Who said that time in elevators is wasted? If you’re prepared, you might deliver a pitch on your way from the lobby to the eighth floor to The Agent who likes the premise enough to ask for the whole book. Next thing you know, The Agent loves the book enough to represent you. They say it happens.
The Elevator Pitch works for casual interchanges just about anywhere, e.g., the snack bar, the hallway, or the Smokers Circle outside, or for organized meetings. How much can you say in a three or four minutes? The pitch must hook the listener the moment you start speaking, or the agent will smile, say “thanks, but it’s not for me,” and walk out of your life.
While I’ve never given my Elevator Pitch in an elevator, I used it several times at writer’s conferences in 2011 and 2012, even with success.
Five of us sat around a table with a cheery agent who gave each of us three minutes to talk—and her full attention. I liked hearing everyone’s pitches and the exchanges between the agent and writers because it helped me to see what worked and what didn’t. When one writer finished, the agent said, “I don’t think I can sell that. Sorry.” The writer who sat by me began her pitch by dropping the name of a mutual friend, and she and the agent immediately hit if off like old friends, all chummylike. We weren’t surprised when the agent invited her to submit her work. To me, the agent said, “That’s been done already. You need another angle.” Her eyes left my face. “Next.”
In May I sat with six others at a similar table with another agent, a woman close to my age. When it was my turn to pitch, she listened, asked questions, and said, “Sounds interesting. Send me three chapters and a synopsis. Here’s my card.”
She liked it? Actually, she handed me off to someone else on her staff, the Second Agent, but I was honored nonetheless.
The Second Agent wanted the entire manuscript, and she emailed me as she read it clear to the end. While she was initially enthusiastic, she said the book needed work. Her feedback helped me with a major revision that began last summer.
Will I ever get this thing in shape?
Next: Speed Pitching