I hope you didn’t think we’d talk about elevator pitches only once. An elevator pitch is the most important pitch you’ll learn to make. Admittedly, the chances of you actually being in an elevator with an editor or agent is pretty slim, but this is the perfect length pitch for most situations. When you are the lucky person designated to pick up the editor/agent from the airport, this is the perfect pitch to start the conversation about your books. If you happen to end up at a table with an editor or agent at a dinner or luncheon, again, find a way to work in your pitch. Basically, your elevator pitch is your number one way to introduce (in person) your work to the gatekeepers of the publishing world. Work it in every opportunity you have although do make sure that it is at least tangentially germane to the conversation. You want to wow the agent/editor in question with your witty conversation not jar them with your random book pitch. Try to never miss an opportunity to bring your book to a gatekeeper’s attention.

Now that I’ve whipped you into a frenzy of pitching, let’s discuss the proper etiquette for pitching. After all, even the most brilliant pitch will fall on deaf ears if you are acting in an unprofessional, rude, or flat out annoying manner. Like everything in this world, there is a time and a place for pitching. Let’s start with the times and places that it is never appropriate to pitch.

    Never pitch to me (or anyone else) if I’m . . .

  • In the bathroom — No matter how public a restroom, what you do in there is (in my opinion at least) a very private thing. I don’t care if I’m just washing my hands, I do not want to hear about your book. It could be an 80k word YA novel that sets entirely in the bathroom of a truck stop, and I’m still not going to want to hear about it in a bathroom. Find me in a more appropriate place.
  • In the middle of a conversation — I know this one should be common sense, but I still have people interrupt other people so they can get in their book pitch. Let’s face it. It’s rude and annoying. Just wait your turn like everyone else.
  • I’m on the phone — this goes with not interrupting conversations. Just be polite and wait for the call to end. During conference hours, a call has to be pretty important for me or one of my colleagues to take it. Let us talk to our boss or spouse or kid in peace.
  • Working — I, like most people, do not generally wait until I’m in public to do my work. I try to find a nice quiet secluded place to hole up and get stuff done. If I’m frantically scribbling or typing or reading in public, I’m probably in some sort of terrific time crunch and can’t spare a second for an interruption, not even for the book that will make my professional career. So, don’t interrupt. Even if I’m polite, there’s no way I’m giving you the attention you and your book deserve.
  • Working at my other job — Okay, so obviously this is NOT a problem for most of the other agents and editors on this planet since they all tend to only have one job and work in nice offices in glass buildings where the random author can’t wander in off the street and accost them. I do not have that luxury, and I find it awkward and uncomfortable to be pitched stuff when I was just trying to handsell you a book seconds before.
  • Having a personal life — Admitedly, agents and editors are not celebrities. Most people don’t know our names, let alone our faces. We are not stalked by the paparazzi and we don’t get asked for autographs during dinner. But people do meet us at places and business meetings, even ones in our home town. And then there is always the chance we will run into them again. Don’t get me wrong, I like to talk about books and writing and to discuss stuff with authors in my free time. I’m happy to say hi or exchange harmless chit chat. Just don’t pitch me your book when I’m in the middle of a movie or at dinner with my husband.
  • Incapacitated in some way — Let’s face it, if I’m having a nervous breakdown, crying, drunk, or something, there is absolutely no point in pitching to me or anyone else in a similiar state. Generally that sort of stuff is rare at conferences but it can happen. I personally can get motion sick in pretty much every vehicle known to man including roller coasters, elevators, and golf carts. When this happens and I find myself thinking that the sweet oblivion of death cannot come soon enough, I’m probably not going to have much interest in your book.

Well, this is starting to get a little long. In my next post, I’ll discuss places you should pitch.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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