How to pitch your creative work without losing your mind: 4 guidelines actors, authors, painters, and musicians can use
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 recently discovered that I could transfer Annemieke’s audition survival method to an appointment with a NYC agent at the Missouri Writers Guild Conference in Columbia, Missouri.
I’ve been working on building my skills in pre-marketing a book by learning how to write a clear plot summary, synopsis, and email pitch letters to publishers and agents. This was my first face to face pitching session. I asked successful published writers I knew for specific advice and they were very generous in responding. In the 5-10 minute session, I did my best to apply their advice and also 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 essentialization 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? and 2) What do publishing firms do these days to assist authors in promoting books? and 3) How does her agenting service work?
She said that 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 agenting, a book could either go to auction (if there are many interested publishers), or go for the best offer
available from the one firm interested, say.
So, there you have it. I’m no longer a pitching virgin. Even though my book isn’t right for her agency, I 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 of having to condense so much into such a short amount of time.
Comparing author and movie-maker pitch sessions to the auditions that musicians and actors endure as regular fare of their professional life is helpful to me. Because, in the pitch session, in these days of the author as personality, you are auditioning yourself, not just your work.
It’s taxing, yes, but part of connecting with an audience and a market for your creative work, which, in the business world, at the end of the cycle, become products. These products are of and for the culture first and foremost, but it is the business end…especially in a commercial society built on Capitalistic principles…that will determine who reads or sees or hears your work…and, for how long.