One of the greatest challenges of aspiring writers is getting an audience with an agent, let alone a publisher. At Politics & Prose, we believe in assisting first-time authors and finding ways to give their works wider notice. To that end, we recently installed Opus, a print-on-demand machine that enables writers to publish their own manuscripts without going through traditional channels. And now we’re offering another opportunity for authors in our community to get their proverbial foot in the publishing door.

On Wednesday, April 11, at 7 p.m., we’re hosting our first Pitchapalooza!Think American Idol for books, sort of. Part workshop, part contest, Pitchapalooza is designed to help writers sell their books to publishers. Participating authors will get one minute to make their pitches, then receive detailed critiques from Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, who bring to this exercise their own experience as agents and writers. They co-wrote The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, $15.95). Two other judges will join Eckstut and Sterry.

Here’s how it’ll work: Up to 20 writers will be selected at random to pitch their book ideas and, at the end, the judges will pick a winner, who will receive an introduction to an agent or a publisher. In the last month, three writers have gotten publishing deals as a result of participating in a Pitchapalooza.

To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published from Politics & Prose. We’ll compile a list of potential pitchers on the night of the event. So please spread the word, and even if you have no proposal to pitch, come join the fun. The event is free for those who just want to watch.

--Brad and Lissa

Update 4/12/11: Ron Charles wrote an eyewitness report for The Washington Post of our Pitchapalooza event. Click here to read his article.