The Book Doctors, aka, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, will be making a house call in Kansas City, at the Kansas City Public Library, with Rainy Day Books. They want YOU to pitch your book at their acclaimed event, Pitchapalooza, which was recently featured in The New York Times, and in a mini-documentary for Newsday. Pitchapalooza is like American Idol for books–only without the Simon. Writers get one minute to pitch their book ideas to an all-star panel of publishing experts, including Chris Schilling, responsible for over a dozen New York Times best-sellers as editorial director at Andrews McMeel, and ex-editorial director at HarperCollins and Publisher at G.P.Putnam’s Sons; John Mark Eberhart, former Books Editor, Kansas City Star; and Jeffrey Jennings, entertainment law attorney/bookseller extraordinaire at Rainy Date Books. The winner receives an introduction to an appropriate agent or publisher for his/her book. Plus, anyone who buys a book gets a free consultation worth $100.
Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years. 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. His last book appeared on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Together, they’ve helped dozens and dozens of talented amateur writers become published authors. They’ve appeared everywhere from NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today, and have taught publishing workshops everywhere from the Miami Book Fair to Stanford University. Find more at www.thebookdoctors.com.
WHAT: Pitchapalooza Comes to Kansas City
WHEN: Monday, February 28, 2001 at 6:30 PM
WHERE: Kansas City Public Library, Plaza Branch, Truman Forum
WITH WHOM: Chris Schilling, editorial director Andrews McMeel Publishing,, John Mark Eberhart, former Books Editor, Kansas City Star; Jeffrey Jennings, entertainment law attorney/bookseller extraordinaire at Rainy Date Books; the Book Doctors, and Kansas City writers rich and poor, of every age, race, creed and color.
BY Stacey Gill | Friday, Feb 11, 2011 12:00pm
People from all across Baristaville turned out last night for Montclair’s own David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut’s Pitchapalooza. Over 100 writers from Bloomfield to Verona packed the Montclair Public Library for Sterry and Eckstut’s final book idea pitching event, after traveling cross-country from Huntington, Long Island to Chico, California and back on their own book tour.
The Book Doctors, as they are known, just published The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, and along with it they are personally trying to help other writers get their own books published — one Pitchapalooza at a time.
Last night they helped one lucky winner, the youngest in Pitchapalooza history, on her way to publishing her novel. Zoe Schiff (pictured right) at only 15 years old had the best pitch of the night. This incredibly creative Montclair High School student told of her idea of a historical novel with a twist. In her book about the Revolutionary War the Americans do not win. This AP history student goes on to tell the tale through two young sisters caught in the aftermath of the Americans’ defeat.
With ideas ranging from a poetic memoir to a book told in pictures to reveal the autistic mind, Schiff had stiff competition. And she knew it. ”I’m shocked and grateful,” Schiff said after winning the contest.
Although there can only be one winner, for whom the Book Doctors vowed to “do everything in our power” to get published, Sterry and Eckstut’s desires were to help all aspiring authors achieve their dreams.
“Our goal is to get everyone here tonight to publish your book,” Sterry said. And to that end he noted with a smile, “This is the best panel we’ve ever had.”
Although I got the feeling he says to all the authors, the panel was impressive. It included Montclair’s Dominic Anfuso, VP & Editor-in-Chief of the Free Press/Simon & Schuster; the bestselling author/blogger and MEWS founder Pamela Redmond Satran, also of Montclair; and agent extraordinaire Liza Dawson of the Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency.
For those in the audience, Eckstut and Sterry dispensed plenty of helpful advice including their own travails in writing the pitch for their current book. “It took us six months to write, edit, and come up with the moves for that, and it’s 20 seconds!” Sterry admitted.
Another bit of Sterry wisdom was that the pitch should allow the agent to get a feel for your book through the voice and style. Sterry put it this way, “It’s like those t-shirts that say ‘Sexy’ on them. Let me be the judge of that.”
