Your Odds of Publishing a Breakout Book Just Soared
Announcing, Pitch Week: A Twice-Annual, Juried Competition for Authors of Promise.
Today, almost anyone can publish a book, and hundreds of thousands of U.S. authors do each year! But getting your new title noticed by influential reviewers and then promoted by top booksellers (online and offline) is another matter, entirely.
Success comes down to this: With only a few exceptions, authors still need enormous help to launch a book to greatness. Behind most bestsellers and breakout books, you will still find top literary agents, respected publishing houses and savvy book publicists — all working together to build the credibility, buzz and retail presence required to drive sales.
Without such a united, team effort, even great books can languish in obscurity. Yet how many authors do you know who can pull such a team together? That may explain why the average non-fiction title today sells fewer than 250 printed copies – and why less than 1 percent of all books will ever surpass the 5,000 mark in sales.
An Alternate Path to Traditional Publishing Success
At When Words Count Retreat, we believe promising authors deserve a better shot at publishing’s brass ring, and we have applied our considerable marketing know-how to do something about it. In September, we launched and hosted the first of two, semi-annual Pitch Weeks – juried competitions, in which six finalists (all with books we believe in) come together to compete for what may be the best book-publishing prize ever offered: An all-star team, dedicated to making the winner’s book a huge success. We call this prize the “Literary Trifecta,” and it includes:
- A Book Deal with SelectBooks, a leading NYC independent publisher
- Top literary representation by the renowned Irene Goodman Agency (IGLA)
- A National Book-Launch Publicity Campaign from literary PR firm Meryl Moss Media Relations
A five-judge panel of industry pros reads the submitted manuscripts, in advance of Pitch Week, and rates them, by secret ballot, according to their quality and market appeal. Then, at Pitch Week, the judges separately score the contestants, again by secret ballot, by how they perform in four additional areas of competition: book packaging, book marketing strategies, the author behind the book and book-tour presentation and communication skills. Then, at an awards dinner attended by the judges and contestants, we open the sealed ballots, tally the scores and declare a winner. Click here to read about the results of Pitch Week #1.
Meet our Judges & Partners in Pitch Week
The team we have assembled to judge the Pitch Week competitions, and to provide key components of the Literary Trifecta, includes:
- Kenzi Sugihara, publisher and CEO of SelectBooks, Nancy Sugihara, Select’s Editor-in-Chief, and Kenichi Sugihara, Select’s Vice President of Global Marketing
- Rachel Ekstrom, a top literary agent with IGLA and
- Meryl Moss, CEO of Connecticut-based Meryl Moss Media Relations.
Here, in brief, are the highlights about each Pitch Week partner.
- SelectBooks, a leading NY-based independent publisher, will give our winning Pitch Week contestant a pre-negotiated book deal. Select has a solid roster of non-fiction authors and is now actively engaged in broadening its offerings into mainstream fiction. Kenzi Sugihara, Select’s CEO, says the company is interested in publishing all types of fiction, with only two exceptions. Select currently does not publish children’s picture books or adult books with primarily pornographic content. Select is a family-run enterprise with a stellar reputation, in the publishing world, for taking good care of its writers. The company has extensive U.S. and global distribution channels.
- Rachel Ekstrom, a highly sought after agent with the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, NYC, will represent the winning contestant. Before joining IGLA, Rachel worked, for more than 10 years, in the book publicity departments of St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books and Penguin’s Dutton and Gotham imprints. She has an insider’s view of the publishing industry and has helped advance the careers of both debut authors and #1 New York Times bestsellers. Her broad interests include such popular categories as young adult fiction (contemporary and paranormal), women’s fiction, mysteries, thrillers, romance and non-fiction — among others. According to the IGLA website, Rachel is “looking for books that will make her heart beat faster than it does when she’s biking through Manhattan traffic.” Rachel is the second of our Pitch Week Judges.
- Connecticut- and NY-based Meryl Moss Media Relations is a top literary PR firm that runs national book launches for an impressive roster of authors. Now, you may be able to add your name to their list. CEO Meryl Moss, our third and final judge, has agreed to provide our winning Pitch Week contestant with a National Book Launch Campaign designed to build enough visibility and buzz to catapult the featured book to “breakout” status.
