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Pitchapalooza - pitching your book

22 November 2010

A recent posting on Publishing Perspectives took the reader to their article on Pitchapalooza, written by authors David Henry Sterry and his wife Arielle Eckstut, the duo known as The Book Doctors. The Book Doctors invented 'Putting Your Passion Into Print', now known as Pitchapalooza.

This is an American Idol for books, where writers get one minute to pitch their books to a panel of book professionals. The panel then critiques their idea, evaluating everything from character to plot, presentation to marketing, title to comparative books, befriending booksellers to finding an agent.

These sessions have proved tremendously popular across the States, with keen audiences of writers who are dying to have the chance to pitch their book, especially to agents. In the past difficult few years, the opportunity to talk about your book to individual agents has not come up very often.

This continues to be a problem for writers, as the barriers to getting published are set very high. It's hard to get an agent's attention, let alone to get them to take you on, and most major publishers no longer read their slush-pile.

The reasons why agents are extremely cautious about who they take on are not hard to find. Essentially, agents will only make money out of their clients when they sell their work. It used to be possible for an agent to nurture an author over a period of years while they developed their writing talent. Then eventually they would hopefully move on to the big deal, the move to a new publisher, a change of genre or a new series, and the agent would get payback.

But with the market so uncertain it's a different story. The agent has to be prepared to invest their time and energy which, even if they're a small independent and have low overheads, will be their stock-in-trade, against a rather uncertain result, because publishers are really not buying many new authors at present.

Emboldened by the success of Pitchapalooza, the authors have written a book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, which they are selling from their site.

The Book doctors have six tips on how to perfect your pitch:

  1. A pitch is like a poem. Every word counts.
  2. It's always better to present specific images than make general, generic statements.
  3. Don't tell us it's funny, make us laugh. Don't tell us it's scary, scare us. Don't tell us it's lyrical, wow us with your poetry. It's like those people who wear T-shirts that say SEXY. Please, let us be the judge of that.
  4. Don't oversell. Claiming to have written the next Eat Pray Love or Harry Potter only makes a writer look like a deluded amateur.
  5. Never say that your book is like no book ever written. That book will never be published. Publishers want books that are familiar but unique.
  6. Develop an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a Hollywoodese shorthand way of describing your book, where X meets Y. For example, Jaws in Outer Space=Alien. Ann Rice meets Gossip Girl=The Twilight Series. The elevator pitch for our book is the What To Expect When You're Expecting of publishing. Yes, we borrow from a title in an entirely different section of the bookstore, but you know exactly what you're going to get from this elevator pitch.

So now all you need to do is to perfect your pitch and then find an agent to pitch to. Writers' conferences can be good times to do this and you may get your chance to pitch your book then. But if you don't have that opportunity, remember that your elevator pitch can be be the perfect thing to incorporate into your submission letter.

Publishing Perspectives on Pitchapalooza

The Book Doctors

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published