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Elevator pitch competition last night -- confusion. Jericho, what happened?

Very confused after the elevator pitch competition last night.

It seemed that very few elevator pitches were featured (as to Harry's spec on the Jericho website). Instead longer cover letter blurbs were featured. I studied Harry's page for this and started with an book blurb and honed it down using his advice to under 20 words, in the hope of catching the agents' eyes. I got the impression that the competition would be quick fire elevator pitches liked or disliked in a few words by the agents in words such as, 'great', 'not grammatical', 'boring', 'brilliant', 'like every other thriller', etc etc. And perhaps we'd all be able to put something under the agents' noses for once.  

On this note I'm also finding a lot of the feedback from agents in webinars too 'nice', for example in the Slush Pile Live last week and last night in the elevator pitch competition, I just wanted them to be a bit more honest rather than finding the good in everything. I do appreciate that they kindly don't want to dissuade beginning authors, but I'm finding it difficult to learn what's good and what's not, and surely we all need to develop that famous hard skin? Certainly the response we get from agent one-to-ones is much harsher and the two don't seem correlate.

I wasn't the only one with confusion last night, so I thought I'd bring it up in a public discussion. And to finish, a copy and paste from the Jericho website on how to write an elevator pitch: 

HOW TO WRITE A GREAT BOOK PITCH:

  1. Keep it to 20 words or less
  2. Be original
  3. Make it memorable – An astronaut seeking to survive. A woman who fakes her own murder. An ordinary boy – an orphan! – going to an extraordinary school.
  4. The result should make the listener say, “tell me more!”


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Replies (21)
  • Absolutely agree, Iren. I was also confused and disappointed! First, I understood this was a competition for the best elevator pitches, not entries taken at random. Those that  were discussed were a mixture of a synopsis and query letter blurb. Although some of the novels highlighted sounded really interesting, not one was what I've learnt as an elevator pitch! Even the agents seemed confused as to what they were supposed to be judging. Usually the JW webinars are excellent but this one was disappointing.

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    • Yes, I found it confusing too. I think what I took away was: an elevator pitch still has to be about 20 words in length, or less, maximum of 3 sentences. The agents were advising how to cut down on the number of words in the entries chosen. Perhaps they were chosen on the criteria that they liked their ideas better than ours? Who knows? Maybe we cut out the stuff that would have grabbed them? I'm feeling quite despondent today, as having taken Harry's advice from his brilliant webinar earlier this year, it seems we did a lot of work that we needn't have done for this particular competition. Now I wonder, does that mean my idea is rubbish, although my fellow self-edit course colleagues, now beta readers love my WIP? Anyway, onwards and upwards, not giving up just because of one competition. Be interesting to see if Harry mentions it in his newsletter on Friday. But well done to those selected, and to the winner.

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      • I am only just watching the replay now (all the live webinars occur at a very unsociable 3am for me here in Malaysia!), and at the risk of sounding ungrateful to the wonderful JW team, I have to agree with Iren, Helen and Dawn. 

        Anna acknowledged that the ones featured in the webinar had been picked "at random" by her and Sarah, and it appeared that Davinia and Mark had not had eyes on any of them beforehand. It would have resulted in a slicker webinar experience for the audience if the agents had had a chance to look through the featured entries first; that way, they could already have picked out some of their favourites and prepared what they wanted to say about them - with 'teaching points' for the rest of us.

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        • I didn't attend the elevator pitch webinar but did attend the one on "Slush Pile Live" and I agree with Iren's comments.  I was very surprised by what the agent didn't say about the first two extracts in particular.  I'm sure most of us in J.W. aren't so sensitive that we can't take some criticism of a constructive kind, disappointing though it might be sometimes.  We tune in for help to be better writers. 

          To be fair, there's a time factor involved in the webinars and this means that whether or not your question or entry is picked for attention is very much a matter of chance.  As Enmaloo has suggested, there is a case for these things to be stated beforehand in time for scrutiny by the speaker.  Perhaps this would give more people a chance to be heard and responded to in a more considered way, so that they would be speaking less on the hoof.


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          • Nice clarification on elevator pitches from Jericho's Sarah on the mailing list email today, but no reference to the webinar, which was very different to what she has written. I look forward to a response from Jericho about the webinar, hopefully on this forum.


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            • I understood beforehand that we needed 3 sentences.  I think that’s what my email said, although I haven’t checked.  Last night I think we were told, no more than 35 seconds, max 50 words. Also a tense of place was required, not easy to do that in a few words. I tried to write notes but I lost connection a few times, so may have missed bits. If the agents work longer, they need to be paid for longer too, a point to bear in mind when this comes free with membership. My entry was heard but I’ve been unlucky on several other webinars and I still learn from them, so thanks to all concerned.