The pitch, then, should be a little snapshot of your book. Sterry stressed his point. “Don’t tell me it’s suspenseful. I want to sit on the edge of my seat.”
Eckstut agreed. “When you nail it in a minute, I feel like I read the book.”
Satran’s advice for writers was to give specific details in the pitch. “Agents and editors are inundated. Give them a sales handle where they can see it on the book shelf and next to which authors.”
All the panelists agreed and suggested authors come up with comparable titles to their own work. “There is a mania for categorization in the bookstore,” Sterry added.
Ultimately, people in the book business really want to hear writers’ stories, according to Anfuso. “Most of us get into this business to honor writers and books.”
If you are cursing yourself because you missed it, fear not, The Book Doctors are hosting a workshop next weekend in Baristaville:
How to get Published Successfully Workshop
What: A step-by-step, information-packed workshop that removes the smoke and mirrors from the publishing process, covering everything from coming up with a blockbuster title to finding an agent to building a following through social media.
Where: Montclair, NJ.
When: Saturday, February 19 from 1 pm to 4 pm.
Cost: For details and location call 310.463.2068 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 310.463.2068 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email email@example.com.
Photos by Margot Sage-EL
This workshop, developed at Stanford University, is a step-by-step, information-packed, interactive workshop that removes the smoke and mirrors from the publishing process. We cover all the publishing bases, large and small, including: choosing the right idea; coming up with a blockbuster title; crafting an attention-getting pitch; creating a sellable proposal; finding the best agent/publisher for you; developing sales, marketing, and publicity savvy; building a following through social media; and self-publishing effectively with ebooks, print-on-demand or traditional printing. This workshop is for fiction and nonfiction writers of every ilk. Here’s a unique opportunity to have your idea evaluated by industry professionals and get concrete suggestions on how to improve your chances of getting published. Dozens of workshop attendees have received book contracts from major and independent publishers.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are authors of The Essential Guide to Getting a Book Published, which Khaled Hosseini called “A must-have for every aspiring writer.” Arielle Eckstut is an Agent-at-Large for the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, the author of seven books, and the co-founder of LittleMissMatched, a lifestyle brand that she built into a $30 million company. David Henry Sterry is the author of twelve books, from memoir to sports to reference to YA fiction. His first book has been optioned by Showtime, his latest was on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and his writing has appeared everywhere from The San Francisco Chronicle to The London Times.
SATURDAY, FEB 19, 1-4pm, $99 St James Church (Parish Hall) 581 Valley Road Montclair, NJ
OK, all you scribblers, it’s time to come out of your attics.
Time to let those manuscripts see the light of day.
Think about how you’d summarize your book to an agent if you only had the chance.
Distill that description down to a minute.
Rehearse it with a friend, or in front of the mirror.
Go to the Montclair Public Library tonight, and deliver that pitch to the Book Doctors and their panel of judges at Pitchapalooza, a sort of literary “American Idol” but without the cruelty.
The Book Doctors, in private life called Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, are the authors of “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.”
A revised edition of the book was released in November 2010 and since then Eckstut and Sterry have been touring the country with Pitchapalooza. They’re wrapping up the tour in their hometown and invite Montclair writers to pitch their books tonight, Feb. 10, at 7, at the library, 50 South Fullerton Ave.
Three judges will evaluate 25 pitches: Dominick Anfuso, vice president and editor in chief at Free Press; Liza Dawson, owner of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency; and Pamela Redmond Satran, bestselling author of “How Not to Act Old” and many baby name books, and the founder of the Montclair Editors and Writers Society, of which Eckstut and Sterry are members.
Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years and is the author of seven books. Sterry has written 12 books, in a wide variety of genres including memoir, sports, young adult fiction and reference.
With anywhere from 100 to 300 people at each Pitchapalooza event, the Book Doctors must see a wide range of pitches. Do they ever feel they’re wasting time?
“No one knows what’s going to be a successful book,” Sterry said. “If anyone knew they’d make a billion dollars.”
