Pitching in Elevators

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

10 thoughts on “Pitching in Elevators

  1. I really like the word “chummylike!” in your story.
    And we all know exactly how dismissed you felt when “her eyes left my face.” Those five words convey so much.
    Thank goodness The Second Agent did not dismiss you and provided helpful feedback!

  2. Norma
    Have you considered digital publishing? It certainly doesn’t mean you don’t need to edit your book, by someone else preferably. But, if you believe you have a good story, I encourage you to get it out there. Publish it on Kindle and Nook. You’ll see how well it’s received and that can provide ammunition for traditional publishers if that’s the way you want to go.

    I personally believe a lot of very worthwhile writings are never discovered because they are mired in editing by someone who might have an impressive job title with a publisher or as a literary agent but doesn’t share the writer’s passion for the work.

    I recently released my first novel on Kindle and it’s received great reviews. I’ve also had some private comments on ways to make it better and I’ve taken those to heart. Another good thing about digital publishing is that it’s relatively easy to make changes to the manuscript, which will be reflected in subsequent purchases.

    A study in England released in August showed that sales for digital books are outpacing print, hardcover and paperback combined, by about 14%. The same study showed that Kindle owners buy about four times as many books as they did before they got a Kindle. (Shiv Malik – “The Guardian” – Aug 5, 2012)

    Some ‘purists’ eschew digital books and anything from a one-off publisher (not all one-off publishers are so-called ‘vanity’ publishers), saying that libraries and bookstores are only interested in books from the big publishing houses. Be that as it may, the book that is never printed because of rounds of rejections and edits never makes it to bookstores and libraries either. More importantly, the latter never makes it to any reader, and that’s a shame.

    1. Yes, I’ve considered it, MIke. But you make excellent points, and although I have no specific plans to go that direction, I’m eager to get my book into the hands of readers as soon as it’s the best I can make it. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m encouraged!

  3. Great chatting with you this evening, Norma! I wish you the best of luck with your book! Keep in touch… I want to hear how things are going with your publishing walk 🙂 I’m on Facebook and you should have my email addy from here.

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