Last week, as we were working on her pitch for a new TV show, one of my clients asked me how many people actually sold their TV pitch. “Almost none,” I replied cheerfully.
This was not what she wanted to hear. C’mon, it’s not what anyone wants to hear.
But it’s the truth, especially for someone in her position, where this was her first time up at bat, going in with her idea to a major studio. And you know what else is the truth? Her question is completely irrelevant.
Selling a pitch – for a book or a screenplay or a series – is terrific. It’s winning the lottery. And the odds feel about the same. But selling a pitch isn’t the only possible win. It’s not even the most important win. When you go in to pitch, you are sharing your story and your vision, but you are also creating a relationship with the person across the desk from you. You are showing them your talent, your expertise, your professionalism. There may be a thousand reasons, none of which are in your control, to keep them from buying your pitch. But when you walk out of that room, there should be no reason on earth why they wouldn’t want to work with you in the future.
That’s the bit most writers don’t understand: you’re not selling just a story when you pitch, you’re also selling yourself and your specific expertise. Plus you want to develop, if not friendships exactly, at least friendly professional relationships. People like to work with people they like. You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and they won’t be yours; the more people you meet, the more likely you are to connect with the handful who really get you and your work. These people will become steady clients, welcoming markets, cheerleaders and even champions of your career.
Pitching is an opportunity to build that kind of relationship. The more you do it, the more fans you’ll accumulate, the more opportunities you’ll have to succeed.
Just like the lottery. You’ve got to be in it to win it.