Citing Michael Jordan having been cut from his high school basketball team, Sterry said it’s not his job to nip anyone’s dream in the bud. But he won’t hesitate to tell a writer, “Look, this is not professional caliber. You need to do A, B, C and D.”
And as an agent, “trained to say no to everything,” Eckstut pointed out that there are no barriers to getting published anymore.
“One of the first questions we ask,” she said, “is ‘What is your goal?’ If they say ‘I want to be published by Random House and get a six-figure advance…'”
The sentence hardly needed finishing.
But what surprises publishers, editors, and agents, Eckstut says, is how many people don’t want that.
“They just want a printed book in their hands, and don’t care how they get it: self-publish, e-book, print on demand.”
Self-publishing doesn’t have the stigma it had a decade ago, when self-published meant ugly and riddled with typos.
“We tell everybody, if you’re going to self-publish, hire an editor, hire a proofreader, hire a cover designer and a book designer, so it looks like it deserves to be on the shelves,” Sterry said.
Many authors who’ve been published by reputable houses are choosing to publish on their own because they already have a following, he said. “If you’ve got 20,000 people champing at the bit and they can press a button [to get your book], why would you need a publisher?”
Before Pitchapalooza, Eckstut and Sterry conducted workshops based on the 2005 edition of their book — titled, like the book, “Putting Your Passion into Print”— and have had what Eckstut called “some major success stories.”
“A winner in San Francisco from seven years ago has seven books out,” she said, “and Tim Ferriss of ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ took our workshops. Even from this tour, we’ve already hooked up a lot of our winners with agents, so they’re in the process right now.”
Everyone pitching a manuscript tonight will get one minute.
“This is what makes the event so dramatic,” said Sterry. “That clock starts ticking. When they get to 50 seconds, Arielle says, ’10 seconds.’ You can feel the room tightening up.”
For an unknown writer to get to pitch a book to established agents and publishers is a rare thing, so the Book Doctors want you to make the most of your minute tonight.
For writers who aren’t sure what a pitch is, Eckstut suggests reading the copy on the backs of books in your genre. Whether mystery, sci fi, children’s book, whatever you read (and write), “on the back of every book is a pitch.”
The Eckstut-Sterry family loves living in Montclair, to which they moved just after the birth of their daughter three and a half years ago. Eckstut recently completed a book project with her mother, an expert on color.
Sterry has just finished a novel, which he describes as “‘Catcher in the Rye’ meets Stephen King.”
That’s a very short pitch.
Contact Elizabeth Oguss at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a good book idea? Do what I did: Bring it to the Pitchapalooza By Neal Wiegman
Pitch your book idea:
A second Pitchapalooza sponsored by Lyon Books will take place at the 1078 Gallery on Tuesday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m. For writers who can’t make it then, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry (pictured) will be available to listen to pitches on Northstate ublic Radio’s call-in show “I-5 LIVE!” Monday, Jan. 17, at 8 p.m.
Three years ago I got the idea that I might have a book in me. It had been germinating for some time, but I hadn’t felt confident that I could do it. So when an opportunity came to pitch my idea—at what was called a Pitchapalooza—in front of a group that included a panel of judges who offered the possibility of being introduced to an agent, I decided to go for it.
That’s how, in November 2006, I found myself at Lyon Books, in downtown Chico, joining more than 30 wannabe authors standing before the microphone that afternoon. (A second Pitchapalooza is scheduled for Jan. 18; see the info box.)
That morning, in preparation for my one-minute pitch, I had written the first paragraph of what became a self-published historical novel, Walking the Way: A Medieval Quest.
When my turn came and I got up to face the crowd, I realized I was more nervous than I’d ever been in my life, although I’m used to speaking in front of groups. I think it was because of the time limitation. Fortunately, as I began, I was able to deal with my nervousness and steady my shaky voice by focusing on that first paragraph.
