As Thanksgiving rolls its turkey neck towards us, Christmas looms ominously around the corner, and one more year of my life expires, we’re super stoked about the next stop on the Essential Guide Rocks America tour: We’ll be rocking LI, NY, Thursday, Dec 2, 7pm. Pitchapalooza: Book Revue in Huntington Long Island, with special All-Star publishing celebrity guests James Levine of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, and Mauro DiPreta, Vice President of It Books, ( HarperCollins). Everyone who buys a book gets a free consultation, worth $100.
It’s been an insane month, an insane fall, an insane year. We just performed in 13 cities over the course of three weeks: from the Big Apple to Tinseltown; Miami to Seattle; Portland to Pittsburgh; Denver to St. Louis to San Francisco. We had dizzying triumphs and brutal failures. Our book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published was officially released on November 3, and we haven’t even had time to celebrate yet. I’ve toured by myself, with the Sex Worker Arts Show, with Arielle, and with the stars from the Chippendale’s Male Strip Show. I’ve never toured with a three-year-old. Especially a three-year old who is Olive. She more fun than all of them. We were worried about what was going to be like to shlep her around America with us, but she proved by far the most resilient and cheerful member of the team. Here are our reports from the road, deep in the trenches of the publishing wars.
Denver Pitchapalooza on New Books West
Big Love from the Big Read Festival in St. Louis bit.ly/akI1Xg
Movie: Great Book Pitch: Winner of St Louis Pitchapalooza, Zach Stovall pitching his book about being a fat bald white guy
The Essential Guide Rocks America Tour Kicks Off
#2: 1st Stop Washington DC: the Borders Incident
#3: NPR Love in DC
#4: Pat Conroy & Scarlet O’Hara On the Road to Pittsburgh
#5: Death @ the Bookstore – The Murder of Joseph-Beth in Pitsburgh
#6: Miss Ida, Daryl & Olive Chilling in Steel Town
#7: The Beauty of Loganberry Books & the Universe’s Lollipop
#8: Dawn Cracks Early in Cleveland
#9: An NPR Homey, Finding Happiness @ Books & Co the Dayton Airport Blues
#10: Stuck in Dayton on the Day That Would Never End
Our awesome Editor Goddess Savanna calls it as she sees it on our Pitchapalooza Barnes & Noble, 86th St., with publishing titans Larry Kirschbaum and Bob Simon.
The Art of the Pitch and our B & N Manhattan Pitchapalooza on Publishers Perspective.
#11: I Love LA! –Hollywood & the Jewish Men-Scared
#12: Vromans Versus Dancing with the Stars, Riding a Donasaur, & a Minnie Mouse Who Needs $
Arielle talks about five books that will help you turn your passion into income, and dispenses wisdom from her years as a literary agent and entrepreneur on LearnVest.
Bradley Charbonneau of Likoma Island & the Book Doctors talk about Effective Author Websites
Arielle interviews Robert Grey of Shelf Awareness on seven ways to get an independent book store to stock your book.
With Thanksgiving a couple of days away, I feel very thankful. For our amazing publisher, Workman, our Editor Goddess, Savannah, and all of our family there, from Susie Bolotin to a beloved colleague who passed away recently, the extraordinary copyeditor Lynn Strong, http://bit.ly/gVdcz. Thankful for all the amazing panelists we had, Larry Kirschbaum of LKJ, Bob Miller new Publisher of Workman, Martha Moody, Nancy Martin, Lee Montgomery of Tin House, Michael Schaub of bookslut, and Alison Hallet of the Portland Mercury, Vince Rause, Anne Trubeck, Sharon Short, author of Death by Deep Dish Pie, Allan Fallow of AARP Electroboy himself Andy Behrman . Betsy Lerner, author of Forest for the Trees. Johnny Evison and Kurtis Lowe in Seattle. I’m thankful for the enormous kindness we received from our good friend Jessica Goldstein, who threw an amazing book party for us in Washington DC, and invited all for NPR friends. I’m also thankful for all the incredible booksellers and lovers who gave us so much generosity and expertise. Jim Levine of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency http://www.levinegreenberg.com/ Steven Sorrentino, Director of Author Promotions for Barnes & Noble, and Edwin Tucker, CRM of 86th St. B & N Harriet Logan of Loganberry Books Kevin Sampsell of Powell’s, Dayton NPR book guy Shaun Yu, Sharon Kelly Roth at Books and Company http://www.booksandco.com/ Ed Nowatski of Publishers Perspective , Mitchell Kaplan of Books and Books and the Miami International Book Festival. My sister Liz, Daisy White, and all the other great babysitters who help us out with Olive. Thanks to all the great writers for all their amazing pitches. And of course I give thanks for Olive and Arielle, my ex-agent and current wife.
