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.
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.
July 27, 3:30pm Politics & Prose, Washington DC
September 18, 7pm Brooklyn Book Festival, Brooklyn Public Library
October 19, 20, James River Writers Conference, Richmond Virginia
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,
“It is a must-have for every aspiring writer… thorough, forthright quite entertaining.”—Khaled Hosseini, New York Times bestselling author of the Kite Runner
“Before you write your own book, read this one first.”—Jonathan Karp, editor-in-chief, Simon and Schuster
Here’s an article about Pitchapalooza in The New York Times.
Here’s a link to a blog about their 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 their Pitchapalooza on Publishers Perspective.
Here’s a write-up of a wild Pitchapalooza at the great book store Book Revue. PITCHAPALOOZA
Here’s a MINI-MOVIE about Pitchapalooza-TRY NOT TO CRY.