So you wrote a book, had it painstakingly edited, a gorgeous cover created and convinced everyone you knew (and even some that you didn’t) to give it a read. Congratulations! And I mean that sincerely. Giving birth to an idea and putting thoughts to paper is something that no one can understand or appreciate unless they have been through it. But now what? Well, if you do happen to get out of the house, and mention to anyone in passing that you have written a book, you need to be prepared to give an answer when they ask you what it’s about. And trust me they will. Your answer shouldn’t be a blow-by-blow of the 300 pages you just finished reading through yourself for the 10th time, if it is they’ll have no reason to buy your book. Your description, or “elevator pitch” needs to be concise and descriptive yet brief, giving them just enough of a tease, but leaving them wanting more. In other words, you need to condense your 300 page novel down to less than 2 sentences.
Okay, so I know what you are thinking (since I was thinking the same thing just recently) but it can be done. And the exercise can be very beneficial to those who take the time to go through it, even if you already have your agent lined up or a publishing house that is taking you to print. Because in my mind, the author always needs to be prepared to talk about their work, and so here are the things I focused on when developing my pitch for my series, The Power of Four.
- Think about the overall theme of your story – At its core, what is the end result that your protagonist is striving for? Even in romances the plot isn’t just about the two people getting together, it is about the conflict that rises to meet them and the struggle that the characters go through to achieve it. Are the challenges related to societal issues, environment, perhaps even a struggle for control? Pull way back and think of your story in a big picture kind of way.
- Think of a question the book needs to answer – “What if” scenarios can be very effective not only for your pitch but for marketing advertisements as well. For example, for my series I used: “If the Fates were unable to maintain universal balance on their own, and were required to gift four unsuspecting women with the powers of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, how would it impact the world as we know it?”
- Look at the back of your favorite books – The top edge of the book is prime real estate, and is generally the first place the reader looks when checking out a book. What line has special formatting, or has something that draws attention to it? For Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, the very first line on the paperback summarizes the tone of the book beautifully, and teases us with more to learn about his character Dan Torrance. “The Overlook Hotel was where his boyhood gift for shining opened a door to hell.”
Once you have done some research, and thought about the overall idea you wish to focus on, you can draft your pitches. In my mind you will need two of them, one that is 1-2 sentences long that takes a few seconds to deliver, and one that is a bit longer and takes just less than a minute to present. The idea is that the 1-2 sentence pitch, also known as an “elevator pitch,” whets the appetite, and has the person asking for more information. When they do, you have the second, bit longer pitch that gets them interested in your story.
I found that developing a “one-sheet” was extremely helpful for this process. I included the pitch, a short summary, bullet points of why my books are marketable or unique, and an author bio all on one sheet. Even if I never use this when speaking to an agent, it provides me with a script to follow that keeps me focused on the points I wish to make when ever anyone asks me about my product. This is extremely helpful when the nerves start to kick in, and the rambling begins (or at least in my case). This sheet can also be used as flyer when marketing yourself to bookstores, libraries or as a handout when doing speaking engagements.
I found a number of very helpful articles and videos when developing my pitch which I link to below. I hope that these help you to streamline your thoughts into a bright and shiny pitch that attracts the book deal of your dreams. At the end of the day, it is about selling books, and a well crafted pitch can help you do just that!
Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch – by: Penn C. Sansevieri
7 Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor at a Conference – by: Chuck Sambuchino
What not to say when pitching an Agent (or Editor) – by: Guest Author
Why Your Book Pitch Matters (Even If You’re Self-Published) – by: Joel Friedlander
How to Pitch Agents and Editors at Conferences by Writer’s Coach Teresa Funke