Preparing and doing a pitch is probably my least favorite thing to do. I find it hard to memorize and say it smoothly. There. I’ve admitted it to everyone. I love being a character on stage. I’m pretty comfortable with public speaking, I am the one nominated on mission trips to break the ice with the natives. But giving my pitch. My mind goes blank or the pitch comes out anything but perfect. Why? No idea. Maybe unlike a play where I am another character, this statement is all about me and my work. Promoting myself is hard for me.
Parts of a pitch
First you need a hook—a sentence to grab attention. Characters or topic and a final sentence to bring out the response: tell me more. A pitch is a few sentences stating what your novel, non-fiction or article is about. Often referred to as an elevator pitch because it needs to be short enough to share with someone before the elevator doors open at your destination. A pitch is like an oral business card. You want to have it with you to give when you have an opportunity.
The pitch needs to encapsulate your story. It should evoke questions. It should cause the editor to catch your idea, be intrigued and toss around the idea with you for a while.
Personalize your pitch
Spend time writing your pitch. Use words you are comfortable with. If a fifty dollar word gets hung up on your tongue use a simpler one. It should sound conversational not like a commercial.
Practice your pitch
Look in the mirror and recite it to yourself until you can say it over and over again without thinking about it. If you stumble reword it so you don’t. Recite it to others—your spouse, critique group, even your dog. The more you recite it, the more natural it will become. While practicing your pitch in the mirror think of follow-up questions and how you will answer them. Formulate an answer to each one. It will boast your confidence.
When to pitch
You will need your pitch when you have an appointment. It’s a quick way to get the ball rolling. It can lead to sharing your first chapter.
When you sit at the lunch table with an editor you don’t have an appointment with, you can share your pitch. (Agents, publishers, editors expect you to pitch them at lunch.) Some will ask everyone at the table about their projects. If you stutter and ramble and backtrack, it reeks of newbie and it is rude to the others at the table who hope to share their pitch as well.
If you are having a meal with other writers, ask to share your pitch both for practice and feedback. They may share their pitch with you and together you can encourage each other.
Here are examples of my latest pitches. I change them every year trying to make them smoother. As I said, I struggle with pitches. I feel very vulnerable sharing them with you. They are not as stellar as others’ pitches, but perhaps they will serve as a guide to creating your own. I suggest googling writers’ pitches to find some really cool ones.
My Historical pitch
Secrets and Charades finds Evangeline Olson’s shameful secret catching up with her through an unwanted inheritance. Fleeing west as a mail-order bride seemed the best solution. Jake Marcum needs a woman to gentle his tomboy niece. A female doctor is more than he bargained for and exactly what he needs. Together they must wade through secrets and a few unexpected charades to save his ranch and her heart.
My Contemporary pitch.
New Duet takes the reader on a journey of healing. After the sudden death of her abusive husband during a worship service, Isabella is shrouded in guilt and desperate to find her pre-marriage self. Wounded warrior Dan is looking for normal in a civilian world with the help of his service dog. Normal seems impossible when he’s missing a leg, some fingers and PTSD brings on panic attacks. Isabella is startled by her attraction to Dan after her late husband stripped away every vestige of Isabella’s former life including her name. Dan hopes his new normal includes Isabella in his life.
My Article pitch
I am a sandwich. My life is sandwiched between helping with grandchildren under six and parents in their eighties. Both are childlike in their responses to life. Yet, neither can be handled the same. When my sandwich is slipped into a Panini press of trials, my heart struggles to seek God’s grace in the midst of it all.
None of these pitches are as perfect as I would like them. I’ll be working to make them better. But I hope the examples will help you. And if you stumble through your pitch like me, smile and hand out your sell sheet. Works for me.
After the pitch
If your pitch results in “Tell me more,” have your sell-sheet or summary ready to pass over. Be prepared to share your first page. Bring the entire first chapter just in case. Share the completed article.
Don’t ramble on about your subject. Don’t explain why it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Again it screams newbie and unprofessional. Only answer the questions asked. Smile, be as enthusiastic as you can.
If your pitch results in crickets don’t resort to filling the silence with rambling information. This rarely happens. If you get less than an enthusiastic response, move on to the next pitch if you have one. Otherwise thank him/her for their time and shake their hand. Remember not everyone is going to find your pitch intriguing. But if at the end of the conference you find your pitch wasn’t achieving your goal, ask other writers for input as to how to make it better for the next time.
If you have any questions about pitching your book or want to share your own success story please comment. I love to hear from readers.
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