming West of Here. Johnny is that rare bird: a great artist who’s also an extraordinary businessman. He understands the complexity of promoting, spinning, and the marketplace, and knows how to succinctly articulate complex ideas. Plus he’s funny as hell.
As usual we heard some first-rate pitches. A woman who was imprisoned in Mexico in the 70s and helped change prisoner exchange laws. A writer who told her heart-touching story of an American who relocates to Frankfurt after World War II for love. A memoir pitch about a woman who goes to Washington DC as a teenage intern in the late 70s, and loses her innocence to the Carter administration. A marathon coach who’s lived through shocking tragedy and now transforms women’s lives. But the winner, Courtney Happ, gave an airtight tour-de-force pitch for her multiple point of view YA novel about navigating love and hormones, called Spinning Voices. It was really a great night, and Third Place was first rate. We left the burbs of Seattle invigorated, refreshed, with hope for the future of books.