Going Up! How to Craft Your Elevator Pitch

May 29, 2012 at 8:29 am | Posted in Promotion, Publishing | 3 Comments
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Image“What is your story about?” It’s a simple question that rarely has a simple answer. If you’re like most writers, you have a tendency to go on and on, taking tangents, and often making the storyline seem convoluted and confusing. The listener’s eyes glaze over before you pause for a breath, and by the end of the explanation, the listener is looking around for a way to escape and you feel like you didn’t explain your story well enough to convey how fabulous it really is. That can be frustrating and embarrassing.

The idea of pitching the story to agents may seem even more overwhelming, but once you’ve crafted a succinct and compelling pitch, and memorized it so you can deliver it smoothly, you’ll be able to pitch your story to an agent (or anyone else) in less than 30 seconds.

And when I say less than 30 seconds, I mean LESS THAN 30 SECONDS. You should have your pitch so finely tuned you can deliver it in an elevator between floors if you have to.

You may not think that’s nearly enough time, but just remember: The more you talk, the more you talk the agent out of wanting to read your manuscript. Your manuscript will stand on its own merit; don’t sabotage your story before the agent has the opportunity to turn the first page.

Your pitch is something you need to spend some time crafting and memorizing, so you don’t freeze up when an agent says, ”Okay, tell me what your story is about.”

4 Components of a Good Pitch:
Your pitch capsule should be brief, comprehensive, engaging, and clear.

1.    Brief: Craft your pitch with as few words as possible.
2.    Comprehensive: Cover the main points of your story.
3.    Engaging: Choose to showcase your most interesting story elements.
4.    Clear: Keep your sentence structure simple and word choices easy to understand and easy to articulate (so you don’t trip over your words when you pitch).

In-person Pitch Format:

•        Start with the title and genre first.
That information immediately conveys to the agent where your story fits into the marketplace and allows her to focus on listening to your storyline instead of trying to guess what genre your story fits into.

•        Pitch capsule (less than 50 words is ideal)
Incorporate the character’s desire and main conflict or obstacle. The conflict doesn’t have to be stated directly; it can be implied by the difficulty in the character’s circumstances you’ve highlighted. Your pitch should be no more than 1-3 sentences.

•        Comparison works.
In addition to your pitch, you can also reference a similar author or books with a similar theme, tone, or style, to help the agent understand the way you’ve written your story.

Make sure your comparison is an accurate choice and don’t be boastful. Stay away from judgment language:

“My story is side-splittingly funny, entertaining, and riveting. It’s just as brilliant as the books by Author X.”

The agent may not think it is, and no amount of telling her you think it is will make it so.

Stick to simple statements that tell why you think your manuscript is similar in tone/style to a particular author or why it would appeal to a particular audience.

Practice Practice Practice

Once you’ve honed your pitch, practice it in the shower, in front of a mirror, driving in the car. Recite it to your friends, family, and moderately attentive pets. Become comfortable with your pitch, so the next time someone asks, “What is your story about?”—you have the perfect answer.

Dear Readers: If you need help crafting your pitch, creating a compelling query letter, and finding an agent who will fall in love with your story, you are welcome to join my 4-week workshop: How to Get the Right Agent for Your Manuscript. You can find out more about the class on my Workshops page. Contact me directly annette [at] annettefix [dot] com to sign up, or join my featured workshop via WOW! Women On Writing.com.
**Summer Special $249** June 4th, July 2nd, July 30th only.

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3 Comments »

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  1. I pitched this at the weekend for my thriller Blackwatertown:

    “Is he a hero? Is he a traitor?

    “Sgt Jolly Macken doesn’t want to be a policeman any more. Everyone in the sleepy Irish border village of Blackwatertown seems out to get him. So the last thing he should have done was accidentally start a war. Based on inside stories from the little known real-life 1950s IRA uprising, Sgt Jolly contends with Orangemen, vicars, gunmen, cyclists, dogs, drinkers, drummers, the next prime minister and most sinister of all, his fellow officers who seem intent shutting him up – permanently.

    “Jolly risks everything for true love and escape. A mysterious beauty helps him lose his uniform and his inhibitions – and along with it his religion, his loyalty and maybe his life. But like everyone else, she also harbours a dark secret. In Blackwatertown it’s hard to tell who’s a friend and who’s really a deadly enemy. In Blackwatertown, the peace we take for granted can suddenly explode.

    The agent and publisher liked it. But they reinterpreted it for me like this:

    “The Guard meets LA Confidential”

    (You’ll have heard of the second film, even if you haven’t seen the first one – which is very good too.)

    So you’re right about condensing right down to the essence of your story.

    • You did a great job with your query. It’s compelling and succinct. Congrats! One word of caution about using “It’s X meets X.”—that’s very L.A. I heard some NY agents at a writer’s conference bristle at that kind of premise presentation. And they definitely didn’t like comparisons using movies instead of books. (Btw, L.A. Confidential was a book before it was a film. Not so with The Guard.) It’s not a bad thing to have an “It’s X meets X” in your back pocket, but it’s definitely not enough to carry an elevator pitch. =)

      • Thanks Annette for the feedback. And the cautionary word.


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