Pitchapalooza Winner Genn Albin Gets 6 Figure Book Deal

Posted on July 12, 2011 by admin   |   16 comments

This is a fantastic success story.  When we went to do our Pitchapalooza at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, little did we know that our winner would end up with a three book deal with Farrar Strauss Children’s.  But Genn Albin’s truly awesome pitch for her dystopian novel Crewel just blew us away.  Here’s the first of four pieces she has written for us about how the whole thing came down.  Thank you, Genn, you are truly an inspiration.  And we’ll be watching and reading about your journey from talented amateur to (knock wood) best-selling author.

In January I decided I needed to be more involved with the Kansas City book scene, and if you want to be more involved with the Kansas City book scene, you look to Rainy Day Books.  Now at the time I had a finished first draft of my novel, but my days were spent at home with two toddlers, which meant I didn’t have a lot of time or money.  So when I saw  the Book Doctors were scheduled to bring an event called Pitchapalooza to Kansas City on Rainy Day’s website, I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and made a reservation for two to the event.  Thankfully, the event was free, but if you bought their book, you would receive a free phone consultation, and since money was tight, this sounded like a lot of bang for my buck.  I messaged my local critique partner and told her we were going.

I spent the next few weeks devouring every blog post on the Book Doctors’ website and  every news article written about the event.  I suppose it stems from my background in academics that I like to research.  Well, maybe I don’t like it so much as I can’t escape it.

And then the unthinkable happen — a stupid ice storm.  Kansas City weather is fickle at best, and I remember worrying that I would not be able to drive down in the ice.  My valiant husband, and number one supporter, promised he would drive me if I was worried about the roads.  In all fairness, they were bad, but I never considered that flights might be cancelled.  The morning of the event, I got a phone call letting me know Pitchapalooza was being rescheduled.  I was heartbroken.

I watched the Rainy Day website for the rescheduled time, crossing my fingers that it would still happen, and reserved my spot as soon as the date was made public.  I spent the next month determined to get the book as close to a final draft as possible, so I could use my consult to discuss querying — a process that had me shaking in my boots.   I put together several pitches and hated them all, and then the date of the event, I sat down and put together the final pitch.  In the end, I wrote my pitch in an hour, but I used all the tips and tricks I’d learned over the past two months.

I waited impatiently for my critique partner to pick me up.  My car was in the shop and I was hesitant to drive the family’s only car for an event downtown (in case my husband needed to escape with the kids).  But then I got a message that she was running late and it would be another fifteen minutes.  I called my husband, who was out with kids and said only car, to come back to the house.  I knew if I didn’t leave in the next few minutes I would miss my chance to sign up to pitch.  As it was, I thought it might be too late already.  He came home, and I raced to the plaza library branch.  I got there right as the event was starting, but with enough time to put my name in (thank god, I wasn’t pulled over).  I missed all the rules, what the prize was, introductions, but I got my name in.

Then came the excruciating part.  The contestants were drawn one at a time using the on-deck system.  My critique partner showed up and succeeded in keeping me calm (aka listening to me nervously prattle under my breath), and then my name was called.  I was elated and terrified and ready!  The thing about pitching your book in front of hundreds of people is that you  are taking an often isolating experience (writing a book) and proclaiming your ambitions to the world.  It was no secret to family and friends I was writing a book, but ask anyone who is a writer and they’ll tell you that most people kind of give them an oh-isn’t-that-adorable nod when you talk about it.  This felt real.  I was standing up and sharing my story, for better or for worse, with a group of people who knew what I meant by “writing a book.”

My pitch was timed perfectly and I stumbled over the one line I knew I would screw up (why didn’t I change it?).  And then it was my turn for feedback.  Arielle proclaimed it was exactly one minute.  David said my delivery was smooth, and I admitted I was trembling.  I believe David’s exact words were “Fake it until you make it!”

And that was it, and I was disappointed.  I wanted more feedback, more criticism.  I wanted them to rip me to shreds.  I whispered this to my critique partner when I got back to our seats and she gave me the standard cheerleading reply : “That’s because it was perfect.”  I realized then that at some point, I’d cross the divide between someone writing a book and being a writer.  Criticism no longer sent me running.  I wanted to make my pitch and book better even if it was painful.

There were a lot of amazing pitches there that night.  A few that made me stop and take notice.  A few I couldn’t hear (word to the wise: don’t sit in the back!).  And I was flabbergasted by the shear number of people there.  People, who just like me, were spending their free time writing with the dream of publishing a book.  I hear people say they want to write a book all the time, but this was a room of people who had done it.  It was such an inspiring experience.

Then it was time for them to decide on a winner.  David did his best to entertain the crowd and answer questions, but I know that for myself and 24 others in the audience all we could do was try to suppress the horrible, rolling nausea in our stomachs while they decided.  Geoffrey came out and reminded us about what to do to get our books signed and set up our consultations, and I refrained from screaming, “Just get it over with before I puke!”

And then he said my name.

And my critique partner let out this blood-curdling scream.

And I almost died – from excitement, from embarrassment, from surprise.

