Speed Launching: How to Share Your Story in Three Minutes

Fellow Speed Launchers, Kelly Hibbert, Aleesah Darlinson and Christina Booth

As part of the recent spectacle that was the SCBWI Sydney 2019 Conference, I was fortunate enough to be part of a crackerjack collection of creatives involved in what was billed as 'a celebration of books' at The Children's Bookshop in Beecroft but quickly became known as 'a speed launch event'.

What is a speed launch? Quite simply, it's less a than handful of minutes which said author has at her disposal to extol the many wonders of her latest picture book publication, wax lyrical about its glorious marriage of art and words, regale listeners with the story behind the story, and tease them into loving the characters so much you have them begging for a signed copy before you've even paused for breath. Phew!

It's no mean feat delivering all that in three short minutes. Yes, that's the average amount of time allowed to effectively pitch your wares despite it taking years to write and make. I can't even read a picture book in that space of time.Yet serving up my tale in a neat pithy three minute package like this really invigorates me. For starters, it forces me to really analyse my story and determine the best selling points I can offer as succinctly as possible - just like speed dating! (so I've been told). How do I do this? Let's look at the presentation I used for At The End of Holyrood Lane.

 

  1. I revisited my story synopsis. Look at the synopsis you wrote to accompany your story at the time of submission. Select salient sentences from it that sum up your story. Consider your back cover blurb, too.  It's a story about facing fears.
  2. Establish the characters and their primary dilemma so that listeners understand immediately what and whom the story is about. Flick is the little girl who lives at the end of Holyrood Lane and is terrified of thunderstorms.
  3. Identify the unique trait or theme that distinguishes your book from all others. Use of the metaphor for a fear of storms to address domestic violence in a young child's life.
  4. Inject a little humour into your delivery. Depends on the topic of course but I still try to do so even when discussing hard to hear about topics like DV. This can be done visually, assisted with props to keep things light-hearted. I brought Uni, the unicorn along with me - the real life stuffie of Flick's toy unicorn shown in the visual narrative. He's cute and cuddly thus helps relax the tension of the subject matter.
  5. Read a section of the story if you absolutely must, but even with a picture book, this is hard to get in context within the short time frame. Better to deliver a pithy, enticing sentence or two to draw the audience in then leave them wondering what happens next rather than rushing through a fat lump of narrative and risk them hearing nothing. I began with a general description of Flick and what she loved doing - having fun as a kid - whilst showing the pages relevant to that description but not reading it verbatim.
  6. Once you've drafted your presentation, edit it as you would any piece of writing. Then edit it again. Then read it aloud and time yourself. If you find yourself running over time, edit again.
  7. Practise! On your dogs, kids, in the car, anytime you can until it becomes second nature. I practised in the car on the run to school everyday, which became less dangerous the better I got at it! This meant I felt confident enough to deliver it any where, anytime, in any traffic! 
 

With a little preparation, I was able to sit back and really enjoy presenting my speed launch not only at The Children's Bookshop in front of a crowd of over 120 people but also another 16+ times to groups of book lovers, teachers and librarians at the Book Links, Romancing the Stars events on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane earlier this month.

Each encounter was a pure joy, one that Uni and I would repeat over and over again given the chance. And the best part, knowing no matter what length of time I had to do it in, I was able to coherently and whole heartedly share Flick's story with even more people without fear of sending them into a coma - there simply wasn't time!

Whether you are a launcher, speed dater or datee, speed launching is an exhilarating experience and practical, fun way to gain exposure to a huge number of books (and their creators) in a ridiculously short time.


For more details on how to pitch in public, pitch to publishers and write punchy pitches, check out these highly recommended useful blog posts:
Photos my own and courtesy of Peter Allert and Maria Parenti-Baldey.

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