by Janet Grace Riehl
What do singing on Broadway, training dogs, and mastering the art of the business pitch have in common? Patience, preparation, and perspective. I learned this valuable lesson from a young friend Annemieke Farrow (daughter of Stephanie and John Farrow of Albuquerque, New Mexico). Annemieke transitioned from a successful theater career in New York City to running a thriving dog training business in Los Angeles.
During her theater days in NYC from 1999 to 2006, she survived 4,273 auditions by using these useful rules of thumb:
1) Prepare, prepare, prepare.
2) Set a goal of what you want to learn in the audition.
3) Relax and enjoy yourself once you get there.
4) Release the outcome by declaring the experience a success if you’ve learned something and enjoyed yourself.
I transferred Annemieke’s audition survival method to prepare for my first face-to-face pitch session with a New York City agent. I’d been working on building my skills in pre-marketing a book. I studied how to write a clear plot summary, a synopsis, and E-mail pitch letters to publishers and agents. In my 5-10 minute pitch session, I put Annemieke’s basic audition thriving tips into practice.
I told the literary agent right off that I was a Pitching Virgin. I told her my plan for our meeting was to present: my writer credentials; a 2-sentence description of my project; six things I’d do to support the book; three questions I had for her. My questions were: 1) What would make such an offbeat project most marketable? 2) What do publishing firms do these days to assist authors in promoting books? 3) How does her service as an agent work?
She said what we pretty much know. Major publishers don’t do much of anything to market books for most authors these days. Mostly they work with Sales Teams who speak to book buyers at stores and sales reps working through the established distribution channels.
She explained that in selling a book that it could either go to auction (if there are many interested publishers), or go for the best offer available from the most interested firm.
Now I’m no longer a pitching virgin. Because of Annemieke’s four tips, I’m not devastated that my book isn’t right for her agency. I can declare my session an absolute success because 1) I learned lots; 2) It was great practice; 3) I enjoyed the experience, in spite of the considerable adrenaline rush in the pressure to condense so much into a teeny-weeny bit of time.
Author and movie-maker pitch sessions are comparable to the auditions musicians and actors endure as regular fare of their professional life. Because, in the pitch session, in these days of the author as personality, you audition yourself, not just your work.
It’s taxing, yes, but it’s by pitching that we connect with an audience and market for our creative work. In the business world, at the end of the cycle, our work become products. It’s the business end of the process that determines who reads or sees or hears your work. And for how long. So we better get good at it.
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