Book Doctors host American Idol of the book world
These days, anyone can get published. All you have to do is put your book up for sale online, and, presto! Run off and tell your mom: “Mom, Mom, I'm on the internet!” But being successful as a writer? Teachers may tell you to “try, try, try” but if professional author ever comes up, they'll probably tell you, “Please, don't try that.”
But Arielle Eskstut and David Henry Sterry wrote The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It … Successfully, not How to Write it, and Market it ... Unsuccessfully (which probably wouldn't have been a very successful book). They are the so-called book doctors. They believe publishing is possible, with a good pitch. Hence Pitchapalooza, an event held at San Francisco's Rockit Room last Sunday where writers have one minute to say their idea for a book. It's American Idol, for the literary set.
Before the event, book doctor Eskstut said, “I expect all kinds of pitches, from crazy fantasy novels to probably some spirituality. Maybe even some gardening! You never know. Looks like we've got some hipsters here. A lady with a visor. This is a very wide array of people, all of whom have books inside of them.”
In the front of a line of 60, writer Torres Blanca said, “I'm here to pitch a memoir I started in grad school.” She added, “I'm going to get up there and forget everything I wanted to say.”
Another pitch concerned a tale of sex, drugs, and rock and roll set in Australia. Doctor Sterry said, “It's kind of interesting, but only because it's set in Australia.”
One pitch began, “I know you wouldn't know it, but I'm public enemy number one. I'm a teacher of public education. My book is called Not That Anyone Asked: Teachers Speak Out About Public Education Policy.”
And another was a memoir about a forensic psychologist in charge of determining which child molesters go to mental institutions and which go to prison. Then there’s the one about a teenager who wants to be a cowboy but settles for gangland instead. The hopeful author asked the book doctors, “With fresh blood on his hands, will he finally become a cowboy?”
There's a pitch about the evolution of robotic animals. The star of this book is “basically half roach, half-rat.” As the pitcher explained, “It’s about friendship.” But before he could explain how, the judges said, “Time’s up.”
Repeated advice from the judges included: “Make a youtube video.” And also, “Please don't use the word ‘journey.’”
Lisa Grey had a particularly striking pitch which began when she started playing “Miss Mary Mac” on the stage. Now, that might seem a bit odd, except that she is one good Miss Mary Mac Player and her actions mimic the characters in her proposed historical fiction. In her pitch, three young girls in Georgia have their childhood interrupted when they are arrested and held captive in an abandoned peach orchard for three days.
She won. She screamed. And she said, “It was nerve wrecking. It was exciting. It was overwhelming. And all of that. Times 100. I'm very pleased. I mean, how could I not be? I won! It's a great feeling, especially since I've been working on this for three years.”
Her prize is a free consultation from the book doctors, and another chance to meet with more publishers. And she’s not the only one who will potentially have her dreams come true. This Saturday, the book doctors will be at Stanford University.