Wednesday

Fourth Floor Kitchenware, Loungewear, and Perfect Pitches. Going Up.

Imagine you're in the elevator at a conference and a brilliant children's editor (like say me) and her handler get in the elevator too. This brilliant, amazing editor (like me) turns to you and introduces herself and after learning you are an author asks you what you are working on now. What do you do, author? What. Do. You Do.

Why, you launch into your elevator pitch, of course.

An elevator pitch is almost identical to what a bookseller does when he/she handsells a book to a customer. It's a small paragraph that teases the potential reader whether it is an editor or a 12-year-old kid to want to read the book. This is not the same as a book's jacket copy. Again, this is much vaguer than a synopsis or jacket copy. Like a one-sentence pitch you still want to make sure that you tell what the genre and audience is, but that's where the similarities end. In this type of pitch you want interesting sentences that tell more about the beginning of the book rather than the overall plot. This is your chance to make your book sound as appealing as possible in the shortest amount of time. After all, you would only have around 15 seconds in an elevator ride.

Here's a sample of the difference between jacket copy and an elevator pitch:
Jacket copy for the Book of Nonsense:
The book is ancient, ravaged and full of utter nonsense. But the moment it enters Daphna and Dexter's lives, bizarre things begin to happen. Why is their father, who found the book, suddenly so distant? Is the old man who took it from him some kind of hypnotist? Why is a giant, red-eyed boy menacing them? And what does their thirteenth birthday have to do with all this? Daphna and Dexter can't stand each other, but they'll have to work together to learn the truth about the Book of Nonsense - before their lives come apart completely.

Elevator Pitch for the Book of Nonsense:
This is my newest midgrade fantasy book, The Book of Nonsense. In it, the father of a pair of twins discovers a book that can't be read because the words constantly move. It turns out the book is magical, and that an ancient man wants it so he can control the world. After he steals the book from their father, the twins have to get the book back and save their father from the old man's spell.

This is literally the pitch that I used on every librarian at TLA when giving out copies of the reader. It must of worked because very few gave me the reader back.

Despite the similarity in length, you can see the difference between the two. The first does not work as a pitch because of all of the questions and the level of detail. In the actual spoken pitch, all but the most major plot arcs are eliminated. There is industry jargon that is unnecessary for a jacket summary. We still don't name any characters or give details of place unless necessary. But we still have enough stuff to pique interest and intrigue the reader to want to hear or discuss in more detail.

Now. let's see you try to do elevator pitches. Since this is normally a verbal not a written pitch, be sure to read it out loud to yourself to make sure it sounds good. You don't want to use words you don't how to pronounce or that you will stumble over.

I would like to say I was very impressed with the pitches and comments the last time. I look forward to seeing the same level of quality on this set.

20 comments:

Robin Bev said...

Here is my first attempt.

“Shadowed” is my newest young adult fantasy novel. It’s about a 15-year-old girl named Janyce who only has one memory before she was six-years-old--witnessing her mother's murder. Since then she has learned to defend herself--both from her grandfather and the vampires she occasionally hunts. When her past and a stranger seem to have caught up with her, her skills may be all that keep her alive.

The Buried Editor said...

Robin, I like this quite a lot. I have to admit that after reading your other stuff that yours might be better suited for a longer pitch.

I like that we learn the genre, audience, age & sex of the protagonist in the first couple of sentence. We then learn what is unusual about the book, vampires, and finally we get an overall idea of the main plot -- past catching up with her.

Kris said...

I'm new to this blog, but it looks great! Here's my attempt at achieving Perfect Pitch!!!

In my Middle Grade adventure novel, "Pirate Princess", the twelve-year old daughter of a pirate develops a unique friendship with the girl her father has kidnapped. When her father becomes the object of a manhunt, the daughter draws strength from this friendship as she launches a plan to rescue her father.

Robin Bev said...

Kris-
When you use the word "unique" it makes me want to ask what makes the relationship unique? I also think it could be a little tighter. Maybe something like:

In my Middle-Grade adventure novel, "Pirate Princess", the Pirate Captain's twelve-year-old daughter befriends a kidnapped girl on board. When her father becomes the object of a manhunt, the daughter draws strength from this friendship as she launches a plan to rescue her father.

I also wonder what the reasons are behind the man-hunt; the kidnapped girl or something else. If you could get that detail in here I think it would be great. Maybe something like this:

In my Middle-Grade adventure novel, "Pirate Princess", the Pirate Captain's twelve-year-old daughter befriends a kidnapped girl, who is the Mayor's daughter, on board. When the Mayor organizes a manhut for her father the daughter draws strength from this friendship as she launches a plan to rescue her father.

Deren said...

A Sand Castle Against the Tide is my epic, contemporary fantasy for sophisticated young readers. In it, a boy's dull summer becomes a fight to save all that he holds dear when he finds the infrastructure behind the ordinary world, learns that he, like his grandfather, is a Maker—someone who can shape matter like a potter shapes clay, and realizes that malevolent forces from the wider worlds, summoned by greedy men, are converging on his home.

Deren said...

I found this pitch harder to write because an extra sentence opens a new world of possibilities and pitfalls. It's tempting to put more in, but then you've got to explain it. And the elevator pitch isn't really much longer than the one-sentence version.

I read the buried editor's pitch aloud in 24 seconds. Mine takes 27 seconds. I assume that by "15-second pitch" we really mean 30 seconds.

