It’s That Old Elevator Speech
First Pages is an opportunity to have the first page of your manuscript read aloud anonymously in front of the audience of attendees before a panel of editors who will have a lot to say about it. This isn’t for the faint hearted or thin-skinned. It’s an exercise in humility and constructive criticism, and growing thicker skin. All are important for a writer’s life.
Pitches are an opportunity for you to go face-to-face privately for timed minutes with an agent or publisher and sell them on your work. Have it as polished as you can. Sometimes they are so impressed they ask to take the manuscript away with them to read it. Be prepared should that happen. On the other hand, they may say, “Go work on it for a year and then come see me. This isn’t ready.” Another word for the pitch, is an elevator speech. At conferences you can pretend you are on an elevator with an editor and you only have until he gets off to tell him everything about your story. Others can help you polish it. In real time you will have to pitch your work in a cover letter, query letter, or lunch with an agent. It’s like a mini-synopsis. Every word must count. Then you’ll need it when you write your cover blurb. You will use it again when you are selling or signing the book in person.
I’ve learned from experience that the elevator speech matters. It’s one of the most important parts of writing that I learned at conferences. My best pitch I’ve given hundreds of times. I have 45 seconds at reenactment signings before my patron walks away. If I can give the pitch, I sell the books.
“This is the story of Avery Junior Bennett and his hound dog, Gunner. They left home in 1861, when Avery was fourteen years old. He didn’t leave to join the war; he left on a family errand. But the war caught up to Avery and for the next five years he and his dog worked as doctors in the field hospitals of Richmond and Alexandria, serving men on both sides of the war.”
In a nutshell. Now I’ve got their attention. Now I can tell them book one is 1861-1862, book two is 1863-65, and both are Stars and Flags National Book Award winners, because now they care enough to hear more information. It’s all about the old elevator speech. It sells your idea, your story, your manuscript, and finally, your book.