I first met Jackson Michael in Austin, Texas. He pitched us a book about interviewing old-time NFL players. Men who played the game before there was money. Men who made the NFL a multibillion-dollar franchise. And then in many cases were simply tossed away, physically broken and emotionally shattered. Michael had never written a book before. He was not a football insider. He was just a man with an incredible passion. So I helped him put his proposal together. AIt took almost a year. Polishing, tweaking, researching. Turns out Jackson is one of the hardest working man in show business. By the time he was done with the proposal, he had talked to some of the greatest names in the history of professional football. Frank Gifford, Bob Griese, Walt Garrison, Don Maynard, and Bart Starr. Then, without an agent, he sent the book to bunch of publishers. He got three offers. He chose University of Nebraska Press. The book, The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Man Who Built the NFL, just came out, so thought I’d pick his brain about books, football and money.
David Henry Sterry: What was your biggest take-away from talking to all these great football players from the past, before the game was all about the money?
Jackson Michael: The life lessons. Most players dropped a chestnut of wisdom inside their football stories. Bart Starr not only told the backstory behind his Ice Bowl touchdown, he talked about how Vince Lombardi demanded excellence over simply being good. That makes a huge difference, and applies to anything in life — being a parent, spouse, or writer. My aim was to document football history but readers will pick up some valuable teachings along the way.
DHS: What were some of the highlights of talking to these gridiron legends?
JM: Just getting a chance to chat with these guys was the highlight beyond all highlights. Every interview was just as exciting as the last. It was like having your childhood football card collection come to life.
DHS: What were some of the most horrific things that you heard when talking to the men who built the NFL?
JM: Most of the book is positive, but early African American players dealt with the racism of those times. George Taliaferro told me that (Washington owner) George Preston Marshall shouted racial slurs at him on the field. Garland Boyette shared what he and his teammates had to do to end segregated hotel accommodations. Irv Cross spoke of hate mail and someone threatening to shoot him. Also, I had firsthand interaction with dementia. I called one player about interviewing and his wife told me he doesn’t remember playing.
DHS: What you think needs to be done to rectify the abuse and neglect of retired NFL veterans, many of whom are in such terrible physical, mental and emotional shape?
JM: The oral history gives players a chance to share their stories rather than put me in a position to suggest solutions. For example, fans learn that the pensions of men who played in the era the book covers are less than those of recent players. In fact, it was announced this week that pensions are being raised solely for players who played during the 1993-1996 seasons, leaving pioneers even further behind on the <a href=”http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11408531/nfl-players-union-increases-pensions-1722-former-players” target=”_hplink”>pension scale</a>.
The increases older retirees have received over the years apparently haven’t matched inflation. Don Maynard told me that he collected under $450 a month before the 2011 collective bargaining agreement — for 17 years of NFL service.
Moreover, injuries can worsen over time, requiring surgery and physical therapy. For example, several players I spoke with had their knees replaced long after retirement. The NFL doesn’t pay for that, and pensions often don’t compare well with the costs of insurance premiums and copays. Conrad Dobler states that he spent more on knee surgeries than he earned over his entire 10-year NFL career.
It was clear to me that these guys aren’t sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. They are proud men, retired from a game requiring immeasurable toughness. Furthermore, many do extremely well after football, but enough struggle that real issues exist. Guys seem most concerned about ex-players in harsher situations than they experience. Some set up charities, like Mike Ditka’s Gridiron Greats and Bruce Laird’s Fourth and Goal Foundation. Even the Hall of Fame has an Enshrinees Assistance Foundation.
DHS: We surprised by the generosity of these American icons?
JM: Although I was surprised, I felt more fortunate and thankful. Nobody had any reason to speak with me other than kindness. I felt this enormous responsibility afterward to get the book published. These guys gave me their time, opened up to me. Now it was up to me to get their fantastic stories out there. Getting published was a more ardent process than I had expected.
DHS: What was the process of getting this book published like?
JM: Writing the proposal was a tremendous amount of work. Spending considerable time on a query letter only to hit “delete” built character. Additionally, I had previously only published a handful of magazine and online articles. Nobody welcomed me into their publishing house on a chariot.
DHS: What were some of the things that you did to make this book sellable, and in fact, sell it?
JM: Getting the proposal to communicate the project in terms publishers understood was crucial. At first I thought the mere fact that I collected interviews from all these fabulous players was enough. A great idea, however, only buys you thirty seconds of attention. Publishers invest thousands of dollars in each book, so you better show up with more than “I’m really creative and this is super cool.” The Book Doctors provided indispensable guidance in conveying information publishers need: possible marketing strategies, relevant demographics, how the book tied in with current news. Stuff artists despise, but you need to show commitment to the marketing end because you’re asking people to market your book. The other important thing I did was I objectively considered what publishers told me the book needed. That led to timelines and introductions before each section, and a table converting player salaries into modern-day dollars.
DHS: What were some of the pitfalls that you fell into when you tried to get this book put together, and then published?
