The 30 Second Pitch
Whether you’re pitching a novel, a picture book, or a magazine article, it’s absolutely vital to have a 30 second pitch figured out so well that you can give it in your sleep. When I say “figured out,” I don’t mean memorized. No one wants to hear someone recite their pitch, even if it is only 30 seconds long. No, you need to know the pitch so well that you can say it, with feeling, tailoring it on the fly to whoever you’re talking to.
Let me back up a second and explain that a 30 second pitch is a sales pitch that you give in 30 seconds or less. It lets your listener decide very quickly if they’re interested in hearing more, and saves everyone a lot of time. I’ve had tons of experience giving them, and not just for manuscripts. On the tradeshow floor, you’re basically giving a 30-second pitch over and over and over again.
At this past ToyFair, however, I found myself in an awkward position. I had just presented a game to a potential licensor. It was (and is) a great game, with innovative mechanics and surprising depth. It almost certainly belongs in the hobby market, but I knew the guy I was pitching to, and I knew he’d let me take a swing at it.
I showed the game, gave a quick demo of some of its loveliest parts, and was feeling really good about the whole thing. I could tell I had his attention and even interest.
“Hm,” he said. “Give me the 30 second. How can I pitch this?”
My brain stopped. I didn’t have a 30 second pitch. It hadn’t even occurred to me that he’d need one, but, of course he would. It’s obvious once you stop to think about it. The people that sign your game (or book) still have to sell it. Once they take it from you, they basically zip down the hall (or across the country) and give the same pitch you gave.
Except I hadn’t given one, and couldn’t come up with one on the spot. I was too immersed in the product, too “this is wonderful, and this, and this, and this.” Needless to say, the game didn’t get signed.
And if ever you needed a cautionary tale, that’s it. This pitch had everything going for it: a great product, an industry expert who is also a friend, and absolutely perfect timing (since it ties in nicely with my upcoming book). What it didn’t have was proper preparation on my part.
Don’t worry. I haven’t given up on the game. I’m going to be pitching it to the hobby market yet, and hope to be referring back to this post once it has been published.
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