Written by Laura and Helen
When we last left our hero, he was standing the elevator after a late-night of partying, facing off against a beetle-browed Acquisitions Editor: now is the time for him to sum up in thirty words or less the grand sweep of his narrative arc—the superb world-building, the subtle yet definitive characterizations, the political machinations of a precarious royal court, the passionate yet secret love affair of its prince, his stalwart allies, his implacable foes, his love of horsemanship, husbandry, and heraldry; that one time at summer camp when he experimented with…
I think that’s probably enough. Here’s the bit where we tell you how to get to the point.
Keep it Simple, Spock
1) The pitch conveys the dramatic story in the most abbreviated manner possible.
2) It presents the major throughline of the dramatic narrative without character intricacies and sub-plots.
3) It’s a window into the story.
Developing Your Description
One of the key components of an elevator pitch is a simple yet sufficiently dramatic description of what your book is about. This isn’t the same as a synopsis, exactly. Your description needs to be streamlined, pared down, and simplified. Every word needs to pull its weight in conveying audience, genre, setting, character and plot.
So here’s how to do it.
- Start with writing out a synopsis. Then cut.
- Cut again.
- Cut again, but really this time.
- Test it on someone who has never heard of your book. Ask them what works, what doesn’t work, what doesn’t work yet.
- Revise and prepare multiple versions.
- Internalize, don’t memorize.
Let’s start by taking a look at Neil Gaiman’s super-mega success, American Gods. For a synopsis, we’ve taken the plot summary from Wikipedia…
Draft 1: The First Cut is the Deepest
Draft 2: Trimming the Fat
Draft 3: Re-assess and Revise
Draft 4: Shabaam!
This hard-boiled urban fantasy follows ex-convict Shadow and his boss, the confidence man and possible Norse deity, Mr. Wednesday, along with a cast of burned-out mythological deities on a cross-country attempt at a comeback tour.
This sacrifices clarity for punchiness (“comeback tour”?) but I think it still works. Old gods vs. new gods? Intriguing. Mr. Wednesday? Clever. Cross-country tour? Nice setting. I’d say it’s definitely worth a look.
Hard-boiled urban fantasy? Possible cross-genre promotions. American setting? Sellable to a major market. Confidence man? That could be fun to play with. Mythological deities? Always a good idea. It’s got a fantastic hook with potential mass appeal. I’m sold.
We’re not done yet. Join us next week for more on elevator pitches and the elusive art of the logline…