JM: I expected the first publisher I contacted to enthusiastically offer me a contract. Instead, I was told I needed a platform. I actually had to Google the term. After learning what a platform was, I bought a book appropriately entitled Platform by Michael Hyatt, and did what I could to start building one. Another pitfall was agents. One condescendingly asked me who I thought I was because I didn’t work for Sports Illustrated. Another said oral histories weren’t interesting to readers. A third said people weren’t interested in football books. I decided to go straight to publishers, figuring it was easier to obtain one “yes” from a publisher rather than two from both an agent and a publisher. That might not work for everybody, because it did probably cost me money and it’s impossible to pitch to the Big Five without an agent. I was most concerned, however, with getting this book out while guys were still alive, and the University of Nebraska Press team has been great.
DHS: Did talking to all these former players change the way you think about the NFL? About college football? Professional sports?
JM: Most of the book is players recalling their golden moments, so it’s predominately a feel-good story. I love pro and college football as much as ever. After getting to speak with players, however, I’m more aware of the game’s human element and don’t get as upset over fumbles and interceptions. Playoff loses still bum me out, though.
DHS: As a first-time author, do you feel like you want to write more books, or never write another book as long as you live?
JM: If anything, completing this book made me crave more. Call me weird, but spending 10 hours editing or doing research is as much fun as the beach. One of life’s dirty secrets is that most artists are simply glorified workaholics. I’m currently working out an idea for a Texas music book suggested by Robert Hurst, an outstanding painter who connected me with several players in The Game before the Money. I’d also like to see my novel, Broke and Famous, get published. Then there’s that notebook full of fiction ideas, and a desire to record a Civil Rights oral history.
Jackson Michael grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. He currently lives in Austin, Texas. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and the Maxwell Football Club. A true sports geek, Michael possesses a near encyclopedic knowledge of sports history. <em>The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL</em> is his first book. Michael worked for several years with the Austin Daze, as the alternative newspaper’s entertainment writer and music critic. He also conducted interviews for Tape Op magazine, the most widely distributed periodical in the field of audio engineering. The Game Before the Money is his first book.
He additionally enjoys a successful music career, having released solo five albums. He has recorded with Barbara K (Timbuk 3), Kim Deschamps (Cowboy Junkies) and Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey). Also a skilled audio engineer, Michael has recorded albums for a number of Texas music acts. Twitter: @JacksonMichael
David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, editor and book doctor. His anthology was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller and has been translated into 10 languages. He co-authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his current wife, and co-founded The Book Doctors, who have toured the country from Cape Cod to Rural Alaska, Hollywood to Brooklyn, Wichita to Washington helping writers. He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award. He has appeared on National Public Radio, in the London Times, Playboy, the Washington Post and the Wall St. Journal. He loves any sport with balls, and his girls. He can be found at: www.Davidhenrysterry.c
I mean a really shit review
It is impossible to overstate the benefit from listening to published authors and guest editors respond to 20 or so authors pitch their book. Pitchapalooza is that exciting and useful. You and your guests led us into the demands of the publishing industry and the rich rewards found in your book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Clearly you are serious about your work. The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published is more like dancing than reading. You suggest steps, require spins, then demand leaps that propel us in directions and through doors that only publishing industry insiders could choreograph. Your sharp caring red pencil corrections force me to put your book down and return to rework my own efforts. Your purpose is to help one get published, but your writing is a graduate course in communication. — Richard Coulter
I attended Pitchapalooza and all I have talked about since then was how much fun it was. David’s wit made the evening a joy as well as immensely informative. Also what impressed me was how alive and focused you both were. — Anand Ami Hadani
I never expected such a heart pounding experience. I had dropped my name into a jar to be plucked out at random and I had no pitch prepared! Over three hundred people were about to witness my utter humiliation at the hands of an expert panel. I got out my pen and began to furiously write which is not an easy task when every couple of minutes you are sure your name will be called and voices are booming over microphones and hundreds of people are laughing and clapping. — Guruparwaz Khalsa
I thought the event was great because I learned something from the critiques you gave the other authors and you and Arielle are not intimidating, the opposite of stuffy. This was the first time I came out from the shadows and into the light to speak as an author which took courage on my part. I was able to do it because you made me feel that the risk was worth it to receive valuable personal critique. — Marsha Cohen
The Pitchapalooza was fantastic. I found it so informative. I especially benefited from listening to the various pitches. By the end of the evening I had completely reformatted my pitch into something I’ll be excited to present to you. The panel gave good advice as well as helpful critiques to all those brave enough to step up to the mike. That they did it with humor and without malice or sarcasm made for an entertaining evening. — Coleen Nigg
