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.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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