This week we are asked to give an ‘elevator pitch’. I am at a loss to fully understand this choice.
An Elevator Pitch, is a short, strong, (hopefully convincing), speech given to a person in position to further your story into production, like the short time you would have if you got into an elevator with them or found yourself in some other short, opportunistic situation.
Until now, I had only heard of it being used by those wishing to get a movie or TV series made, not to get a book published.
Unless you are planning to write a how-to book, a travel book, a comparative non-fiction or a story that needs a great deal of research, I can’t really see why you would need to ‘pitch’ your work. I don’t hear of many monetary advances for sweet romances, at least, not first efforts.
TV and movies are drawn out and expensive propositions. One can’t make one’s own theater-quality movie, nor a TV pilot, without big bucks and backing. Far be it from me to say that writing is easy, not time-consuming, not the most important part of any show or movie, either. But when it comes to most writing, such as romances, mysteries, etc., the expense is your time, (yes, it is worth money), paper and pen or electricity and a keyboarded device of your choice.
I guess I can see pitching a series before you start one, but let’s face it, most stories/manuscripts are finished and then you wait for the acceptance letter,( and more often, the rejections), to come in.
Gone are the days where you simply sent a manuscript to big publishing houses and you waited for someone to find yours in the ‘slush pile’. Now, query letters are the norm, which I guess are ‘pitches’.
I still can’t shake the production mindset, though.
I will add a ‘pitch’, but in essence, it won’t do justice to write it. Pitches are based on the enthusiasm of the pitcher, lighting a fire under the ‘pitchee’ as he/she sees the other responding to what they are saying. If you see that what you feel is a strong point in your pitch but it’s not moving your ‘target’, you can switch gears and try another angle. That simply can’t be done in a written ‘query’. This is why writers have agents, to do their pitching; they can count on them knowing what certain publishers or editors want…or want to hear. Agents can judge by interest, questions and/or body language if their pitch is going over the plate, as it were. This is why people with ideas corner those in power in elevators and the like. I have heard many tales of elevator pitches, some successful, some not. (Fran Dresher cornering a TV exec in an airplane and not stop talking until he agreed to give “The Nanny” a chance is a very funny example. You can imagine he would have agreed to anything to shut her up!)
[ Another point here: selling oneself is not an easy task for most people, but especially book and story writers, who are often introverts. When I tell people that I had been shy to the point of paranoia early in life and that I still have to fight myself to ‘get out there’, they are incredulous. As you may know, I haven’t had much published; it is amazing to my family and to myself that I do what I do and done what I’ve done, so far. Many people are surprised so much by my remarks that their following comments can be downright insulting. I have missed many opportunities for many breaks or advancements in my life out of fear and insecurity. It’s a fair bet that an elevator would go up with a great, receptive contact, but without little, old me. Fran Dresher and I have little in common.]
When I went through an unusual evening a few years ago, virtually everyone I told about it said that I should write it as a story. Frankly, I wanted to grab my niece, who was part of it, a man to play the third-person part, find a couple of cut-away vehicles for sets and get someone to hold a camera. I thought it would make a great short film, which might later be redone professionally. I even contacted a (sometime) Hollywood actor friend of mine to play the male part, but I simply could not get enough funds up for even that much of a production.
So I wrote it as a play, but I have mentioned here before that getting an unagented play read is beastly difficult. I keep trying to rework it into readable form, but I still think it would be a very good short film.
So, without being able to see your response to my words or enthusiasm, I pitch to you very briefly: The Tow Truck [working title, although I considered “The Tow Net”. Get it?].
An attractive woman and her aunt set out from a small town for a ‘Girls’ Night Out” to see their favorite author at a book signing in the big city, unaware that their car is about to break down. The tow truck driver who picks them up late that night does not seem to know much about cars, and is nervous around police. He not only flirts with the younger woman, throughout the trip back ,he continually relates his own idea for a murder mystery to them both. As the night grows later, and they reach long, dark stretches of road between towns, the tension grows.
There you have it. Since I am here, you can guess that it ended well for my niece and for me, (actually, how it really ended is quite funny), however, I took some dramatic liberties for the story’s sake.
In an elevator with a producer/publisher, I would expound on the attitude and posture of the driver, the relationship of the woman with her aunt, the deepness of the night, and add a few quotes…which ones would depend on the vibes or feedback I received from the ‘target’. I’d possibly go into the women’s family dynamics as well, which come out in conversation and phone calls as they are traveling.
What do you think? Do you think that story/movie would interest you?
Do you see my point about face-to-face pitching?