Blogger: Wendy Lawton
I’m not going to tell you how to craft a compelling elevator pitch today. I’m going to focus instead on the problem with elevator pitches.
What is an elevator pitch? According to Eileen Pincus’ “The Perfect (Elevator) Pitch” in Bloomberg Business, “An elevator pitch, elevator speech or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a process, product, service, organization, or event and its value proposition.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great exercise for writers to boil their 100,000-word novel down to a few sentences that would last no longer than the average elevator ride. It’s just as useful for the nonfiction writer to be able to summarize his book succinctly. Without the thought that goes into crafting an elevator pitch, a writer goes on and on about her book– hitting the high points going back and forth and talking on and on until the listener’s eyes glaze over.
But from someone who’s sat at a table and listened to hundreds of elevator pitches, the well-crafted elevator pitch is just step one.
Let me tell you what it looks like to listen to dozens of elevator pitches in a row at a writers conference. The writer nervously walks into the room sits down. I think, what an interesting-looking person. I’ve seen her walking around, and I’ve been impressed. I’d like to get to know more about her.
She shakes my hand, thanks me for meeting with her and stops, gearing up for something. Her eyes dart off to the side as if she’s searching for her teleprompter. “Picture this,” she says as she leans in, “a man, a mountain and an insurmountable problem. . .” The pitch goes on at a spanking pace. I’m still trying to picture the man and the mountain, and we’re already on a thwarted embezzler. She’s memorized it and practiced it so many times it comes off as stilted as a six-year-old’s Christmas piece. And I’m lost.
The problem for me is that the writer has worked so long on crafting the elevator pitch that she’s packed too many complex elements in too small a package. Big idea after big idea– all very hard to follow even if you aren’t half brain dead, which editors and agents tend to be at writers conferences due to the massive onslaught of book ideas.
I’m no longer shy, especially if I’m already drawn to the person. I’ll listen to the elevator pitch with half an ear, and then I’ll usually say, “Just tell me about the book now.” I can see the writer visibly relax–the shoulders go down, and she leans back in her chair a little and then begins to really impress me with the story.
I don’t know if other agents have the same problem with elevator pitches, but for me it’s just step one. Then you need to be able to talk to me about the book and about you, the author.
How about you? Do you have an elevator pitch? Care to share? When you’ve practiced it on someone, do they ask you to slow down? Am I the only one who can’t grasp the elevator pitch fast enough?
Elevator pitches for books? Beware, says literary agent @wendylawton. Click to Tweet