Friday, January 11, 2013

Pitch Imperfect

I pulled up to Goodwill. The young man took my modest offering and eyed the box of books in my Forester.

"Do those books go?"

"No I'm keeping them."

"You're going to read all those books?"

"No, they are all the same book. I'm the author. I keep a supply in back of my car."

"Omigod. You are a real published author? Really?" He picked up Deadly Descent. "What is this book about?"

Darned if I knew. All the details left me in a flash, then returned in the form of a really long narrative. Really, really long.

After I drove off, I gloomed up over all the things I had done wrong. This young man obviously wanted to know about the book and the Lottie Albright series. I should have been able to supply intelligent information right then and there. I couldn't and didn't.

Here's where I went wrong:

I didn't have a short pitch ready under those circumstances. Basic marketing instructions emphasize the importance of the pitch. I was caught off guard by the unexpected chance to engage someone's interest. I'm prepared to give it my all when I am talking to an agent or an editor or at a conference.

Golden opportunities to attract a fan come out of nowhere. I don't think he would have bought the book--he mentioned finances. But he was quite interested in the fact that it was in the library. However, the opportunity was blown because I couldn't tell him what the book was about quickly and succinctly .

I should have given him a book, right then and there on the spot. It was a remaindered supply that I bought on the cheap. He might have passed it on to his mother or an aunt, he might have recommended it to friends.

Now, I'm thinking through these little opportunities to pitch my mysteries. People always want to know what we write and how we work.

With practice I can turn the imperfect fumbling pitch into a polished 90 second presentation that doesn't sound too contrived. I will tailor it to what I think might engage that particular reader's interest.


j welling said...

I have the little one sentence "what do you write" bit (only for conferences) but I didn't think I needed the same for the stories.

Thanks you.

Hannah Dennison said...

That happens to me all the time! But I also find it so hard to promote my books on a one-to-one basis ... because I still feel a fraud. BUT having a short pitch is always handy. Great post Charlotte.

LD Masterson said...

I think if I get published, I'll have my pitch tatooed on my arm. :-)

(Note: I'm about to try for the third time to get past your "prove you not a robot". I hate these things.

Charlotte Hinger said...

J-one sentence is ideal. I've got to work out a number of these for different persons and different occasions.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Hannah, I've come to believe working out this pitch is crucial. It's like when I'm signing--if I have an automatic autograph, it's a good idea. Because when I'm really, really tired, I can start strange sentences and flounder.That's what happened at Goodwill. My pitch became strangely convoluted.

Charlotte Hinger said...

LD--I would still have to think of how to condense the wretched book for the tatoo.

Rick Blechta said...

It's all writing. You just have to work at the pitch and polish it the same way you do your regular prose. It's all just another aspect of the same skill set, really.

What is really frightening to me is the ability to just trot out the "elevator pitch" for a book I wrote ten years ago when I haven't thought about it one whit over the intervening years, but then I shouldn't be surprised: I can remember songs I learned when I was twelve. I guess it's just cultivating skill sets.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Rick, I know that's true. I don't know why getting on top of the marketing demands nowadays Seeme so daunting.

Rick Blechta said...

Charlotte, because you really don't want to have to do it. Unfortunately, not being at the top of the best sellers lists, appearing on Oprah and Letterman and having your books made into movies for the silver screen necessitates that you have to be ready to promote at the drop of a hat. Most of us still need to sell books one at a time. You. Don't expect anyone else to do it for you. When that happens, treat it as a gift or think of it as a lottery win.

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