Beyond the Elevator Speech: Pitch Your Book with Greater Focus (Plus Special Reminder)

by Kendra Bonnett on August 6, 2010

Book Business PaperclipPost #51 – Women’s Memoirs, Book Business – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

elevator-speechWhether we are writers of memoir, fiction, short stories, poetry, screenplays or nonfiction, we all go to writing conferences whenever our time and money and the opportunity allow. It’s always fun to be among our fellow writers, making friends, learning new techniques and networking…especially when we can get our work in front of agents and publishers.

Of late, Matilda and I have had the East of Eden Writers Conference (hosted by South Bay Writers) on our minds because among other things we’ll be doing there, we’ll be conducting our 3-hour Writing Alchemy workshop. East of Eden is a great conference for networking and talking with agents.

So let’s say it’s September 24th (the first day of East of Eden), and you’ve checked into your hotel in Salinas, California, and even registered for the conference. Suddenly, you remember something you left up in your room. You cross the lobby to the elevator. You get in and push 10, but as the doors are closing someone calls out, “Hold the elevator.” For once, you don’t get flustered and push the CLOSE button.

The woman smiles and thanks you as she joins you in the elevator. You–ever vigilant–spot her name badge. An agent! She must have spotted your badge as well because she gives you an opening you could drive War and Peace through. “Oh, are you a writer?”

“Yes.” You smile nonchalantly, as though you’re asked this question too many times a day. It’s a good thing you’re wearing that long skirt because, in truth, your knees are knocking.

“What genre do you work in?” she asks. “Are you published?”

If this ever happens to you, I hope to goodness you’ve prepared your elevator speech.

If you don’t have one or don’t even know what I’m talking about, don’t fret. This is not a problem that’s hard to fix. Below, I’ve posted a few links to articles that will provide some tips, examples and additional resources.

Two Resources to Help You Create a Great Elevator Speech

How to Craft an Effective Elevator Speech

Learn How to Deliver a Masterful Elevator Pitch

How to Craft a Killer Elevator Pitch that Will Land You Big Business

Create a Great Elevator Pitch

Most of what you’re going to find written on the subject will be directed at salespeople, business executives and entrepreneurs. Don’t let this turn you off. Your memoir is just as much a product as anything else on the market (or trying to get to market). But to help you, let me break down the key elements of an author’s elevator speech:

  • Quickly state your genre and topic, and be sure to include the audience (age group and any relevant demographics)
  • Note your current status: Whether the book is published (self-published), ready for a major update, not published, or in development.
  • The heart of your short (3-5 minute) pitch is the storyline. Make it compelling, and include your theme and message.
  • If your book is unique, explain why. Don’t be vague or expansive. Be clear and to the point. If you have a statistic that proves your point, include it.
  • If, say, your genre is mystery and you write in the style of a modern-day Conan Doyle, explain: e.g., my character has the deductive reasoning of a Sherlock Holmes and the police rely on her to solve the cases their fancy computers and DNA swabs can’t.

Do this well, and as your elevator arrives at the 10th floor you might just be handing the agent your card as you prepare to leave.

Improve Your Elevator Speech with the Stadium Pitch

stadium-pitchI first heard about the stadium pitch while listening to business coach Rich Schefren. I think Rich may have gotten the concept from master sales coach Chet Holmes. I’m giving you a link to an excellent article by Holmes, “How to Build a KILLER Presentation that Literally Triples Sales.”

I advise you to read Holmes’ piece, but here’s the gist: It’s not enough to put together a short, compelling elevator speech. In the elevator, you have the prospect trapped…at least until you get to her floor. In the stadium, she can get up and leave at any time, so you had better be talking about something that interests her. In other words, tailor your presentation to your audience. How you pitch your book to an agent will be different from the publisher pitch, and both will be very different from what you’d tell a reader.

So spend some time thinking about each of your ideal prospective audiences. Make a list of the things they will want to know. For example, a reader might want to know how your memoir will change her life, but a publisher will want to know if you’re on Facebook or blogging. The publisher will want to know that you have already built a following for your work, which means you have a platform from which to market the book. The agent will want to know much the same thing, but in terms he can use to present your book to a publisher.

With several well-focused stadium pitches, you can stop hanging out in elevators…waiting for your chance to trap an agent or publisher. You can seek the light and talk to almost everyone you meet because you have a set of points tailored to that person’s interests.

Our New Journaling Column Starts Tomorrow

You’ve probably seen the countdown clock in the righthand column above. We’ve been counting down the days until Amber Starfire began guest blogging about journaling and memoir. Tomorrow (Saturday) she posts her first piece. Actually it’s part of an interview I did with Amber over the phone yesterday. She has some interesting insights into the role of journaling for memoir writers. I think you’ll like this. I know you’ll enjoy interacting with Amber. She’s looking forward to answering your questions and giving you a forum for sharing your thoughts and elements of your own work.



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