Arielle, the brains behind the Book Doctors, dispenses wisdom from her years as a literary agent and a successful entrepreneur, on five books that will help turn your dreams into income on LearnVest.
In every profession there are people who have a profound effect on whatever is being created, but who go unsung not just by the outside world, but often by the people around them. In publishing, copyeditors are very often at the top of the list of those who don’t get noticed, or credit for their painstaking and incredibly valuable contributions.
For our first three books, we never got to meet our copyeditors. Nor did we think much about them. They did a nice polish on our books, but our editors didn’t even tell us their names. In the shuffle of getting a book published, we forgot to ask and not one of these good and talented people made it into any of our acknowledgments. This all changed when Workman bought Putting Your Passion into Print (FYI, this was the former title for The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published). Enter Lynn Strong, copywriter extraordinaire and one of the crown jewels of Workman.
Workman, for so many reasons, is unlike any other publisher out there. One of these reasons is that their copyeditors are VIPs. And Lynn was the queen of the copyeditors. When we were told that Lynn would copyedit our book, it was like being told that Meryl Streep would be playing you in the movie version of your life. And the best thing is that the lead-up was nothing compared to what was delivered. Lynn didn’t just polish our book, she transformed it. And she didn’t copyedit it once, but three times! Twice for our first edition and once more for our second edition. Sentences that we had struggled over draft after draft were transformed from awkward to elegant. Information was moved around to form just the perfect flow. And every misquoted fact, misspelling, and piece of misinformation was corrected by a mind that could clearly beat us at Trivial Pursuit even if we played two against one. On top of all this, she got us. She got our voice. And she managed to not only capture our idiosyncratic style, but to make it better.
We had gratitude pouring out of us and we wanted to thank Lynn in person. But we were told that she was a very shy person who preferred to stay inside her office than to hobnob with the authors whose books she was gracing with her red pencil. Finally, a copyeditor who gets the glory due her, but she doesn’t even want it! She was like the Lone Ranger, who rounds up the bad guys, saves the town, then rides off into the sunset without even waiting for a thank you. But we are pushy people. And, finally, one day while in the Workman offices, we did manage to meet Lynn.
Lynn was a notorious smoker, and her deep raspy voice was true to her habit. She was also every bit the introvert we had been told she was. But she was also warm and lovely. She told us how much she enjoyed working on our book and you could tell she was the kind of person who wouldn’t bullshit you. We left that day feeling like we really had a good book because Lynn had told us so.
Last week, Lynn passed away. For those who worked with her or were graced by her red pencil, her loss was deeply felt. Her loss also made us take a moment to think about the people around us who don’t get the proper appreciation and gratitude.