The Philosophy behind Pitch Week
Success, in today’s book-publishing world, depends, equally, on an author’s ability to write a great book and to promote it. Pitch Week acknowledges this new dynamic. It seeks to inspire authors to develop the necessary skill sets – and to reward those who excel at it.
We care greatly for all the authors we get to know during their stays at When Words Count Retreat, and we want to help as many as possible advance toward successful publication. (We also want to make the retreat experience, and the enhanced productivity, relationships and community it fosters, a central element in every author’s tool kit.) It was in this spirit that Pitch Week was born.
The Pitch Week Concept: Everyone Wins
Earlier this year, we selected six finalists (and two alternates) for Pitch Week 1 out of a pool of 100 authors, who visited When Words Count Retreat since we opened, in October of 2012. We selected them on the strength of their manuscripts, the likelihood that they would have completed final drafts ready by July of 2013, their personalities and our belief that they would represent themselves and their books well.
In the last week of September, 2013, four finalists arrived at the retreat for three days of boot camp, led by our book coaches, Steve Eisner and Jon Reisfeld, and immediately followed by the actual Pitch Week competition. Steve and Jon helped the contestants refine and strengthen their presentations one last time, before the judges arrived. Throughout the four-day Pitch Week competition, the contestants had repeated opportunities to shine, as they demonstrated:
- Grace under pressure
- An ability to think on their feet
- Good public-speaking skills
- Book-marketing acumen and
- Plenty of charm, charisma and raw enthusiasm.
All Pitch Week contestants benefit from the experience. They emerge from the competition with:
- Stronger manuscripts
- More compelling bios and cover copy
- Better book cover designs
- Broader and more effective strategies for marketing their books and
- Greater poise and confidence in both pitching their books and in leading public book readings
Most importantly, they get priceless, first-hand feedback from our judges, five industry pros, who have read their books from cover-to-cover. They also build personal relationships with the judges and network with them. In other words, everyone wins. (And it is possible that many of those, who do not officially “win” the competitions, may still be offered separate publishing/representation deals.) They also leave with books that they are now far more likely to place with other traditional publishers or to sell through their own self-publishing efforts.)
Introducing Our First Pitch Week Contestants
Congratulations to each of our first Pitch Week finalists! Here is information on them and their books, starting with our four fiction authors:
- Vivian R. Probst. Vivian’s contemporary romantic-comedy, Death By Roses, bridges the here-and-now and the hereafter, as it tracks the actions of a strong-willed, mid-western mother of two, whose meddling ways do not end with her untimely death.
- Roger Corea. Scarback is a contemporary novel set in the 1950s Italian-American neighborhood of Roger’s youth. The novel presents a memorable cast of endearing characters, whose many deep-seated, unresolved conflicts come to a head on an annual fishing trip to Canada, ostensibly to catch Scarback, a legendary Northern Pike, with a $ 1 million bounty on its head.
- Zoe Fowler, author of the historical novel, Frogsbone. Zoe’s rich novel, set in 1908 New York City, vividly tells the story of a young, disfigured English woman, who arrives in America determined to reinvent herself and to start a new life at the dawn of the modern age.
- Marc Abbott, author of Sinister Ascension. Abbott’s New Adult, paranormal novel, tells the story of young vampires trying to fit in on a college campus while one of them schemes to greatly enhance his already considerable powers.
Now, please meet our three non-fiction finalists:
- Jan Cannon, author of Maturing with Moxie. In true baby-boomer, take-no-prisoners style, Jan offers 60-plus readers practical advice, and inspiring examples, of how to live life’s final chapter strictly on their terms. Forget aging gracefully in “comfortable shoes.” Jan is all about living life to the fullest, right up to the end.
- Sharon Spies, author of Pipe Wrenches and Pink Chiffon. Fresh out of high school, Sharon wanted a high-paying, secure job, which she found as a journey woman in the male-dominated, pipe-fitting world. Sharon’s memoir tells how this young ingénue stuck it out as a pipe-fitter for ten grueling years, in order to secure her pension, and how the experience changed her life.
