Maybe you’ve heard word of the Book Doctors and their Pitchapalooza. Maybe you’ve had the joy of seeing it live yourself at past James River Writers Conferences. The concept of presenting your elevator pitch to a panel of book marketing experts in front of a live audience might sound intimidating, but once you know Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, co-founders of The Book Doctors, you can see how educational and entertaining the experience can be.
Recently, local author and JRW board member Erica Orloff had the chance to chat with Arielle and David. Here’s a sneak peak of their conversation:
Question 1: For newbie conference attendees, what do you think should be the “plan of attack” when attending a writing conference?
The primary reason to come to JRW is to learn and to connect with other writers, not to self-promote. A lot of people come to do the latter and they turn their fellow attendees and agents/editors off. That said, come with your pitch for your book down pat (both a one sentence and one minute version) so that if you’re asked about it, you are comfortable talking about it. Talk to as many people as you can. If you get some time with a professional, ask them about themselves and what advice they have. If you sign up for one-on-one sessions, make sure to do your research beforehand. For one, you want to be sure you’ve signed up with someone who represents books like yours. And two, it’s nice to show an agent you’ve done your homework.
Question 2: We at JRW were thrilled to see David tout the conference at Huffington Post as one of the best in the country. What do you think makes the conference special? Are conferences important?
You guys manage to put together the friendliest and most democratic conference we’ve seen. Our theory is that because it’s a conference put on by writers for writers (as opposed to an institution), the feel is different. Conferences like yours are very important because the information is invaluable as are the connections you make.
Question 3: I’ve had the pleasure of being an audience member for Pitchapalooza JRW, two years ago. The energy and excitement in the room was palpable. But for people who haven’t witnessed it, tell us a little bit about it.
We often say it’s like American Idol for books. However, we are never cruel or demeaning to anyone who has the guts to stand up. Our rule is that we’re there to make your pitch better no matter where you are in the process.
Question 4: What do you think are the top-three mistakes writers make when pitching to an agent or editor?
1) They don’t know what category their book belongs in, 2) they don’t know what the agent they’re pitching to represents, 3) they haven’t studied how pitches are written
Question 5: There’s no denying the book world is a whole different animal with the advent of independent publishing. It’s a vast topic, but as The Book Doctors, what are some of the ways in which your focus has changed—or not—as the publishing industry has changed in very recent times?
The biggest change is that self-publishing is no longer a last ditch option. It’s part of the discussion from moment one.
Question 6: What intrigues you about a pitch or project? What do you look for?
We look for someone who knows their category, understands who their audience is, has a unique voice, is particularly qualified to write the book they’re writing, has done their homework.
Question 7: OK, so you’re married—what books do each of you have on your nightstand right now? Favorite recent reads?
Arielle is reading Can You Forgive Her? By Anthony Trollope. David is reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.
Don’t miss your chance to take part in Pitchapalooza at the 2013 James River Writers Conference!
Join us October 19-20 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center to pitch your project, improve your craft, and meet fellow writers. Speakers will also include award-winning book designer and author Chip Kidd, National Book Award-winner Kathryn Erskine, best-selling and award-winning author Christopher McDougall, award-winning authors Cece Bell, Lydia Netzer, Megan Mayhew Bergman, and Philippa Ballantine, and agents April Eberhardt, Deborah Grosvenor, Beth Phelan, Victoria Skurnick, and Paige Wheeler.