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!