- Amber Lisa, author of The Way Through. Amber’s powerful, raw, honest memoir recounts the horrors she experienced growing up in a household dominated by a brilliant, but incredibly unstable, bi-polar father and the critical lessons she learned that enabled her to transcend those early scars and succeed as an adult.
How to Qualify for Pitch Week
Pitch Week is a “by invitation only” competition limited to writers we get to know, firsthand, as guests at the retreat. But anyone, who has not yet had a breakout book and who is not contractually prohibited from benefiting from all aspects of our prize, may apply for consideration during any of our official Pitch Week Manuscript Review Periods. (Limit: one manuscript per applicant). To do so, simply:
- Prepare a one-page synopsis of your book (the kind of summary you would find on the back cover of a printed book) and use our Pitch Week Potential Application Form to send it to us in a Word document, along with the first 10 double-spaced pages of your manuscript.
- Book a minimum 2-Night stay at the retreat (see our rates) during any Pitch Week manuscript review period. Call us at 443-413-1596 for details. (Please send us your files at least one week before your scheduled arrival date.) BECAUSE OF LIMITED STAFF TIME, ONLY 17 NEW PITCH WEEK APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED THROUGH DECEMBER 7TH 2013.
- Our book coaches will read your submission before you arrive and give you their assessments during a face-to-face coaching session at the retreat. If they believe your book needs work before it would qualify, they will offer suggestions for strengthening it. (There is no charge for this initial assessment, which normally has a $350 retail value).
- If we like your book, and believe you have the personality and skills to be a strong Pitch-Week contender, you may find yourself among the 25 “short-list” contestants who beat 4-to-1 odds in order to get their names and sample manuscripts forwarded to our judges for consideration for Pitch Week.
The Pitch Week Selection Process
- Rolling Admissions. Throughout the Manuscript Review Period, When Words Count Retreat‘s book coaches will assess applicants and their manuscripts. They will move the most impressive and promising 25 contenders into the next Pitch Week “short list” until those slots are filled, so it is wise to apply as early as possible within the Manuscript Review Period. In some cases, contestants may be tentatively assigned to the short list, pending the timely and successful revision of their sample manuscript pages. At the conclusion of the Manuscript Review Period, “short-listed” applicants will submit their “final” first 10 pages and synopses, along with brief bios and digital head shots. We will then forward their entry materials onto our judges.
- During the next 90 days, the judges will independently read/score and return the entry materials to When Words Count Retreat, recommending 12 applicants for semi-finalist status.
- Approximately two weeks after receiving the judges’ 12 semi-finalist nominations, we will select six finalists and two alternates, holding the remaining four candidates in reserve. (They will automatically be “short-listed” for the following Pitch Week.)
- All finalists/alternates will advance through the entire Pitch Week training and manuscript development process, but the alternates will only participate in the final competition if one of the finalists cannot complete the competition. Otherwise, the alternates will be guaranteed slots in the next Pitch Week competition.
Currently Accepting Applications for Pitch Week III (September 2014)
If you think you, and your book, have what it takes to succeed in Pitch Week, and you want your shot at The Literary Trifecta, then, please fill out our Pitch Week Entry Form or, for immediate assistance, call 443-413-1596. One of our team members will answer any questions you may have regarding the Pitch Week Program. Or go to our FAQ page for answers to frequently asked questions about the Pitch Week Competition. (The Manuscript Review Period proceeds, on a month-to-month basis, until all slots are filled, but to manage the workload, we must limit the total number of entries accepted, in any one month, to 17.)
Those who miss the Pitch Week III application period, will have to wait nine months, to June of 2015, to compete in Pitch Week IV.
All Pitch Week finalists/alternates are required to stay at the retreat, at their expense, during:
- A four-day preliminary meet-the-judges visit (several months prior to Pitch Week)
- The actual, week-long Pitch Week competition
Any paid editorial or design service assistance offered to finalists will be strictly voluntary, and optional, in nature. (Pitch Week competition rules may change at the sole discretion of When Words Count Retreat. Such changes shall be posted here, from time to time.)