I thought pitchapalooza was great!! Your feedback to other authors was helpful to everyone. Your attitudes showed you were excited about your industry and that transferred to us! I learned how to make a good pitch which I look forward to sharing with you. The book is easy to read and already marked up with highlighter. Thanks so much for your interest in new authors! — Deb Farinholt
I thought the Pitchapalooza was helpful and educational and certainly not boring! Most activities surrounding writing are solitary tasks and it is difficult to have an idea about how other people handle the same problems that one grapples with. The Pitchapalooza accorded me the opportunity to observe fellow writers’ pitches and their thought processes. — Vaijayanti Bal
I truly enjoyed the Pitchapalooza. As a novice entering the book world I found it extremely insightful. It was not only entertaining but disarming. No one was being judged, rather provided constructive criticism that every person in the room benefited from. — Natalie Cannady
I thought your Pitchapalooza was excellent! You were both constructive without being harsh and created a positive and exciting forum for upcoming writers to learn. I was personally beyond impressed and entertained, by halfway through I had completely re-written my pitch based on the advice you were providing. — Bradley Butzin
Pitchapalooza was a hoot! A good pitch grabbed me like a good movie trailer would and I was all ears whereas the poorly executed pitch had me tuning out, waiting for the painful minute to end, and your gentle constructive criticism to begin. — Dorrie L. Williams
This was entertaining and informative. It let us all know that there is hope for each of our books. It was an opportunity to listen to others’ ideas and become informed about our skills and the ins and outs of the publishing world. I so appreciated the suggestions and help! — Charla Waxman
The event was very useful as well as entertaining. It refocused me, refreshing things I’d known and revealing things I hadn’t. It was interesting and fun hearing people’s pitches, and instructive hearing the feedback to everyone’s pitches, not just mine. Of course, the entire exercise of putting together my own pitch and getting feedback on it was invaluable. — Doug
I did think your Pitchapalooza was entertaining and informative. — Fritz Windstein
I was awed and amazed at your Pitchapalooza. It brought out raw talent, great story ideas, and sparked hope in the hearts of the writers in our small college town. It was also quite educational! Although I wasn’t chosen to pitch, your comments and advice to the writers that pitched enlightened me about the writing, pitching and marketing process. The writing/editing/literary community seemed ivy leagish to me, too far out to even touch. You made it touchable with your Pitchapalooza. It was a magical moment. — Kay Hoffner
I did indeed find the Pitchapalooza both entertaining and educational. The material presented was extremely varied, and though the subject matter was invariably unrelated to my own, I found helpful tips with nearly every pitch. The evening felt relaxed and intimate and there was a nice mix of serious discussion and humor. Even though I wasn’t selected to pitch, when the evening was over, I wished there was more. — Solace Sheets
Pitchapalooza was both thrilling and terrifying. Zip-lining 700ft over San Francisco last year was less terrifying than standing at that podium. However, the panel’s feedback immediately put me at ease and clearly defined how I needed to change my pitch. Overall the event was amazing. The quick pace gave a wonderful energy to the event and the interaction between panel and audience was both entertaining and informative. When I began delving into the process of writing a proposal, querying agents, working with social media, etc. I bought book after book, trying to find a single one that answered all of my questions. Needless to say, I amassed a substantial stack of books all of which were quickly littered with sticky notes containing the questions they hadn’t answered. Your book answered those questions along with a few I hadn’t thought of. It really is the Essential Guide. Thank you for a book free of sticky notes! — Melissa Henry
I attended your Pitchapalooza. Although I spent a good deal of time frantically scribbling notes in case you called my number, and worrying about whether I should pass or not if called, I found the experience to be quite educational. Thank you for the opportunity to be exposed to a whole new world during my 7th decade. — Charles Peraino
I really enjoyed the Pitchapalooza and found the critiques educational. I read the book already and it is very helpful in understanding what goes on in the industry. What also was great is that you brought a local publisher to the event and I found out that they handle the genre I will try to pitch when I contact their company. — Janet Moulton
First, congratulations on your work and thank you for reaching out to help other aspiring writers. I gained a great deal of insight at the Pitchapalooza as did all that attended. Those who were selected enjoyed the opportunity to tell their story out loud to a group of supporters. The key lesson is “Be Prepared” with a written pitch in hand and well rehearsed. I came away with the above knowledge and also a sense that I may NOT be on the right track as far as my personal effort. Please note that I used to tell people “I am writing a book…” Now I say “I am learning how to write a book…” Arielle and you make the event. Enthusiasm and kindness are always palatable. — Thomas Yorke
Your presentation at the Tattered Cover in Denver was phenomenal, and Pitchapalooza was amazingly helpful as an author trying to get published for the first time. It helped that Denver has so many creative and talented writers, because even though my name wasn’t selected, I learned a ton. Your kinder, gentler critiques provided tremendous insight for knocking down barriers in the highly competitive publishing world. You know your stuff! — Kerry Gleason
