Pitch Like a Sales Pro: Writing Conference Success

Mary AndonianBy Mary Andonian

I have been a salesperson my whole life. It seems only natural then that I would position my book as a “product,” and the agents and editors who purchase them as “clients.” Your pitch at a conference is the means to closing the sale of your product—your book.

The pitch is like delivering a query letter in person. Elements of a good pitch:

1. Identify the need
2. Position your unique solution to that need
3. Describe your business strategy, including packaging, positioning, marketing, and support
4. Overcome objections
5. Close or advance the book sale

Begin your pitch with a brief statement of the knowledge gap that exists (for non-fiction book proposals) or the conflict in your story (for fiction queries). For example:
“Fifty million Americans die from this disease, but they don’t know they have it until it’s too late.”  This is a knowledge gap statement. The gap is that people don’t know about this disease until it’s too late. That’s a real problem. Solution? Why your book, of course. “My book on (disease) will educate the consumer so she can catch it in time.” And then go on to break down your unique solution.

After you describe your solution, back it up with a description of your product. Does it read like a Vicki Iovine Girlfriend’s Guide book? Does it smack of Anne Lamott? Compare and contrast your book to actual books on the shelf. In my pitch for my non-fiction humor book, Mind Chatter, I said, “You read over and over books about ‘staying in the moment.’ My book is a humorous take on NOT staying in the moment!”

If you’re pitching non-fiction, you have two products to sell: your book and your platform. Your platform is your credibility in the marketplace, as defined by your “following.” Do you teach classes on this subject? Are you a medical professional who prescribes this solution to your patients? Again, differentiate yourself from the rest by telling them why you’re the most credible person to write this book.

Your pitch will consist of about two to three minutes of sales pitch, and another five to six minutes of questions and answers. Think of their questions as objections, and your answers as overcoming the objections. For example:

“How many pages?”

“About one hundred.”

“That’s short, isn’t it?”

“It was written in bite-sized chunks for busy, on-the-go people who don’t have time for longer books on similar subjects.”

“Makes sense.”

Save the last few minutes for personal relationship building. You want to find common ground with your client so they’ll remember you when they receive your follow-up materials.

Mary Andonian is the agents and editors coordinator for the Willamette Writers Conference—one of the largest writers’ conferences in the United States. In past years, she was Co-chair and Program Coordinator. She just completed her second book, Bitsy’s Labyrinth. You can reach her at (maryandonianwwconferencATyahoo.com).

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