Pitchapalooza Back in 2015

The Book Doctors present at 2014 Festival.

By Anna Wempe

Even though it’s early in the planning process for the 2015 South Dakota Festival of Books, we already know it is going to be a success, if for no other reason than that the Book Doctors are coming back and bringing Pitchapalooza with them!

Pitchapalooza 2014 was wildly popular in Sioux Falls, as nearly 80 aspiring authors gathered to vie for the chance to pitch book ideas to David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut, aka the “Book Doctors.” The winner, Jennifer Strange, was awarded a meeting with an agent for her book, which is tentatively titled The Bakken Breaks. Strange is writing a non-fiction account of “an award-winning investigative journalist plunked in the middle of North Dakota’s unprecedented and technologically advanced oil boom.”

Because of Pitchapalooza’s popularity, we at the South Dakota Humanities Council have decided to bring the Book Doctors back! As they did during the 2014 Festival, hopeful writers will pitch book ideas in Deadwood next September to get advice and potentially win the prize of a meeting with an appropriate agent or publisher!

To celebrate the announcement of their return, we interviewed David Henry Sterry about the Book Doctors’ first trip to the South Dakota Festival of Books, and what they are expecting in the wild west of Deadwood in 2015.

South Dakota presented a different experience for the Book Doctors in comparison to other locales they’ve visited, according to Sterry.

“People are so friendly, more than almost any other place in the United States,” he said, chuckling. “I’m from New York, New Jersey, and it takes me awhile to get used to it. We were on an elevator and some ladies got on. They started talking to us and asking us if we were enjoying the Festival and I’m backing away thinking, ‘What do you want? Are you selling something?’ When we get off, Arielle asks, ‘What’s wrong with you? They were being nice!’ And I was like, ‘Oh, is that what was going on?’ It’s hard to get used to.”

Amazing Pitches, Amazing People

It’s not just the friendly people, “amazing pitches,” “amazing people and amazing writers,” that the Book Doctors are eagerly anticipating. They’re also anxious to see the other side of South Dakota. “[W]e’re so honored to be invited next year. We’re super excited to be in the Black Hills next year as well, and see it through the eyes of our daughter and just be able to expose her to that culture,” Sterry explained.

The culture of South Dakota is not just a tourist attraction for them, however. The Book Doctors want to change things for the people of South Dakota, especially the “East coast-centric” world of publishing. “There’s a kind of disdain for the fly-over states and we’re trying to change that,” Sterry said. “There are so many people who are just lacking one contact to an agent or publisher and they can just explode. We’re able to connect and change lives. And that passion gets book deals.”

If you’re coming to Pitchapalooza, book in hand and a pitch on your lips, Sterry offers some advice. “One: have great comparison titles – no Harry Potter or the Hunger Games or Eat Pray Love. Make us fall in love with the hero. Make sure the pitch represents the book and the voice of the book, not like a book report. Show, don’t tell. Don’t tell me you’re funny; make me laugh. Don’t tell me it’s sad; make my heart break. Don’t tell me it’s exciting; make me sit on the edge of my seat.”

So mark your calendars, bring your best pitch, and buckle in for both hilarity and sage advice at Pitchapalooza 2015 during the 13th Annual South Dakota Festival of Books September 24-27, 2015. (Pitchapalooza event date and time to be announced).

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