In the book business, an unpublished author is lucky to get one minute of a publisher’s time.
This was the stark reality self-proclaimed “Book Doctors” and literary duo David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut introduced to the room of hopeful writers at The College of Saint Rose in Albany on Sunday afternoon.
Sterry and Eckstut have authored 19 books between them and boast decades of combined literary experience. The two tour the country putting on Pitchapalooza events, giving 20 unpublished authors one minute each to pitch their book idea.
“You get exactly one minute,” Sterry said in his introduction. “We’ll cut you off mid-syllable, but we’ll critique your pitch in a kind and gentle way.”
The hope is that if authors get instruction on how to present their work to agents and publishers, they will have better luck getting their books to print.
“Your pitch needs to be a grabber,” Sterry said. “You need to make me fall in love if I’m going to commit 20 hours of my life to reading your book.”
As a demonstration, the two pitched their own book, “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published,” in unison, in only 19 seconds, a feat they claim took them six months to coordinate.
Pitches from the gathered writers ranged from vampire-based science fiction to memoir, medical self-help and literary fiction.
When the stopwatch on Eckstut’s smartphone brought each minute to a close, the Book Doctors, along with their two guest panelists, Len Barot, president of Bold Strokes Books, and writer/editor N. Apythia Morges, both of Albany, gave helpful advice.
Many of the tips were some version of the old literary adage — show, don’t tell — which turns out to be as true when pitching a book as when writing it.
“Don’t tell me your book is funny,” Sterry said. “Make me laugh. Don’t tell me it’s exciting. Make my heart race. It’s like one of those T-shirts that say, ‘sexy’ on them. Let me be the judge of that.”
But the Pitchapalooza events are not just about refining the process of pitching books. Out of each group, the panel chooses one writer whose pitch and story idea rises above the rest, and puts that person in contact with a literary agent or an appropriate publishing house. The duo’s matchmaking process has led to great things.
The winner of Sunday’s event was Annalaura Chuang of Albany, pitching the story of a mother in a legal battle for her abducted child.
“It’s a story that has been in the back of my mind for a few years,” Chuang said. “Then my husband saw this listing in the paper and said, ‘You should do that.’ ”
Chuang is a stay-at-home mother of two with a college background in creative writing. She recently rediscovered writing after her youngest child, John-luke, 5, left for preschool.
“They’re gone during the day,” she said, “but I still have to pick them up at 3, so a job isn’t practical yet. So I thought, this is my time to write.”
Sterry plans to get Chuang in touch with Algonquin Press, which specializes in literary fiction with commercial potential.
“There were a lot of great pitches, and some that needed a little help,” Sterry said. “There are so many writers here and a lot of them are good. This is a really fertile creative area.”
For more information about the Book Doctors, visit www.thebookdoctors.com.