I waited for the next forty-five minutes or so to talk to Arielle and David about my  pitch.  The whole experience was a blur of enthusiasm and well wishes.  And then another amazing thing happened.  A teen girl walked up with her mom to tell me how she wanted to read my book.  Talk about awesome.  A real life member of my target audience wanted to read my book!  Turns out V is a writer herself and an avid reader.  It took me about ten seconds to beg her to be a beta reader for CREWEL.  She said yes, and I’m happy to report she’s the first teen to read it and all futures books!

Arielle and David were worth the wait.  They asked some questions, we took some pics, and Arielle suggested I wait until I had a finished manuscript before we had our consult.  I walked away with a renewed confidence.  It was as though pure adrenaline had been injected into me.  I was ready to get back to work.  I couldn’t have imagined how much craziness and excitement lay before me.  Pitchapalooza was only the beginning of a very wild ride.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

July 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm Bethany

I was the critique partner who let out that blood-curdling scream, and let me tell you, Genn did a fantastic job pitching, especially given such a large audience! I was and still am honored to be called her friend (and to have seen Crewel in its earliest stages.) I can’t wait to see how she blows everybody else away when she’s doing publicity for her book.


July 14, 2011 at 7:55 am admin

So nice to hear from you, Bethany! We’ll all be watching on the sidelines and Genn makes her way up bestseller lists!!!


July 14, 2011 at 5:52 am Donna Cummings

What a great story! I am thrilled for you, and wish you much success. Even though this sounds like a nervewracking experience for you, it also seems like everything happened in a way to make things work out better for you. Congrats again!


July 14, 2011 at 8:33 am Cari Noga

I can see why you won! Pitch-perfect buildup throughout the post – ice storm, car in the shop, the wait for your name. Can’t wait to read installments 2 and 3 and hope your success is contagious – I’m another Pitchapalooza winner and will be cheering you up the bestseller lists, too.


July 14, 2011 at 8:56 am Jessica Wisniewski

Congratulations! What a terrific beginning to your story, and your writing career. Thank you for sharing with and inspiring us.

Here’s to continued success and a storied career!


July 14, 2011 at 8:59 am Nicole Mc

What an amazing story, so happy for her!! :)


July 14, 2011 at 10:48 am admin

Awesome, right?!


July 14, 2011 at 10:25 am Amy Saia

Reading this is bittersweet, because I’m very happy for Genn, but jealous all the same. You see, I too signed up for the same event, watched Pitchapalooza videos obsessively, practiced, practiced, practiced, only to receive a phone call that our stubborn midwestern ice storm had been enough to cancel the event.

The likelihood that I would have been picked to pitch out of a large crowd was slim, but I had longed for it regardless. Like the scene in A Christmas Story, Arielle and David would listen to my pitch, wait a few minutes and then cry, “A plus, plus, plus, plus!” Instead I heard ice spattering against windows, and silence, lots of silence. I never heard back from the library, and did not think to check. Oops.

But this isn’t a sad story. My YA novel will be published in 2012 by a wonderful press called WiDo. I love them. And I love fate for making everything happen the way it has. And I’m really, really happy for Genn. Congrats, and best wishes!


July 14, 2011 at 10:48 am admin

Oh, no, Amy! I’m so sorry you missed the rescheduled event. That’s a bummer. But sounds like everything turned out well. Congrads on YOUR book deal! Cheers, Arielle & David


July 23, 2011 at 8:07 am Danyelle Ferguson

Genn – I was at the Kansas City Pitchapalooza and your pitch was awesome! I especially loved how you comped the book – I believe one of them was Ally Condie’s Matched. I hope you find just as much success with your series as she has with hers! Congrats!!!


August 1, 2011 at 9:24 am Mary McCarthy

Hi Genn,
Congratulations on your pitch and awesome deal! I also pitched with the Book Doctors in MANASQUAN N. j. I had little preparation, as I only found out about it an hour before the event. I too was petrified and fumbled through my presentation,but I got great feedback from Arielle and especially David who said he knew I had a book in me. Several audience members came up to me and said I was very funny in my presentation and urged me to pursue my story. Needless to say I was encouraged,yet scared. I have yet to sign up for my twenty minute consult due to fear. Reading your story has enabled me to bite the bullet an proceed because I believe wholeheartedly in my story which is about a a Lhasa Apso dog named Lulu who becomes a psychotherapist for dogs under my tutelage


August 1, 2011 at 9:38 am Mary McCarthy

Hi Genn,
Congratulation on your awesome book deal. I also pitched the Book Doctors at Booktowne in Manasquan N.J. I found out about it 1 hour before,so I was ill prepared and petrified. I didn’t win,but got great feedback from the audience and encouragement from David. I haven’t done the 20 minute consult, but your story has spurred me on to proceed. My story is about a Lhasa Apso(my Dog),who becomes a psychotherapist for dogs and treats them in an adjourning room to my own practice. Audience feedback was that it was very funny. Thanks


August 1, 2011 at 11:25 am admin

We remember your pitch, Mary. It was hysterical!


September 21, 2013 at 7:49 am Salimah

Dear Glen,
I am so happy for you. I just won the Pitchapalooza
in Rhinebeck last week. I’ve completed my
first draft. I have so many questions about
where to go from here.
Thus is my first book and have the first draft
If you don’t mind, could we talk?
Very confused and very excited!


September 21, 2013 at 8:13 am Salimah

Meant Genn not Glen. Autocorrect. Sorry
about that!


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