David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: how to get a book published

Pitch tip: Show How the Characters Change

Today’s pitch tip: I need to know how the characters change in the course of the story. What happens in your story and how do your characters develop?

That’s not to say we want to know everything. Time and again, we see amateur authors pitch by trying to tell the plot of their entire novel or memoir in excruciating detail. Here’s the kind of thing we’ve heard about a squazillion times: “My main character, Frodo Potter, gets up one morning and decides to have breakfast. So he invites his pet rat Bobo to eat an egg with him. But the egg is slightly runny, so they decide to cook it a little bit more….” This pitch, which we heard a few months ago, might still be going on if we hadn’t emphatically put an end to it. Broad strokes combined with specific imagery should display how exciting your characters and story are. Universal appeal should be implied via the mention of themes rather than an endless recitation of events. And, again, the pitch should be the amuse bouche that gives your audience a tiny, delightful taste of the delicacy that is your writing.

Once you’ve figured out the words, then you’ve got to practice your delivery. Rehearse on your own, then start pitching everybody, everywhere. The more often you pitch, the sooner you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Join The Book Doctors for Pitchapalooza and we’ll critique your pitch. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, we pick a winner who receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work.

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! 

More pitch tips

Pitch Tip: Stakes and Danger

Pitch Tip: Villains We Love to Hate 

Pitch Tip: Convince Me They’re Charming and Sexy

Pitch Tip: Word Pictures

Find more pitch tips at thebookdoctors.com and in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.  Watch this short cartoon to find out how NOT to pitch your book.

 

Pitch tip: Build your world through word pictures specific and sharp

Pitch Tip: Word Pictures

Pitch tip: Build your world through word pictures specific and sharp

A strong pitch helps writers successfully query literary agents.

Today’s pitch tip: Build your world through word pictures specific and sharp, not general and vague.

Your world building needs to be as vivid as your heroes and villains. We need you to show us this exotic world you’re taking us to with word pictures. That’s part of the joy of a book.

Your pitch is your audition to show us your skills as a prose stylist. Just telling us that it’s a rich backdrop doesn’t really let me know that you’re capable of weaving gorgeous word pictures that make your book come to life. For example, instead of telling me that your story is set in lush southern Louisiana, you have to show that landscape to me. Wow me with how beautifully you can portray this part of the world.

Make the pitch for your hardcore, authoritative business book hardcore and authoritative. Make your tear jerker jerk some tears. Make the pot boil on your potboiler.

Once you’ve figured out the words, then you’ve got to practice your delivery. Rehearse on your own, then start pitching everybody, everywhere. The more often you pitch, the sooner you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Join The Book Doctors for Pitchapalooza and we’ll critique your pitch. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, we pick a winner who receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work.

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! 

More pitch tips

Pitch Tip: Stakes and Danger

Pitch Tip: Villains We Love to Hate 

Pitch Tip: Convince Me They’re Charming and Sexy

Pitch Tip: Show How the Characters Change

Find more pitch tips at thebookdoctors.com and in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.  Watch this short cartoon to find out how NOT to pitch your book.

 

Pitch Tip: Convince Me They’re Charming and Sexy

Telling us that someone’s charming and sexy doesn’t convince me they’re charming and sexy. You have to paint vivid word pictures, just like you do for your villains.

Need examples on how to do that? Read flap copy and, particularly, the backs of paperbacks, where the whole kit and caboodle is limited to a paragraph or two, tops. You’ll see how concise those copywriters had to be, and how they managed to describe a book — and sell it — in only a few sentences. Online bookstores are great resources as well, and they have an added benefit: Because nearly every book is accompanied by flap or back cover copy, you can cut-and-paste phrases you like into a document and then use these phrases to craft your own pitch. Just be sure to study copy that represents the writing style of your book. (And don’t copy copy. There’s a word for that: plagiarism!)

Remember, once you’ve figured out the words, then you’ve got to practice your delivery. Rehearse on your own, then start pitching everybody, everywhere. The more often you pitch, the sooner you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Join The Book Doctors for Pitchapalooza and we’ll critique your pitch. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, we pick a winner who receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work.

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! 

More pitch tips

Pitch Tip: Stakes and Danger 

Pitch Tip: Villains We Love to Hate 

Pitch Tip: Word Pictures

Pitch Tip: Show How the Characters Change 

Find more pitch tips at thebookdoctors.com and in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Watch this short cartoon to find out how NOT to pitch your book.