I thought the Pitchapalooza was a wonderful idea for prospective authors to have a forum in which to present their idea(s). I don’t know a lot about the publishing world but I would think that they probably would not otherwise have had such an opportunity to express their ideas and get feedback & constructive criticism. Being an avid reader myself, I enjoyed hearing all the book ideas presented. — Pam Smith, Huntington, NY
I thought Pitchapolooza was great fun. I had no idea we’d be pitching our book ideas to the masses and I felt a bit like I was suddenly in the Roman Forum, but the dimension of unanticipated public theater only added depth to an evening full of learning. — Diana Donlon
I really enjoyed the Pitchapalooza. It was definitely entertaining and educational. As a new and aspiring writer, I appreciated the sober dose of reality about the challenges of getting published, but it was well balanced with support. I also like hearing about what others are writing, how they frame the story in a sound bite and the reaction of the pros. It’s a good reality check for me. — John Brooks
Your event at Book Passage was the most fun I have had in ages. Your book is great! I will recommend it to my friends, including those who are not writers, but definitely readers. — Anand Hadani
My pitch wasn’t chosen; however, the entire evening was fun and informative. Your responses entertained and, more importantly, enlightened me about the pitch process. — Kate Hoffner
Wow, thank you for coming out to do your Pitchapalooza at TC tonight. You were so warm and welcoming and nice, not at all Simon Cowell-like, and I appreciate your obvious commitment to helping everyone get published, even if their pitch isn’t quite ready yet. Even though I wasn’t able to pitch, I experienced your incredible energy, heard your critiques of others, and left feeling inspired and happy I invested my time attending your event. — Cindy Rold
I thought the event was great. I had never heard of anything like it before. I thought a majority of the pitches were quite impressive and the format of the event with the panel was very well organized and productive. It was more than worth the drive from the city! It inspired me to get back into my big second draft of my current work which says a lot considering it’s been stagnant for a bit. — Mandy Soderstrom
Going into Pitchapalooza yesterday at Kepler’s, I heard it would be entertaining but was unexpectedly surprised at the quality of the pitches and the panel’s commentary. It was a great opportunity to take in your comments and make meaningful revisions. Thank you! — Paula Chapman
Here are just some of the testimonials we’ve gotten from Pitchapalooza. We’ve loved every second of it. Thanks America!
I am still resonating from the experience. — Larry Kirshbaum
I just wanted to drop you both a quick note to tell you how much I enjoyed the event last night. You two are incredible! I learned so much and just thought it was tremendous.
I’m so glad I could be there and meet you in-person, as well. Thank you again, so much, for extending this awesome event to our participants and including us in such a smart, beneficial, and fun project. You’re stars! — Lindsey Grant, NaNoWriMo Program Director
I wanted to thank you for a very inspiring afternoon at Kepler’s. Thanks for showing me the different components of a perfect pitch. I’ve done tons of query letter writing in my years as a freelancer but this one-minute pitch was daunting. But I told myself that the point was to go and have a good time and that’s what I did. — Kalpana Mohan, Pitchapalooza winner, Kepler’s
I wasn’t sure what to expect when went to Kepler’s last Sunday, but I thought the Pitchapalooza was amazing, and I hope to attend another one or one of your workshops in the future. The positive energy combined with the constructive feedback helped me feel energized and ready to continue working towards polishing my craft. I have a page full of notes from the Pitchapalooza and will continue to consult them as I write new query letters and pitches. Thank you for putting together such an amazing event and resource. I’m looking forward to speaking with you. — Jessica Bayliss
Pitchapalooza is a great concept. Fledgling authors get the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of literary experts who provide instant feedback. Not only was Pitchapalooza entertaining–some “pitchers” are funny and have great senses of humor–but participants get a chance to meet “neighbors” and discuss their book ideas with them as well. All in all, Pitchapalooza is a wonderful opportunity for average folks to learn if their book ideas have merit. — Murray Sabrin
Thank you for your appearance at Kepler’s a few weeks ago. I chickened out of pitching my book-in-progress but I learned so much from the experience and met some other wonderful fellow writers. — Samantha Rajaram
I LOVED it! I spent six months and paid $1,000 to get a fraction of the publishing wisdom you dished out in a few hours for 17 bucks. Beyond entertaining! Arielle and David were charming, hilarious and wise. You had fun, so we had fun. I learned something from every pitch and every panel response, even though you didn’t call my number. And … you softened the blow for those of us who didn’t pitch with your surprise announcement that we’d ALL get a chance to have you weigh in on our proposals … for FREE! Thrilling! I loved the energy in the room — yours and my fellow authors’. You captured the, “American Idol for Aspiring Authors,” vibe I had read about… I appreciated the clearly communicated, fast-paced, tightly enforced format. I appreciated how thoughtfully you assembled your panel; panelists brought insights from vast but varied experience… You and the panelists didn’t pull punches, but no one left with a “black eye” from too-brutal feedback. I considered it a fantastic event… — Kelly Standing
Pitchapalooza made my book go from the realm of the desirable to that of the possible. It was exciting to see so many other people wrestling with many of the same issues that I’m confronting, and getting to pitch my book forced me to confront this one obvious fact: yes, I can do it. And not only can I do it, but I should, and now. So, the experience inspired me. Thanks, Book Doctors! — Nathan