Lynn, thank you for helping us to become better writers and to realize our dream of creating an essential guide to how to get published. We think of you every time we read our book…
The Essential Guide Tour Pitchapalooza #12: Vromans Versus Dancing with the Stars, Riding a Donasaur, & a Minnie Mouse Who Needs $
One of the great things about going on tour is having a day off. Which for us was Sunday. We planned to sleep in, hang out, sunbathe, luxuriate, get a massage, and generally do a total LA chillax. Sadly, Olive did not have the same idea. Olive is 3. Since basically every day is Olive’s day off, she got up at 5:30am ready to PAR-TAY! Arielle did the 5:30am-8:00am shift. David did the 8:00am-10:30am shift. He took Olive swimming. She got them 43 glasses of lemonade (from the free lemonade cooler by the pool) which she insisted David drink. Then we headed to one of our favorite LA eateries, Campanile. It was shockingly empty for a Sunday brunch , and we thought: maybe they now suck. But there was no suckage, only excellence. Sourdough pancakes with crème fraiche. Pochaed eggs over proscuitto and arugula with scallion oil. Dee-lish! As an added bonus, the gorgeous hostess gave Olive some fish food to feed the fishies in the pool up front. Olive loves feeding fishies. A bleachy blonde with blood red lips sat next to us. Olive told her she liked her sparkly sweater. Blondy was clearly trying for a Gwen Stefani look, but only got as far as 2nd rate Courtney Love
Next door to Campanile is the famed La Brea Bakery. Arielle continued her search for the greatest soft pretzel in America, David got a boo-yeah macaroon that was an otherworldly blend of crunch and goo. And Olive had her first gingerbread lady. Then out to the ocean and Santa Monica pier. Olive was dancing and squeeling with glee as soon as she spotted the ocean. She went on a cool old-school carousel with real wooden horses. Drove a cab. Rode a dinosaur. Steered a rocket ship. Then the coup de grace, Elmo, Mickey and Minnie Mouse. In the flesh. We don’t know how Olive has become so infatuated with Mr. and Mrs. Mouse. We have no Disney characters in our home. In fact, David wrote a screenplay for Disney and it was such a horrifying experience, he basically breaks out in hives whenever he’s around anything Disney. Has it been hammered into the DNA of American children with generations of relentless Mouseketeer marketing?
So Olive went sprinting over to Minnie and tries to give her a big hug. The human inside the very authentic Minnie outfit held a dollar between thumb and forefinger (International sign for: Give me cash). Minnie needs money to hug child. When David refused on principle, Minnie turned her back on Olive and marched away in a giant rodent huff. It was Disney–and Hollywood– and America–in a perfect symbolic nutshell. Beloved childhood icons, fully branded, working as mercenaries extorting money from children. Then there was the Jedi Knight, a homicidal maniac waving his $3 plastic light saber while wandering around muttering to himself, “So, you’d like to get rescued by a Jedi? I bet you would. Oh yeah, lady, the Force will be all over you.”
But there was a magical Argentinian singer/guitarist filling the night with the most exquisite rhythmic music as the sun set soft and pink over the Pacific and Olive enchanted the crowd with some wild improvisational dance. The Argentinian we were happy to pay. Then we were off to Monte Alban, on Santa Monica Blvd. They promised authentic Oaxacan cuisine. And they delivered. Holy mole, it was good! Fresh, flavorful, familiar yet utterly unique. Arielle had life-changing chicken soup with raw tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and avocado chopped in right before serving. David a burrito luxuriating in a mole blanket. Sated, sun-drenched and exhausted, we collapsed back at the hotel, in love with life and each other.
The next day, after more swimming with Olive, as we drove to our Pasadena Pitchapalooza, we had a bad feeling. Sure enough, when we got to Vroman’s, one of the employees told us, “I hope you don’t expect a crowd—it’s Dancing with the Stars night.” You know you’re in trouble when the writers won’t come out because they have to watch Dancing with the Stars. “Why don’t they digitally record it?” we asked. “Oh no,” the employee looked at us like we were crazy, “they have to watch it live so they can vote.”
But the events coordinator, Connie, could not have been lovelier. She participated in the event (and we are always grateful and happy when booksellers give their two cents). We talked a lot about befriending your local bookseller. Finding the expert in your category and gently, respectfully pick their brain about your book idea and similar books you should know about. Connie told us about the interview questionnaire at Vroman’s. How you must demonstrate your passion for and knowledge of books. If you’ve never been to Vroman’s, it is one of the largest and coolest independent bookstores around. Not only do they have a huge selection of books, but really cool merchandise. On this visit, Arielle discovered T-shirts with the covers of out-of-print editions of famous books.