Robin, I hope this isn't just meddlesome copy editing, but I'd like to suggest something a bit more active like:

"It's about a 15-year-old girl who occasionally hunts vampires and can only remember one thing before she was six--her mother's murder. She knows how to defend herself, even from her grandfather, but when her past and a stranger catch up with her, that may not be enough."

Kris, I second Robin's comments. But since I can't leave well enough alone, here's another bit of meddlesome copy editing based on unfounded assumptions about the nature of your story:

"In my Middle-Grade adventure novel, Pirate Princess, the twelve-year-old daughter of a pirate captain befriends a hostage her own age. But when the ransom payment turns out to be an ambush, the girl must turn to her new friend, whose father leads the manhunt for the pirate, to help rescue her own father."

Judy said...

In my mid-grade book, KNOWING JOSEPH, fifth grader Brian has a younger brother with autism, and it's hard for him to decide if he loves him or hates him. He wishes Joseph could be normal and not act out in public, but he also tries to protect Joseph from the bullies. Brian gains insights to his feelings about Joseph when his family goes camping and he meets another kid who understands what autism is. Later he learns how to look at Joseph in a more positive way through a school project.

tys said...

"The Gate" is a contemporary spiritual journey. It tells the story of two brothers, and their respective journeys to a mystical gateway, eighteen months apart. Jason, a hotshot trader, is obsessed with unravelling the mystery of his brother’s death. Stuck in the middle of an eerie wilderness with his brother’s widow, and a reticent guide, he questions his life choices as the story of his brother's fateful journey to the Gate is gradually revealed.


Thanks, this is a great exercise.

Sheri said...

I have been trying to figure this one out with my current WIP.

Here is my first attempt:
Conflicted is a young adult novel about a 17 year old girl who is faced with the suicide of Matt, her gay best friend. In her search for answers about Matt’s death, she is forced to face a reality about herself she never knew existed. Prejudice works in both directions, and sometimes the hardest sought after answers come from the least expected places.

Judy said...

I like it, Sherri.

Robin Bev said...

Judy--
I think your description may be too detailed, and wordy. I used Matthew simply because it was the first name that popped in my head, since I don't know the actual kids name.

In my mid-grade book, KNOWING JOSEPH, fifth grader, Brian, has a younger brother, Joseph, with autism. Although he loves his brother, Joseph's condition sometimes makes Brian resent him. But when his family goes camping, Brian meets Matthew, who understands what Autism is and helps Brian gain insights about Joseph that allows him to look at Autism in a positive light.

Robin Bev said...

Deren-
Great plot.
But I'd suggest:

"A Sand Castle Against the Tide" is my epic, contemporary fantasy mid-grade novel. In it, a boy's dull summer becomes a fight to save all that he holds dear when he learns that he, like his grandfather, is a Maker—someone who can shape matter like a potter shapes clay and that malevolent forces are converging on his home.

I'm actually curious as to how the forces are related to the fact the boy is a Maker.

A boy's dull summer becomes a struggle to hold onto everything he holds dear when malevolent forces are summoned to attack his home, and he learns that he, like his grandfather, is a Maker--someone who can shape matter like a potter shapes clay

Robin Bev said...

Sheri-
I'm not sure that the last sentence about Perjudice is necessary.

Tys-
You might want to try this.

"The Gate" is a contemporary spiritual journey. Jason, a hotshot trader, is obsessed with unravelling the mystery of his brother’s death. Stuck in the middle of an eerie wilderness with his brother’s widow, and a reticent guide, he questions his life choices as the story of his brother's fateful journey to the Gate is gradually revealed.

I am curious to know what "The Gate" is. If you could get that in here I think it would work. Because right now, I can only guess at what it is.

Sheri said...

Judy-
I think you can consolidate this and still keep the content.

Here is an idea:

KNOWING JOSEPH is a middle grade novel. Brian is in fifth grade and he can’t decide if he loves or hates his younger brother Joseph. He has autism. Brian spends half his time wishing he wouldn’t act out in public and the other trying to protect him from bullies. A friend Brian meets at camp, and a school project, help him see Joseph in a new light.

Colorado Writer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colorado Writer said...
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tys said...

Thanks Robin.

As to what the Gate is, that's not revealed until the end of the novel. Some of my longer blurb goes along the lines of:

"No one really knows what the Gate is. Some say it’s a portal to another dimension; others, that only the enlightened pass through. But the Gate is not what is seems, and each of the seekers – Sam, his lover Rhianna, Jason, and Sam’s wife Fiona – will face their innermost limitations, fears, and longings."

Should I include some of that in the elevator pitch?

Thanks for your help.

Judy said...

d\Sheri and Robin Bev...thanks for your suggestions. Both are improvements over mine.

The Buried Editor said...

Lovely job all of you. And remember to try your pitches in different ways. Don't become to attached to a particular word or phrase. You will almost certainly be nervous or ill at ease and your pitch will probably not come out exactly as planned.

Wakai Writer said...

Hi all,

Help would be great for me on this one, because I've always struggled with this version of the pitch, even when it's only following the inevitable ("Oh, you've written a book? What's it about?") stage of meeting new people.

I'm working on a young adult high fantasy novel called Seals of the Dragon. In it, one of three seals that protect the world from a dragon is destroyed and swordsman Litnig Jin must help protect the last two. As he does, however, he learns that he has incredible magical power drawn from the dragon itself, and must reconcile a past that labels him as a monster with his conviction that he is the opposite even as he fights to save all that he holds dear.