Let’s talk about elevator pitches and how to set yourself up effectively the next time you need to make one in front of a literary agent or editor.
In today’s blog, I want to make the case that preparing for your elevator pitch is one of the best tools you can use to set yourself up for success. By the way, even if you aren’t pitching a book, the three questions in today’s post can help you triage a book project that seems to be languishing without good solid interest.
First, let’s acknowledge that elevator pitches are intense. Totally. As a literary agent, I see writers in the hallway pacing before appointments because they are looking for the right words to say. Let’s review our goal:
Your elevator pitch has three objectives: Clear. Concise. Compelling. Of course, you can say more during pitch session, but this is the foundation upon which the rest of the conversation will be built. Successful elevator pitches end with a literary agent leaning towards you and saying, “Tell me more.”
Here are three questions to help you accomplish those three objectives:
- Can you summarize your book in one sentence?
- Can you sell your book in one sentence?
- In one sentence, can you explain why your book will attract your target audience?
Ready? Here we go!
1. Can you summarize your book in one sentence?
Your goal is to make your book easy for an agent to understand. Novelists and non-fiction writers have unique objectives when offering the one sentence summary.
For novelists, your one sentence summary should include: your genre, key conflict, emotional theme, and a quick mention “writing style of my book is similar to ________” plus the status of the manuscript.
For non-fiction writers, your summary should include: the target audience, a description of the problem, felt need/pain point for the audience and the unique prescriptive/remedy that you have to offer.
NEXT STEP: Write out the one sentence description of your book. If it flows over into a second sentence, that’s okay. But if you need more than three sentences to explain your book, then consolidate the summary. Again, your goal is to make your book easy for an agent to understand.
2. Can you sell your book in one sentence?
If you can give us a great hook, it’s one way to help us visualize success in selling your book.
In an elevator pitch, the hook is the crucial point of connection between the idea of your book and whether it could be marketable and salable. There’s an inescapable truth that every aspiring author needs to understand: Hooks sell books.
How do you know when your hook is hot? It’s the point at which a literary agent leans towards you and says, “Wow. Tell me more.” We LOVE hearing great hooks, so wow us!
NEXT STEP: Crafting a hot hook is an entire topic, so if you need to work on yours, here’s a link to a previous Books & Such post.
3. In one sentence, can you explain why your book will attract your target audience?
Here’s a poignant insight that I heard from a multiple best-selling author: There are books that a reader wants to buy someday, but our job is to write books that readers feel they must buy today.
As a literary agent, I need your help understanding why someone will, not just think about, grab your book off the shelf or drop it into their online shopping cart. I love that you love your book, but during your pitch session, tell me why your audience will love it AND how you will create the urgency for them to buy it.
In her book, The Inside Scoop, Books & Such President Janet Kobobel Grant (co-authored with Vice President Wendy Lawton), wrote about hitting a reader’s “hot buttons.” Janet noted that fiction fans look for books that tickle their fancy and spark their imagination, while non-fiction clients snap up books that appeal to felt needs more often than intellectual curiosity.
NEXT STEP: What are three to five key words or phrases that describe the experience you want readers to have with your book?
SO GLAD THAT YOU’RE HERE! Thank you for joining us today. Do you have a one-liner about your book that you’d like to share? Drop it in the comments below and let us know if it’s the summary, the hook or why your book will attract readers. If you don’t have a sentence to share, what are your takeaways from today’s post?