We actually ended up with a nice gaggle of writers. And Tony, a fan of David’s, showed up after dental surgery and bought 3 books! The winner pitched an everything guide to Disneyland. Because LittleMissMatched (the company Arielle is the co-founder of) has a store in Disneyland, we know just how rabid these Disney fans are.
We were sad to bid farewell to Hotel California, but happy to take a little of Hollywood with us in the form of incredible edibles from Joan’s. So happily, Southern California lived on in our hearts, and our bellies.
The Book Doctors, aka David Henry Sterry, and ex-agent/current wife Arielle Eckstut, authors of the Workman book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, will making a house call in Long Island, and they want YOU to PITCH your BOOK at their Pitchapalooza. Book Revue, Huntington, December 2, 7 PM. 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. It’s like American Idol for books, without the Simon. We are lucky enough to have James Levine, the founder of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, one of Manhattan’s most successful book agents. As well as Long Island’s own Mauro DePreta, Vice President of It Books (HarperCollins Publishers), publishers of the #1 New York Times bestseller Sh*t My Dad Says. An industry veteran of nearly two decades, he has had the good fortune of publishing bestsellers like Not Without Hope, the incredible survival story by Nick Schuyler and New York Times journalist Jere Longman, and Marly & Me by John Grogan. Arielle has been a literary agent for 18 years, and I am the best-selling author of 13 books, the last of which appeared on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. We’ve helped dozens and dozens of talented amateurs become professionally published authors. We’ve appeared on NPR many times, and taught at publishing Stanford University. Here’s a link to our awesome Editor Goddess Savanna’s blog about our Pitchapalooza at Barnes & Noble 86th St., with publishing titans Larry Kirschbaum and Bob Simon. Here’s a link to an article about the Art of the Pitch and our Pitchapalooza on Publishers Perspective.
Every writer who buys a book will get a free consultation from the Book Doctors, $100 value.
“Look at those mountains. Look at those trees. Look at that bum over there, down on his knees…I love LA!”—Randy Newman
As soon as we arrived in LA, sleep deprived and still high from the previous night’s triumphant Upper East Side Barnes & Noble Pitchapalooza, we remembered why we both love and loathe LA. The ridiculously Robin’s egg blue sky and the balmy breeze blowing through the postcard palm trees juxtaposed with the stinking smoggy asthtray-breath of LAX were the perfect yin and yang.
Humans are so adaptable. When you don’t fly, the whole airport/plane experience is exhausting, alienating and loathsome. But when you’re flying all the time, it becomes normal. Newark Airport looked deja-vu-ingly familiar when we arrived at 9am, having just been there 12 hours earlier. Six hours in the airplane flew by in a flash. Olive had one minor meltdown, but we were the recipient of the random act of a stranger’s kindness. The guy in front of us lent Olive a tiny stuffed dog and cat that he was bringing home for his daughters. Dog & cat were a total tonic, and soothed our girl as she held one under each arm.
It took about a month and a half to get our rental car, but we met a very cool writer named Amy J. Baker, who had also just arrived with her daughter from New Jersey. She told us her story of getting a book deal with WW Norton without an agent on the basis of a cold e-mailed query. Unheard of! She was in LA to give a lecture at Cal State Northridge. We exchanged our 411 and she emailed us that day. Her book is about a fascinating subject: Parental Alienation.
Our hotel, though neither French nor anywhere near a park, was called Le Parc. It was quite excellent, right on the border of Beverly Hills 90210 and West Hollywood. It had a pool on the roof and Olive was in ecstasy. We swam and dove and frolicked. After we’d been at the hotel a few hours, Arielle asked if there was a bodybuilding event at the hotel. David chuckled and replied, “No, baby, this is LA!” Huge dudes and chicks with silicon breasts and lips out to there!
