Deidre and I belong to one of the local writers clubs. Officially it’s a screen writers club, but in reality the members are a mix, covering genres from non-fiction to poetry, including a couple of actual screen writers for legitimacy. We find that we have more in common as writers than we have differences (digression: in our world of bipolar politics when we get down to the basics, don’t we all have more in common than we have differences? – I think I’ll blog that on my blog.)
To prepare us for the summer conference season, April’s Writers Club topic was “Pitching” presented by Karen Fisher-Alaniz, Breaking the Code – a Father’s Secret, a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question that Changed Everything (now in its second printing). The subtitle was the basis for Karen’s successful Pitch which she used to sell her book at a writer’s conference. In this era of electronic communication we need to remember the power of face-to-face communication. The following are the key points from her presentation:
· Do your research on which agents will be at the conference or other event you are attending. Know as much as you can about the agents themselves and the books (authors) they have represented. This applies to editors and publishers as well.
· Hone your one or two sentence "elevator pitch" and your long (30 to 60 second) pitch. Practice on everyone, see what works.
· Be prepared for success. If your pitch catches their interest, and they ask, “So tell me more about this book?” What is your answer?
· Plan A may not work. Karen “sold” her book to an agent suggested by a third party at the conference, not to her primary target. I remember reading a quote, “Plan A never works.” This is not an excuse to skip the first bullet; research pays dividends.
From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, Arielle Eckstrut and David Henry Sterry, “The first time you announce to anyone that you’re going to write a book, there’s an excellent chance their response will be ‘What’s your book about?’ When you approach an agent, you will have to explain what your book is about…” I've found that pitching my book to friends and acquaintances is great practice. These are opportunities to polish the pitch, to test what gets their attention and what doesn’t. Sooner or later we’ll be pitching to someone with connections, and it might happen when we least expect it.
One further thought, not every book appeals to every person. There are 300 million Americans, 7 billion world citizens. You only have to sell your book to a small fraction of them to be successful. For my (draft) book, We Can Give Our Grandchildren a Better World, there are 85 million grandparents in the U.S. and over 100 million in North America. When people ask me what my book is about, I often get an enthusiastic, “Cool, when will it be out? I’d like to buy it.” Other times I get a yawn. The latter is a bit of a cold shower. Then I remind myself: a) what did I learn, and b) if I can sell my book to just one percent of those 100 million, it will be a million seller!
What’s your experience with pitching to family, friends, and influential people? We’d like to hear from you.