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              • Hi all, thanks for starting this Iren and thanks everyone else for pitching in. 

                There are a few different points here that I'll try to answer as best I can! First off, just on the event itself - we did a call out for elevator pitches, but pre-submissions were actually quite low for this one, so we included all the ones we were sent. These were sent ahead of time to the agents. Then, we opened it up to the floor for off-the-cuff pitches, which I thought was nice actually, as it gave everyone the opportunity to interact live (although with 160 people in the room, we can only get through so many!) 

                I can see why it would definitely be confusing to be told by Harry that elevator pitches are 20 words long, only to see pitches entered that are longer than that. I hope it was useful to hear the agents feedback on the pitches mainly being that they were too long, and if we'd had more pre-submissions, we could have picked the best, rather than use the ones we had. This was a competition, but also a learning exercise with a different perspective to Harry's. As with all things agents, there are 'rules' to what makes the 'best pitch' and then there's the subjective part of what agents personally prefer. 

                On the feedback being too 'nice' - this is very much again a personal agent preference. Agents are some of the nicest people you'll meet and it's exceedingly difficult for us to shine a camera on them with a couple of hundred people watching and tell them to be harsh - especially when they very much see their feedback as an opinion, not gospel. Some agents will be happy to rip into something (and Harry is particularly happy to do this!) but we'd never force anyone to do something outside their comfort zone there - writer or agent. I thought Davinia and Mark's thoughts were constructive though - especially when they re-worded certain pitches to get to the heart of the story. 

                We'd really love to continue doing 'feedback led' webinars in 2021, but are conscious that we do seem to get a few complaints after them. We'd love to know any ideas you have to improve these (across Slushpile Live too) and i promise you, we'll do our absolute best with it. 

                In some good news, I've just come in today to see that one of the agents has requested a full from one of the pitches last night. So that just goes to show that even if you don't 100% nail your pitch to Bingham standards, a good idea can shine through :)

                Happy new year everyone x



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                • Thank you for the clarification regarding the competitive aspect of the event, it makes perfect sense now. And many congratulations to the author who had a full request.

                  I love the live feedback events and it is very brave of writers to submit to these, I fully understand why agents are more gentler in their feedback yet point out areas for improvement. It's not a public hanging event nor should it ever be a set up for ridicule and humiliation. Apart from the writer's own self esteem there is the agents reputation and sense of humanity too. 

                  Please do continue these as they are an insightful and fascinating watch. However perhaps it is best to see these sessions more as enlightening rather than instructional. 

                  Happy New Year to all.

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                  • Thanks Caron, happy new year! x

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                  • Thanks, Sarah, for the clarification. I appreciate it. In hindsight it might have been useful to explain that you had gone for longer pitches because of a lack of entries at the beginning of the webinar, to leave us a bit less confused. The point was raised continuously in the comments throughout the session by a number of people, and not addressed.

                    I did submit an elevator pitch a week in advance, with your suggested heading so it would not be missed (I have a different name for my Jericho membership than on this public forum). I believe others did the same. Then during the event I reposted my pitch several times, as did others with shorter pitches, and these were not featured.

                    I raised two issues here, the elevator pitch element and for me agents not being constructively critical enough, and it was confusing of me to mix both points. I haven't yet seen one of Harry's, so I'll look forward to the next one of his, and I do understand that some agents might not wish to work in this way.

                    I do acknowledge that it must be quite a challenge, holding everything together with live events and following the chat at the same time. I find the webinars generally very well hosted and informative, and I'm enjoying my membership very much.

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                    • Thank you Iren! I'll ask Stephanie, Miriam and Polly to forward that onto me. x

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                      • We SHOULD have a nifty bit of tech in place to catch those, but this can be the issue with nifty bits of tech! Thanks Hazel. x

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                        • Thanks Sarah and Hazel, just to clarify, my submission was sent to the 'submissions' address originally, the email I sent Sarah yesterday went to 'info'!

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                        • Hi, I also submitted a pitch to this which must have got lost as well. I sent it to the info supplied on the webinar page as instructed. 

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                          • So sorry to hear this! We're looking into what could have happened. x

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                          • Hi. I also pre-submitted a 55 word 3 sentence pitch which I'd reworked after Harry's webinar in the Summer Festival, and re-sent it during the talk. I have to say I was relieved when you said near the end that the selection had been random as I did feel that, although many of the ideas sounded interesting, the pitches presented were below the standard of those in the Festival. I'm desperately not trying to sound like sour grapes here! Thanks!


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