The enthusiasm of David and Arielle, from the beginning and throughout the event, was contagious. They did an amazing job at setting everyone’s nervous minds at ease immediately. I felt a definite camaraderie with the others “pitchers” as each stood bravely to try their hand at their one minute pitch. The genuine, attentive and thorough feedback from the panel was impressive. I took a few pages of notes from the critiques given and I learned something from each pitch and comment. The 17-second-recited-in-unison pitch by David and Arielle was entertaining. — Michele Dutcher
Pitchapalooza was highly entertaining and as nerve-wracking as the thunderstorm going on outside the tent as I waited to see if my name would be called. I learned a lot. It was my first experience with doing a pitch and it was incredibly helpful to listen to the specific feedback everyone was given…including feedback given to me. — Bev Smith
Since civilization began, we’ve been climbing the walls to get our stories told. This husband and wife team rocks the Kasbah! Arielle and David have turned today’s science of book publishing on its head by teaching us the art of enjoying the ride. They delete the daunting and magnify the doable, so that everyone wins. .How did they manage to write a whole Bible yet have it be such a fun read? By quantum leaps, The Essential Guide to Getting your Book Published inspires me forward and grows more valuable every day. — PM Kearns
Pitchapalooza is the most fun I’ve ever had in a bookstore. The two of you work together like a comedy team, and your advice is succinct, insightful, and encouraging. I left Pitchapalooza with an autographed copy of your new book (definitely worth buying for the new information) and with concrete ideas on how to improve my pitch and market my book. Thank you again for sharing your time and talent. — Lee Wilson
The Pitchapalooza was GREAT!! I was very entertained. It was a first time experience for me as I am quite new to the writing and publishing world. The process was interesting and impressive. I enjoyed first the positive, encouraging manner that you all began with leading into the needs or more accolades. And of course many of the pitches were amazing. — Regena Walters
Thank you so much for the highly entertaining and informative pitch session at the Northvale book store this afternoon. Your feedback on my very rough pitch about raising a child with autism was invaluable. — Laura McKenna
I thoroughly enjoyed attending your Pitchapalooza, even though I was nervously anticipating my turn to pitch. The event was entertaining as many of the authors were gifted performers and all of them were passionate about their work. One of the authors even argued with the judges which gave it an American Idol flavor. Your panel of judges was very knowledgeable and had a wide variety of expertise which they passed along and which I found invaluable. I hope you make this an annual event! — Kristin Oakley
I had the pleasure of hearing you both at the DIY Author’s Conference luncheon yesterday. The Pitchapalooza later that afternoon was great fun and very informative. — Bobbi Hahn
I loved your book. I read it over a couple of day’s time and learned a lot from it. As far as the pitchapalooza went, its been very useful because not only did I learn how to do a pitch but also how NOT to do it. Confidence is a big factor in pitching. Knowing your pitch upside down, inside out and backwards is a MUST and NOT giving away too much of the plot seems to be the smarter way to go. — Renee Gibbons
I enjoyed the event; it was interesting to hear what other writers are working on. Plus, to get the mesh of the writer’s personality with their ideas was entertaining. Usually you only get the words on paper, no actual personality of the writer before you. Evaluating a “pitch” is far different than evaluating the actual work. However, in this harried world, poor authors probably only get a minute for consideration — or not. So perfecting the pitch is a necessity. — Liz Gruder
I wanted to personally thank you for putting on the PitchaPalooza for books. It was a last minute Daddy-Daughter gig for us. Katie listened intently to the 20 pitches prior to hers and took in the advice you gave. You both inspired her to finish her manuscript. Again, thanks for writing your book and holding your seminars. The ripple effect of your genuine enthusiasm for the written word coupled with an “honorable mention” in your contest lifted the wings of a budding ten year old blond author. — Allan Mishra
I attended the Pitchapalooza this past week and loved it (despite the fact that I didn’t actually get to pitch!) Listening to all of the writers, and the panel’s incredible feedback, was worth the cost of babysitting. Warm regards. — Deb Levy
Pitchapaolooza was fantabulous—full of theater, zany humor and most of all the insightful tips from The Experts: David, Arielle and their stable of experienced agents. The book itself is extremely well written and so packed full of vital information that, I found, it has to be read and digested over several weeks time. For the writer with chops, The Essential Guide is a blueprint for success. — Peter Hensel
Pitchapalooza was so much fun! It truly proved everyone has a story to tell. I learned a lot and came away with several gold nuggets of useful information. — Robert Skead
I really enjoyed your seminar and I am really enjoying your book! What I liked about it was you all gave really good, valuable feedback that all of the attendees could use on their own pitch. So even though I didn’t get to pitch, I feel like my pitch is now 100 times more powerful! — Anthony Fasano
I was not selected to pitch at the Kansas City Pitchapalooza, but I still found it an entertaining and enlightening experience. Attending Pitchapalooza helped me conclude that my hundreds of hours of work and late nights were worthwhile and now I am working towards presenting my ideas to others. — Courtney Privett
Your Pitchapalooza innovation is such a heartening service for the literary future. You are inspirng the birth of what has been feared to be an endangered species, the published author. — Ann Rasmussen
I thought Pitchapalooza was a very unique approach to getting people energized about writing and publishing their book. The selling of the event as an American Idol for writers was a great way to describe the experience. It was entertaining but also frightening for those of us who either weren’t expecting to get up in front of such a large crowd. Another positive was getting accessibility to both of you who are willing to give honest feedback. — Andre Logan
