Pitching remotely is the new normal. Do it well, and you’ll come off polished and professional; do it poorly, and… well, perhaps it’s fodder for your next novel.
Here’s how to wow those agents and publishers in your next video conference.
Tip 1: Dress Professionally
It’s a common saying: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
Of course, you might want to think twice if that means sporting a Godzilla costume, but if the job you want is that of Newly Published Author or Ms Literary Agent’s Newest Client, then don that nicer garb. A full suit isn’t necessarily required, although if you are writing a non-fiction book on running a successful business you may want to go all-out to enhance your authority and credibility.
Note: In the videoconferencing world it can be tempting to go “business on top” and “pajamas on bottom”, and we have one word of advice for that: Don’t. The risk of being caught out is too high; you can wear real pants for an hour.
Tip 2: Brevity is Key
It’s a busy world out there, so be prepared with your material and show respect for everyone’s time by being concise. This doesn’t mean be short, curt, or leave out any of the small talk! Small talk can put everyone at ease and build rapport, and you want to make that emotional connection. Just be clear and direct when it comes to speaking about your work: the title, genre, plot points, target audience, elevator pitch. It shows you’ve put in some thought.
Tip 3: Reveal the Twist
Got a huge plot twist no one will see coming? Don’t be afraid to reveal it in this meeting! That’s likely the exact thing that Agents and Publishers will be most excited about – thus your strongest selling point.
Think of the difference between a book blurb (designed to generate curiosity in book-buying consumers) and a professional synopsis, which lays out all the details of the story for a publisher. Don’t try to sell the book by keeping secrets from your prospective publisher.
Tip 4: Be Enthusiastic
Yeah, cliched we know, but no one likes a sourpuss. Especially on camera, where your face is nearly the only visual cue to your overall body language. Communication is at least 70% non-verbal, so the faces you make and hand gestures you use on videoconferences matter. A lot.
Tip 5: Choose the Right Location
When considering where you’ll take a video call, think about these factors:
- Noise. Go into a quiet room and close the door. If that’s not possible, enlist the help of your family to create a quiet time for this call. Is it garbage day, and your office has a window over the street? Ambient noise can be minimized by using earbuds or headphones.
- Setting. What will be visible on camera? Neutralize your background by removing distracting clutter, or mask it altogether by using a room divider to camouflage your space. A green screen could also be used, but it’s tricky to get a professional looking virtual background with correct lighting. Remember, no one can see what’s out of the camera frame, so even if you create a little oasis in the corner of your dining room while your latest project is all over the rest of the table, it’ll look perfect.
- Lighting. Bright lighting in front of you is best for video calls. Light from behind will cast shadow on your face and make you hard to see, which limits the effectiveness of a video call. Since we only care about what’s shown in frame, try putting a lamp – you may even try removing the shade – behind your camera or laptop. If you wear glasses, check for excessive glare and try your lighting from different sources or angles.
Tip 6: Camera Setup
The location and position of your webcam makes a world of difference in how people see you on a web conference. Who wants to have a call looking up someone’s nose, or just seeing the top of their head?
Ideally, your webcam should be located slightly above your line of sight, to give a more flattering view of your face. Plus, it encourages you to sit up straight and hold your head up – conveying confidence.
If you’re limited to a built-in camera, on a laptop or tablet for example, you can still achieve this by either setting your device on some books (we’ve got lots of those!) or slightly lowering your seat.
Tip 7: Eye Contact Still Matters
Camera lens contact is the new eye contact. When you look at someone’s image in a video conference, it can seem that you are looking away and therefore not fully engaged.
Two tips to help here, as this one is tricky:
- Position the video conference window right below your camera lens, as high up on the screen as you can. This lessens the angle of your eyes if you do look at the speaker’s video.
- Practice looking into the camera lens while you speak. It will feel weird, yes, but to your meeting participants, it looks like you are looking directly at them.
Tip 8: Test your Technology in Advance
“Can you hear me now? How about now?”
Nothing frays nerves like technical difficulties under pressure. To set yourself up for success, test your audio and video before your meeting and make any needed adjustments.
If you’ll be using Zoom®, just open your own personal meeting room and check everything out, or Zoom® with a friend.
Tip 9: Practice Your Pitch
While we still love the idea of practicing your pitch in the mirror, it’s time to take that next step and practice your pitch on video. Set up your camera, lighting, and notes, then hit that record button and do your thing. As you watch the recording, you’ll not only see things you want to change (the angle of that ring light that reflects off your glasses!), but you’ll hear them too (the phrasing that doesn’t quite work out when you hear it aloud).
With proper preparation, pitching remotely can be an effective and efficient path to publishing. By presenting yourself and your work as polished as possible, your best seller will be on the shelves – real or virtual – in no time.