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Thread: [Contest] Pitch Week / When Words Count Retreat

  1. #1
    Becoming a laptop-human hybrid Fuchsia Groan's Avatar
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    [Contest] Pitch Week / When Words Count Retreat

    I write for a newspaper, and this retreat/contest is in our purview. A colleague suggested I write about it, so I'm doing some preliminary research. I have no plans to enter the contest.

    I couldn't find the contest or the affiliated publisher, SelectBooks, mentioned on this forum; I apologize in advance if there is a thread somewhere.

    Basically, here's the deal (from their FAQ): To enter, you must be one of the first 100 people to sign up for a writing retreat in Vermont (with lodging costing about $200 for the required three-day stay, meals extra). You pitch your book at the retreat, and if you're picked as a finalist, you must return there (at your own expense) for a seven-day judging period that includes demonstrating your public speaking skills.

    The judges include a publicist, an agent from Irene Goodman and the publisher of SelectBooks, which will publish the winning entry. The winner also gets the agent's and publicist's services. It's open to fiction and nonfiction, almost every genre.

    Clearly this doubles as a way to draw publicity and paying customers to the retreat. They're not hiding that. It's the first I've heard of the retreat, but the website certainly makes it look like a nice place (it's rural Vermont, so of course it's gorgeous).

    Given all that, my question: Is the contest worth the expense? Reputable names (to my limited knowledge) appear to be involved. But can they really find a publishable book in the first 100 entries? What happens if they don't? How valuable is a contract from SelectBooks? Is there fine print I'm not seeing?

    I'm going to peruse their site further and contact them at some point, but I wondered if anyone here had experience with the publisher and/or the contest.

    My colleague referred to the contest as a "reality show," and the site describes it as a "proposed web series." So maybe they have plans to film and stream it? "American Idol" for books?!
    YA thriller The K1ller in M3, out now from D1sn3y-Hyper1on

    "Taut storytelling and believable characters make this a standout mystery" — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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  2. #2
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    I've heard rumors of this contest, or something like it. My reaction: meh. The potential $1000+ (easily higher) cost to contestants, plus the 'reality show' aspect completely turns me off.

    Off to look for SelectBooks. Based off its sales ranks and book blurbs on Amazon, this appears to be largely an alternative medicine, self-help, self-marketing publisher. That fits the odd emphasis on authors' public speaking skills in the contest: they may be looking for books and authors that might fit in with the motivational circuit. If someone has material ready in that field, this could be an intro - but an expensive one.
    Last edited by Filigree; 07-28-2014 at 08:22 PM.

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  3. #3
    Becoming a laptop-human hybrid Fuchsia Groan's Avatar
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    According to his bio, SelectBooks publisher Kenzi Sugihara has an "impressive resume [that] includes his nine year role as a Vice President and Publisher at Bantam/Doubleday/Dell, and his three years as a Vice President and Publisher at Random House." According to this ancient Salon article, he also used to run iUniverse.
    YA thriller The K1ller in M3, out now from D1sn3y-Hyper1on

    "Taut storytelling and believable characters make this a standout mystery" — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

  4. #4
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    Yeah, I found that one, too. Your Mileage May Vary. Personally, I think it smells of exploitation. I'm not sure how I would write up an article without emphasizing this is likely to become a circus. I definitely think the only authors who might benefit are those in the self-help or alternative medicine fields. I don't see SelectBooks being that savvy with fiction. But they do sell in their core categories.

    The promo copy on the contest makes me think it's geared to self-publishers: emphasis on book cover design, marketing, and presentation are things *publishers* do. That's an expensive workshop, even if they do promise all finalists will learn useful skills.
    Last edited by Filigree; 07-28-2014 at 09:15 PM.

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  5. #5
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Also: they're soliciting fiction entries, including children's books--but I don't see any sign that SelectBooks publishes fiction. It seems to be strictly a nonfiction publisher. Fiction and nonfiction are very different markets. For a fiction author, a contract with this publisher would not be much of a prize.

    - Victoria

  6. #6
    Becoming a laptop-human hybrid Fuchsia Groan's Avatar
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    The homepage announces "the first release in our line of fiction titles," so apparently they're getting into it, but as a novelist this would still certainly give me pause.

    I think if I wrote about this, it would be a New Yorker "Talk of the Town" sort of thing: The reporter on the scene and interviewing everybody, with an open mind but a healthy dose of skepticism.

    I'm just fascinated/befuddled by the "reality show" aspect. What writers normally do all day is so far from TV-worthy.
    YA thriller The K1ller in M3, out now from D1sn3y-Hyper1on

    "Taut storytelling and believable characters make this a standout mystery" — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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  7. #7
    Live a little. Write a lot. Karen Junker's Avatar
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    I don't know SelectBooks or how well it distributes or does promo for its books. But I do know that some writers will do anything to get their work published. I think a writer should weigh what they are willing to spend vs. what kind of advance they will get or royalties from sales before they put all their chips on a pitch that might not pay off.

    I used to run a small writers' workshop that has agent pitches as part of the programming. We also do a lot of other craft and industry related education. I know that some people only attend for the chance they might sell their book, but we really don't emphasize that because it's such a tiny possibility and there are other things you can also get a lot from, such as networking with other writers. In addition, I have been on the committee for a 300 or so person regional romance con where they offer editor and agent pitch sessions.