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You folks are a traveling feast! What a simmering soup of ideas you served up for aspiring authors. Especially refreshing were the humor, empathy and the kindness of your comments. How deftly you kept the mood inviting and comfortable for all. Thank you for sharing your talents with us. I am lovin’ every page ofThe Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published! — Patty Kearn, OK
You provided a lot of positive yet helpful critiques. I think it is a great opportunity for a new writer to get direct feedback and an opportunity to work with an agent, which in my case is the most difficult part. The event was certainly entertaining, and if I had the opportunity to attend again, I most certainly would. — Glenn Snyder
The Pitchapalooza was absolutely wonderful. I loved listening to other people pitch their books, and while your advice was specific to each pitch, it was very applicable to every aspiring author. I learned a lot just by listening to what you guys had to say. My only complaint is that it went by so quickly! Thanks so much. — Rebecca Coppage
I really enjoyed Pitchapalooza. It gave me some insight to things that I would not have otherwise thought about regarding my own book and my pitch. It was entertaining and informative. — Scott McCulloch
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learned a lot. It was a wonderful event. — Kristin Oakley
Pitchapalooza was part lecture hall, part rock concert. — Lonita Cook
A while ago, we interviewed one of our favorite writers, Caroline Leavitt, The New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and nine other books. Not only is she an amazing novelist, she’s also a brilliant teacher. After reading an interview we did with Caroline, Katharine Herndon, a member of James River Writers, asked a very simple question: She wanted to know what Caroline meant by “mapping a story by moral wants and needs.” We asked Caroline and her response was nothing short of game-changing in terms of storytelling. It made us think about constructing a plot in a whole new way. Here is what she said:
I always feel that you want to figure out: What is the specific long-standing thing your protagonist has gotten wrong about herself or himself and the world that the plot will force him or her to overcome in order to have a shot at what she or he wants? For example, take Kramer vs. Kramer. Kramer’s wrong about (and he doesn’t even know it yet) that the purpose of his life is to have a high-powered job in NYC, work 16 hours a day, neglect his wife and little boy. He thinks he’s doing the right thing because he’s providing for them, and he equates that with love. His boy doesn’t know him and his wife leaves him–with the kid. So the plot forces him to be the one thing he is not–a father. And through that experience, he comes to realize that what he wanted–to be the CEO–is not what he NEEDS. What he NEEDS is to be a loving father, which allows him to be a loving friend, and then possibly, in the future, a loving partner to someone.
I call this the Rolling Stone method of plotting. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try–sometimes–you can be lucky enough to get what you need, which is usually the opposite of what you want.
-So I start out asking, what is it the character wants and why?
-What’s at stake if he (or she) doesn’t get it?
-What is the character wrong about that he doesn’t even realize yet but is holding him back?
-What is the character ghost–the thing from his (or her) past that haunts him and keeps him from moving on that he must heal?
-What is the inciting action–this is something that pushes the protagonist into an inner and outer struggle with his misbelief. (Like Kramer who has to work less–the thing he believes he has to do more of!)
All the protagonist’s plans fail and fail until what I call the Big Doom moment, when he realizes all is lost. The girl or guy will never be won. The job is finished. The funds are gone. And then, in that moment, the character has a self-revelation. He realizes the misconception he had. For Kramer, it was when his wife comes back and wants the child –the one thing he thought he wanted at the beginning of the novel. Only now he loves his child, adores being a father, and he needs to keep him and fight for him. The protagonist fights for this new idea.
The last part is the New Equilibrium, where we get to see the character acting differently now that this misconception has been cleared up. Kramer is a dad with a ho-hum job, but he doesn’t care about the job or prestige anymore. He cares about being a father.
If you give your character lots of moral choices until he becomes who he should become, you get a deeper novel. A moral choice, by the way, is being stuck between two terrible choices, like, I can rob the store to get the medicine my dying wife needs and go to jail, or I can be a good citizen, and stay out of jail so at least I can be with my wife when she dies. Both are terrible! But humans show us their best selves when they are at their worst.
Writers: Please take this most excellent advice and run with it!
LAST 2014 NY/NJ PITCHAPALOOZA BROOKLYN BOOK FEST BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY SEPT 17 7PM
WHAT: Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder and gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute! Many writers have gone from talented amateurs to professionally published authors as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza, including Genn Albin, our KC winner who got a 3-book mid-six figure deal with Farrar Straus & Giroux.
WHO: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.
HOW: At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for one and all. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.
PRIZE: At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book.
PRICE OF ADMISSION: To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who buys a copy of receives a FREE 20 minute consultation, a $100 value. If you don’t want to pitch, the event is FREE.
WHEN: Sept 17, 7pm
WHERE: 10 Grand Army Plaza Brooklyn, NY 11238 718.230.2100
New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/3tkp4gl.
