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Hook, line, and sinker - How to write the perfect elevator pitch
Image credit: Matteo Paciotti Photography

Hook, line, and sinker - How to write the perfect elevator pitch

When confronted with someone who wants to quickly know about your book, it’s important to be able to describe it, capturing the essence of the story, but without being bogged down in detail, because you never know when you’ll meet someone who can help you sell your story. Enter the elevator pitch.

“So, what’s your book about?” is the first question authors are asked when people find out they’ve written something, and it’s the most nerve-wracking thing to reply. Your story is a complicated genre-defining masterpiece, set in a diverse world, involving betrayal, love, espionage, with a mind-blowing twist that would leave a reader gasping with amazement. “Erm, it’s a bit like Harry Potter, but in the real world, with adults.”

“Ok. Good luck with it.”

You desperately need an elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a summary of your story. It needs to be concise, credible, and compelling. You need to hook in your listener, get them to love the idea, and inspire them to take action, to buy your book, both in the sense of readers, as well as agents and publishers.

You’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into your work, and you need to be prepared to convey that in a very short space of time, else you’ll ramble, forget key elements, and come across as a bit of an amateur.

Here are the three stages of a pitch:

The hook

Right, this is it. You’ve got someone’s ear and you need to grab it, and grab it fast. You need one sentence that is going to grab your listener and make them ask for more. It needs to be so good, that once you’ve said it, if you walked away, your listener would physically hold your arm to stop you.

You know how important a good book cover is, this is the ‘cover’ of your pitch.

It needs to be an original, simple, and easily expressible premise. Something catchy that is short, only about five to ten or so words, but memorable. Use the major plot point or core conflict, and simplify it. A good way to start is with a ‘What if…?’

The line

Now you can expand with another sentence or two. Give a little more detail, but the same rules apply. It should expand on the six Ws, Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How, establishing the period, location, and genre. You could also expand a little on on any subplots.

The sinker

This is like a close in a sales call, you need to end with a bang. You could reformat your closing question from your blurb or leave with a cliff-hanger. The main point is to create intrigue.

Further tips:

  • Be simple, but cover key elements
  • Introduce the main character
  • Introduce the core conflict
  • Introduce the genre and period
  • Don’t try and tell the whole story
  • Elicit emotion in the listener
  • Exaggerate - don’t be afraid to big up your story

Once you think you’ve got it down, you must rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, so that you can recite it without thinking.

Don’t talk about the process

Remember, the person you’re talking to doesn’t want to know about how you wrote your book, only what your book is about. Don’t start digressing about how you thought up various plotlines, or developed your characters.

Don’t jump down their throat

Wait until you have a natural opening to discuss your book. Let it slip that you’re an author and you will be asked what you’re writing at the moment, then unleash the pitch. Don’t immediately pounce on someone and blurt it out straight away, it will turn people off.

Don’t spill your guts

Recite your pitch and then leave it alone. Don’t ad-lib by adding extra things on the fly, or expanding on what you’ve already said. Pitch, and then respond. Your elevator pitch is just as much about listening to the person as it is informing them about your book.

There’s a rule in sales called the ‘golden silence’. After the pitch, whoever speaks first ‘loses’.

Quit whilst you’re ahead

After you’ve said your piece, and you’ve had a positive response, either ‘send me your manuscript’ or ‘where can I buy your book’, close and walk away. You’ve done your job, and you’re at risk of undoing the good you’ve done if you continue.

Obviously, in some instances, you don’t actually walk away, but turn the conversation away from your book. Nobody likes someone who drones on and on.

Let us know what your elevator pitches are below, and be sure to sign up to our newsletter which includes tips and tricks, and special offers for our services, including ready-made book covers and designs, eBook formatting, and promotional tools.

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