The Power of Silence in a Pitch Situation

silence conversation

When writers ask me for advice about pitching their work in-person, my favorite tip is: Get the other person talking and asking questions. Rather than dominating the conversation with everything you want to say, figure out what’s going on inside the head of your target. That’s where the valuable information is. The nature of their response will help you learn the publishing business and how to position your work.

I have similar advice for anyone talking about their book to a (possibly) uninterested party—or someone who is not necessarily inclined to listen. By leaving out some detail, you leave room for a conversation to develop, to generate some curiosity in the other individual.

My latest column for Publishers Weekly, How to Network Better By Saying Less, expands on this idea.

Part of being a good salesperson for your work is developing a rapport with others and understanding their interests and needs. The conversation can’t be focused on you. You’re not sitting down with Terry Gross and divulging your origin story as a writer, how you were inspired to write the book, the twists and turns the story takes, and the research surprises along the way. Instead, you’re focused on how your product (book) might fill a need for someone else or on looking for points of commonality. You have to put aside any impulse to digress about the content of the book, and instead be curious about and interested in exploring a business connection.

Read the full column.

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Posted in Marketing & Promotion.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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