Pitch Tip: Villains We Love to Hate

Give us a villain we love to hate. Show us someone unique and dastardly whom we can’t wait to hiss at. It would be great to give tiny little physical descriptors to your main characters. Show us that you’re capable of painting beautiful and realistic tableaux as you make your story world come to life.

Remember, once you’ve figured out the words, then you’ve got to practice your delivery. Rehearse on your own, then start pitching everybody, everywhere. The more often you pitch, the sooner you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Join The Book Doctors for Pitchapalooza and we’ll critique your pitch. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, we pick a winner who receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work.

Writer beware

Yes, we did use Lord Voldemort as an illustration, but your pitch must be selective about comparable titles and characters. Do not overpromise. Have you called your opus the next Eat, Pray, Love? An even better version of Harry Potter? Early Philip Roth with a dash of Jane Austen? If so, you’ve got trouble. Better to underpromise and overdeliver. As Daniel Greenberg of the The Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency says, “Anytime anyone compares himself to a big bestseller, it’s a big turnoff. While it’s not impossible that there’s a real comparison to be made, it raises my suspicion that the person is overhyping himself.”

Instead, construct a pitch that specifically explains how your book will speak to the audience of those über-authors: “What happens when the repressed male sexuality of Alexander Portnoy meets the strong-minded, spunky joie de vivre of Elizabeth Bennett? Watch the sparks fly in The Shiksa of Herefordshire, a new twist on the old battle of the sexes.”

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! 

More pitch tips

Pitch Tip: Stakes and Danger

Pitch Tip: Convince Me They’re Charming and Sexy

Pitch Tip: Word Pictures

Pitch Tip: Show How the Characters Change

Find more pitch tips at thebookdoctors.com and in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.  Watch this short cartoon to find out how NOT to pitch your book.

Show us stakes and danger pitch tip desert

Pitch Tip: Stakes and Danger

Show us stakes and danger pitch tip desert

Get an agent with a strong pitch

Show us stakes and danger on an immediate level and on a mega quest level.

Don’t underestimate the power of the pitch. Your pitch will be both the backbone and lifeblood of your book, from idea through (and past) publication. When you approach an agent, you will have to explain what your book is about. When your agent approaches an editor at a publishing house, she will have to explain what your book is about. When the editor presents your book at his editorial meeting, he will have to tell his editorial colleagues as well as his colleagues in publicity, marketing and sales what your book is about. And they will all be evaluating his pitch to determine whether or not to buy your book. If you’re lucky enough to sell your book, the sales force will go out to large retailers and small booksellers alike to pitch your book. And the publicity and marketing staff will be pitching your book to the media. If you get on the Today show and Matt Lauer asks what your book is about, you better have a very good answer.

There are two kinds of pitches:

  1. The elevator pitch, which is over by the time the elevator gets to the next floor
  2. Your long-form pitch

Never, ever, let your pitch go longer than a minute. Whenever pitches go longer than a minute, eyes start to glaze and boredom sets in. Hey, most people are willing to give you a minute, but often not a second longer.

Once you’ve figured out the words, then you’ve got to practice your delivery. Rehearse on your own, then start pitching everybody, everywhere. The more often you pitch, the sooner you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Join The Book Doctors for Pitchapalooza and we’ll critique your pitch. At the end of each Pitchapalooza, we pick a winner who receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their work.

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! 

More pitch tips

Pitch Tip: Villains We Love to Hate 

Pitch Tip: Convince Me They’re Charming and Sexy

Pitch Tip: Word Pictures

Pitch Tip: Show How the Characters Change

Find more pitch tips at thebookdoctors.com and in The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book PublishedWatch this short cartoon to find out how NOT to pitch your book.

 

How to Be a Successful Writer: Word Bookstore Owner Give the Inside Skinny

The Book Doctors first got to be friends with Word Bookstore when we did a Pitchapalooza (think American Idol for books) at their Brooklyn store a couple of years ago. It’s such a beautiful little Brooklyn exquisitely-curated indie that fits in perfectly with its neighborhood. Exactly the kind of bookstore alleged “publishing pundits” like to scream is dying. We had a great event, packed the place, everybody was super nice & we got a typically Brooklyn crowd of writers pitching literary urban angst novel, werewolf investment banker 1%er urban fantasy novel, and lots of picture books trying to be the next “Go the Fuck to Sleep”. When we found out they opened a bookstore in Jersey City, we were delighted. Not only did it fly in the face of prevailing “wisdom” that beautiful and exquisitely-curated can’t survive, it says they can actually expand! So on May 22, we’re doing a Pitchapalooza in Jersey City, to see what Jersey’s finest writers have to pitch. And we figured we’d take the opportunity to pick the brain of owner Christine Onorati, the woman who’s single handedly proving that the death of the bookstore, to paraphrase Mark Twain, is highly exaggerated.

chris onorati word both stores

The Book Doctors: First of all, why in God’s name did you want to get into the book business?

