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Hamptons Life

Pitchapalooza: An Opportunity To Get Published

Publication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press
By Dawn Watson   May 29, 2012 9:25 AM
May 29, 2012 9:52 AM

It has been said that everyone has at least one good story in them. The question is, does everyone know how to tell that story?

Enter “The Book Doctors,” Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, authors of “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” and the married twosome behind “Pitchapalooza!,” an event designed to avail everyone of the opportunity to tell their stories. The Pitchapalooza! event, hosted by Books & Books in Westhampton Beach, will be held at the Westhampton Free Library on Saturday, June 2, at 4 p.m.

At the event, Mr. Sterry and Ms. Eckstut will randomly choose 20 participants, who will then be given 60 seconds to pitch their book idea. Those who choose to tell their stories will receive critiques from the couple and a guest panelist or two. At the end of Pitchapalooza!, one winning writer will be chosen to meet with a literary agent.

Anybody can come to Pitchapalooza! and tell their story, Ms. Eckstut and Mr. Sterry said, adding that during their years of putting together writing forums, they have heard from published authors, unpublished wannabes and even people who just have an idea for a book. The premise is for future authors to begin to tell their stories and to get feedback.

“There’s no pre-qualification. You can still have an idea and no book yet and you can still win; though novels will have to be finished before the introduction,” Ms. Eckstut said. “There is no time limit on our offer.”

Many writers tend to get shy about their work, particularly if it’s just in the idea stage, Ms. Eckstut, a former literary agent and now an agent-at-large at Manhattan-based Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, added. She said that her best piece of advice for those who want to sell a book is to tell the world about it.

“When we give a workshop on how to get published, that’s one of the first things we bring up,” she said. “Our whole thing is that it is so hard to get a book published and to get readers to read your book. Staying secretive means the book will just stay in a drawer hidden away. We take the complete opposite tack. Tell every single person you know about the book.”

Mr. Sterry, the author of eight books, said he agreed wholeheartedly with his wife’s advice. It’s no surprise he would, as his telling a friend about a book idea he had is what led him to her—first as a literary agent and later on as a love interest and romantic partner.

“That’s how I got my first literary agent, I told everybody I know,” the former actor said. “I told my commercial acting agent, who introduced me to Arielle. We ended up seeing each other secretly on the sly ...”

The first book the two, who have been married for 10 years, worked on together was about Mr. Sterry’s childhood idol, the baseball player Satchel Paige.

“She came out to my apartment in Venice Beach, California. She saw the a big poster of Satchel Paige on the wall and asked about him,” Mr. Sterry recalled. “I said he was kind of like Mark Twain, Tiger Woods and Richard Pryor rolled into one. We ended up writing a wit-and-wisdom-type book about Satchel Paige; it was so much fun to do. We found out that we just loved working together.”

Mr. Sterry said that the reason he and Ms. Eckstut work so well together, whether on a new book or helping other writers to get published, is that he comes to each endeavor as a writer and she brings her experience as an agent.

“We have different skill sets,” he said. “Arielle is very meticulous. I am not. She is fantastic at research. I am not. I’m very good at starting things. She’s very good at finishing them.”

“David’s very creative,” Ms. Eckstut said of her husband. “He’s got real talent.”

Not all authors, or even agents, are interested in nurturing new talent. But helping others and using a “model of generosity” is important to the couple, they said.

“One day a week I do consultations with writers all over the world, Mr. Sterry said. “We get to know this gigantic pool of authors and help them—that’s what our business is. The publishing business has changed; since you and I started this conversation 20 minutes ago it’s changed. It’s the Wild West out there.”

Ms. Eckstut added, “The thing that we want people to know is that it doesn’t matter who or where you are, we’re here to help you get better. If you’re putting it out there then we’re going to tell you how to get to the next step,” she said. “Someone once told us that we give the most human treatment to unpublished writers, which meant a lot. We’re there to help, not there to humiliate you. That’s not how we do things.”

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