I recently wrote about the merits of a three-minute pitch, and I can’t stress enough how important a tool this is in your armoury of selling methods. You may never be invited to be a guest speaker at any major event, but few organisers of such would refuse you a three-minute slot. The rules are simple.
1. Courtesy: Never presume. Disarm the Chairperson by asking, politely, just before the event, if you may have a three-minute slot to pitch your book. You’re more likely to get a Yes face-to-face than if you write your request in advance.
2. Relevance: Make sure your request is relevant to the subject of the conference/seminar/workshop. For instance, pitching for my book, A Painful Post Mortem, I’d focus on the main character’s grief if the conference were on Bereavement or Parenting; on the unworkable laws surrounding the Rights of Children versus Responsibilities of Parents, if at a seminar for social workers or policy makers; the help available if at a support group for the parents of drug-offenders.
3. Integrity: You are not here simply to sell books. Or at least, I hope you’re not. Your audience are human beings just like you. Treat them as you would want to be treated yourself.
4. Consistency: Stick to three minutes. Rehearse, so that you don’t ramble. If you speak aloud the sentences that are in speech marks and italics below, I think you’ll find that, even allowing for natural pauses, it’s well within the time.
What to put into your pitch is just as easy. Think of the content as the answers to a series of questions. My pitch goes like this.
1. Q – Why have you written this book? (Sincerity is imperative at this point.)
A. “I was asked, recently, what drives me. That’s simple: I have a passion to bring comfort and hope to people who are hurting.”
2. Q – Who are your intended readers?
A. “My book is for people dealing with divorce, lone parenting, kids on drugs, the loss of a child in violent circumstances.” (That statement alone is too narrow, so I enlarge my net): “People who’ve never experienced these events but who are afraid of the messiness of life.”
3. Q – What qualifies you to write on this subject? (I need to engage my audience emotionally at this point; to make them believe in me, so I continue.
A. “People like the parents of the murdered prostitute last year (a real event) who, while grappling with grief discovered for the first time – through the police enquiry and inquest – details of their daughter’s life which were totally at odds with her respectable and loving upbringing. Can you imagine what that must be like? The sense of betrayal? Guilt? Futility? I can! Although not a prostitute, my daughter died in sudden, shocking and suspicious circumstances.” (If there are other credentials – like the fact that this is my eighth book, or that I’ve previously written and spoken on drug-related issues, this is the place to get it across – but always remembering the time constraints of your promised three-minutes.)
4. Q – How have you tackled your subject? (Your book, as some of mine are, may be self-help or biographical. A Painful Post Mortem is a novel, but I’m aware that my audience may find a story about a drug-related death somewhat dismal. So my aim now is to tie in with my first point: the Why? that states the purpose of my book.)
A “A Painful Post Mortem is a contemporary story of the all-enduring power of love: parental love stretched to its limits; the frailty and flaws of human love; the hope of love that goes beyond the grave.” (If I’m speaking to an audience of believers, I might add that the subtext of the novel is about the infallibility of God’s perfect love.)
5. Q – Where can your book be purchased?
A “My book is available at my website, at Booklocker.com, or at any good bookshop.”
And that’s about it…except that it’s good to identify your Unique Selling Point (USP) to your audience, if you can. Mine (and there’s nothing cynical about this) is that in addition to wanting the book to help others, I also intend to give all net profits to two charities: one for drug-proofing’ UK teenagers; the other to help babies born HIV+ in the Third World. Oh, and I always point out that books sell best by word of mouth, and I ask my readers to be ambassadors on my behalf.
Whoops! Nearly forgot. It’s crucial that you have copies of your book to sell. A bird in the hand
The author of eight published books, Mel Menzies is aware that life is more comfortable for her husband when she is writing. She describes herself as like a pressure cooker when she is not! An experienced speaker, she has appeared on TV, and radio chat shows. You can read more about A Painful Post Mortem HERE. Visit Mel here: http://www.melmenzies.co.uk