Christine Onorati: I majored in English in college with a focus on publishing. I worked in the publishing business for many years before opening my first bookstore, a small used and new shop on Long Island. My father owned stationery stores my whole life so I always thought retail was in my blood.

TBD: And why, in this economy, when everyone is crying about the death of the bookstore, did you choose to open yet another bookstore?

CO: We’ve been luckily successful with the model we’ve followed in Brooklyn and my family in Jersey City kept saying it was the perfect location for a new store. So when the location and opportunity presented itself, I decided to move forward. I obviously don’t believe that bookstores are dying or else I wouldn’t have done it.

TBD:  Why did you want to open a bookstore in Jersey City specifically?

CO: I always thought JC had a similar vibe to Greenpoint when I moved there over 8 years ago. The feeling of community is strong and the residents seemed hungry for a store like ours. The time seemed right. And again, when the location presented itself, it seemed like the right move.

TBD:  What have you learned about bookselling in Brooklyn that you’re applying to opening your new store?

CO: Our model is basically the same. Make customers happy. Provide excellent customer service. Employ really smart, helpful booksellers. Be a place that book lovers can get together and feel comfortable and happy. Present great author events. Never judge a customer for their reading tastes.

TBD:  How do you choose which books to sell in your bookstore, and which books to feature?

CO: I do all the buying for both stores. I try to always bring in a mix of what I know our customers will like and recognize as well as some surprises that they can discover. It takes time to learn the tastes of the neighborhood but it’s a fun learning experience.

TBD:  Does it gall you when someone comes into your store and gets a lot of you or your staff’s expertise, then says they can get the book cheaper on Amazon, and goes home and orders it online?

CO: This happens very rarely in our stores, thankfully. I think most customers are a bit too savvy to act this callously. But I know it happens elsewhere. And we can’t stop it from happening online, if someone gets our newsletter and decides to order from Amazon instead. While we always focus on the positives and what we can provide as opposed to what we can’t, we’re always ready and willing to have the Amazon conversation with customers if need be. They need to know we can’t compete with Amazon’s prices and probably never will. But stores like mine are not solely about price, and I think most of our customers get that. Both stores gave us a really positive reception when we opened, and we’re still getting it in JC.

TBD:  Do you see anything commonality in successful authors?

CO: I think authors need to hustle more than ever these days. A smart social media presence can go a long way with building loyalty and keeping customers connected to their favorite authors.

TBD:  What advice do you have for booksellers?

CO: I think the days of throwing books on the shelves and hoping they sell are done. We need smart, energetic booksellers who can provide a service that people can’t get online from an algorithm. Pretension or a judgmental attitude have no place in bookselling these days, I think.

TBD: What advice you have for writers?

CO: Connect with readers. Use your publisher’s resources to your best advantage. Build your brand. Keep writing good books that people will want to read.

Christine Onorati is the owner of <a href=”http://wordbookstores.com/ bookstores ” target=”_hplink”>WORD</a> with two locations in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City, NJ. Before opening WORD in Brooklyn in 2007, Christine ran a small new and used bookshop on Long Island after working several years behind the scenes in book publishing. The Jersey City location opened in December of 2013. Christine lives in Montclair, NJ with her husband and son and is expecting twin girls this summer.

The Book Doctors: First of all, why in God’s name did you want to get into the book business?

 

Christine Onorati: I majored in English in college with a focus on publishing. I worked in the publishing business for many years before opening my first bookstore, a small used and new shop on Long Island. My father owned stationery stores my whole life so I always thought retail was in my blood.

 

TBD: And why, in this economy, when everyone is crying about the death of the bookstore, did you choose to open yet another bookstore?

 

CO: We’ve been luckily successful with the model we’ve followed in Brooklyn and my family in Jersey City kept saying it was the perfect location for a new store. So when the location and opportunity presented itself, I decided to move forward. I obviously don’t believe that bookstores are dying or else I wouldn’t have done it.

 

TBD:  Why did you want to open a bookstore in Jersey City specifically?

 

CO: I always thought JC had a similar vibe to Greenpoint when I moved there over 8 years ago. The feeling of community is strong and the residents seemed hungry for a store like ours. The time seemed right. And again, when the location presented itself, it seemed like the right move.

