Writing an elevator pitch should be easy, right? It’s just one sentence, maybe two, the gist, the… For me, it’s the process of condensing 115,000 words into a handful of meaningful, plot-hinging terms. Eek!
But wait, let’s back up. What’s an elevator pitch, you ask? It’s a marketing term used to relay an idea in less than sixty seconds, generally spoken. It’s for when you’re stuck with an agent or publisher in an elevator and have about sixty seconds to sell yourself and your work. That’s the generic reason to have a good pitch, anyway, the reason they told me to have one in grad school. But here’s the thing: I don’t live in New York, L.A,, or London, or anywhere else impressive, and the only elevator I ride in with any regularity is the one going up to the third floor of a medical office building to see my rheumatologist. I won’t be running into a publisher or agent there. So why do I need an elevator pitch? Well, here’s a list.
Someone might ask you…
1) What’s your story about?
2) What do you write?
3) What’s your series about?
Um… 😨 (this is where every author, at least once, has frozen). And I’ve been asked all the above.
You need one answer, one pitch if you’re writing or have written one story (short or novel-length), and you’re going to need several if you’ve written more. (I’m on my seventh novel… yikes!)
So, with the first title in my new series being released in less than a month, I need another elevator pitch.
Sigh. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (Too bad that won’t sell any titles, because I’d be a pro).
So how do you go about making an elevator pitch? Here are some considerations.
1) Your ideal pitch should be one or maybe two sentences (that sixty seconds is going to be more like ten).
2) It should be immediately attention-grabbing.
3) Your pitch should give the crux or meat of the problem in the shortest possible form.
4) A good pitch should leave the audience wanting more.
😭 Okay, quit crying, or at least come back here and listen. (holds out a tissue) Writing an elevator pitch is not impossible. In fact, with a little thought, it’s not that difficult to create a perfectly decent, if not flat-out great one. There are as many ways to go about it as there are authors, so instead of trying to detail them all, here are a few links.
- Jericho Writers: The Elevator Pitch
- Book Marketing Tools: How to Create an Elevator Pitch for Your Book
- Handy Chart to Create an Elevator Pitch (Okay in a pinch, but it’s a campy cheater method)
And here’s my method. I use the five W’s of reporting. Who, what, when, where, and why. I also add genre to the list. I’m not saying you should answer each of these directly. Rather, give clues on some and make others worth questioning.
Note: I write fiction. This method may or may not work for nonfiction. In all honesty, I haven’t tried.
Here’s what I’ve come up with for Cleaning House: A Contemporary Appalachian Fantasy (Appalachian Elementals #1). The novel is set for an August 1, 2018, release.
A cash-strapped woman returns to her Appalachian roots only to find her past, present, and magical future waiting for her.
Now here’s it broke down by my method:
Who – woman (you don’t need to be specific)
What – (using as a verb) returns – this says a lot, she’s left, but why?
When – past, present, future – hmm, time travel? Not exactly, but the story is set in multiple time periods so this works.
Where – Appalachia (enough said)
Why – She returns home because she’s broke. (But why… more questions for potential readers)
Genre – magic (implies fantasy)
Not convinced? Well, here’s the elevator pitch for my last novel, Surrogate: Hunted. I used the same method to create my pitch.
An alien diplomat is kidnapped through a wormhole and must fight her way home to her children.
That one’s admittedly not spectacular, but it’s the best one I’ve come up with. Here’s the breakdown.
Who – alien diplomat/ her
What – (using as a verb) kidnapped
When – wormhole – implies future
Where – wormholes don’t exist on Earth as we know it so, space?
Why – That’s a good question, isn’t it? Why is she kidnapped?
Genre – The word wormhole makes this pretty dang clear. Yep, this is Sci-Fi.
And here’s the pitch for the first novel in the same series, Surrogate.
An alien trader from a dystopian world is shoved through a collapsing wormhole to silence her.
Who – alien trader/ her
What – verb – to silence (why’s she being silenced?)
When – dystopian – future
Where – wormhole/ world – space/ not Earth – Clearly Sci-Fi again
Why – to shut her up? Again, why?
Genre – There’s that wormhole again and the word alien too. Sci-Fi.
Is my method of writing an elevator pitch the best one? Nope. Whatever method works for you is the best one for you, but you can use mine if you wish.
And an attention-grabbing elevator pitch is always something worth celebrating.
Cheers and happy writing!