That pesky ‘elevator pitch’ and why we need one


via Wikimedia Commons

You get into a lift. An agent you’d love to sign you steps in as the doors close. You have her exclusive attention for two minutes. Now is your chance. You tell her you’re an author, and you’ve just written a fabulous book and you’re looking for the best representation. You’d love her to take a look at it. The conversation proceeds:

‘How exciting. What’s your novel about?’

‘Erm, well, its about a woman who is separated from her husband but still loves him really, only he’s with someone else, so she decides to go to London and start afresh … but there’s a secret that someone else – like, another person – has …  oh, did I say her ex works in the same firm as her brother? …  and though we don’t know it yet, if she decides to spill the beans, well, it could have dire consequences for all of them and …’

At this point you reach her floor, the doors slide open and she steps out.

‘Good luck with your book!’ she calls, as the doors close again. You’ve missed your chance.

Ring the Alarm

Don’t hit the panic button! via Wikimedia Commons

This is what’s known as ‘the elevator pitch’. You have two minutes at most to sell your story. You need to be prepared for the moment. Hone your pitch finely, rehearse it and get ready to wow your captive agent. Let’s try again.

‘What’s your novel about?’

‘It’s about digging deeper than you ever thought possible to discover what your really need, then fighting for it.’

‘That sounds interesting. Tell me more.’

‘Molly doesn’t realise how much she still loves her ex until she sees Adam with another woman, but instead of fighting for him, she runs off to London to start a new job. Meanwhile, Adam’s life is torn apart by deceit and fraud in the law firm he runs. They both make terrible mistakes, but all the answers lie close to home, if only they can see them. It’s about working out what’s really important in a complicated modern world.’

The lift door opens.

‘I have to go, but here’s my card. Why don’t you send me something?’

Writing a novel is a long and extremely intricate business and it’s all too easy to get bogged down by character, plot, dialogue, setting, pace and the many other elements that have to come together to make a great novel. In all of this, we can lose sight of the main drivers. So although spending time thinking about your elevator pitch can seem like an unnecessary distraction, the exercise can bring huge benefits, allowing you to rediscover focus and impetus.

What’s your novel about? If you’ve got a great one-liner, do tell!

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