 

TBD:  What have you learned about bookselling in Brooklyn that you’re applying to opening your new store?

 

CO: Our model is basically the same. Make customers happy. Provide excellent customer service. Employ really smart, helpful booksellers. Be a place that book lovers can get together and feel comfortable and happy. Present great author events. Never judge a customer for their reading tastes.

 

TBD:  How do you choose which books to sell in your bookstore, and which books to feature?

 

CO: I do all the buying for both stores. I try to always bring in a mix of what I know our customers will like and recognize as well as some surprises that they can discover. It takes time to learn the tastes of the neighborhood but it’s a fun learning experience.

 

TBD:  Does it gall you when someone comes into your store and gets a lot of you or your staff’s expertise, then says they can get the book cheaper on Amazon, and goes home and orders it online?

 

CO: This happens very rarely in our stores, thankfully. I think most customers are a bit too savvy to act this callously. But I know it happens elsewhere. And we can’t stop it from happening online, if someone gets our newsletter and decides to order from Amazon instead. While we always focus on the positives and what we can provide as opposed to what we can’t, we’re always ready and willing to have the Amazon conversation with customers if need be. They need to know we can’t compete with Amazon’s prices and probably never will. But stores like mine are not solely about price, and I think most of our customers get that. Both stores gave us a really positive reception when we opened, and we’re still getting it in JC.

 

TBD:  Do you see anything commonality in successful authors?

 

CO: I think authors need to hustle more than ever these days. A smart social media presence can go a long way with building loyalty and keeping customers connected to their favorite authors.

 

TBD:  What advice do you have for booksellers?

 

CO: I think the days of throwing books on the shelves and hoping they sell are done. We need smart, energetic booksellers who can provide a service that people can’t get online from an algorithm. Pretension or a judgmental attitude have no place in bookselling these days, I think.

 

TBD: What advice you have for writers?

 

CO: Connect with readers. Use your publisher’s resources to your best advantage. Build your brand. Keep writing good books that people will want to read.

Christine Onorati is the owner of WORD bookstores with two locations in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City, NJ. Before opening WORD in Brooklyn in 2007, Christine ran a small new and used bookshop on Long Island after working several years behind the scenes in book publishing. The Jersey City location opened in December of 2013. Christine lives in Montclair, NJ with her husband and son and is expecting twin girls this summer.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 20 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of eight books and co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 16 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. His books been translated into 10 languages, and he’s been featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today. Twitter: @thebookdoctors <

 

PITCHAPALOOZA WORD JERSEY CITY May 22, 7PM

PITCHAPALOOZA WORD JERSEY CITY May 22, 7 PM

Read coverage of PITCHAPALOOZA WORD JERSEY CITY in The Digest Online

 anderson's pitchapalooza

WHAT:   Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder and gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute!  Many writers have gone from talented amateurs to professionally published authors as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza, including Genn Albin, our KC winner who got a 3-book mid-six figure deal with Farrar Straus & Giroux.

WHO: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. 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. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.
HOW: At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for one and all. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.

PRIZE: At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book.

PRICE OF ADMISSION: To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who buys a copy of receives a FREE 20 minute consultation, a $100 value. If you don’t want to pitch, the event is FREE.

WHEN: May 22 7 PM

WHERE: Word Jersey City 123 Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07302 · 201-763-6611

New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/3tkp4gl.

Pitchapalooza on Kansas City Public Radio: http://bit.ly/eBlMUy

Pitchapalooza video trailer: bit.ly/mVj4uA
Pitchapalooza mini movie: http://tinyurl.com/3jr8zte.

Pitchapalooza on NBC: http://www.thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-on-nbc-television

Here’s what people are saying about Pitchapaloza: 

“We came to Pitchapalooza with an idea and six months later we got a book deal with a prominent publisher. We simply couldn’t have done this without this opportunity and without David and Arielle. We had been working on this project for several years, on our own, and struggling without any guidance. We were really discouraged by the entire process. Winning Pitchapalooza, and working with these two, really helped us focus and renew our enthusiasm in the project. And now we’re going to be published authors!”—Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu, Pitchapalooza winners Litquke, San Francisco, Oct. 2010

Here’s what people are saying about The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published:

“I started with nothing but an idea, and then I bought this book. Soon I had an A-list agent, a near six-figure advance, and multiple TV deals in the works. Buy it and memorize it. This little tome is the quiet secret of rockstar authors.”—New York Times best-selling author Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich,

 

 

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