Pitchapalooza comes back To San Francisco for the 2nd annual Litquakepalooza. The lovely and talented Sam Barry & Kathi Kamen Goldmark, authors of Write That Book Already, will be joining us once again. Last year’s winner, Nura Maznavi got a book deal from Soft Skull Press with her partner, Ayesha Mattu, after her amazing pitch rocked the house.
“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
WHAT: Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only without Simon). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute! In the last month, three writers have gotten publishing deals as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza.
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: Oct. 9, 5PM-6:30PM,
WHERE: Variety Preview Room, 582 Market St, SF
New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/3tkp4gl.
Pitchapalooza mini movie: http://tinyurl.com/3jr8zte.
Pitchapalooza on NBC: http://thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-on-nbc-television
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,
The Book Doctors write scripts for Martha’s Vineyard authors
By Whit Griswold
August 31, 2011
Everyone has a book in them, the saying goes. But for that book to see the light of day is a huge undertaking. The writing part is the first hurdle, and one that daunts most of us before we even get going. But some of us are more motivated than others, perhaps convinced that the world can’t live without our advice, our take on current events, our inimitable way with words. Or, we may simply love the writing process, difficult as it can sometimes be.
Then comes selling the book. There have been countless great ideas for books, over time, and agents and publishers are constantly besieged by them.
The challenge is to grab the attention of someone who is inundated with good ideas and intentions all day long, week in and week out, year after year. This is where the pitch comes in. And where The Book Doctors come in. Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, husband and wife, have written 13 books between them, including “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published,” which first came out six years ago with the title, “Putting Your Passion into Print.”
Ms. Eckstut is a writer, literary agent, and successful entrepreneur. Mr. Sterry has written 11 books, solo or with other writers, all with a sense of performance about them, no doubt due to his earlier life as an actor. He is also a media coach, book doctor, Huffington Post regular, and activist.
At the Bunch of Grapes ten days ago, they demonstrated their talents and shared their expertise at an event called Pitchapalooza, which they invented and have presented at bookstores and writing conferences around the country. Participants have one minute to pitch their book idea, which sounds cruelly brief at first, but turns out to be plenty of time if it’s used well. At the end of the evening, the best pitch is selected, and the winner receives a free consultation with the Book Doctors, as Ms. Eckstut and Mr. Sterry call themselves, and an introduction to an appropriate agent or publisher.
After the minute was up, Ms. Eckstut and Mr. Sterry critiqued the pitch. Keen listeners, their observations were sharp and helpful and never unkind. Often, their comments had to do with clarity: avoid clichés and generalities. Would an idea come off best as a memoir or a self-help book? What was the age of the target audience?
Before the competition began, the doctors dispelled a myth or two about getting published. Many writers are anxious about someone stealing their idea for a book, for example. “You’re the only person who can write your book, ” Mr. Sterry said, making a point that he came back to time and again: it’s your voice that gives a book its signature, its identity, which distinguishes it from all the other great ideas out there.
The nine pitches at the event varied widely and wildly. There was a young adult book about the growing pains of a 17-year-old girl from Vineyard Haven who was in conflict with her single mother; another built around a sibling rivalry between two twins, one of them mentally ill, and the family secrets that come out as they work to resolve things; a children’s picture book that featured a dragon who spits ice cubes instead of fire; a fantasy that used Celtic myths to help tell a story that spanned 2,000 years; a look at love and sex after sixty that used poetry and painterly writing to broach a complicated, delicate subject; a guide to ingesting foods that are best for us, in nutritional and economic value; a double murder mystery set in Harlem that features street-walkers, their clients, and police officers whose lives and relationships are more complicated than they might seem at first; and finally there was the winner — a novel about, of all people, a writer.
It was pitched by Mark Ciccone, of Duxbury and Edgartown, who taught composition to college freshmen for a minute before starting a 32-year hitch with Proctor and Gamble where he rose to be a senior manager and consultant. “I am now moving into semi-retirement and am resurrecting my youthful ambitions to be a writer,” he wrote in an email.
He knew his pitch so well he delivered it without notes. Later, he agreed to write it up for The Times. The book is called “The Road Scholar,” and it goes like this:
“Samuel Plumquist should be the happiest guy on earth. As a recently retired Vice President of a large corporation, he has the satisfaction of knowing that his business career was a smashing success, he is extremely well off financially, and now he has the time to do the one thing on earth that he has always wanted to do: write the ‘great American novel.’
“But there’s a problem. After attending several writers’ conferences, he now realizes that the 800-page manuscript that he’s been working on might be a tad too long. More ominously, he suspects that he stinks as a fiction writer. Adding to his gloom, his wife of 38 years has left him for a younger man; his 35-year-old unmarried daughter who majored in Existential Philosophy is unemployable; and the recent death of his beloved dog, Sisyphus, has reminded him of his own mortality.
“What to do?
“He decides to give writing one more chance, thinking something in a nonfiction genre might suit him more. But this time, rather than locking himself in his office for 8 hours a day hunched over his computer, he’ll find a topic to research that will get him out on the road where he can at least have some fun. Employing some of the structured thinking that made him successful in business, he goes through a lengthy process of elimination and decides to combine his love of old movies, photography, and travel, and write a coffee-table type book devoted to “the houses and/or museums of dead Hollywood actors,’ as he writes in his agent query letter.