Pitchapalooza on Kansas City Public Radio: http://bit.ly/eBlMUy
Pitchapalooza on NBC: http://thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-on-nbc-television
Here’s what people are saying about Pitchapaloza:
“We came to Pitchapalooza with an idea and six months later we got a book deal with a prominent publisher. We simply couldn’t have done this without this opportunity and without David and Arielle. We had been working on this project for several years, on our own, and struggling without any guidance. We were really discouraged by the entire process. Winning Pitchapalooza, and working with these two, really helped us focus and renew our enthusiasm in the project. And now we’re going to be published authors!”—Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu, Pitchapalooza winners Litquke, San Francisco, Oct. 2010
Here’s what people are saying about The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published:
“I started with nothing but an idea, and then I bought this book. Soon I had an A-list agent, a near six-figure advance, and multiple TV deals in the works. Buy it and memorize it. This little tome is the quiet secret of rockstar authors.”—New York Times best-selling author Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
We’re writing a new edition of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! and want to know what you need.
What do you want in the new edition of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published?
- How much time do I need to put into social media each day? (14%, 8 Votes)
- Should I try to publish with the Big 5, an independent publisher or self-publish? (13%, 7 Votes)
- How do I price my ebook? (11%, 6 Votes)
- How can getting my work published online help me get a book deal? (11%, 6 Votes)
- If I hire an outside editor, do I need a developmental edit or a line edit? (11%, 6 Votes)
- Should I publish with Amazon? (9%, 5 Votes)
- How do I self-publish literary fiction? (9%, 5 Votes)
- Are they real publishers or just author service companies that want to rip me off? (9%, 5 Votes)
- How to get the most out of a writer's conference? (9%, 5 Votes)
- What is the art of selling children's books? (5%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 11
Have other ideas? Leave a comment below to tell us what you want in the new edition of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.
Self-Publishing Literary Fiction: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Cari Noga Reveals All to The Book Doctors
The Book Doctors met Cari Noga in 2011, when she won our National Novel Writing Month Pitchapalooza (think American Idol for books). Her pitch was spectacular, haunting and superbly crafted. Her story is about a 12-year-old boy with autism who witnesses the Miracle on the Hudson plane crash, and how he and other crash witnesses and survivors find their lives intersecting and transformed by the extraordinary event—and by each other. We worked with her on her novel Sparrow Migrations and discovered it was a richly wrought tapestry of human emotion, both beautifully plotted and a delightful read. The novel was a semifinalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, and the spring 2013 winner of the ForeWord Firsts contest sponsored by ForeWord Reviews. Cari herself was already a published author (Road Biking Michigan with Globe-Pequot Press in 2005). When we sent her book out to our agent and publishing contacts, we were shocked that no one snapped it up. The problem is she’s not famous. There are no zombies or werewolves in her book. No S&M involving rich people. Just a great story with great characters about a world-famous event. So Cari decided to self-publish in April, 2013. Sparrow Migrations was just named a literary fiction category semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review’s 2014 Kindle Book Awards. So we thought we’d pick her brain and the beauties and terrors of self-publishing literary fiction.
The Book Doctors: The general wisdom is that self-publishing literary fiction is especially difficult. Do you agree with this wisdom? If so, how have you gotten around these difficulties? If not, why not?
Cari Noga: I think publishing anything that isn’t directly aimed at a genre-specific audience is more difficult, whether you go the self-pub route or traditional. The upside is that if you do reach a literary audience, the potential is much wider. I seem to have found a niche with book clubs, starting right in my own community, and rippling outward—I just did a Skype chat with a club in Phoenix. My town has a strong sense of locavorism –people like to buy local, eat local, etc. I think that extends to reading, too. One suggestion to make locavorism work for you: Check whether your library offers book club kits – multiple copies of the same book, available for simultaneous checkout. Mine does, and when I did an appearance, I asked that they create a kit
TBD: What has been the single most difficult thing about self-publishing?
CN: Retail distribution. I was aware that I would have to offer discounts, but I did not appreciate enough the importance of offering returns. My book is available through Ingram & Baker and Taylor, but as a POD book there is no way to return it.
TBD: What has been the single best thing?
CN: Hearing from readers, especially in the book club settings. Free time is my own most prized resource, so to know that people are spending theirs reading my book is incredibly gratifying. Hearing that they like it, that the characters resonate authentically, and that they’ve learned something – whether about autism, birds, or something else – is like having my cake, icing and ice cream, too.
TBD: What marketing strategy has been most successful? What has been least successful?
CN: Most successful by a longshot: Kindle giveaways. I’ve done two (June 2013, 5,400 copies downloaded; Jan. 2014, 33,600 copies downloaded.) Paid sales increased after each and reviews soared. The January one was advertised on Bookbub, which I also recommend.
Least successful: Advertising in trade journals like PW Select. Not because the ads were bad or poorly designed, but the brick-and-mortar bookseller audience that reads them are predisposed against self-published books, especially POD like mine, due to the inability to return unsold copies and the inconvenience of dealing with an individual publisher.
Book clubs are still proving a good audience – I’m a guest at three different live discussions here in town next month and my first by Skype, with a club in Phoenix that somehow latched onto it.
