Pitching is a Numbers Game

I have a client who shall remain nameless.  (Hi, Bob!)  (Kidding.  I’ve also changed some details.)

Bob e-mailed me to say that he was discouraged because he had not sold his screenplay.  I asked him how many times he had pitched it, and the answer was five.  Five times, no nibbles.

Only here’s the rub.  Of the five pitches,

– One was to a friend and fellow writer.

– Three were to agents or managers.

– One was to a production company that could have bought the screenplay.

At which point I took several deep breaths and calmly told Bob the facts of life. 

Pitching is a numbers game.  Pitching your script to five production companies should be enough to get at least one of them to request a copy of the script, assuming you’ve done some homework and you’re pitching to companies that produce scripts like yours.  However, you may need to get five or ten reads before you get an option or a sale.  That works out to around 50 pitches.  To producers.

Now, I love agents, they’re an important piece of a career puzzle, but take this to heart: Agents aren’t buyers.  Exactly zero percent of the time will an agent pay you for your script or your novel.

The same is true if you are pitching your services to clients, or your business to venture capitalists. It can feel as if you’re pitching all the time, because you’re always thinking about it, always talking about it. But if you are not talking to someone who is in a position to pony up good money to make your business roll, then you are not pitching.

You would not go out on one date with one person and expect to get married; think of pitching as serial dating.  Enjoy it!  Learn to love the dates — I mean, pitches.  Track them.  Keep a database of everyone to whom you have pitched the project, both the company name and the name of the person to whom you spoke.  Get those numbers up. 

Tracking lets you regroup when necessary.  If no one bites after twenty pitches, there may be something wrong with your pitch.  If the pitch is getting you in the door but no one buys the script, or hires you, or invests, maybe something’s missing from your product.  Get feedback.

Whether you are trying to land your first job or sell your first widget, it’s a numbers game, and you have to be in it — in a big way — to win it.