Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Elevator Pitch Coaching

Christian literary agent Rachelle Gardner with WordServe Literary has a blog that I recently started following (click on post title to go there). It's been such a great way for me to learn more about what agents are looking (and listening) for when an author gives them a proposal or a pitch.

Recently, Rachelle called for elevator pitches (pitches made "off-the-cuff" to agents in unlikely places and perhaps quite unexpectedly) on her blog, and I submitted my first ever. It was weird to just put my idea out there in cyberspace...but at least 110 other people did, as well.

Starting yesterday, Rachelle has been selecting a few to critique and has offered feedback on how to make them better. She selected mine to review (for which I'm very grateful) and I'm reproducing it here in its original form (along with her review).

Me: Well, my WIP is about a foster care social worker suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She's trying to get her life back on her career path while coping with her mental disorder, but a severe flashback raises questions about her competency from a handsome attorney who has a client on her caseload. She's also struggling with understanding why God would have allowed something so traumatic to happen to her in the first place. (Hopefully the agent would be somewhat interested here...and I would go on to explain my qualifications in writing such a book, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and how mental disorders affect 1 in 4 adults but are largely left untouched in Christian fiction.)

Rachelle: Jeannie, this is a nice, conversational style, is a good length, and I like the way you plan to explain your credentials. The problem is the lack of story. It's very vague, and I can't easily imagine an exciting tale about a woman "trying to get her life back on her career path..." What does that even mean? And how much drama or action could that possibly entail? You reference a handsome attorney, but only in passing, which is a bummer because he was the most interesting thing in the pitch. I'm wondering why you've left out the most potentially dramatic and attention-grabbing details: What traumatic event is she suffering over? What was the nature of the "flashback" she had? I'd recommend you go back to the drawing board and work to convey the story, not just the themes, not the internal struggles of your protagonist, but what would make me want to read the book.

Stay tuned for my next post, when I try to take her suggestions to heart and rework my "elevator pitch" on my blog.