The Essential Guide Rocks America Tour Pitchapalooza #3: 1st Stop DC–Well, Almost DC

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.