TBD: How have you convinced independent bookstores to carry your book?
CN: Goes back to locavorism. I have two indie stores in my town that are both eager to work with local authors. I had a relationship with one (Horizon Books) going back to a nonfiction book (Road Biking Michigan) I published traditionally ten years ago and was fortunate to have one staff member be a beta reader. They have two other stores in northern Michigan as well. The other newer store is Brilliant Books, a cozy, customer-centric place that hosted my launch. I showed them both copies while in proof stage, asked them to carry it and offered industry standard discounts. Another store contacted me after reading local media coverage. A few other stores have been receptive to cold calls.
TBD: Would you still like to see your book published by a major publisher? If so, why?
CN: I would like to see my book in more bookstores. At the book clubs I visit, more people bring paper copies than Kindle, so I’m concluding there’s more potential for the paper copy than I’m getting in my half-dozen stores and on Amazon. However, I’d be much more cautious about the deal I’d sign than I would have two years ago. More than a publisher, right now I would like an agent who could advise me about the best moves to make not only for this book, but career-wise.
TBD: Are you working on a next book? If so, what is it about? Tentatively titled Tres Vidas, my next novel is, like Sparrow Migrations, a story about relationships. The three lives that intersect are Lucy, a suddenly-orphaned 9-year-old who must leave her NYC home to live on a northern Michigan farm with her prickly aunt Jane, and Miguel, a migrant worker who becomes a bridge between the two.
CN: How did you get 180 reviews of your book on Amazon?
TBD: Reviews spiked after the giveaways. After the initial release in April 2013, when I ran into people who told me they liked the book – in person, by email, on social media –my standard reply was to ask them to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads. A surprising number actually did, and I got up to about 20 reviews that way. That doubled after the first giveaway. After the second giveaway, timed to the fifth anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson plane crash, which is the starting incident in the book, they just came pouring in. I’ve not solicited any reviews in months.
TBD: You enrolled in Amazon’s KDP select program. Was the exclusivity they requested worth it?
CN: Yes – see the giveaway results above. I do plan to expand to other platforms (Nook, Kobo) this year.
TBD: We can’t help but ask how you view the Amazon/Hachette tug of war since you used Amazon’s publishing program. Thoughts?
CN: I think there are far more shades of gray to the situation than have emerged in the mainstream narrative (Amazon: evil corporate behemoth; Hachette, guardians and saviors of literature.)
J.A. Konrath http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ says that in this mad, crazy publishing world of the moment, the only two people who matter are the writer and the reader. Everyone else in a middleman who has to prove their value. Right now, Amazon is connecting those two best. They also treat authors better financially (Both my books are priced at $14.95. I get about $4 per novel sold vs. 75 cents for my Road Biking book, which was taken out of print.*) More people are reading, thanks to the Kindle, which has added another revenue stream for authors.
Meanwhile, the ranks of indie bookstores are actually growing as they embrace what they do best: curation and customer service. In my town, Brilliant Books, for example, offers free shipping. At Horizon, membership program fees drop by a dollar every year, encouraging renewals. Healthy marketplaces do generally have more players vs. fewer, so I hope Hachette and the Big Five can survive. But in terms of blame for the situation they’re in, as others have said (See exhibits A was, B and C ) I’d point to the mirror as much as Amazon.
Cari Noga self-published her debut novel, Sparrow Migrations, in April 2013. The novel was a semifinalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, the spring 2013 winner of the ForeWord Firsts contest sponsored by ForeWord Reviews, and was just named a literary fiction category semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review’s 2014 Kindle Book Awards. A former journalist, she also traditionally published Road Biking Michigan with Globe-Pequot Press in 2005. Read her blog or sign up for her author newsletter at www.carinoga.com.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010).
Join us for a webinar on Wednesday, July 16, 8:00-9:30 p.m. EDT.
About the Webinar
It’s the greatest time in history to be a writer. There are more ways now to get published than ever before. Yes, it’s great to have so many options, but they’re all so confusing. That’s where The Book Doctors come in, with a prescription for making your book a rousing success.
This interactive seminar will break down the three paths to publishing:
1) The Big Five (HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster etc.)
2) Independent Publisher (whether in the form of a university press, a literary press or a press specializing in a particular subject)
In addition, three writers will be chosen at random to pitch their books in 1 MINUTE. We will then break down (in a kind and gentle manner!) the strengths and weaknesses of the pitch, and then use these pitches to help workshop attendees to understand which path (traditional, independent, or self-publishing) would be appropriate for each kind of book. Whether you get to pitch or not, we can assure you that you’ll come away with an understanding of which path(s) will be appropriate for your book as well. There will also be a question and answer period, so come prepared.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped dozens and dozens of talented writers and experts become professionally published authors. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for over 20 years at The Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. She is also the author of nine books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 16 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.
Anyone who buys a copy of our book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully, will receive a FREE 20 minute consultation ($100 value) from The Book Doctors. Just email a copy of your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, July 16, 8:00-9:30 p.m. EDT.
$50 (was $75) Register now! Limited-time Discount