Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Conference Pitching: A Nitty Gritty Workshop (Part One)
A couple months ago, my fellow Alley Cat, Angie, asked for feedback on her elevator pitch and query blurb. And weird old me jumped at the chance. Call me crazy, but I get a kick out of this stuff. Apparently the other Alley Cats found my comments helpful enough that they convinced me to turn it into a blog post. So here we are.
Just to clarify, I'm going to get into the details of wording choices and plot points to emphasize in a pitch, not necessarily how to deliver it effectively in person. So let's get started.
Here's Angie's original elevator pitch along with the comments I sent back to her.
In the Amazon basin in 1546, a tribal chief's daughter dares to love a Spanish explorer, ultimately facing a choice between her heart and her people.
[My comments: I love the unique setting! In general, this description feels a little broad to me. It's really close, but I think you could punch it up an extra notch by giving more specifics. What's her external goal throughout the story? I'd present that first, then tell how this forbidden love inhibits the goal.]
Without knowing her full story, here's the example I developed based on the longer elevator pitch she had also provided.
Desperate to escape a pre-arranged marriage to a savage beast, an Amazonian princess indulges in a forbidden love. But will the Spanish explorer who has captured her heart pull her from her home, only to lead her into a dangerous trap?
In this revised pitch, I changed the following elements to give it more kick.
1) Mentioned the marriage to a savage beast. I did that for a couple reasons. One is to give her motivation and goal in a short snippet, but it also explains the stakes (the phrase "savage beast" has a startling quality to it and gets the listener's attention).
2) Eliminated the need for a phrase describing the setting and time period. By putting the terms "savage beast" and "Spanish explorer" in there, it gives the listener a sense that it's a historical piece in a unique setting, while utilizing every word choice possible to convey the plot.
4) Ended the pitch with a question to increase the stakes even more. Now we're not just talking about forbidden love anymore, but forbidden love that could lead to a dangerous trap. (By the way, putting "dangerous trap" at the end is a Margie Lawson technique of backloading...putting a power word or phrase at the end of the sentence to draw the listener in and propel them to want more.) I didn't word that last sentence very well (has lots of "her" in it), but hopefully it gives you an overall sense of where to provide the specifics.
This type of pitch would be effective for those super-short snippets of time when an editor or agent says, "What's your story about?" You'd probably want a slightly longer pitch for a one-on-one appointment. I'll be dissecting that type of pitch in two weeks when I present part two.
Do you have any sort of method you use when developing an elevator pitch? If you're stuck on your elevator pitch or want feedback, share it with us in the comments. We love to brainstorm around here! :)
*Nervous photo by africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
**Elevator photo by Gregory Szarkiewicz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net