Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The Pitch: How Important Is It?
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Austin Comic Con with my fellow writers from All Things Writing, Kaye George and Steve Metze. I'd been to the convention last year as an observer and found the whole thing to be really entertaining. Austin Comic Con is a place where you will find all kinds of unique and fun people who are passionate about comics, TV, celebrities, art, costumes, steampunk, action figures, and anything else you can possibly think of. I met some interesting characters who will be popping up in future short stories!
The reason why we attended was because we wanted to sell our new book All Things Dark and Dastardly, and Steve was kind enough to allow us to use his table space! So in addition to all the amazing steampunk gear and gizmos that Steve was selling, there were our novels. Now, if you've ever been to any kind of convention where things are sold, you know that the key is getting a potential buyer hooked on the product. You have to make them think they need it, they can't live without it, that somehow they will be better looking or thinner if they purchase it. It's all about how you spin the pitch!
And this was the most important thing I learned this weekend: I suck at pitching a book.
Yes. It's true. I have a BFA in Theatre Arts. I teach dramatics to my students every day of the school year, but when it comes down to selling my own stuff, I clam up! I smile. I nod. I can answer questions. But I can't begin a conversation about my book!
I think this is due to the way I was brought up.
It isn't polite to talk about yourself to others because that could sound like bragging. You don't want to make anyone feel like they have to do something. Don't be a pest by mentioning that you are selling girl scout cookies.
Since that philosophy is deeply ingrained in my head, it's hard to feel comfortable talking to people about my book or why they should buy it. It makes me feel like I'm giving a really bad book report, and the teacher totally knows that I didn't do my homework or something. Unfortunately, this works against me as an independent author. Since I don't have an agent, face time with potential customers is definitely in my future. Ugh...
On the other hand, I did have the chance to watch Steve and Kaye work their mojo with people. Steve is especially good at getting people to come to the table. That's because he is 100% in character when he is pitching the things he sells. He isn't afraid to call out to the crowd or throw seemingly random info out about the things he created. True, he has a deeper emotional investment in getting his items to sell (money is money, after all, and it cost a lot to make steampunk things and rent a booth at Comic Con), but I felt like he could have worked for P.T. Barnum back in the day and been quite successful. Watching him was like watching a true master of the art of salesmanship. Kaye is also good at chatting up customers. She knows how to strike up a conversation with random people and quickly get them interested in finding out more about our books. I think she collected quite a few business cards from different authors that will come in very handy down the road.
So how important is the pitch? Very. From what I saw, it was key in making a sale. All the things you read about regarding knowing your audience and understanding how to make your work sound interesting is true. Being personable without being pushy is a must. Sounding relaxed and calm is helpful as it puts your customer at ease. Chatting with them about other topics other than just your book or product is a nice touch, too. It shows you care, and whether you do or not, I've always heard the saying, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." So true.
I think a lot of authors think of the pitch is something that is just for agents or publishers. Not true. Even if you have one of those things, you are still going to be in situations where you have to be able to talk about your book to other people. It takes practice and a little thought, too. Yes, you may know your book inside and out, but what do you say when people ask you what its about? Can you get down to a bit sized couple of sentences that zing and make the listener want to know more?
If you haven't guessed, that's one of my new personal goals: getting down the pitch. I have one for Nephilim, and I'm working on one for All Things Dark and Dastardly. Now the key is practicing them. Luckily, I'll have lots of opportunities in the future to do just that!
So how is your pitch? If I asked you for it right now, could you do it?