What do you do when you’re asked for a pitch you’re not quite ready to give? You wing it, of course! This may be your one big shot—not that I believe in one big shots, but hey, a lot of people seem to. It may just be practice—I do believe in practice. Whichever way you look at it, saying, “You know what, I’m not ready, so I’m going to pass” just doesn’t go over well.
Recently I had one of these moments where an editor/publisher/agent e-mailed me pretty much out of the blue and asked me (not quite so blatantly) to pitch my book. So, I did. Now, I would liken this to impromptu speaking, except that impromptu speaking is terrifying and this wasn’t. It was more like impromptu e-mailing, which is much less scary, because most e-mailing is rather impromptu. Of course, most speaking (not public speaking, but regular speaking) is impromptu too, but that’s hardly the point.
Anyway, back to the point: Sometimes you just have to wing it. It helps if you know your book, which I do. It helps if you know your purpose for writing the book, which I do. It helps if you know the audience you’re writing your book for, which I also do. And it helps if all of these elements are strong in your mind, which in my case they are. And that’s all you really need, at least at for the initial, impromptu pitch.
Did it work? You’ll know if you get a response asking for more. I did, quite quickly. The next step in these familiar situations—by which I mean a situation in which you’re working with someone on a slightly more intimate basis than you would be with a cold pitch, not to suggest that these situations are common—is to ask what more they want to know in the next round. You start by researching what they usually want, asking yourself what (from the list of what they require) you could pull together in a reasonable time-frame, and ask if they’d accept that. If you’ve really piqued their interest, they probably will. Though, they may request something specific from you, too. If you can do it, then go ahead—if not, then negotiate.
This second, more thorough pitch needs to be a bit more polished and needs to show what you’re capable of. If you want to take the time to show yourself off at your best, well then fine. At least, it’s fine if you’re close enough to being ready for that. But, remember that a quick turn-around may gain your more at this point that a perfect proposal. You have someone waiting on you. Don’t take so long that you risk losing their interest!
At this point, you’re back to waiting. Will this be the opportunity you thought it was or will this be practice for when the real opportunity comes along? It can be a bit harrowing, waiting. But it’s all part of the business.
I suggest you don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs. Work on the project or work on your pitch for the project while you wait. Or work on whatever else is already going on. Or all of the above. You don’t make headway by standing still.