The Dreaded Elevator Pitch

elevator buttons

When I worked as a Human Resources executive, one of my responsibilities was to offer outplacement training—a fancy term for helping people who lost their jobs find new employment. Outplacement training included creating a resume, polishing interview skills, and developing an elevator pitch.

The elevator pitch is something writers need as well. A pitch is a summary of your book project and information about why a publisher or agent should be interested.

What does an elevator have to do with a pitch? A typical elevator ride lasts twenty to thirty seconds before someone exits. An elevator pitch should be concise enough to include all your pertinent information in under thirty seconds.

Why does a pitch need to be this brief? Consider the opportunities you may have to meet editors and agents at a writer’s conference, such as the Write2Ignite Conference in March. You might meet an agent while waiting on line in the cafeteria. Or you may sit next to an editor at a meal. What do you say when they ask you to describe your project?

You have less than a minute to hook them before someone else comes along with a question, a comment, or a pitch of their own.

What do you include? An effective pitch will include your story as well as why and how it differs from similar published projects. What makes your project unique? Why should the publisher invest in your book? What is the reader’s take-away?

What should you not include in your pitch? Don’t include clichés or exaggerated claims of grandeur (e.g., “This is the next Harry Potter series!”). Don’t make financial demands (e.g., “This is so good that I require a minimum advance of $10,000!”). Don’t cite reviews by family members (e.g., “My mother loved it!”).

Know the person to whom you’re pitching. Does the agent represent fiction or nonfiction? Does the editor publish only Young Adult projects? Don’t waste your time and theirs by pitching a picture book if the editor specializes in middle grade curriculum.

Practice your elevator pitch until you can communicate it naturally and confidently. And be prepared to provide additional information—such as a complete book proposal—when asked!

3 thoughts on “The Dreaded Elevator Pitch

  1. Great advice, Ava! Yeah, we all hate that elevator pitch, huh? As an author who writes picture books as well as grand epic quest fantasy, I find picture books are easier to pitch. I never know what to include in a 30 second pitch for a 114,000 word novel! Ha!

    What I also like to do with children’s books is kinda like a comparison … but not quite. For example, my newest picture book series, Willoughby and Friends, is what I call The Smurfs Meet Sesame Street: A land of fantasy characters who are living and working and playing and trying to get along.

    I wish I could attend Write2Ignite this year, but our family vacation is a couple of weeks after, so there’s no time or money. My youngest daughter has joined the Peace Corps and will be teaching English in Cameroon, Africa. She leaves on May 21st for 3 months of training and then 24 months on the field. So, we’re getting in a vacation in April. 🙂 I’m planning to attend the conference next year, though!

    1. Pam, I like the idea of using comparisons…and the mash-up example you used sounds intriguing!

      1. I learned to do that at a conference, but I can’t remember which one or who was teaching. It’s been a while. 🙂 But I love it, too. It helps a potential editor/agent/reader know what to expect. It shows you understand your own story – helps you market it – shows you know your target audience – and keeps you from comparing yourself to, well, Harry Potter or LOTR or whatever else a billion dollar selling author has written. It takes the focus off you and onto your story.

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