As an author, there will be opportunities to tell people about your book, perhaps potential readers. Or you may find yourself sitting at a conference with the editor of your first-choice small publisher. You may be participating in one of several online pitching forums like #IWSGpit, #PBpit, #PitDark, and more.
Or, as the name implies, you luck into an elevator ride with the agent who presented at the workshop you just attended. What do you do? You give them your elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is not a tagline, which authors often have as part of their brand or their book’s brand. It’s not detailed, like a query. Instead, it’s a high-quality, 30-second description of your book, which amounts to 80-100 words.
Over the years (and after attending numerous workshops and reading a ridiculous number of books on the subject), I’ve learned there are three elements to a good pitch:
The Hook This is the attention grabber. It should leave the person wanting to know more.
Logline This is the who, what, where, when, and how. You may only need some of them.
“What if…?” This is not a question you write out. Instead, it’s the answer to the question and should ideally be a marketable idea (entirely dependent on your genre).
This elevator pitch earned me 8 out of 8 requests for manuscripts and landed me a contract. It also won CAPA’s pitch contest.
An incubus and two toddlers walk into a bar… That’s no joke. That’s Cheyenne’s life. You weren’t supposed to see them. (Hook)
Cheyenne, a half-human incubus, is good at keeping secrets. He conceals his career from his tyrannical father. His boyfriend doesn’t know Cheyenne’s true nature. And he hides his kids from the ruling family. (Logline)
When his children are discovered, Cheyenne refuses to buy into the “your kids could save the race” madness. He only has to keep them safe. Besides, he’s got bigger plans—he’s going to be a rockstar. (What if..?)
Nonfiction books, of course, are different. Your hook is the problem your book solves, written in a way that would be meaningful for someone with that problem. The logline is the solution to the problem. Finally, “What if” is replaced by a statement of support for your book–why you are credible, or what makes you the best person to offer a solution. Memoires tell a story, and so should follow the formula for fiction.
Try writing your elevator pitch. Don’t worry if it’s too long the first time. It may take numerous rewrites to reduce it to 100 words. Be brief and compelling. And remember CAPA is here for our members. Let us know if you have questions or if you want to try your pitch with a friendly audience.
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