Be Prepared: Craft Your Elevator Pitch

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An elevator pitch is a short, succinct description of your novel that you can say in a few sentences, max. It’s the answer to the question, “So, what’s your book about?” Or “What do you write?” It needs to be brief enough that you can get it out between traveling from the ground floor to the third floor. You know, the time it takes to ride in an elevator.

Where Do I Use an Elevator Pitch?

You use one anytime anybody asks you about your book. However, you want to hone it before attending any industry event, especially writers’ conferences. If you have a manuscript, there is a chance an editor an agent might ask you about it. After all, many attend such events to seek out new talent.

Keep in mind that an elevator pitch isn’t always an informal description. Sometimes you could use it to pitch someone in a more formal setting. Many conferences have designated times to pitch agents or editors. The clearer and more concise the description of your book is, the better.

How Do I Know My Elevator Pitch is Good?

It’s good when you can convey the basic plot, genre, characters, and tone of your novel in three sentences, max. Nailing all of that in one sentence is even better. Doing this well is challenging and will require revision.

If you stammer around or describe a convoluted plot that no one can follow, guess what? No one will want to read your book. I realize this sounds harsh, but people who might want to buy your book don’t have the time or energy to ferret out what you really meant. They only have time to evaluate what you actually said. Make what you say clear.

In addition to saying it succinctly, your elevator pitch should be juicy. Juicy. It should entice someone to want to read it. It should make someone think, “Mmm, that sounds good.” Remember: this is also a sales pitch. Amp up the good parts.

Test It

If you stop your own elevator speech to say things like:

  • Oh wait, but that doesn’t come until later.
  • It’ll make more sense when you read it.
  • It’s like ___ but not.

If you add any qualifiers that are confusing, beside the point, rambling, etc, you are not done perfecting the elevator pitch.

When you think you’ve got it, try it on people. Test it on someone who will be kind but honest with you. Ask them if they understand what your story is about. Ask them if it sounds intriguing. Ask them what parts sounded better or worse to them. Work on the weak points.

Crafting the elevator pitch is a test for you. Do you know what your book is about? Do your characters have arcs? Is there a plot? Is it about concepts and not a series of events? I must admit that I’ve learned a lot about previous manuscripts’ shortcomings when I tried to create my pitch.

The elevator pitch is an essential skill for anyone who wants to sell a book—including by self-publishing. Indie authors still need readers, and readers searching for their new favorite book are going to decide whether to buy yours based on a very brief description. Better make it juicy.

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About Author

Mary is a young adult writer and archaeologist. By day she teaches at a local college, and by night she writes about the adventures of adolescence.

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