Aspiring authors get the chance to tell their story at ‘Pitchapalooza’
Do you have what it takes to be the next James Durbin of the literary world? In what has been touted as the American Idol for aspiring authors, book doctors Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are bringing their acclaimed “Pitchapalooza” event to Bookshop Santa Cruz on Thursday, July 28.
The event should go something like this: Twenty-five would-be authors will be picked at random to pitch their story ideas to a panel of publishing industry insiders. Each contestant will have one minute to take to the stage and start talking. Once the idea has been pitched and the minute is up, the judges will critique everything from the idea itself to the writer’s pitching style and the marketability of the potential book. At the end of Pitchapalooza, judges will convene to pick a winner—who will receive a half-hour consultation with Eckstut and Sterry on how to turn his or her idea into a published manuscript.
Even though there will only be one official winner at the event, everyone who attends should leave with something, whether it’s sound advice on the ins and out of the publishing industry, inspiration for writing the book they’ve always dreamed of, or simply the pure entertainment of watching this reality TV-style evening of friendly competition.
If anyone should be able to judge who has what it takes to be a celebrity writer it’s Eckstut and Sterry. Co-authors of “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published,” they have helped numerous people find their voices in print through workshops they’ve run around the country as well as through their book (originally published as “Putting Your Passion Into Print”).
Eckstut is a literary agent for the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, while Sterry is a professional “book doctor” and editor. The couple helped to launch Timothy Ferriss, best-selling author of “The 4-Hour Work Week,” who attended one of their publishing workshops. Ferriss lauds “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” as “the quiet secret of rock star authors.”
Pitchapalooza events have produced three winners who have subsequently secured book deals with publishing houses: One winner was a San Francisco Bay Area resident, writing an anthology of stories about the dating experiences of Muslim-American women, one was an author from Kansas City who received a three-book deal for her paranormal young adult fiction and the other was the author of “The Elements of Style for Fruit Trees,” a book that includes everything you ever wanted to know about these botanical beings.
Sterry says the significance of this event for would-be authors looking to be published is this: It’s all about the pitch. “When I’m writing a book, the first thing I try to do is figure out how to get the pitch right. If the editor or agent don’t fall in love with you within 60 seconds of reading your pitch, you’re in the trash. However, if you write a great pitch and that editor falls in love, you may get a book.”
So the idea is that even if you don’t walk away from Pitchapalooza as a winner, you will still get closer to your dreams of being an author by learning how to pitch your book in a way that will capture the attention of agents and editors.
“In Santa Cruz I imagine we’ll get macrobiotic cookbooks, murder mysteries involving dope dealers and cool stories about the ocean,” muses Sterry. “I’ll be shocked if we don’t get a book deal out of Santa Cruz.”
So what does it take to make a winning pitch? Sterry says it’s a finesse of specific details that evoke pictorial images in the mind balanced with an overarching sense of the story. In other words, a great pitch tells a few select details that combine the macro- and micro-world in an artful way.
He also recommends that Pitchapalooza contestants follow the old writer’s adage, “Show, don’t tell.”
“People often say ‘my book is funny’ or ‘suspenseful’ or ‘lyrically poetic,’” laments the book doctor. “It’s like when someone wears a T-shirt that says ‘sexy’ on it—let me be the judge of that.
“I don’t want someone to tell me how funny their book is; I want them to make me laugh. I don’t want someone to tell me how suspenseful their book is; I want them to put me on the edge of my seat. I don’t want someone to tell me how lyrical their book is; I want them to wow me with their prose.”
“Pitchapalooza” will take place at Bookshop Santa Cruz at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. For more information, call 423-0900.