We drove 300 miles in the rain from our home in Montclair, New Jersey to a bookstore in Falls Church, Virginia, just outside DC. We had our freshly pressed clothes hanging in the car, and a box full of books in the trunk. Our first event. I had a bad feeling. In fact I bet Arielle a dollar that there would be less than 20 people in the audience. Still, tingling with excitement, we entered this emporium of books. Imagine our surprise when we found out that the manager didn’t even know an event was scheduled that night. And they only had 3 copies of our books in the store. Their website had two different times for our event. As far as I can tell, they did absolutely no promotion of this event, didn’t try to reach out to the tens of thousands of writers in the area who are our audience. I had to give myself a timeout before I exploded. But even though it was my worst nightmare realized, I was the model of restraint. I smiled and made nice with everyone as I recalled the first stop on our first tour where there were only 2–yes 2–people at the event. One was a mom with three kids running around the store that she had to chase throughout our workshop. The other was an angry drunk man writing a memoir about his horrible father. Sorry, I digress. Turns out this was a huge lesson for me. Trust your own instincts. I KNEW this was the wrong thing to do, but I caved in and did not follow my own instincts. I shall endeavor never to make this mistake again. Sure enough, five people showed up, and two of those were friends of ours. It was an embarrassment. We, the publishing experts draw five people. I was livid. Filled with a furious rage. I must say though that the manager of the bookstore was very gracious and apologized publicly, which made me feel a little better. And our next event is in Pittsburgh, @ Joseph Beth. I just read this morning that the store where we’re performing has been selected for extermination @ the end of the month. They are a walking dead bookstore.
That being said, it was a really fun event. We heard three fantastic pitches. I should explain that our event is called Pitchapalooza. It’s like American Idol for books. Each writer in the audience gets one minute to pitch their book to a panel of experts. Arielle and I are two of the experts, and we have a couple of panelists. One of our guest panelists was a very charming, witty and knowledgeable fellow named Alan Fallow, who is the Features Editor at AARP Magazine. And a long-time publishing veteran. He just could not have been any smarter or nicer. And the other guest publicist was our publicist, Bethanne Patrick, who has read more books than anyone we know. She was able to come up with perfect comparison titles for our three pitchees. The winner, Lisa Lipkind Leibow, gave a great pitch about Iranian women and culture. And everyone who was in attendance, all five of them at any rate, got in-depth expertise about the books they were pitching, and about the publishing business in general. It was actually great fun to do. But we traveled 300 miles to sell three books. That’s 100 miles a book. Something seems very wrong with that. Still, I try to take joy even from these adverse conditions. But it’s a terrible thing to bet against yourself, then win. Valuable lessons were learned. Always trust your instincts. And always bring a box of books.
On the road. Again. Yes, we’ve just taken off to begin our book tour. After all the flight arrangements, rental car machinations, hotel bookings, Facebook event announcements, dry cleaning, haircuts, prepping, packing, and panicking, we are finally embarking on our odyssey, like Odysseus before us. Only instead of Trojan horses, soul sucking sirens and a gigantic cyclops, we will be going up against book critics, baby booming bloggers, and publishing industry at large which is like a leaky rowboat barely staying afloat in the Sea of Recession. But we are brimming with excitement, visions of a rabid readers and writers, the delighted bright eyed booksellers and packed Pitchapaloozas with books flying off shelves dancing in our heads. Plus, we have a lovely and talented three-year-old daughter Olive with us. See you soon, America!
Here’s a great pitch from the winner of our St. Louis Pitchapalooza, about being a fat bald white guy.
Thanks to our amazing publisher Workman for throwing us some big love.
Bethanne Patrick, the one and only Book Maven, will be getting her Pitchapalooza on at Borders, Bailey Crossroads, November 4. We are overjoyed to be graced by her smarts, savvy & wit.
The Book Doctors , authors of the Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, present Pitchapalooza, on November 11, Barnes & Noble, Upper East Side. They welcome ex-CEO and Chairman of the Time-Warner Book Group, LJK Literary Management’s Larry Kirshbaum, Jen Bergstrom of Simon & Schuster, and Bob Miller, Publisher of Workman Publishing
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.