The Library as Incubator Project is pleased to feature Pitchapalooza, an event co-hosted by the Phoenix Public Library and Changing Hands Bookstore. This is a terrific example of a community partnership that helps artists (in this case, writers) develop professionally. - Laura

Phoenix Public Library and Changing Hands Bookstore partnered to offer Pitchapalooza – a kind of American Idol for writers.  On a Saturday night in February, about 60 people attended a program to watch about 15 people each deliver a one-minute pitch for their book to a panel of judges.  The winner got an appointment with an agent in her genre; everyone attending got a chance to learn more about the publishing industry and successfully pitching a book.

Event winner and runner-up with Pitchapalooza panelists. Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Public Library.

Beginnings and promotion

Pitchapalooza actually started with our partner – Changing Hands Bookstore.  They have offered a number of programs for self-published authors in recent years and decided to offer a day-long conference.  They approached Phoenix Public Library as a possible partner, because of our beautiful facilities – great meeting spaces that are easily accessed.  We were interested because staff are frequently queried by self-published authors for information on publishing, marketing, how to get their book in the library, etc.  It seemed a natural fit.

We’ve been exploring a somewhat different model of partnering with local bookstores.  The bookstore gets access to excellent library facilities for a program that may be too large or have different requirements than their space can offer.  We are able to offer a free program that we may not be able to provide on our own because we don’t have the same connections with publishers, etc.  We partnered with Changing Hands to host a very successful talk and book-signing with Christopher Paolini (1200 attendees) late in 2011.

Pitchapalooza winner gives her one minute pitch.

Pitchapalooza winner Sativa Peterson gives her one minute pitch. Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Public Library.

The Indie Author conference was a natural next step, but because it was a fee-based conference (Changing Hands needed to recover the costs of their speakers, etc.), we couldn’t offer the entire event free to the public.  As a result, we compromised.  Changing Hands would provide the conference in one of our libraries for a fee, but the Pitchapalooza portion of the program would be open to the public.

Pitchapalooza is a kind of American Idol for writers. Anyone with an idea for a book has 60 seconds to pitch it to a panel of judges. Pitch participants are randomly selected from the pool of authors present. The judges critique everything from idea and style to the idea’s marketplace viability. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapaloozas are educational and entertaining. All attendees come away with concrete advice on how to improve their pitch, as well as a greater understanding of the publishing industry.

Both Changing Hands and Phoenix Public Library promoted Pitchapalooza on our respective websites, printed materials (rack cards, posters), and through a press release.

The program and community response

Pitchapalooza was attended by about 60 people on Saturday, February 25.  It started at 4:30 (and ran until about 6 p.m.).  About 15 authors were randomly selected from a basket of names.  Each author stood at the front of the room behind a podium with a microphone.  The author had one minute to make his/her best possible pitch to the panel of judges.

The judges included Gayle Shanks (Changing Hands), David Henry Sterry, (author and self-publishing expert), Arielle Eckstut (agent and self-publishing expert) and Annette Rogers (Poisoned Pen Press).  Judges offered each participant a critique on their pitch, making suggestions for ways to better package the concept, etc.

Judges conferred and named a winner and a runner up.  The winner received an appointment with an agent in her genre; the runner up got a gift card to Changing Hands Bookstore. Sativa Peterson won for pitching her memoir.  Elizabeth Naranjo was the runner up.  Curiously, Sativa Peterson is a former Phoenix Public Library employee.

We felt the program was a success; 60 people attended a library program on a Saturday night!  We hosted the event at our newest branch library.  As the conference was attended by about 80 people, it gave exposure to one of our newer facilities.  We have been approached by Changing Hands Bookstore to partner with them next year for a repeat of the conference and Pitchapalooza.

Phoenix Public Library is a system of 16 branch libraries and the Burton Barr Central Library.  Learn more about us at phoenxipubliclibrary.org.  Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/phxlibrary and “like” us on Facebook at facebook.com/phoenixpubliclibrary.

Special thanks to Rita Marko, Phoenix Public Library Management Assistant, for submitting this feature.

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