“His subsequent travels will take him to the Mario Lanza Institute in Philadelphia; to the Clark Gable Bed and Breakfast in Cadiz, Ohio; to the annual meeting of the Elsa Lanchester fan club in a down-and-out industrial town in the British Midlands. He’ll also encounter other very real places and events. Along the way, he will meet some interesting people and learn much about himself. And by the time he has finished his travels, his experiences will lead him to make important decisions about himself and what he should do with the rest of his life.
“Featuring a Pickwickian protagonist, ‘The Road Scholar’ will appeal only to those people who are consciously pursuing the meaning of life.”
That’s a lot to pack into 60 seconds, but Mr. Ciccone managed to pull it off. When he was done, the Pitchapalooza audience clapped long and hard, swept up in Mr. Ciccone’s energy and wonderfully wacky imagination.
In the end, despite all the gloom about bookstores vanishing and the Internet threatening to take over traditional forms of communication, Mr. Sterry is optimistic about the future of writing. Citing the growing appetite of readers, however they consume the written word, he said, “It’s the greatest time in history to be a writer.”
Click here to view the article.
We first met Ashish at a Pitchapalooza @ Kepler’s in Menlo Park, South of San Francisco. At that point he just had an idea for a book. Then he attended our Stanford workshop. From the first time he met him, he seemed like such a radiant, intelligent, generous, thoughtful and funny person. He also just read it kind of healthy glow. And he was so enthusiastic about his book. We’ve observed over and over again that the sort of passion is contagious, and the driving force behind almost all the successful authors we know. So now, his book is out. It’s called, Run Barefoot Run Healthy. And here’s a story.
It all started with an aptitude test. After a day of having me play with little metal pins and then write essays about nothing at all, the good people at Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation (JOCRF) gravely informed me that my mathematics degree and subsequent 20 years in technology were completely misdirected, and my (only) high scores in
“ideaphoria” and “vocabulary” directed me to one career and one career only: writing fiction.
At the time, my sole interaction with books was reading them, typically racing over the details to find out what happened at the end. Did he get caught? Did they get married? Who won? The scenery along the way … in one eye, out the other. And at work, conversations tended to revolve around the benefits of “hardware tessellation,” or why our “front-side bus” was better than theirs. Or
maybe we were better because we didn’t have a front-side bus. Whatever. I had no connection to the production end of literature, so while I enjoyed imagining myself as a swashbuckling Hemingway or globe-trotting Pico Iyer, it didn’t seem particularly within reach.
What’s that they say? “Time drags when you’re really, really bored at work.” High ideaphoria people need variety, which is not the defining characteristic of the corporate world. So I suffered. Only two jobs and five years later, I finally said “it’s now or never – I have to try that writing thing.”
I took a few classes at Stanford, culminating in a term with the wonderful Alice LaPlante, learning not only how to critically read a piece and observe the author’s technique, but also that the boom and gloom now in vogue in fiction, was not for me. I do not need to read, much less write, about drug addiction, child abuse and suicide, without which modern literature apparently cannot sell. So fiction was out.
But could I possibly bring my 99%-ile creativity (I do like saying that – forgive me) to bear on a topic of non-fiction? What did I know enough to write about? What did I want to write about?
Like everyone else in California, I am a marathon runner. Not a world-champion marathoner, in fact I rank fifth out of five runners in my apartment building, but a middle-of-the-pack fitness runner, like millions of others. Specifically, I was a middle-of-the-pack runner who had recently found religion in the form of barefoot running, which had banished my 20-year-chronic injuries to the dust piles of my walk-in closet, along with my running shoes. I could not stop talking about my bare feet, and how everyone else should have bare feet too.
15 million Americans run at least twice a week. 437 million more Americans want to run, but don’t because their knees hurt. I made up that second number, but you get the idea. There’s a market. And my friend Jason was already writing a barefoot running book. And I was encouraging him to do it!
Inspiration is a strange thing. I’ve run barefoot for years, I’ve known about my writing destiny (courtesy JOCRF) for years, but I can’t explain why the idea came to me exactly when it did. Once I had the concept, putting my thoughts down onto paper was easy. Organizing them
into coherent structure was harder. Figuring out how to get published, well, that was more complex still.
It has never been easier for an independent, non-rich and non-famous author to go to market and reach a global audience. And the number of plausible publishing options has never been more overwhelming. If you need a path through the chaos, the Book Doctors’ “Essential Guide” is
comprehensive. They lay out all the possibilities, and what each involves, from the nitty-gritty of traditional publishing, through the various assisted options, to doing it all yourself.
The one thing David and Arielle can’t do for you is to know yourself. Authors and businesspeople often inhabit opposite ends of the producer/marketer spectrum, and my sense is that many authors are uncomfortable with self-promotion, or with manipulating a profit and loss spreadsheet. I have a background in business, and I thrive on independence, so I immediately gravitated toward the DIY option. Some call it “self-publishing,” but to me that word is a bit like “atheism” – not a label one uses in polite society.
