“Surround yourself with people who know more than you and soak up knowledge like a sponge!” P.K. Witte
Welcome to, The Dreaded Elevator Pitch Part Two!
Do you really want to avoid the elevator pitch? No Way!
Developing your elevator pitch, one-liner or opening sentences of your query is often tough, a bugger, a brain teaser extraordinaire. Sometimes it’s totally complicated or even just plain Hell! Most writers dread the process of encapsulating their entire WIP into a simple statement. All those beautiful words condensed into a tiny pitch, ugh! But, we’ve all had to do it. Yes, it’s stressful. Sure, we fear the worst. But, come on? We’re writers, isn’t that we do best? We live to suck our readers in and hold their attention for better or worse (hopefully better)!
If you dread the elevator pitch, don’t worry. If it gives you cold shivers just thinking about it, have faith, you’re in the same boat with a lot of your friends!
When I went asking writers in the know if they’d share their pitches and their feelings with Gate Crashers the response was amazing! Tons of wonderful writerly folk jumped aboard. So dig in. Enjoy. Learn. And know that you are NOT alone!
The elevator pitch is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product (your book).
The Elevator Pitch Otherwise Known as the One-liner or the Opening of Your Query!
Click the pics for awesome writerly links!
“When space and resources are limited and everyone has a genetic Alt, only one is permitted to survive. For fifteen year old West Grayer to face hers, she must find strength in her skills as an assassin…even as she’s made vulnerable by a love she can’t refuse.”
About the pitch:
I never did have to officially “elevator pitch” DUALED, but I think it’s a great idea to have a pitch worked out in your head for when it might be needed. I can’t be the only writer who freezes when it comes to actually talking about their book to someone else, no matter how easily words tend to come on paper. A good pitch is so hard to nail down—you want to entice without giving too much away; to have that what they call that “hook” to make it impossible to not want more. When you’re only given a sentence or two with which to work, it really forces you to strip your book down to its main themes, its core and heart. The truly important stuff.
THE NEPTUNE PROJECT
I started out writing romance novels and went to a bunch of RWA conferences. There we often had to pitch our books in group sessions with editors. I remember I spent hours writing my first perfectly-worded pitch. Then I spent hours more practicing it in front of a mirror, and then when my big moment came, I completely MASSACRED the sentence I had labored over! The follow-up pitch likewise came out all garbled, and I sat there with my face BURNING while everyone else pitched their books with total poise. The good news is, at the end of the session, the editor requested that we all send our projects to her, and I learned afterwards, that’s pretty much what they always do at group pitch sessions!
For the children’s book I recently sold to Disney/Hyperion, the perfect pitch line just came to me out of the blue. “When the sea has become mankind’s last hope, a group of teens struggles to survive beneath the waves.” I think a great pitch needs to sum up the essence of your story, but it also needs to convey what’s DIFFERENT and unique. That is what is going to pique an editor’s interest. There are a gazillion different coming of age stories out there, but not so many set in the sea.
My only regret is I never got to use this great pitch line for THE NEPTUNE PROJECT at a conference because Douglas Stewart at Sterling Lord Literistic offered to represent it, and he promptly sold it two weeks later. So now I use it as my tag line beneath my email signature instead!
April Genevieve Tucholke
BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
I never actually pitched my book at a conference, etc, but here’s what it might have looked like:
BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA is a voice-driven literary horror, part Stephen King, part THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. An eccentric, lonely bookworm named Violet lives with her twin brother in a rotting mansion on the sea. When a new boy comes to town and rents her guesthouse, she finds herself drawn to him, despite his lying, despite his mysterious past, despite all the eerie, horrifying things that begin happening around her.
Jenn R. Johansson
“Parker spends every night trapped in the dreams of the last person he made eye contact with, and it’s killing him…until he meets Mia. Finding ways to make eye contact every night isn’t easy and when Mia starts receiving threatening emails, her dreams transform into scenes of a horror movie, with Parker cast as the villain. He must discover who is truly tormenting her, and clear his name, before the real stalker makes good on his threats to end her dreams forever.”
I had a few versions of this. As you can see, mine is more than one line, but I use the first line if I only have enough time for one. I think between my one line pitch and full query, I must have 6 different lengths that I use depending on the situation, but this one is the most common. It gives a full idea of the plot without wasting any words or details and I can say the whole thing in about 20 seconds…can you tell I’ve practiced this in the real world? This length is actually perfect for an elevator ride. Anyway, I think having different pitches for different occasions is a great way to stay prepared for when people ask the inevitable (and often terrifying) question, “What is your book about?”
Erin Jade Lange
By the time I needed an elevator pitch, I had already sold a book. But I was attending my first conference and wanted to tell people about my work. I couldn’t figure out how to do it in one line, so I came up with a whole paragraph and just settled for saying it as fast as I could to make it go by quickly.
I do not recommend this method. It was a rushed pitch, and listeners probably missed most of it. If I had taken more time to think about it, I would have come up with something like this:
An obese teenager’s plan to eat himself to death live on the internet makes him surprisingly popular – so popular he no longer wants to go through with it. But will the people who love his website love him without it?
There are two things you need to do to create a great elevator pitch: keep it simple and play coy. For my newest picture book, PIRATE PRINCESS, I used that formula — successfully, since the book has been on the shelves since May. Here’s the pitch: Princess Bea is not the kind of princess you’d expect — her dreams are of pirate ships, not pretty crowns. Can she earn a spot on Captain Jack’s crew — or will she walk the plank? In 34 words, this pitch tells you who my main character is (Princess Bea), how she is different (wants to be a pirate), who she’ll have to contend with to reach her goal (Captain Jack), and even hints at a bit of danger (walking the plank) — but you still have to read the book to know for sure how it will work out!
ALL THAT GLOWS
Oh the elevator pitch. I actually never had to use an elevator pitch, since I never attended conferences and therefore never (knowingly) shared an elevator with an agent or editor. I found my agent through a full length query! I did, however, become very adept at describing my book in two sentences to the many, many people who ask the inevitable question, “What is your book about?”
ALL THAT GLOWS is about a Faery who’s forced to guard the partying Prince of England and accidentally falls in love with him. There are also assassins and paparazzi.
Of course, this isn’t the whole of the book. But it’s enough to get you salivating (hopefully!).
There you have it! The word on elevator pitches from seven amazing authors! And you know what? Although everyone has different experiences and different methods of dealing with the dreaded pitch, everyone shares similar emotions. As writer’s we’re all in the same boat, dreaming of the day our ship will come in. While we’re waiting, isn’t it wonderful to share experiences and learn from one another? That’s what Crashing the Gate is all about!
Don’t let those crazy elevator pitches get you down! No matter how attractive they may seem, avoid the stairs. Take the express route instead!