Written by Laura and Helen
So it’s three AM on the Friday night of a major trade convention: you’re a few drinks in and on your way back to your room after a productive day of panels, parties and pandering. BING! The door opens and in walks a weary Acquisitions Editor. You look at him. He looks at you. You have thirty seconds….and….GO!
What is an Elevator Pitch?
“As an editor, an elevator pitch should be a window in the story, a way to grab my attention. I don’t need to be dazzled. I don’t need to be inundated with information. What I want to know is the genre, the setting, the characters and the conflict—I need to know what makes your book different, and why I should care. After that, I just want to know if you can write. An elevator pitch is nothing if you don’t have a manuscript that backs it up. Oh, and don’t ever pitch me in an elevator. Buy me a drink first. It always helps.”
“As a marketer, the most important thing for me is the hook. Will I buy it? That depends on if I can sell it. I need something that will stop buyers in their tracks and make them pay attention. Reduce the story down to its bare elements and tell me what’s at stake in your story. I need to know the genre, the target audience, and comparable titles so I can place it in a market segment. This helps me figure out what I could do to promote and sell the book to readers. An elevator pitch is everything. I don’t care about your manuscript if I don’t have a hook. Most internal sales (to booksellers and distributors, etc.) start with the elevator pitch so I need to know that you’ve got a solid one.”
Sample Elevator Pitch
A young-adult teen-romance novel about an ordinary American girl who finds her life in danger when she falls in love with a vampire. Twilight is Anne Rice meets Gossip Girl.
“What does this tell me? We’re dealing with a paranormal romance that’s probably accessible to teens. Vampires are trendy. The comparative titles tell me we should have something young, hip (do people still say hip?), sexy and edgy. But is it ChiZine Publications material? Probably not. It sounds a little fluffy, a little too mainstream for me. And I’m not 100% sure that Twilight has the edgy sexiness of either Anne Rice or Gossip Girl. Where’s the bitchiness factor?”
“Hits current trends. Check! Growing demographic. Check! Popular genre. Check! Mainstream comparative titles. Check! This has all the elements that allow me to position and sell the book. I know who’s going to read it. I know what the cover should look like. I know where it should fit on a bookshelf. It’s, perhaps, a little light on details. Is there anything really new here? Love, sure, okay, that’s a good starting point for drama, but where’s the danger? What’s the threat? Is it straight romance or is there an element of epic fantasy? Adventure? These are the extra things that I’d want to know to really care and promote the book.”
Tips from the Trenches
Don’t give too much information: The hardest part about pitching a genre book is that the author often feels like he or she needs to establish the setting and give a hint about the world-building they’ve done. We don’t need it all. Give us something relatable. The log line (X meets Y) should be enough of a hint. We’re looking for hook that makes an emotional impact, not a full synopsis.
Internalize, don’t memorize: Part of selling your book to us is going to be you, as a person, standing in an elevator, sweating it out with your glazed eyes, your stuttering, the drink in your hand, whatever. Don’t be a wooden board. An elevator pitch has to be natural and it has to be graceful—a coup de grace once you’ve already impressed us as a human being. Keep it light! Have multiple versions for different audiences.
Be specific: Concrete and specific images are often more powerful than general statements. Girl meets boy isn’t enough. Give us enough to separate out your work from the billion other teen vampire romances out there. Don’t tell us that your book is like no book ever written—that book will never be published.
Don’t oversell: Please do not tell us your book will sell one million copies. Please don’t say it’s the next best-seller. Let us be the judge. Under-promise and over-deliver. Hype can kill you.
Be polite: You don’t always know who you’re pitching to or who might be standing next to them. If your target is in a group, acknowledge everyone in the group. Be careful who you exclude because they might have a role in decision making. Choose your moment, and don’t push. If we don’t like you as a person, we’re less likely to want to work with you.
Join us next week as we take you step-by-step through how to write an effective elevator pitch…