Hunting on the Indie Authorian Plains ~ by Marj Ivancic



FADE IN:
A BALLROOM IN A LARGE, MAINSTREAM HOTEL
DAYTIME
BBC NATURALIST BEGINS NARRATION


     

The elusive reader meanders down the Indie Authorian Plain, her desirous gaze sliding side to side, taking in the abundant array of lush and alluring reading fodder adorning table after table. Clever girl, her well-trained hunter’s eye is not distracted by the jumbled mix of chachkies and candy bowls.
     She knows what she’s looking for.
     At the far end of the carpeted plain, a new author spies the prospective buyer, straightens in her chair. It’s been a long, lean winter. She could use a sale.

     Two women, each hungry for what the other has to offer. The perfect symbiotic relationship…IF…
     The author watches as the reader draws near, as her eyes land on the author’s books. 

     It’s a moment fraught with tension.
     Worry fights a mighty battle with hope.
     Will the reader like what she sees? There are so many options from which to choose. Will she be drawn in, take that last step toward—
     Her attention appears to be caught by the bright red book across the aisle, and for a breath, it seems she will move on, take her pocketbook elsewhere.
     But then, a miracle happens! Her head snaps back in the direction of the new author, and she turns her steps in that direction!
    Still seated, careful not to make sudden movements, the author summons her most welcoming smile. Not too toothy, not too tight.
     The reader picks up one of the paperbacks, studies it with both suspicion and interest, then pins the author with a look and says, “So, tell me, what’s your book about.”
     The author opens her mouth. Words tumble out, falling over each other, awkward as a long-limbed, pimply teenager.
     As she rambles, the glint in the reader’s eye fades, and attentiveness gives way to confusion which distills into disinterest. The author talks faster, throwing in more information about the story that really doesn’t matter. “There’s a restaurant. He likes to cook…”
     The courtship drifts to an end.
     A seemingly endless vacuum of uncomfortable silence threatens to swallow them both until the reader offers a mumbled word that might be encouragement but is most definitely a rejection. She sets the book down and moves on.

     The author will have to go hungry another day.
     Okay, so perhaps that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it is an embarrassingly accurate recounting of a recent experience I had at a local author event.
     Red badge of shame aside, the failure taught me that while a welcoming table setup and catchy book covers are the worm and spinner drawing in the fish, it is the sales pitch, or elevator speech, that hooks the catch.
     Wanting to make a better showing at an event in April, I decided to spend some time researching elevator speeches and have learned that an effective one consists of three basic elements.
      

First, be concise. In a few words—about 30-seconds’ worth—give the reader enough detail to inform but not overwhelm. No one wants to listen to a college 101-class lecture when they ask about a book, but they do want to know what’s special or unique about the story. A good pitch capitalizes on key plot elements and intriguing character traits and doesn’t pull in any of the mundane.
     Second, be persuasive. Like the back-of-book blurb with its tantalizing open-ended question, the one the reader cannot let go unanswered, this quick pitch needs to lure in the reader. That is best done by knowing one’s audience. Ask some questions about a reader’s interests. What genre do they like? What kinds of characters call to them? The answers will vary, which means authors might have to tweak their speech on the fly. For example, if it’s the characters that “make” a story for a reader, then the pitch should highlight the hero and heroine and make them irresistible. This advice, however, does NOT advocate fibbing about the content of a book just to make a sale. Never sell an erotic romance as a young adult novel. You’re not doing anyone any favors selling the wrong customer the wrong book.
     The last guideline left to offer is not one I’ve seen in the any of the “How To” articles about elevator speeches but would have helped me. This “speech” is, for all intents and purposes, public speaking, and the cardinal rule of public speaking is PRACTICE.

For this author event, I had scratched some ideas down on paper, but I hadn’t done a dry run. Not with my husband, not with my author friends, not even in the mirror. And for me, a gal who hates to talk about herself, this was a bad, bad, bad idea. Had I done so, I would have seen how I picked the wrong elements of my story to include. How I wasn’t clear. How I wasn’t concise. How I was setting myself up to lay a big, fat egg.
     As I was debating whether or not this topic would be a good one to share, it struck me that the ability to craft a good pitch is a valuable skill that people could use in their everyday lives—communicating and getting buy-in from bosses and coworkers; convincing a certain hubby who shall remain nameless that we NEED an otter…and a duck…the list goes on.
     It’s funny how a bit of knowledge can truly be dangerous.
     With my April event just a few calendar days away, I’m feeling a bit more confident going into it. Hopefully, I will make a better showing, and any embarrassing stories coming out of it will be of the skirt-tucked-in-underwear-laugh-till-you-cry sort.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the event tips. Hoping your April event goes well!

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  2. Love this post, Marj! What wonderful insight and words we all need to hear... but especially those of us who will be in similar situations in the near future. That elevator pitch or log line are the hardest to come up with or stick to. Bravo for you for realizing the need and for sharing your experience with all of us.

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    1. Lol! Thank you, linda! The elevator pitch is as hard as the back blurb! I'm terrible at both. Luckily, Andi Lawrencovna is a master at them. She is a solid sounding board. I tell her she needs to sell that service!

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  3. You NAILED it woman!! Love this blog so much! What great tips!!!

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    1. Thanks, Dar! You are so good at talking at these events. You make everyone comfortable and welcome! I learn so much from watching you!

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  4. Wow! You shared some great information. Thanks, Marj.

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