The panel of judges consisted of Susan Wooldridge, the Chico author of two best-selling books about writing, poemcrazy: freeing your life with words and Fool’s Gold: Making Something from Nothing and Freeing Your Creative Process; and the “Book Doctors,” Arielle Eckstut and her husband, David Henry Sterry, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.
Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years, and Sterry is the best-selling author of 13 books, the last of which appeared on the cover of The New York Times Book Review. They’ve appeared on National Public Radio many times and taught publishing at Stanford University. They’ve helped dozens of talented amateurs become professionally published authors.
Pitchapalooza participants, their time allowances strictly enforced by stopwatch, attempt to convince the experts that their idea is worth consideration by an agent. After each writer’s pitch, the judges critique everything from concept to potential in the marketplace. Aspiring authors come away with concrete advice on how to improve their pitches, as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry.
Even if a pitch was poorly written or presented, the three judges gave encouraging feedback. I was told that a selling point in my favor was the fact that my wife and I had actually walked the medieval pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain that the hero of my novel follows on his quest. (I described that walk in “The bones of Saint James,” a feature story in the Dec. 24, 2009, issue of the CN&R that was another outgrowth of the Pitchapalooza.)
Nancy Wiegman, my wife, also attended the November 2006 event and was so impressed with the number of writers in the Chico area that she was inspired to create a platform for their books through radio interviews. A few months later Nancy’s Bookshelf debuted on Northstate Public Radio. She has now interviewed more than 150 mostly local and regional authors for her show, which airs on KCHO, 91.7 FM, Fridays at 10 am.
Sterry eventually returned to Chico to be interviewed on Nancy’s Bookshelf about memoir writing and how he helps writers put their passion into print.
He described the Pitchapalooza, which he invented, as “kind of like an American Idol for books, where everybody gets one minute.” When Nancy commented that the judges’ evaluation of each pitch was always very kind, Sterry replied, “Well, there’s no Simon [Cowell]. Yes, I have to censor all the angry, bitter, cynical thoughts that come through my head.”
Sterry thinks it’s important that everyone pitching a book idea get encouraging words: “You don’t want to go in public and be humiliated. Many people have a dream of getting a book published, and who am I to say their dream shouldn’t come true?”
Eckstut and Sterry have done Pitchapaloozas all over the country for years. “What I’ve discovered is that at every single event there are at least five book ideas that someone pitches and you go, ‘Oh, my God, there is a great book just waiting to be born.’ And people don’t have the mechanism in place for even explaining what their book is. What’s one of the hardest things to do is to take a 300-page book and condense it down to be able to explain it in 25 seconds, 30 seconds. It’s really an art.”
Well Played, Sterry By Michael Leaverton
You’re a writer and you have one minute with Soft Skull Press executive editor Laura Mazer: How do you pitch your book? This isn’t a rhetorical question — you really do have one minute with Mazer. At Pitchapalooza, she’s sitting next to NaNoWriMo’s Chris Baty and self-described “book doctors” Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, the founders of the five-year-old event. To prepare, start speaking in public ASAP, because you’re pitching before a room of people. Try to compare your book to what’s already out there, but don’t say, “It’s like Foer got drunk with Godot at Twilight and started puking Seuss,” because we’re going to say that. There might be agents scattered around you in the audience, like at the Pitchapalooza in New York, so don’t mutter profanities and scribble on a matchbook when awaiting your turn — or, better yet, do exactly that. The winner gets “an introduction to an agent,” which is surely better than it sounds. The losers get the opportunity to buy Sterry and Eckstut’s book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully!, which comes with a “free consultation” worth $100. Of course, it should be clear that Pitchapoolza is, at its core, a drop-dead genius way for Sterry and Eckstut to market Essential Guide — they know their shit, to be sure. They’re the book doctors.
