Don’t Throw Spitballs.
Seriously. Nothing turns an agent or prospective employer off like a second shower. (Even if (s)he needs one.)
Today (July 29, 2011) is national “Talk in an Elevator Day” so the elevator pitch seemed like a natural topic. For those not on the writing side of the equation (most of you come here for the seahorses, but I won’t hold that against you) an “elevator pitch” refers to the thirty-second hook-and-summary of a novel or other creative project that a writer presents to an editor, agent or other interested trapped third party. It should be short, sweet, and make the listener want to know more.
Plenty of websites, seminars, and conferences help authors prepare and write these pitches. It’s thoroughly and often well-covered ground.
I travel the ground less covered – in this case, the nervousness that keeps so many writers silent until the elevator doors glide shut behind the departing agent. Only then do the fear-chilled lips thaw out and the practiced pitch flow out – to writers, family and anyone else who will listen except for the people whose ears most need to hear it.
Because those people are … scary.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve talked with terrified authors trying to find “some way” to find the courage to speak with agents one-on-one. To many, the gatekeepers of the publishing industry might as well be drooling Cerberian hell-hounds that devour aspiring authors and spend the evening gnawing the shattered bones of their victims’ dearest dreams.
Something like that, anyway.
Over the years, I’ve found an image that worked for me works well for others too. Before you give that elevator pitch or go in for that conference one-on-one, remind yourself that the agent is human and puts on his-or-her pants the same way you do.
Except, hopefully, she uses her own pants, because using yours would be creepy.
For the record, it’s that last bit that does the trick. I’ve had others say the same. The old cliche about “putting on pants one leg at a time” does little to calm the butterfly carnival in your belly. Pondering the creepiness of an agent stealing your pants, however, always brings a smile.
Walk up to the shark tank and put on a smile. Give your pitch. Try not to drool. And remember…the agent got dressed the same way you did (slight mileage variations may apply) – except that he used his own pants.
Because using yours would be creepy.
Now, get out there and nail that elevator pitch.