We had a spectacular meal at Wa, a Japanese Bistro (their words, not ours). Arielle had Spicy yellow tail in a lettuce wrap, sea bass with eggplant, and grilled hot peppers that she had to pass on to David because they were TOO hot! David sucked them down & they burned beautifully. Olive had edamame, sunomono, and grilled shrimp, not to mention many bites of David’s spicy tuna roll. David had a volcanic crab dish that was TDF*. Then we went to Sweet Lady Jane for dessert. Princess cake for Olive. Sour cherry pie for Arielle. And a raspberry tart for David. Dee-Lish! There we met yet another writer: Devorah Cutler-Rubenstein, AKA the Script Broker. Devorah is a screenwriter, former studio exec and script doctor. Script doctor meet the book doctors! She drew Olive a picture of a pony on a surf board with a butterfly that will soon be hanging up in her room @ home.
Saturday it was 80 degrees and gorgeous. We had a boffo brunch at Hugo’s, simultaneously good & good4u. We met a great LA couple there with an adorable baby named Elinor. Mama had magenta hair and a wicked orange tattoo above her right breast. Dad was rocking a nose ring and man-skirt. And baby was dressed like a baby. He too was from, you guessed it, Joizy. Dad told us they were tempted to move back because his parents were involved with a great shul** there. Even book doctors sometimes forget: don’t judge a book by its cover.
After lunch more swimming with Olive. Then it was time for Pitchapalooza Hollywood-Style at Book Soup, one of LA’s great bookstores. After packing 150 people into our NY Pitchapalooza, we were psyched and stoked to Bring It at the Hotel California. Imagine our chagrin and consternation when 2 people showed up. 2!!! But we maintained our Zen detachmant, and heard a great pitch from Katie Schmidt about her years in China: marriages arranged and polygamous, old ladies playing dress-up, being rejected from a clothing store because she was “too fat” (Katie looks like a size 4). It was clearly a great book waiting to happen.
It being Hollywood and all, we did have a few guest stars show up. We had asked our friend Andy Behrman, bestselling author of Electroboy to be on the panel with us. It was disconcerting that panelists outnumbered pitchers. And so it goes. He regaled us with a classic Electroboy story about pitching his book. He was getting rejections from every agent. Couldn’t even get a bite. But he finally got a piece published in the Lives section of the New York Times Magazine. Boom, he was summoned for an audience with one of America’s top agents. He sat down. She said, “Give me your pitch, you have one minute.” He hit her with his best shot. “That was 90 seconds,” she said, “I told you you had a minute.” Despite the rebuke, she took Andy on and sold his book for a really nice chunk of change. And Andy turned that book into a bestseller through pure grit and perseverance (Andy even wore a sandwich board of his book at BEA the year it was released, to his publisher’s large & eternal embarrassment).
Our other guest star was Regina Louise, a client of Arielle’s who wrote a startling memoir, Somebody’s Someone. Regina is one of the world’s greatest story tellers. She regaled us with tales of trying to get her book made into a movie. She told us about speaking at a conference and being approached by a small man who through her eyes looked like a wannabe pimp. Regina is stunningly beautiful, so she is constantly being hit on by men men men. But this slick talker told her he was going to help her get her movie made. That Samuel L. Jackson was making a movie of his story. Regina gave him a “Yeah right!” look and sauntered off after the man gave him her card. Once she got home, she Googled him just to make sure he was the loser she suspected. Turns out he was Coach Carter of basketball fame. And sure enough, Samuel L. Jackson was making a movie of his life. Regina quickly picked up the phone. She called Coach Carter’s publicist leaving a message with who she was. She got a call back and was told that Coach Carter wasn’t interested in speaking with her. Having been through over 30 foster and group homes as a kid, Regina had been up against much worse. So instead of getting frustrated, she got her mojo workin’. She called back the next day with a fake English accent saying she was a journalist from the UK wanting to know the story of how Coach Carter got his movie deal. The Publicist, wanting to get the credit, told her how she had engineered the whole thing. Then through the powers of her charm, talent & pluck, Regina landed on the cover of the LA Times, which eventually led to her very own movie deal.
Yes, we ended up having a blast at our “event”. But still we were humbled. Luckily, as we left, Olive was there to keep us real. She turned to us and proclaimed, totally deadpan:
“I LOVE LA!”
