December 10, 2010
For Would-Be Authors, a Chance at a Happy Ending
By AILEEN JACOBSON
SUZANNE WELLS, a slight woman with a careworn face, looked a little shaky as she walked up to the podium and faced a table where four judges sat. To her left was an audience of more than 200 people, ready to listen to her bid to become a published author.
Glancing at her notes, Ms. Wells launched into a description of her life, which started in affluence and comfort and devolved into heroin addiction and poverty, including an excruciating evening “when I took my children to a housing shelter.”
That was one of the more dramatic moments of “Pitchapalooza!” an event at the Book Revue here during which would-be authors pitched book ideas to a panel of publishing experts. All the presenters got advice from the panelists; the winner was to receive an introduction to an agent.
Though only 25 people were chosen at random to make their pitches, 187 had signed up for the opportunity at the Dec. 2 event, which was part of a cross-country promotional tour by David Henry Sterry and his wife, Arielle Eckstut, the authors of “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It and Market It … Successfully!” The crowd in Huntington was the largest yet, they said.
“Who knew how many people on Long Island are looking to write a book?” said Mr. Sterry, of Montclair, N.J., who has written 12 of them. “There were so many different kinds of stories,” said Ms. Eckstut, a literary agent and writer, who said she had signed 97 copies of the book.
Each person who bought one was to receive a free telephone consultation with the authors, whose new book is a substantially revised version of “Putting Your Passion Into Print,” which they published in 2005. Both the number of books sold and the size of the crowd were unusually high for authors who aren’t celebrities, said Julianne Wernersbach, the Book Revue publicist who organized the event.
Each writer making a pitch was limited to one minute — timed and sometimes stopped mid-sentence — followed by comments from the authors and two other panelists, James Levine, founder of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, where Ms. Eckstut works, and Mauro DiPreta, associate publisher of It Books, a HarperCollins imprint, who lives in Port Washington.
“You choked me up,” said Ms. Eckstut after hearing the emotion-packed pitch by Ms. Wells, a former Fortune 500 company executive who is now a yoga teacher and mother of three living in the home where she grew up, in Fort Salonga.
Ms. Wells, who won the competition, said later that she had already written much of her memoir, called, “One Wing — The Book.”
On a decidedly lighter note, Amber Jones, a hotel concierge who lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn, delivered her idea for “New York, Phew York,” a scratch-and-sniff book for children, in rhyming couplets: “Smells of bagels and lox and stuffed garbage trucks;/because summer to winter these smells are in flux.”
Ms. Jones’s pitch was a close runner-up, Ms. Eckstut said, as was a proposal by Gerald M. Rosen of Lido Beach, who laid out his story of running a marathon in every state, even though he was 51 when he started training.
Melinda Ehrlich of East Norwich had the room in stitches when she started her presentation with a joke about a Jewish boy who tells his mother he’s going to marry a girl named Running Deer and has changed his own name to Sitting Bull. “I’ve taken on a new name, too,” the mother says. “Sitting Shiva.”
Mr. Levine said her book of humorous vignettes about sitting shiva and attending wakes would be “highly promotable on talk radio,” but cautioned that it might be tricky to get people to buy it as a gift.
T. J. Dassau, 18, of Huntington Station stood at the side of a family friend, Janet Murphy, as she explained that Mr. Dassau, who is autistic, had written a set of illustrated stories for children, “The Epic Adventures of Rampion.” The book, she said, looks at the world from the perspective of a tiny imp. “I love this idea,” said Mr. Sterry, who advised Mr. Dassau to start gathering a following by getting some of the stories published on Web sites and building liaisons with autism-related organizations.
Some would-be authors were gently encouraged to consider self-publishing, but no one got negative feedback. “We try to inspire people,” Mr. Sterry said. “We don’t want to step on people’s dreams — and you don’t know what will sell.”
Click here for article.
This is from our Long Island Pitchapalooza at Book Revue in Huntington. The winner, Suzanne Wells, gives a beautiful & moving testimonial about what it meant for her to win. Newsday Video – http://www.newsday.com/video/newsday-video-1.1482431?idno=25019
Writer Gets a Chance at Pitchapalooza!
Posted on 12/08/2010 by Suzanne Wells
I practiced and practiced my pitch. I prepared supper for the kids, paced the kitchen floor and read and recited the pitch for my book in…ONE MINUTE! I got it down, I did – in 60 seconds. Nerve wracking for an author let me tell you!
This is the requirement to stand before a panel of judges from the publishing industry at Pitchapalooza, an American Idol concept for writers. Give your pitch in ONE MINUTE, and make it tantalizing, breathtaking and rapturous!
I’ve been writing this book for years. I’ve toiled and payed in blood, sweat and tears to get those words on the page – right. My kids have lived and breathed this thing with me. My laptop looks like its seen it – ALL. The keys have been tapped so many times, that this is a computer that’s LIVED. Lived it all.
