How Do You Win Pitchapalooza?

"The Book Doctors" listen to a pitch at Pitchapalooza 2014.

“The Book Doctors” listen to a pitch at Pitchapalooza 2014.

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By Anna Wempe

With the announcement of the return of The Book Doctors to the 2015 South Dakota Festival of Books, questions must be asked. What is pitching for The Book Doctors like? What is helpful about it? How can I work on my pitch? Or even, who are The Book Doctors and why should I even care about them? To answer all these questions and more, I asked someone with the inside scoop, 2014 Pitchapalooza winner Jennifer Strange.

Strange won the 2014 South Dakota Festival of Books event in Sioux Falls with her pitch for The Bakken Breaks, which Strange describes as a “book of reportage by an award-winning investigative journalist plunked in the middle of North Dakota’s unprecedented and technologically advanced oil boom.”

The book, said Strange, will “capture the conflicts, dangers and moral dilemmas of living in the third-highest oil producing county of southwestern North Dakota.”

Each person who purchased Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry’s book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published and pitched during the Sioux Falls event received a free, 20-minute consultation from “The Book Doctors.” As Pitchapalooza winner, Strange will be introduced to a literary agent by Sterry and Eckstut. She is currently finishing her book proposal, which she will review and revise with The Book Doctors.

A Subject of the Moment

Strange believes her established professional credentials as a former newspaper editor and investigative journalist were a major factor in her ability to prove herself to The Book Doctors, as was presenting a pitch regarding a “subject of the moment.”

Strange’s subject is indeed in the moment, as the oil boom in North Dakota remains a hot topic across the United States.

“Every day here in the Bakken informs my project,” she said. “A local tells me a story about ‘how it used to be,’ an oil man spills some astonishing projections, a state regulator drops a shocking statistic. This story is unfolding right in front of us and it’s one that needs to be recorded.”

While important, the timeliness of her book wasn’t the only factor in Strange’s victory. She shared some additional tips on how next year’s pitchers might sway the Book Doctors as the event heads to Deadwood.

“Make sure your pitch includes every necessary element: That it establishes your credibility as the best author of this book; that it explains in a single sentence why this book must be written; that it includes several compelling details that grab the listener and don’t let go; that it includes two or three “comp” titles; that it contains several taglines (phrases that can pulled out and used by you/an agent/a marketer for promotional purposes); and that it all be written in an unforgettable voice. Once that’s all in place, practice till you own the thing!”

The Prize – Working with The Book Doctors

Jennifer wrote her book, pitched her pitch, and won the prize – an introduction by The Book Doctors to an appropriate literary agent, which is sure to assist her as she moves forward with her literary journey.

“Working with The Book Doctors–and knowing they are out there rooting for me–is a light in the literary darkness. Their guidance is sure to help lead my work down the right path professionally. I cannot stress enough the usefulness of their book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Every chapter is an education.”

The joy of winning, however, is not the only joy of Pitchapalooza. For Strange, the whole experience of the South Dakota Festival of Books, Pitchapalooza, and pitching for The Book Doctors was unforgettable. “Big thanks go out to the South Dakota Humanities Council and every other agency that helped produce and promote the wonderful 12th annual South Dakota Festival of Books… Everything about the event was professional, entertaining, educational and inspiring.”

The Book Doctors advise aspiring writers during a session at the 2014 South Dakota Festival of Books.

The Book Doctors advise aspiring writers during a session at the 2014 South Dakota Festival of Books.

She also had high praise for fellow pitchers and The Book Doctors. “[A] rousing round of applause to all the writers for their top-notch pitches! What an astonishing range of genres and creativity, all right here on the Great Plains. David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut, aka ‘The Book Doctors,’ certainly know their way around the publishing industry. Not just anyone can carry off a contest like Pitchapalooza — where a potent mix of adrenaline and creative skill rule the day — with such humor, spirit, grace and generosity. They are a pleasure to work with and a true pleasure to know on just a human level — a really funny, down-to-earth and delightfully irreverent couple.”

Whether you want to pitch, listen, or get up your courage to take your shot at the prize, make sure you join The Book Doctors and many more at the 2015 South Dakota Festival of Books, Sept. 24-27 in Deadwood!

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