A family of four who traveled around the world together. A woman who overcame extreme pain by turning herself into an extreme athlete and did the Australian crawl from Alcatraz to San Francisco after learning to swim on the internet. A man with gray hair cascading down his back who dreamed up a young adult novel starring prairie dogs. What do these people have in common? They were among the 125 people who braved the Arctic cold snap, ice-slick roads, and chose to forego the most fascinating college football game this century to come to Tattered Cover in downtown Denver to pitch their books to us. And pitch they did. Wild West grief-triangle epics, elf-free fantasies, futuristic no-tech thrillers and high-tech romances. It was a very impressive collection of tales. And we were blessed with a great panelist, Tom Carney, who brought his decades of experience as a publisher’s sales rep to bear on the proceedings. Tom told the crowd that as a rep, he would have to go into a bookstore and pitch 300 books in an hour. 300 books. 1 hour. You do the math.
It was a warm, generous crowd, happy to get shelter from the storm in the warm bosom of one of the great bookstores in America. When I remarked on how enthusiastic and friendly they were, someone shouted out, “It’s the thin air!” This to us exemplified the enthusiastic yet self-deprecating good humor found throughout Mile High City. Our winner spun a beautiful pitch that was equal parts Nancy Drew, The Help and A River Runs through It. Take a second and try to and imagine how all those things could possibly fit together. Not only did she do it, she did it with style, comedy, and presence so powerful she had us all instantly in the palm of her hand.
Afterwards, we chatted and signed books. A man approached us carrying a pair of sneakers. The man explained that they were the shoes his son was wearing when he was killed at Columbine High School. A crushing, breathtaking sadness ran through us, heightened by the recent shooting in Tucson. This man is writing a book about how he helped change the gun laws in his state in the wake of his son’s death. An inspiring example of the incredible stories we hear at Pitchapaloozas, where Citizen Authors are trying to use books to help the world, and of the power of the word to heal.
Surprising side note: There is a large Ethiopian in Denver. We had two lovely cab drivers from this now-prospering African country (we got a history lesson in the taxi and this is what we learned) who also told us about all the amazing Ethiopian restaurants there. It just so happens that Olive’s favorite food is “E-thee-o-pinin”, as she calls it. She explained that she loved so much because the bread has no crust. Olive is 3. So we are very much looking to returning with her and feasting on some of this delectable cuisine.
We did have a fantastic meal at Rioja, a restaurant close to the Tattered Cover. Despite some sub-par front-of-house service, we ate some explosively flavorful food. David had a crazy tasty crab and celery root salad and a super succulent duck risotto. Arielle dined on a juicy beet and raspberry salad and seared tuna with smoked mushrooms in a red curry. We also had the good fortune to return to the Brown Palace hotel, which has an old-school high tea (one of David’s favorite things in life) complete with harp player who does a kick-ass version of Stairway to Heaven.
The Essential Guide Tour Pitchapalooza #18: Nirvana in Naperville–300 Writers Flock to Anderson’s for Pitchapalooza
Naperville? On a Thursday night? Seriously? That’s what we thought when our publisher told us our Chicago Pitchapalooza would be in a suburb 45 minutes and a world away from the Windy City. That’s kind of like doing your New York City event in Hohokus, New Jersey. We rolled our eyes. We shook our heads. We tutted.
OMG, were we wrong. When we showed up at 6:25 for our 7pm event, there were already 50 writers waiting, pregnant with their book ideas, expectant, hungry, make-my-dreams-come-true looks in their eyes. Turns out Anderson’s is a bookstore with a capital “B”. It is a destination. A hub of intelligent, fun, interesting events that people look out for. And a staff that is as knowledgeable and professional as you’ll find.
On arrival, we were whisked downstairs into what the employees affectionately call, “The Dungeon”. One of the fun things about doing events in bookstores is that you get to go where all the books are before they get put out onto the shelves. It’s like some strange beautiful alternative universe you imagine exists when you’re a kid who loves books and reads way too many of them.
Downstairs, we met with an 11-year-old writer who the Make-a-Wish Foundation people hooked us up with (we will be sharing more about her soon). She told us she wants to be published by a REAL publisher, no self-publishing for her, which made us laugh because many of the adult writers we meet don’t know the difference between the two. Her pitch was incredibly moving, and so accomplished for her age.