And so has my book; since its a memior. A memior that fuses ‘Eat, Pray & Love” with “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest“; with guitar and vocals. I did make the panel of judges cry, and I my heart pings for that; BUT HAVE NO FEAR cuz’ Woody Allen directs this little play I’ve been living and writing about.
So, I marched up that podium, heart racing, hands shaking, sweat at my temples and gave it to them; my life, my book, my heart: in ONE MINUTE.
And I did it. I said it just like I practiced. I finished, caught my breath, steadied my shaking hands and looked at the panel. There was a pause, a silence so deep I thought I might jump right into that void and rest a while. I wondered if one of them was disguised as Simon Cowell and I’d be headed to the doors any minute now, half-devastated and half-dancing for joy with thoughtful guidance that will make me better writer. They seem like nice people, my sisterly self whispers in my head to cheer me.
More silence then: “You made my wife cry” from one of the judges. Oh my Gosh, I think, I’ve been crying all the way through this thing. Now she’s crying! Maybe we should OM together or something. She should read my book. It has tips on this sort of thing. Like how to breathe when your crying.
“One Wing the Book”, does make you cry. And it makes you laugh too. It may make you sing as well. It will make you look at yourself and your life and locate all kinds of beautiful things you may have needed to remember. That’s what happened to me when I lived it. That’s why I made the choice to write it.
There were so many great writers and ideas that night. So much art and talent and love for writing. It was inspiring and lovely to be among like-minded artists gathering in a group, in reverence for their art.
I’m glad I came, I thought, as sat in the audience and I listened to the other authors give their pitches. The panel offered hints and ideas for us to move along, in this morphing world of publishing.
Then, they were ready to announce the winner. Big drum roll, authors poised, we all gaze up like little chicks: waiting, praying, hoping for a chance from the Mother hen. Then…
“Suzanne Wells is the winner tonight.“ It was surreal. The crowd looks my way and transforms with rising sounds of well wishes and pats on the shoulder for congratulations. A tribe! A tribe of writers wishing me well! So nice to be part of tribe of like-minded people collected in art. I always wanted to be part of a tribe. I write all about it in my book.
Then, I head up to the panel and I have this weird experience. Suddenly I hear the music from the Miss America Pageant playing on the speakers in my head! Startling! Then I imagine a gem-med crown floating in the air above my head! I smell the fragrant roses I’m carrying! I smile big.
I did win. And I cried – again! Uggh! Then I went home and kissed my kids.
“Mommy won something.” I whispered as I kissed them goodnight. Their eyes opened like saucers.
“You d-i-i-i d?!
“I did. I won a chance, for a better life, for that book I’ve been writing…and for us.” They smiled like Santa Clause was coming. They’ve watched me write this book; lived the hours invested in it with me. Our eyes met and I took in their shiny faces. My heart stirred. They were genuinely happy for me. Kids who can feel you. I raised kids who can feel you, I thought. This is a good thing. Hope returned.
“Work hard, remember your dreams, don’t ever give up on your self. Your good kids – the best! We’re going to be alright.“ I kissed their heads, tucked them in their blankets, so they would sleep warm and sound.
Then I padded up the stairs and wondered about that crown.
Great pitch for memoir about being thrown into a Mexican prison.
The Book Doctors will make a house call in San Francisco, and they want YOU to PITCH your BOOK at their Pitchapalooza.
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. Joining them this evening are Chris Baty, Founder of NaNoWriMo and author of No Plot? No Problem! and Laura Mazer, Managing Editor of Counterpoint.
Plus: every writer who buys a book at The Booksmith will receive a free consultation with The Book Doctors, a $100 value!
The Essential Guide Tour Pitchapalooza, Long Island #17: White Knuckles, Crime & Punishment, and Transcendent Triumph in Long Island
We hope and pray you never get stuck on Northern Blvd. in Long Island during rush hour when you have to be at your bookstore event by 7. It plum wears you out. It took us longer to travel 10 miles in Long Island than it did to get from New Jersey to Great Neck. At 6:48 David was into full-blown white-knuckle mode, and the knots in Arielle neck had migrated into her belly. Naturally, when we finally arrived, there was nowhere to park. But we finally slammed out of the car, and ran the two blocks back to the bookstore.
The second we entered Book Revue, all anxiety melted away. It was packed beyond the gills, ripe and swollen with 250 writers just waiting for us to hear them pitch their books. It was an absolute mob scene. From 12-year-olds to 90-year-olds, pierced to permed, ex-junkie to a man who’s run marathons in every state.
