Elevator Pitches – Summer Conference Mistakes!

It’s time for the infamous Summer Writing Conferences! Stellar speakers, anxious agents, popular publishers and the masses of winsome writers. (I’m feeling alliterative today!)

The fact is that I’ve been to numerous conferences, back when I was actively writing versus editing, and I loved every one of them. I absorbed everything on the schedule; I made friends and networked; and I gained insights into the publishing/writing fields I could gain no other way. But my greatest lesson was that I needed to learn even more; the friendships were not lifelong; and the industry insights were often eclipsed by new technology. My point is that you CAN gain from a writers conference, but it is NOT the be all and the end all. What you take with you in the way of both manuscripts and attitudes is what will serve you best.

So if you are attending a summer (or any season) conference, take along your best work with your strongest pitch. Get the background of each of the professionals who will be attending–you never know who might step into the elevator with you on the way to the next workshop. It’s nice to have something better to say than “Do you write stories?” to the guy who turns out to be an executive for Random House. And speaking of elevators …


Question: Do you need an elevator pitch?

Answer: Yes … and No

What?!? Everyone seems to think this is THE essential key to marketing. The perfect 10-second pitch. (Okay, some say 11 seconds, but who’s counting?)

What IS an elevator pitch? In case you haven’t heard about them, but I suspect you have, it is a perfectly formed, very brief pitch for your book (or service or products or whatever) that you can impose on anyone who will allow you the 10 or 11 seconds to spill it out. Or who is forced to listen, as in during an elevator ride.

Now you MAY need one IF the conference brochure requires it for a teacher/agent/publisher’s workshop or interview! That makes it essential, of course.  If not requested, there are still good reasons to write one.

Not only can you succinctly provide an interested agent with all they need to know about your book in a minimum time, but it can help YOU as the writer. Creating a great pitch, like creating the book blurb, will force you to think in terms of the impact and power elements of your storyline. That helps  YOU zero in on what makes your story worthwhile for readers and unique from other books in the same genre. Which is what should be foremost on your mind when you do discuss the book with anyone.

So, yes, DO create a brief pitch to help yourself grasp the value of your own story. Use active verbs, specific details and focus on the emotional impact. Write it down and revise and revise to create the strongest wording.

But … if you are faced with that elusive agent in that elevator and are tempted to throw out your pitch, remember that the trouble with these memorized pitches is that they sound exactly LIKE a pitch! And these guys are having pitches thrown at them like spit balls throughout a conference. So take a breath, smile and treat the person like, well, a person. If you’ve done your homework on them, you might  ask an intelligent question about their own writing or their position. If you can comfortably and politely ask if you can offer your pitch, then ask. Polite is one thing; pushy another. Because, honestly, there is no way to slide a book pitch into a normal conversation without it sounding like, well, a book pitch.

So take opportunities, sure, and be prepared to offer any info or pitch required or allowed, but first treat the other person with the dignity we all deserve. You might be the first person that day who does it! And THAT may pay off more than anything else you might say.

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