Tuesday, June 8, 2010


The latest trend in writers marketing is to tell everyone they need an "elevator" pitch. A short (15 words or less) pitch that you could use if you ran into an editor in an elevator. Something to get their attention. I worked hard on this-thought I had a great one for a Women's Fiction novel I wrote.
Here's the pitch:"A convention services manager discovers a family secret that complicates her happy ever after."
And the title: "If the Shoe Fits--sometimes the last thing you need is a fairy godfather."
I was prepared. So I went in for a pitch session with an agent. I gave my well polished pitch. She paused, blinked and said. "Okay, so tell me more."
I drew a complete blank. "Um, well, um." Wait...aren't they supposed to ask more specific questions about the book? "Um, well, okay... it's a Cinderella story--"
She cut me off. "Sorry Cinderella stories are over done. No one will buy it."
I swallowed. "Well, it's really and anti-Cinderella story. You see, the twist is that the Fairy Godfather gums up the works and the girl has to take her own life into her hands if she wants a happy ever after."
Agent frowned. "I don't get it."
"Okay..." My mind scrambled. "You see the heroine hasn't moved on since her mother's death. One day at the worst possible time, she discovers she has a fairy godfather who wants to change her life and give her a happy ever after."
"Cinderella stories are over done," Agent dismissed my pitch.
"No, see, the godfather tries to get the heroine to live the life he wants for her and she must learn to finally stand up for herself and live the life she wants for her."
"But," the agent says, "Why would you not want a fairy godfather?"
I stared at her, knowing I had lost all hope at this point. "This is really tough," I mutter.
"Why don't you tell me about something else you have," the kind agent says.
I didn't have any other elevator pitches ready. I swallowed. "But, this is the best book I've ever written."
"Writers, your time is up. Please finish up and allow the next set of people in." The moderator announced.
I stood, shook the agent's hand and thanked her for seeing me. She handed me her card and said it was nice to meet me.
The point to this little story? You can write a good story. You can follow all the latest "rules" and write a good pitch. But that doesn't mean you'll always be fully prepared for what happens next, especially when the editor/agent doesn't get what you're trying to say. So, my advice, learn about pitches, do your best to write one, then realize that we're all human and even published authors can gum up a good appointment. Give yourself a break. And most important, try, try again. Cheers~


Kelly Bryson said...

Nancy- Sorry it didn't take. Maybe next time you'll find a better fit. good luck!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

LOL! I'm sorry, I had to laugh, because I tend to get myself stuck in situations like that. I've got it all down pat and then someone asks for more.
Guess we need our elevator pitch, back cover synopsis, short synopsis, and full 3-5 page synopsis memorized.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I had to laugh, too - this so sounds like my first conference encounter with an agent! From doing book signings I’ve learned to back up my elevator pitch with a slightly longer pitch for those that ask for more.

Jessica Nelson said...

I agree Nancy, we just have to do our best and try to learn what we can.
I'm sorry about your experience though! I think a story with a fairy godfather would be awesome. :-)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Kelly, thanks. The worst part was I'd pitched many other books before, but not with the "elevator pitch." I think it was relying on just that pitch that got me in trouble.
Hi L. Diane, I know-it is funny after the fact. :) Sometimes it's best to tell the story from your heart.
Hi Jane, sad when this still happens after 20 conferences... Yeah, that would be me. lol *takes a bow*
Hi Jessica, it is an awesome story-but I can't seem to get past the whole Cinderella thing. Perhaps it's just ahead of its time. :D
Cheers, everyone!

Linda Kage said...

This is exactly why I'm scared to death to give a pitch. It's hard enough for me to WRITE a synopsis and blurb about my story, and writing is supposedly my speacialty...but to actually talk about it. No way. I can't do it. Whenever I have to TALK, I get tongue-tied, blank-headed and I bet crossed-eyed too.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Linda,

My intention was not to scare you further. :( Pitches and smoozing are curious things. I've been practicing for years and years.(Obviously still not very good at it.) My point was simply that you can't rely on only one thing in a pitch.

The best way is to simply be excited about your book. Your excitement will spill over and soon a conversation will get going. Cheers~

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Excellent advice. Thanks for sharing it with us. I think you did a super job with your pitch, and you can't possibly be prepared for everything an editor or agent might throw at you. The elevator pitch is such a tough thing to do--to convey the essence of your book in just a couple sentences in a way that will make it seem intriguing. So sorry the experience did not go well for you, but thank you for sharing the lesson you learned.

Marilyn Brant said...

Oh, Nancy, hug! Pitching is just so hard, isn't it? I think the toughest part is that we have to change hats from "writer" to "promoter"--to see the work as the publisher's marketing department might look at it, which is not (for me, anyway) my natural tendency. I used to think that authors just had 2 hats--"write" and "edit"--but I've been in enough situations now where I've tripped up because the focus of the pitch was on "market" rather than "story"... One thing about this industry: there's *always* more to learn ;). Fingers crossed for you on this project--it sounds really fun!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Carolina, thanks for commenting. It is a crazy thing- the writer's life. :) I know my weakness is selling and smoozing. Practice makes perfect, so they say. lol

Hi Marilyn,
I am so glad I'm not alone in this. :D It's a good growing experience. right? I've pretty much accepted that some of the best books I've written will never see the light of day due to timing/market. But they were fun for me and that counts for something.


~Sia McKye~ said...

How funny. But I do understand working so hard on one MS pitch, you forget you have other MS.

A friend of mine suggested being prepared to pitch whatever Ms you have completed. Hmmm, sounds good.

So I'm writing a pitch for each one and putting it on the MS AND, I have a file of each MS and I thought I'd write the pitch after each title that way I can print it off and have it at hand when I make pitches in a session.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Sia, that is a great idea.

One time I thought it would be "smart" to simply create a marketing brochure with pitches for the manuscripts I had completed. I created a professional brochure and brought it with me to a pitch session. The agent FREAKED out. Here I thought I was showing that I was more than a one book wonder and that I was professional. No-no-no. All she saw was a author telling her she wanted the agent to rep a huge stack of work.
So, have the other pitches ready in case, but don't pitch unless asked. It's a crazy fine line. :D Cheers!

Meg M said...

Like war, pitching is HELL. I think you are right - when you rely too much on the "memorized bit," you may blink when you're asked for an impromptu "tell me more" or "huh?" One thing I've found helpful, writing several different pitches helps cement your story's basics into your head. Still doesn't make it any easier! Best of luck next time.

prashant said...

I've got it all down pat and then someone asks for more.
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