Pitchapalooza Picks Youngest Winner Ever

BY |  Friday, Feb 11, 2011 12:00pm

People from all across Baristaville turned out last night for Montclair’s own David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut’s Pitchapalooza. Over 100 writers from Bloomfield to Verona packed the Montclair Public Library for Sterry and Eckstut’s final book idea pitching event, after traveling cross-country from Huntington, Long Island to Chico, California and back on their own book tour.

The Book Doctors, as they are known, just published The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, and along with it they are personally trying to help other writers get their own books published — one Pitchapalooza at a time.

Last night they helped one lucky winner, the youngest in Pitchapalooza history, on her way to publishing her novel. Zoe Schiff (pictured right) at only 15 years old had the best pitch of the night. This incredibly creative Montclair High School student told of her idea of a historical novel with a twist. In her book about the Revolutionary War the Americans do not win. This AP history student goes on to tell the tale through two young sisters caught in the aftermath of the Americans’ defeat.

With ideas ranging from a poetic memoir to a book told in pictures to reveal the autistic mind, Schiff had stiff competition. And she knew it. ”I’m shocked and grateful,” Schiff said after winning the contest.

Although there can only be one winner, for whom the Book Doctors vowed to “do everything in our power” to get published, Sterry and Eckstut’s desires were to help all aspiring authors achieve their dreams.

“Our goal is to get everyone here tonight to publish your book,” Sterry said. And to that end he noted with a smile, “This is the best panel we’ve ever had.”

Although I got the feeling he says to all the authors, the panel was impressive. It included Montclair’s Dominic Anfuso, VP & Editor-in-Chief of the Free Press/Simon & Schuster; the bestselling author/blogger and MEWS founder Pamela Redmond Satran, also of Montclair; and agent extraordinaire Liza Dawson of the Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency.

For those in the audience, Eckstut and Sterry dispensed plenty of helpful advice including their own travails in writing the pitch for their current book. “It took us six months to write, edit, and come up with the moves for that, and it’s 20 seconds!” Sterry admitted.

Another bit of Sterry wisdom was that the pitch should allow the agent to get a feel for your book through the voice and style. Sterry put it this way, “It’s like those t-shirts that say ‘Sexy’ on them. Let me be the judge of that.”

The pitch, then, should be a little snapshot of your book. Sterry stressed his point. “Don’t tell me it’s suspenseful. I want to sit on the edge of my seat.”

Eckstut agreed. “When you nail it in a minute, I feel like I read the book.”

Satran’s advice for writers was to give specific details in the pitch. “Agents and editors are inundated. Give them a sales handle where they can see it on the book shelf and next to which authors.”

All the panelists agreed and suggested authors come up with comparable titles to their own work. “There is a mania for categorization in the bookstore,” Sterry added.

Ultimately, people in the book business really want to hear writers’ stories, according to Anfuso. “Most of us get into this business to honor writers and books.”

If you are cursing yourself because you missed it, fear not, The Book Doctors are hosting a workshop next weekend in Baristaville:

How to get Published Successfully Workshop
Who: Writers.
What: A step-by-step, information-packed workshop that removes the smoke and mirrors from the publishing process, covering everything from coming up with a blockbuster title to finding an agent to building a following through social media.
Where: Montclair, NJ.
When: Saturday, February 19 from 1 pm to 4 pm.
Cost: For details and location call 310.463.2068 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              310.463.2068      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email sterryhead@gmail.com.

Photos by Margot Sage-EL