Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who Has to Pitch?

Today I welcome Linda Rohrbough to Terry's Place. Linda has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for fiction and non-fiction. 

I’ve seen new authors look a little shocked when they figure out they’re going to be pitching their books the entire remainder of their career. Most everyone thinks (and I did, too) that once you get an agent, your pitching days are over. Au contraire. But writers aren’t the only ones who have to pitch.

First, let’s define terms here. When I say pitch in terms of a writer, what I mean is a short dialog about a book that piques the interest of the listener. This is most commonly known as the “elevator pitch.”

Some of the elements of a good pitch is it has an easy, effortless quality for the listener – meaning it’s clean and without verbal clutter. It should be packed with emotional hooks that engage the listener. And at the end it should be tied up with a neat concept that's memorable and universal. All this has to be done in a few sentences, I suggest three, so it’s easily deliverable in an elevator at a length of 1 to 2 minutes or less.

Now, the reason writers never stop doing this is because if they succeed, they are going to be eternally faced with talking about their work in an effective way to people they don’t know: book store owners, librarians, people in readers groups, potential fans at book signings, and even people they meet while shopping.

How do I know the latter, you ask? Ah, because I have traveled with my New York Times best-selling writer friends. And I’ve watched them effectively pitch their books to waitresses, store clerks, and even street vendors. And almost every time, they come away with a new fan.

Sound like a tall order? It's not that hard, once you know how, which is of course, where I come in. But rather than going into a commercial about what I offer writers, let me get back to the subject of this blog. Which is: are writers the only ones who have to learn to pitch for their entire careers?

I’ve discovered there’s a surprising array of people who have to learn to effectively talk about their work to people they don’t know. Which is usually an entirely different skill-set that actually doing the work.

Some of these people include artists, vice-Presidents in large firms and even housekeepers.

Let’s take artists, for example. They face many of the same obstacles that writers do. In the art world, it’s gallery owners and collectors that act as the gateway to successful sales. If there are twenty-five talented artists competing for a spot, you can bet the one who talks effectively about their work, both verbally and on paper, will be the one they’ll pick.

Or a vice president steps into the elevator at work with the new boss. And the boss turns and says, “So tell me about what you do?”

Even a housekeeper trying to get work needs a pitch. What sets them apart from the other fifteen services handing out business cards in the neighborhood?

It seems to me that the people who get the breaks are the ones who can communicate in a clean, effective, and succinct way, what they do. In other words, the ones who can pitch. What do you think? Do you need an effective pitch for your work? What professions to you know of that need a pitch?

Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for fiction and non-fiction. She also has an iPhone app of her popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop available on Apple’s iTunes store. Visit her website: www.LindaRohrbough.com

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Linda Rohrbough said...

In the category of creative people who need to be able to pitch, I was also thinking fashion designers. But I'd bet school teachers run into situations where they have to pitch as well. Are there others?

Karen C said...

Politicians? School principals?

Linda Rohrbough said...

I hadn't thought of politicians and school principals, but those are excellent examples, Karen. Anyone else? Have you thought about an elevator pitch for your job?

Karen C said...

Lucky me - I'm retired, so I don't have to worry about that elevator pitch anymore. And I think the grin from ear to ear is all the selling I need to do to let people know that I am enjoying myself!

I'll keep thinking about this though.