*to die for
** for non-Jews: a synagogue
Get a free consultation with the Book Doctors, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Whether it’s figuring out a great title, how to pitch your book, get an agent, market and promote, or self-publish, we can help you get successfully published. Just send proof of purchase of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Offer good til midnight Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010.
David Henry Sterry & Arielle Eckstut, aka The Book Doctors are the authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Between them they have published 20 books, been a literary agent for 18 years, been on NPR countless times, contributed chronically to the Huffington Post, and appeared on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.
To purchase book: http://thebookdoctors.com/buy-the-book
Pitchapalooza Barnes & Noble Big Apple: The Goddess Next Door, Two Female Presidents, & a 1/2 Swedish 1/2 African Gigolo (With Pitching Tips)
10 years ago, before 9/11, the Kindle, Facebook and Twitter, Arielle, my ex-agent and current wife, and I both had books coming out. One about my childhood hero, Leroy “Satchel” Paige. The other was about her childhood hero, Jane Austen. Our publishers, Random House and Simon & Schuster, seemed disturbingly uninterested in helping us sell our books. So we called up our local bookstores and proposed doing events. They said if we could bring Leroy Satchel Page or Jane Austen down to the bookstore, they’d love to do an event with us, otherwise they were completely uninterested in us or our books.
Then one night we were at a party in San Francisco, and word got out that there was a literary agent in the house. Like moths to the flame writers flew furiously, pitching their books to Arielle. This was the lightbulb moment. Why not create an event that would explain how to take something you’re passion about, develop a book out of it, get it published and deliver it into the hands, heads and hearts of readers all over the world? Thus was born the Putting Your Passion Into Print event. I personally set up a 20 city West Coast tour. We were flabbergasted by how many Citizen Authors flooded out of the woodwork. Grannies, Goths, surfer dudes, soccer moms, PhD.s and homeless ex-vets. They all had two things in common: 1) They wanted to getsuccessfully published. 2) The wanted to pitch their books to an industry professional who could help them makes their dreams come true.
Thus was born Pitchapalooza—an American Idol for books where writers would get one minute to pitch their books to a panel of book professionals. The panel then critiques their idea while an audience of aspiring writers and those who love them soak the whole thing in. The panel evaluates everything from character to plot, presentation to marketing, title to comp books, befriending booksellers to finding an agent.
Pitchapaloozas prove Einstein’s theory of relativity over and over. Sometimes a minute goes by in a second. Sometimes it takes six months. But wherever we went, there were so many great stories out there, so many passionate writers who just don’t know how to navigate the stormy waters of the publishing ocean. And we’re proud to report that many Pitchapalooza participants have gone from being talented amateurs to professional authors with published books.
Which brings us to Thursday night, November 11, at the Barnes & Noble on E. 86nd St., in the throbbing center of the publishing mecca, NY, NY. It was the launch for The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published and our biggest Pitchapalooza yet. We had Larry Kirshbaum, a 40 year veteran of the publishing business, former CEO of Time Warner Book Group, now the head of his own literary agency, LJK Literary Management. And Bob Miller, newly minted Group Publisher of Workman Publishing. Since our book is published by Workman, it was a make or break time. We knew that if we put on a great event, it would go a long way to generating enthusiasm from the top down. And if it sucked, and nobody showed up, it could sink our book, which is just a brand new baby. We sent out hundreds and hundreds of e-mails to writing groups, publishing people, friends, relatives, friends of relatives, and relatives of friends. We invited all of our Facebook “friends” and Twitter tweeters. Luckily, we are blessed with a rarity in the book business: a publisher who actually supports their books. They hooked us up with Gotham Writer’s Workshop, who sent out an e-mail promoting our event to 70,000 writers. And Workman and Barnes & Noble took an ad out in the Village Voice.