I decided to start my own publishing company. It really is quite straightforward. A publisher is anyone who owns an ISBN, the identifying number applied to all books. Buy a number and you’re official. All you need is to write the book, hire and then micro-manage an editor, several proofreaders, an illustrator, book designer, indexer, and cover designer, then negotiate photo and other
rights … and you’re in business. You might want to talk to a lawyer. Then there’s the marketing. The process is spelled out in great detail in Aaron Shepard’s _POD For Profit_. My book is a paperback, so I chose to print it with Lightning Source, a division of Ingram,
which automatically secured me distribution through Amazon, BN.com and other retailers.
I’ve compressed time in the telling of my story. Unearthing David and Arielle’s book, and Aaron’s book, took a lot of work. But with them to map the path ahead for me, the rest has been “easy” – no longer confusion or doubt, merely the challenge of efficient execution on a budget. How hard are you willing to work? How much do you love sharing your ideas with others? How willing are you to run a business?
I work past 1am seven days a week, and I’ve never had more fun. And my book is selling, and people are writing in with how it is changing their running, their health, and their lives.
Write. Publish or get published. I recommend it.
this is from our epic Pitchapalooza @ Anderson’s just outside of Chicago, in Naperville.
Thanks to all the great people in the very cool (who knew) Albany/Troy area
Thanks to Susan Novotny & all the great people from Book House & Market Block Books. The pitches were so good we had two winners!
Awesome Pitchapalooza at Bookends in Ridgewood New Jersey, amazing pitches, great people, fun-omenal owners/staff. Co-winners pictured, one is 12 years old. Workshop on May 15, the mysteries of publishing will be unraveled, secrets revealed, doors unlocked.
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 Toronto
by Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry, authors of “The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published”
For decades, the publishing business was like a giant castle, guarded by sharpshooters in every turret, and surrounded by a giant moat full of large poisonous monsters. Unless you had an invitation from the King or Queen or someone in his court, your only chance of getting inside was to storm the castle. 999 times out of 1000 you’d end up studded with arrows, each labeled “Rejection.”
But in the last few years, with the advent of e-books, e-readers, social media and print on demand, authors are at last able to build their own kingdoms, and ignore the previously all-powerful monarchs in their bastion. Now authors have so many choices, the traditional publishing “empire” is in danger from outside its ramparts. With citizens no longer lining up to kowtow and pay homage, sales dropping, and the cupboards bare, the King, Queen, and their court have found themselves scrambling to keep what they have, ejecting and evicting courtiers and worker peasants alike left and right, throwing them off the top of the wall kicking and screaming. Even the rats have started scurrying away as fast they can.
Thus we have entered the age of the Citizen Author. Some “Citizen Authors” are CEOs, thought leaders and power players. Some are writers who didn’t graduate from MFA programs, aren’t friends with publishing titans and their minions, or don’t have large audiences waiting to hear their next pronouncement. There are lots of others in between, too. Citizen Authors are cutting-edge thinkers like Seth Godin, best-selling author of “Linchpin” and many other books, who has famously vowed never to publish with a traditional publisher again. Veterinarians like Nancy Kay, author of “Speak for Spot,” stroke survivors like Julia Fox Garrison, author of “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” and novelists like M.J. Rose, author of “Lip Service.” Many of them decided to forgo the traditional publishing process from the get-go. Others have been rejected so many times by agents and editors that they just decided to do it themselves.
We live in a country founded by citizens who are guaranteed the right to vote, become president, and pursue happiness. In this great tradition, Citizen Authors have taken the bit into their mouths, staked out their own territory, and connected with their audiences, building a community that shares their passions and interests. Nowadays, through the painstaking process of blogging, befriending and following like-minded citizens, any author can develop networks of people who will buy their books. They don’t need traditional publishers. And ironically, once a Citizen Author proves the value of their work, the King and his court usually come running, waving money.
Lisa Genova, author of “Still Alice”, is a great example of just such a Citizen Author. She wrote a novel about Alzheimer’s. Her grandmother had suffered from this debilitating disease, and she couldn’t find anything out there that spoke to her on the subject. She was rejected over and over and over by traditional publishers, who are trained to say “No”, and many of whom live in a blinkered world with a bubble around it. They not only don’t have their finger on the pulse of America, they’ve completely lost track of all the vital organs in this country. Finally Lisa got tired of the rejection, and decided to take matters into her own hands, as so many citizens before her have. With very little money spent, she self-published her book. And then came the hard part. Slowly but surely she integrated herself into the vast community of people who have a family member who has suffered at the hands of Alzheimer’s. And just as she suspected, they were hungry for what she had to offer. She knew something that traditional publishers didn’t. Her book sold lots and lots of copies. And then, it happened. The very people who had rejected her came calling. She got a seven-figure two-book deal!
Yes, with so many books being published, it gets harder and harder to get any attention whatsoever for a book, especially if you’re an unknown or new author. But at least we Citizen Authors all have choices now.
And isn’t that what America is all about?