Denver Pitchapalooza a Smash

From New West Books & Writers:


The most entertaining part of the MPIBA writers conference was “Pitchapalooza,” billed as the “American Idol” for books.  Each conference attendee was instructed to prepare a 60-second pitch of his or her book to present to a panel for a critique.  The writer with the best pitch won a 30-minute consultation with Arielle Eckstut.  The panelists included Eckstut, who with her husband David Henry Sterry wrote The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully, Elizabeth Jordan, the head buyer at BookPeople in Austin, and Katie Schmidt, the Small Publisher Liason for Tattered Cover Bookstore.

Eckstut and Sterry emphasized the importance of authors crafting a polished pitch of their books to use in query letters to agents and publishers, and to present to buyers at bookstores or whomever they happen to meet.  Sterry circulated throughout the day, asking anyone who confessed to having written a book, “So, what’s your book about?” He posed this question to me at the coffee station, and I admit that I flubbed it.  I hadn’t thought to prepare my own pitch, as I was just reporting on the conference, not participating.  His point was made—anyone who is publishing a book should be ready for this question at all times.

Eckstut said that one frequent problem she sees with pitches is that authors sometimes “separate their pitch from their book,” writing a pitch for a humor book that isn’t funny, for example.  “The voice of your book needs to come through in your pitch.”

After the introduction, volunteers began to deliver their one-minute pitches while the judging panel kept the time.  All the participants had clearly worked hard on their short presentations, each of them delivering a convincing commercial for their books that were lively and frequently funny or moving.  After each participant finished, the panel offered their critiques and suggestions, such as advising writers to balance their emphasis on plot and characters in the pitch, or including a comparison to other successful books that share something in common with the book being pitched.  Eliza Cross, a Colorado-based writer, won the Pitchapalooza competition.  She is the author of, most recently, The Rusty Parrot Cookbook: Recipes from Jackson Hole’s Acclaimed Lodge.

The MPIBA hasn’t yet decided whether they will offer this writers conference again at next year’s trade show, but if they do, anyone who is in the process of publishing a book, either through a self-publishing service or a traditional publisher, will benefit from attending.

Jenny Shank is New West’s Books & Writers Editor, and her first novel, The Ringer, will be published in March 2011.  If you ask her what it’s about, she knows what to say now, she swears.