    I have seen people sell their books or sign with an agent as a result of pitches, even in a very small workshop (75 or so). I can name NY Times bestsellers who got their first agent in pitch sessions like these. It *can* happen. But it may not happen.

    I think other writers might be interested in a podcast or show about pitching with the possibility of selling your book -- but I kind of doubt anyone in the general public would be.
    Karen Junker
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  8. #8
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchsia Groan View Post
    I'm just fascinated/befuddled by the "reality show" aspect. What writers normally do all day is so far from TV-worthy.
    They're far from the first bunch that has had this idea. Most proposed author reality shows have never gotten beyond the conceptualization phase, and even the one that went farthest, an Italian show called Masterpiece, apparently didn't attract much viewer interest (what a shock). If you're interested, I've written about the sad (and ridiculous) history of the author reality show idea.

    - Victoria

  9. #9
    Becoming a laptop-human hybrid Fuchsia Groan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss View Post
    They're far from the first bunch that has had this idea. Most proposed author reality shows have never gotten beyond the conceptualization phase, and even the one that went farthest, an Italian show called Masterpiece, apparently didn't attract much viewer interest (what a shock). If you're interested, I've written about the sad (and ridiculous) history of the author reality show idea.

    - Victoria
    Thanks, Victoria; that was a very interesting (and amusing) read. I read an essay recently that compared the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest to American Idol, but I didn't realize anyone had actually tried to produce a reality competition for writers!
    YA thriller The K1ller in M3, out now from D1sn3y-Hyper1on

    "Taut storytelling and believable characters make this a standout mystery" — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

  10. #10
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    Yeah, the only thing more boring to the uninitiated outside viewer would be the National Watching Paint Dry Championships. I've filmed myself while writing. Moments can be hilarious, but it's mostly just me banging on a keyboard and muttering. Occasionally there is profanity.
    Last edited by Filigree; 07-29-2014 at 10:10 AM.

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    The King and Queen of Cheese BenPanced's Avatar
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    About the only time it gets interesting when I'm writing is when I start to chair dance.

    WHICH I NEVER DO BECAUSE I R TEH SERIOZ WRITTR AND I NEVAR EVARZ WAIST TIME KTHNXBAI.

    Good. I think they bought it.
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  12. #12
    Becoming a laptop-human hybrid Fuchsia Groan's Avatar
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    Has anybody else seen The Words? The scenes of Bradley Cooper "writing" nearly had me on the floor of the theater. He tries to make it all dramatic — "at last, I am channeling my genius!" — and it's hilarious.

    Come to think, there's another pretty funny scene in Limitless where he writes a bestseller in a single day. He's a perfectly fine actor, but writing just isn't act-able.
    YA thriller The K1ller in M3, out now from D1sn3y-Hyper1on

    "Taut storytelling and believable characters make this a standout mystery" — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

  13. #13
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Most films about writers are ridiculous. Like the ones where the writer rushes the manuscript (bound in covers with brads) onto their editor's desk at the very last second, and has their advance check in hand the next day. And the book in print the next week.

    - Victoria

  14. #14
    Becoming a laptop-human hybrid Fuchsia Groan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss View Post
    Most films about writers are ridiculous. Like the ones where the writer rushes the manuscript (bound in covers with brads) onto their editor's desk at the very last second, and has their advance check in hand the next day. And the book in print the next week.

    - Victoria
    Yes! And all the agents and editors in these movies are ancient men wearing bowties and searching for "the next Hemingway." Except in About Time, where Rachel McAdams was an editor who took the only copy of a writer's Very Important Manuscript (bound, of course) home with her and spilled something on it — catastrophe!

    Hollywood people have to know more about modern publishing than that, right? Makes me wonder if audiences just prefer the clichés. Which bodes even worse for any TV show about writers.
    YA thriller The K1ller in M3, out now from D1sn3y-Hyper1on

    "Taut storytelling and believable characters make this a standout mystery" — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

  15. #15
    The King and Queen of Cheese BenPanced's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss View Post
    Most films about writers are ridiculous. Like the ones where the writer rushes the manuscript (bound in covers with brads) onto their editor's desk at the very last second, and has their advance check in hand the next day. And the book in print the next week.

    - Victoria
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchsia Groan View Post
    Yes! And all the agents and editors in these movies are ancient men wearing bowties and searching for "the next Hemingway." Except in About Time, where Rachel McAdams was an editor who took the only copy of a writer's Very Important Manuscript (bound, of course) home with her and spilled something on it — catastrophe!

    Hollywood people have to know more about modern publishing than that, right? Makes me wonder if audiences just prefer the clichés. Which bodes even worse for any TV show about writers.
    Or on The L Word, Jenny's manuscript was OMFG SEW GOOD!, the editor flew out to Los Angeles to personally hand her a six-figure advance. (Jenny was the character the audience hated so much that when she was murdered, nobody really cared who did it. She was finally dead and that's all that mattered.)
    I still poop rainbows.

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  16. #16
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    According to a post on Marketlist.com, the retreat's webpage is down and emails have not been responded to for some time. I have also not been able to find much info on SelectBooks and their involvement in retreat's book promotion contest. I started looking into them after a friend, a novice writer, told me she went to the retreat and was then contacted as an "third alternate" for the retreat's contest and reality show. It just didn't pass the sniff test.

  17. #17
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    Site was indeed down for most of '14. When it returned, it was without mention of co-founder Reisfeld, so I suspect a parting of ways. As of June '15, pitch page no longer names associated publisher, agent, or marketer.
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