5 Ways To Nail Your Elevator Pitch
Put on your CEO hat to give your creative work the recognition it deserves
Ah, the Elevator Pitch. The second biggest nightmare for a writer after the dreaded Logline. A cruel practice where we have to condense our life’s work that has taken us months or even years into something we could present in an elevator and gain instant interest in thirty seconds or less.
It’s mostly frustrating to us because we spend half our book getting to ‘the hook’ so to speak, and now we have to get to it in like, twenty words, while spinning the proverbial plates of gaining interest while simultaneously not giving too much away.
Recently, after over a decade of doing this, I came up with my best logline and elevator pitch to date, and it was dare I say… easy? Instead of beating my head against the wall trying to find the perfect lyrical way to pitch my story, I looked at it like I would look like anything I would have to solve in my day job.
So here’s the five things I applied to write the perfect elevator pitch pretty painlessly:
Take The Emotion Out Of It
One of the most important things I have learned over the years is that once you are at the submission phase of your magnum opus, you have to remove yourself from the piece emotionally. Yes, this is your baby. You love it. You have eaten, slept, and breathed this piece of work for a very long time. It is a part of you. All of that is perfectly valid, and I get it. But, at this stage of the game, you have to take off your artist hat and put on your CEO hat because no one will market or advocate for your work like you, but being too emotionally involved will not allow the objective process of getting this art out the door to happen. It over complicates things. So detach emotionally with love, and let’s get to work.
Twenty words or less. Go.
How do you get 50,000 words (in the case of long form fiction) condensed into less than twenty? You have to master the art of the narrative hook. I like to think of this in musical terms. Who are some of the best ‘hook’ writers in pop music? Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift come to mind, but you can use your favorites in any genre to help you hone in on what your hook is going to be in the pitch. The easiest way to find this if you simply don’t know where to start is to go back to your dramatic question in your pre-writing stage. What is the crux of that dramatic question? There’s your narrative hook. Rewrite it in its simplest terms.
Give a well placed and intriguing clue in the middle of your pitch
I call this the BIG BUT. It’s a simple clue you can insert into your elevator pitch that seems innocuous enough, but your reader’s brain will immediately go “BUT” which will create curiosity and intrigue into how the story unfolds. Think of the first Outlander book. Claire is married in the present day, BUT she finds love in the past when she travels through the stones. How would you write that in an elevator pitch to get your reader curious about how it all works out?
What would the Netflix listing say?
Go open your favorite streaming platform of choice and read the summaries of the movies and shows. Those are basically elevator pitches to get you interested in watching something based on a graphic and a short description. How would you summarize your work on a Netflix menu? This is also a great way to look at your genre or subgenre of work, and get ideas for condensing the summary into twenty words or less.
Describe the essence of your work
Without giving anything away, because you’re trying to create curiosity and intrigue, hit these key points of your story while building suspense:
Time and place of your story
Avoid any additional detail beyond the basics. Show, don’t tell.
By breaking down the Elevator Pitch into essential building blocks you methodically assemble like Swedish modular furniture, you remove a lot of the emotional barriers that can be holding back your submission process. Don’t forget to practice your elevator pitch to people who simply ask, “what’s your book/film/essay/play/etc about?” If you can succinctly gain their interest, you’ve done it right!