When we hustled back upstairs it was about five minutes ‘til eight.
Our flabbergasted eyes and jaws popped and dropped wide open. Every single chair was filled by a writer, or someone with deep affection for them. There were writers and their entourages 10 rows deep behind the chairs. Writers huddled and cramped in the aisles behind the rows of books on either side of the chairs. Writers hanging from the rafters. Over 300 writers and writer-lovers waiting, breath bated, for us to start listening to their pitches. On a Thursday night. In Naperville.
We were lucky enough to have assembled an absolutely fabulous panel to gently yet firmly critique all those book ideas: Dominique Raccah, founder, president and publisher of Sourcebooks; Joe Durepos, author, Executive Editor at Loyola Press and former book rep and literary agent; and Wendy McClure, senior editor at Albert Whitman & Company and author of the forthcoming The Wilder Life. It’s always shocking to us how generous book people are with their time and expertise. These are all top-notch pros, coming out to give writers their immense, invaluable wisdom. For FREE!
Suddenly it started, and the pitches were flying thick and fast. Paranormal apocalyptic novels, picture books with purple yawns, hard-boiled thrillers set in the high-stakes world of international finance, and about a dozen pitches with awkward outcast geek teens overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to save the world. In fact, about 75% of the pitches that night (and we heard 25 of them) were for children’s books.
Why, we found ourselves wondering, do so many adults want to write books for boys and girls? Arrested development? A nostalgic desire to return to that hormone-drenched time when your biggest worry were zits and heart-stopping crushes? A Back-to-the-Future yearning to correct the injustices of cruel adolescence? A boom in the YA business? Parents with kids reading children’s books and thinking: I can do that? We’re not sure, but the fact is, grown-ups are reading and writing kids books at an alarming rate.
A fascinating phenomenon: about half the people who were picked to pitch chose not to. Afterwards, a bunch of writers told us that when they saw a few pitches, they realized how ill-prepared and lame their stuff was. But everyone told us how much they learned just watching other writers pitch, and listening to what our cavalcade of publishing pundits had to say about them.
A few highlights:
• A young woman overcoming OCD who pitched a beautiful book about a kid who’s compelled to wash and re-wash his hands ad infinitum.
• “Hello My Name Is…”, a series of books written from the perspectives of kids from different eras, races and ethnicities to promote diversity. The author acted out one story in the character of 10-year-old daughter of a slave which was funny and sassy, even as it broke your heart.
• A dad who had lost two children writing on behalf of all fathers who had lived through the death of a child.
• The true story of a woman whose mom lived most of her life without knowing that her “sister” was actually her mother.
• Our winner, a schoolteacher who gave a bravura performance of her YA novel pitch full of tongue-twistingly hysterical characters and situations.
Here are a few nuggets from our most excellent panel.
• Joe Durepos told writers to think of publishing like a parking lot. You can’t park where there’s already a car. And you have to find a vacant spot in the place that’s nearest to the destination you want to be. In other words, you can’t sell a book that’s too much like something else. You have to find a hole in the market were your book fits nicely. But you also have to stay within the area.
• Dominique Raccah said that writers need to show her the particulars about what’s new, fresh, different and unique about their books.
• Wendy McClure, after listening to a writer’s story about a teen who has to become the sole caregiver to her younger sister, then save the world, told the writer that the pitch should be more about taking care of the kid sister. “I get stories every day about teenagers saving the world. Saving the world’s easy. Being the sole caretaker to your kid sister, that’s hard.”
It took us almost an hour to sign just some of the 171 books we sold that night. Becky Anderson, the boo-yeah owner of Anderson’s who made all this possible, said she’d never seen that kind of attendance for a reference book, which made us feel proud and that all the energy expended was well worth it.
We thanked our thoroughly awesome panel of judges, then, elated and exhausted, we staggered out into the frigid Midwestern night, reveling in our Naperville nirvana.