A Random Thought: The Elevator Picture

I sign up for a variety of email blasts, most having to do with writing or writers, but some having to do with business or music. The nice thing about email blasts is that I can pick and choose which to read, and don’t have to write myself sticky notes on which web sites to visit on a regular basis.

One of my favorites is the weekly e-zine sent out by Jeffrey Gitomer. I signed up after purchasing a copy of his LITTLE GOLD BOOK OF YES! ATTITUDE, at the San Francisco Airport. What is funny is at the time, I hadn’t even started writing my first novel. Now that I think about it, I began writing the first novel on the plane ride home from that particular trip, probably minutes after finishing the book.

The most notable Jeffrey Gitomer trait is that he is enthusiastic. I’ve read many of his books since that day in 2007, and dare I say it, the man is never, ever down. A tiny book, like his green, red and black books, it’s packed with a lot of heart-thumping yet congenial energy. You can’t help but be swept into his positivity. Life might have pitfalls, but with a few tweaks and attitude adjustments, we can overcome!

The YES! attitude is a quality that translates across all lines in one’s life, be it business, relationships, children, and yes…even writing. I can be a cynic, a bitch, a naysayer, a purveyor of doom and gloom, yet once a week, Jeffrey Gitomer bumps me back into a positive rail.

Today’s Gitomer newsletter included an intriguing article on elevator pictures. As writers, we all know about the dreaded elevator pitch. The elevator pitch is also a standard with salesmen, which might explain why I never went into sales. Being naked in front of a bunch of people is not one of the things I like to do, and there is nothing that more closely resembles naked vulnerability than an elevator pitch.

The first time I tried speed dating with a bunch of highly regarded and therefore intimidating literary agents, I landed ker-plop on my face, with egg and everything else on it. Elevator pitching is all about confidence, a succinct delivery, and something about you that makes you memorable.

The actual pitch and the working it down to twenty-five of the most powerful, compelling words you’d ever want to regal an agent with is the easy part, in my opinion. You can critique your pitch with your writing friends, or pick up Katharine Sands’ book (or hear her speak, she’s phenomenal!) and work your pitch over until it’s sleek and, in her words, “POPS!”

Confidence can only be generated by the author (meaning YOU!) so if you’re not feeling it, perhaps you’d better look your work over and revise and edit until you DO feel it.

As for personal memorability: I recall discussing my first pitch-fears with a noted online author. “What do I do?” His reply was to wear a low-cut red dress. I opted for red, but decided to leave out the low-cut. I’m selling a book, not my services. But it did lead me to wonder…these agents see hundreds of hopefuls at dozens of conferences every year. What is it that makes me stand out among the rest?

The answer most “writers” would want me to say is The Story, stupid. But, wait…no! Like those copier, pharmaceutical, or siding salesmen, it’s not just the product. Think about it; I know I have chosen plumbers and car dealers not only because of the service or product, but also because of the personality of the salesman. It’s the “je ne sais quois” that gets the business every time.

After following agents on Twitter for a year, I gather that they’re not only looking for the next great book, they’re looking for an author who would make their job easy by having the personality to sell, to become a wag, to be memorable as well as prolific. While I don’t know the percentage of published authors who were picked up at a conference during an elevator pitch, I do know that a sparkling pitch followed by a stellar manuscript equals an author whose personality naturally bubbles.

Back to Andy Horner’s article on elevator pictures: Taking this concept to the realm of the agent-writer elevator might not be such a bad idea. And it’s not just the red, low-cut dress or the Steampunk jewelry. People these days have a limited capacity for words, especially in a world full of computers and smartphones, YouTube and Twitter. According to him, words are just too “2D” for most people.

I’m not going to share any of my ideas for the elevator pitch of the 21st Century, but I can tell you that my future pitch just might include pictures.


San Francisco, the Writers Conference, and Other News

I returned from San Francisco on Monday, taking the red eye. It saves me $75, but it’s a terrible way to fly, especially if you are old and decrepit like I am and can’t sleep sitting up. Note to those who are interested: just before you board the plane, drink two double Amaretto and orange juice and take a Benadryl. You’ll be able to doze, on and off.

San Francisco was wonderful, but then it always is. I made my escape from the Tundra just in time. When I landed in Minneapolis, the blizzard was just beginning. However, if you’re going to fly in a blizzard, Minneapolis is a good place to start. They know snow.

The entire West Coast was rainy last Monday, but by Tuesday the clouds broke and it was sunny the rest of the week, even in the Sunset where I stay. It’s normally cloudy or foggy all the time in that neighborhood. I soaked up as much sun as I could. (Felt good.)

The writers conference started on Friday. This year I stayed at the Mark Hopkins, where the conference is held. Expensive, but at least Jeffrey didn’t have to play taxi service for three days. The conference was so interesting. There were so many workshops to attend, and I felt I learned something new in each one. Once again, I signed up for the agent speed dating.

Last year’s try was a fiasco. I was so unprepared, nervous and incredibly naive! Plus, my novel (Finding Cadence) was horrible! I pulled it out this week just to take a gander, and I can’t believe how bad it is! It has to be redone from start to finish.

I’ve had an entire year to study the craft of the pitch, and to write. I hope I write better than I did a year ago, although I know my weaknesses. (Did I mention it’s tough to break bad habits?) This year, I did much better at both the pitching and the writing.

Out of the five agents I walked up to, three were interested and wanted me to query them and send them one to three chapters. One was deliriously excited, one was mildly excited, and the other thought well, what the hell, I’ll let her send me something.

It was exhilarating! I was floating on a cloud for at least a couple of hours, until I realized that now I’m really going to have to work on tightening this baby up.

Work, rewrites! GAH!

Tuesday, I opened my email to find a response to my first query. That agent wants me to send her the entire manuscript! which means I will be working at breakneck speed to get my book to the presentable level by, hmm… maybe this weekend?

My mood? Hopefully optimistic and optimistically hopeful.