We were again blessed with a fantastic panel: James Levine, founder of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, author, golfer, and a man who’s helped dozens and dozens and dozens of writers, thinkers and businessmen become successfully published authors; and one of the great book dudes in the business, Mauro DiPreta, Executive Editor at It Books/HarperCollins, who has shepherd mega-bestsellers like Marley and Me onto the New York Times bestseller list. Oh, and he’s also a children’s book author. Not only are these men spectacularly articulate about the book business, they both have a ribald sense of humor. It was kind of like getting to have Derek Jeter and Tom Brady both on your team.
And then it was ON! A rhyming scratch’n’sniff pitch. A weight loss pitch with a bold new twist. A literary novel that was somehow Portnoy’s Complaint meeting Crime and Punishment. Swami Pajamananda dispensing equal parts spiritual wisdom and comedy. The winner gave a beautiful pitch about plunging from business executive to homeless heroin addict. Arielle had welled up by the end of the pitch. The whole thing was yet another vivid illustration of just how many Americans, from every walk of life imaginable, have books inside them that they desperately want to share with the world. Looking out over that vast sea of aspiring writer faces, our hearts and minds were filled with a real sense of happy accomplishment.
The pitches went by so fast, all of a sudden it was 8:30–time to wrap it up. Only about 20 people got pitch, and an audible groan came up from the crowd when we announced our last pitcher. But we offered up a new deal: anyone who buys a copy of our book gets a free consultation, and this seemed to soothe the savage beast. Julianne, the events coordinator, who was in large part responsible for getting the word out about this event, whisked us upstairs to a signing table. The line to buy the book literally went around two different corners and down a flight of stairs.
We ended up selling 100 books. If you’ve never actually tried to sell a book, that might not seem like much. But this is a niche reference book, on a Thursday night, in the middle of Long Island. It was the closest we’ve come to being Justin Bieber.
Spent and drained, but gratified and ecstatic, we hauled our asses back to Montclair, New Jersey. In half the time it took us to get to Long Island. But we were reminded how the hundreds and hundreds of hours spent writing the book, sending out the e-mails, putting together the website, the often dull, tedious, frankly painful work that’s gone into making and marketing this book, can sometimes, when the stars line up just right, lead to a transcendent triumph that lifts the spirit high, higher, highest.
Pitchapalooza Comes to Huntington
By Ashley Milligan
More than 100 aspiring authors filled the Book Revue Thursday night, hoping to get the opportunity to pitch their book idea to a panel of people in the publishing industry.
The event, known as Pitchapalooza, is the brainchild of literary agent Arielle Eckstut and author David Henry Sterry. Eckstut and Sterry, who are married, have also co-authored a book together, “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.”
While Pitchapalooza has been happening across the country for the past decade, this Thursday marked the first Pitchapalooza event in Huntington. Two guest panelists joined Eckstut and Sterry: James Levine, founder of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency and Mauro DiPreta, vice president and associate publisher of It Books.
The rules of the event were simple. Audience members were chosen at random from the event’s sign-up sheet. If selected, guests had exactly one minute to pitch their idea to the panel. The four judges then offered feedback to each contestant, ultimately selecting a winner at the end of the two-hour event. The winner would receive an introduction to a literary agent best suited for the genre of their book.
There was no shortage of original and captivating material pitched by contestants. Pitches ranged from funny to serious, fictional to deeply personal and children’s stories to self-help guidebooks. Highlights included Amber Jones’ scratch-and-sniff children’s book about New York City smells, autistic teenager T.J. Dassua’s collection of short stories and Gerald Rosen’s personal account of completing a marathon in each state.
While the panel offered contestants insightful and constructive feedback about each individual pitch, they also gave general pointers for the audience as a whole.
“A nice way to leave a pitch is have it so we don’t know what choice the protagonist is going to make. It keeps people interested,” Eckstut said.
Levine added, “When you make a pitch to the editor, you want to make them feel confident you know where the story is headed.”
The panel also advised hopefuls to give specifics in their pitches, convey the voice of their book within the pitch and use “comp titles,” or reference books similar to theirs, if applicable.
Ultimately, the panel selected Suzanne Wells of Kings Park as the winner of Pitchapalooza. Wells, a yoga, zumba and pilates instructor, as well as freelance writer, so convincingly pitched her personal account of overcoming addiction, divorce and poverty that she left Eckstut in tears.
“I’m totally intrigued,” Eckstut said after Wells finished her pitch.
Wells now has the opportunity to meet with a literary agent to discuss her memoir, tentatively titled “One Wing-The Book.”
Click here for article.
From Author Enablers, Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry…
“We have a time-honored tradition of providing our readers with gift book suggestions from noted authors. This year, we’ve decided to put in our own two cents with a list of the very best books—some new and some classics—for the writer in your life, even if that writer is you.
The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry is an updated version of Putting Your Passion into Print, a book we’ve recommended before. Eckstut and Sterry leave no stone unturned in this comprehensive look at the current landscape of publishing.”
For the rest of the list, go to Book Page.