Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mastering the Elevator Pitch

Anyone who is a member of RWA knows that today kicks off the RWA National conference in Orlando, and, as always, I will be in attendance. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I will be doing things a little differently this year. This year, I have not signed up to hold author pitch appointments. I’m already participating in two workshops and at least one agent panel. Adding in appointments would severely cut into the time I have with clients, and since that’s why I’m really there, it just didn’t make sense for me this year.

So what do you do if you were hoping to pitch to me and are disappointed I’m not taking pitches, or what if you planned to pitch to another agent but didn’t get a slot with her? Why, the elevator pitch, of course. Or the bar pitch, the breakfast pitch, the lobby pitch. Just whatever you do, don’t try the bathroom pitch or the gym pitch.

Every agent will have a different suggestion for how to pitch agents outside of a traditional pitch appointment. What’s mine? Toss the pitch altogether. I hate the feeling that the only reason an author is talking to me is for the opportunity to pitch a story. That being said, I love to talk about this business. If you happen to catch me at the bar by myself or enjoying a cup of coffee in the corner, don’t hesitate to approach me. It’s almost guaranteed that I’ll be reading something, but if I’m in public I’m expecting to talk to people. If I want a break I’ll sneak out of the hotel for a walk or up to my room for a nap.

How do you approach? Walk right up, say excuse me and ask if I would mind if you joined me for a minute or if you could talk to me. I like to think I’m a pretty friendly person and I don’t think I’ve ever turned anyone down. I might tell you I only have a few minutes, but since it’s National I always only have a few minutes.

What to say? Come with some questions, some comments, or compliment me on my brilliant shoe choice that day. In other words, have a conversation with me. It’s almost guaranteed that I’ll ask you about your writing at some point, but if not, what you’re doing is making an impression. Listen, I accept queries from everyone. Getting a query to me isn’t the point. Making yourself memorable is. If you have questions about the business, want a professional’s advice on your book idea, or just want to sit down and take a load off for a minute, this is the time for that. If our time is cut short and you haven’t pitched, I think that’s fine. In fact, it’s great. I’m usually tired of the pitches and networking is about far more than pitches. And this way, when you query (which is often a more comfortable way to pitch anyway) you can say that we enjoyed a nice talk in the corner of Starbucks right before my meeting with Sally MacKenzie. I’m sure to remember you and that’s what networking is all about. As to whether or not it means I’ll request your work: A verbal pitch won’t do that either, but it might give your work that extra little push if I’m on the fence.

Can’t wait to meet you.