So as we showered, shaved, and dressed in our Sunday best, we were tingling with excitement and sick with nerves. Imagine our surprise and delight when we showed up at 6:15, and there was already a gaggle of nervous writers with dreams in their hearts and stars in their eyes, waiting to pitch. By 7:00 Citizen Authors of all hue, with hair blond, green and even blue, packed the room, 130 strong, Standing Room Only. As we took our places at the podium with the other judges, you could smell the fear. It was a stifling hothouse of wide-eyed hungry hope and raw vulnerable terror, electricity crackling and buzzing through the room. It was one of the most charged atmospheres I’ve ever been in, and I worked at Chippendale’s Strip Club in the mid-80s, when it was the hottest show in New York City.
And then it began. An old white guy pitched a book about black wisdom. A lawyer lady pitched a thriller involving a lawyer lady. A life coach who called herself The Goddess Next Door pitched a book for women Entrepreuners. An Italian immigrant septuagenarian pitched a book about how he learned English when he came to America as a youth, the first words he learned were: zank you, asshole and son of a bitch. A Norwegian oncologist pitched a book about how fragile life is. Two different people pitched novels about the first female president. A Puerto Rican man pitched a thriller with a mambo beat. A half Swedish half African immigrant pitched a memoir about being homeless and ending up in the sex business: “Coming to America meets American Gigolo.” A tall stately young woman pitched a book about helping women get athletic scholarships to college. A woman who spent time in jail pitched a prison memoir. A security guard pitched a memoir about becoming his own lawyer and winning a lawsuit against NYU. A woman driven by the desire to help sick children pitched a kid’s book about Pointy the umbrella. A man in a hat pitched a book of poetry about how awesome women are. But the winner, Verne Hoyt, gave a pitch which sent shivers through the judges and the crowd. It was a stunning story, simply and exquisitely told.
The event was America at its best. A simmering melting pot of grit, humor, pathos, wild imagination, mad passion, and stories about triumphing in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Sadly, only 23 people got to pitch, so over 100 writers were victims of pitchus interruptus. So the second the event was over, they rushed the stage, clamoring to be heard, ravenous to tell their stories. It was the closest we’ll ever get to being a Beatle: getting swallowed up by a crowd obsessed with grabbing a piece of us. It was terrifying, overwhelming and incredibly cool all the same time.
I honestly believe there were a dozen pitches which, if properly executed, would make powerful, important, and deeply entertaining books. A number of writers were approached by agents and publishers who were in the audience. And it was a true education to see what ignited the crowd and what made it glaze over. For us, it could not have gone better. The head of Barnes & Noble events was there, and he was incredibly gracious. He told us he thought this was a reality show waiting to happen. Which is just what we’ve been saying for years.
Every once in a while you get a vision, an inspiration, an idea that seems so powerful and valuable and right that it won’t leave you alone. Inevitably everyone tells you why it won’t work. But sometimes, the vision is so powerful that you push on through, determined to prove the playa haters wrong. You work, you buff, polished, and refine. Then somehow, suddenly, it all comes together, and your vision becomes a beautiful reality. Exactly like you saw it in your head. Wouldn’t it be great if life was always like that?
6 tips from the Book Doctors on how to perfect your pitch:
1) A pitch is like a poem. Every word counts.
2) It’s always better to present specific images than make general, generic statements.
3) Don’t tell us it’s funny, make us laugh. Don’t tell us it’s scary, scare us. Don’t tell us it’s lyrical, wow us with your poetry. It’s like those people who wear T-shirts that say SEXY. Please, let us be the judge of that.
4) Don’t oversell. Claiming to have written the next Eat Pray Love or Harry Potter only makes a writer look like a deluded amateur.
5) Never say that your book is like no book ever written. That book will never be published. Publishers want books that are familiar but unique.
6) Develop an elevator pitch . An elevator pitch is a Hollywoodese short hand way of describing your book, where X meets Y. For example, Jaws in Outer Space=Alien. Ann Rice meets Gossip Girl=The Twilight Series. The elevator pitch for our book is the What To Expect When Your Expecting of publishing. Yes, we borrow from a title in an entirely different section of the bookstore, but you know exactly what you’re going to get from this elevator pitch.
Book Doctors thank Huff Po!