Pitching Face-to-Face

October 25, 2007

I thought I'd elaborate a bit on something I mentioned in my last post: my pitch "success" rate.

Last year at Surrey Writers' Conference, I pitched to 3 or 4 people. Since it's World Series time, I'll stick to baseball metaphors. I averaged 0.000 requests for partials or follow-ups from those pitches.

My pitch sucked.

This year, I pitched the same work. At my very first pitch, I saw the pitchee's eyes glaze over and knew immediately I was in trouble. The pitch bombed. I inwardly freaked out. Why couldn't I do this? It's not that hard. But maybe I'm just not wired for sales.

I couldn't afford to bomb at the rest of my pitch sessions.

So I completely retooled the pitch.

Original pitch: went in with my hook line and a follow-up sentence or two, then hoped for questions. But questions didn't really come, and desperately trying to fill the next ten minutes, I blathered on about some of the general themes I was trying to explore in the book. And in the process, got warned about coming across as too much of a preachy, "teach a lesson" kind of story. Which is not what the story is about AT ALL, so I really blew it.

New pitch: went in with my hook line and prepared points on most of the major plot elements. Did not memorize anything, just memorized the points I needed to hit. Emphasized the conflict between the main character and the villain. And decided to bring the plague element of my story into my pitch. I'd steered away from it because people sometimes told me it came from left field or distracted from my main story. Spent five minutes ahead of each pitch inhaling and exhaling very deeply. Walked into each pitch draping the mantle of a STAR salesperson over my inner geek.

Result: I was prepared for questions. I was prepared for lack of questions. I did not sound over-rehearsed. I looked like I knew what I was talking about. And boy! did people's eyes light up when they heard the word "plague". Who knew? I added an element I'd been worried about to the pitch and it paid off. 3 requests for partials out of 4 people pitched to. Batting 0.750. I probably still came across as nervous as all get-out (I'll NEVER be in sales), but at least I sounded more or less competent.

Now the hard bit is getting to second base. :-)

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