Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fear of the Pitch

It's been a rough five days.

Between the fever (103.9), chills, and relentless pain (even my eyelids hurt!), I didn't have any desire to be near the computer. Yeah, it was pretty miserable.

But laying in bed gave me a lot of time to think about something that has terrified me ever since I heard the word: my pitch.

I've combed a lot of websites looking for tips on pitching. Literary agent Kristin Nelson has a Blog Pitch Workshop that rocks. Another agent, Rachelle Gardner, has a great series called The Elevator Pitch on her website. And Christy Evers has an interview with Sarah Shumway, an editor at Dutton/Penguin on the importance of the pitch.

So I've written three different versions of my pitch: one for an actual pitch session, one for a casual encounter, and a two-sentence summary. I've worked on them for so long you'd think I'd have them memorized. But I can guarantee you they're not. Because every time someone asks me what "Secret of Undine" is about, I break out into a sweat, stumble all over myself, and generally sound like a complete idiot.

I'm not an idiot. I know my story inside and out. So why can't I sell it when I'm asked such a simple question? The Pikes Peak Conference is in 23 days and I'm supposed to have my pitch down pat by then...looks like me and the mirror are going to have some serious face time.

Or maybe I can just hire someone to go and do it for me...?


Suzanne Casamento said...

You're so right! No matter how many times I memorize my elevator pitch, I stumble when asked. It's like a reflex. Or a curse. But don't worry, you'll do fine when the right person asks. ; )

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Frankly, it's just dang hard to cram a 100k novel into a tiny little space. I think the only advice I can give is to know your work so well and love it so much that when somebody asks about it, your enthusiasm and knowledge of your own work spill forth in a fantastic display. LOL. Yeah, right huh?

Still, work on your pitches as much as you can and the rest will follow. :)

Tara Maya said...

It's scary. My $.02 -- Come up with your logline first. Then practice saying it over and over. You'll have a slightly different version spoken than written. Practice it until it just rolls off your tongue. When you meet agents, you can just roll it out. Practice saying it to real people. If there are none available, talk to Teddy Bear or the mirror.

But practice ALOT. Because your mind will go blank if you meet an agent, and you want your mouth to just pour out the right words without the help of your mind.

Vivian Mahoney said...

I'm glad you're feeling better! Now you'll have time to perfect your pitch and get your friends and family to listen in and offer feedback.

I'm working on the same thing for my conference next month and I feel exactly the same way. You can do it!

C.R. Evers said...

I hope you're feeling better! ((hugs))

I can LOL at this because I can totally relate! At our last SCBWI conference we had a "pitch" session. I spent the entire drive repeating my pitch over and over and over trying to memorize it and make it sound natural. It's not easy! Both the memorizing and feeling comfortable repeating it out loud are both difficult!

Good luck to you! And good for you for working on it! It'll pay off in the long run.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Suzanne - Glad it happens to other people, too

Glam - I do love it, I just can't talk about it!

Tara - I plan to say it in the mirror a lot as well as to anyone who will listen :)

Vivian - Thanks, and good luck to you too!

Christy - Thanks for the hug and the drive time idea -- no more radio for the month!

Beth Kephart said...

I have yet to be able to pitch anything I've ever written. Sometimes I just tell whomever needs to know a line or two.

Best of luck with this and I'm sorry you weren't feeling well...

Anonymous said...

You know, you need to have it ready, but I've heard a lot of authors/agents say that--basically--you just go in and talk about the story. So, yes, know the bones, but don't panic. Besides--you're a contest winner--they're going to be EAGER to hear about your book. :)

Robin L said...

I'm not an idiot. I know my story inside and out. So why can't I sell it when I'm asked such a simple question?

Maybe because you're a writer, not a salesman? I can talk about my work until I'm blue in the face, and I can even encapsulate it into a short elevator blurb so I can explain to people what I'm working on. However the minute I think of that blurb as having to sell the mss, I can no longer string a coherent sentence together.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Beth - It's good to know you've done so well without a lot of pitching

Becky - I hope being a winner makes them more receptive!

Robin - You're right. I need to think of it more as a sound bite than a sales tool.

Dal Jeanis said...

Sometimes the hardest part is getting yourself out of the way.

First, remember that the basis of an elevator speech or quick-pitch is that you leave everything out except just enough to picque interest. Focus on one character and one arc.

Next, Lady Glamis has the right idea.

Pretend, for a moment, that you had not written your novel. Pretend that you bought it and devoured it all day yesterday, and reread it three times because you loved it so much. It made you so jealous and you got so into it that you dreamed you had written it.

Now, turn on a tape recorder or MP3 recorder and tell your cat about the novel. Just blither on and gush about it, because you loved it so much and it's so exciting that you want everyone to read it.

When you've covered it pretty well, stop the recorder. Take a break.

Then do it again.

Every time, start with the enthusiasm and the love for the work. Proceed to the hook - what you loved about it. Finish with the overall elements of the conflict. More or less.

If you find it hard to do this for your own work, practice with a movie you saw or a book you read. Enthuse. Gush. Practice.

Like anything else, enthusiasm and practice heals a multitude of ills.

Yat-Yee said...

Hi Sherrie: don't forget to breathe!

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