Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

The Secret Life Of The One-Sentence Pitch, or, Adventures in Hand-Selling

I knew I needed a good one-sentence pitch for any book I wanted to sell, and that any agent or editor I pitched to would be listening for an answer to the question, Will people pay to read that?

What I didn't know was that actual readers, face to face, would be asking for my one-sentence pitch in the moment of decision about whether to buy my book.

I'm really glad I went to the Totally Normal Event. I was there to sell books, and not a lot of books got sold, so mostly I learned stuff. The people who were there to have fun manifestly had a whole lot of it, so I'd say overall that it looked like a success for Jeff Mach and his event-planning crew.

The merchanting arrangements were unconventional. Instead of having one hucksters' room for all the merchants, there was a main merchanting area that had a stage off to the side, with live music and dancing, and then there were several smaller themed rooms on another floor that had various activities going on, with a couple of merchants whose wares were relevant to the themes. It was an interesting idea, and it might have worked, but for those of us who were selling books, it didn't pan out terribly well. On the other hand, trying to hand-sell books while competing for attention with heavily amplified Gothic/Industrial music might not have worked better.

So there David and I were, trying to sell e-books (which is already a hard sell because everyone prefers print), at our little table in merchanting Siberia. Our respective very patient spouses had come to help out and to tend our respective offspring, while the two of us spent nine (9) hours selling seven (7) e-books on CD. We didn't even come close to recouping our publisher's costs for the box of CD's (complete with glossy cover art labels!) that she'd sent us to sell, but considering that it was our first time out, and the weird conditions we had to work with, I'm glad we managed to sell any. That we did sell those seven was largely because we had our one-sentence pitches to fall back on when people asked us what our books were about.

Every year I went to the Writer's Weekend conference, I'd attend the panel on How To Pitch To Agents And Editors, just in case some new tidbit of information or advice slipped out that hadn't the year before. I'd spend the hours on the plane between Newark and Seattle, and then between Seattle and Newark, scribbling out variation after variation of the one-sentence pitch and the one-paragraph pitch. Between sessions during the conference, I'd pace around the hotel room, memorizing the pitches and playing around with the delivery. And each of those years, I'd have a few five-minute appointments in which to put those pitches to work with agents and editors.

I may not have persuaded any of those industry pros to take me on, but now I know I can get strangers to open their wallets and hand me cash on the basis of my pitch. That's got to be good for something.
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