View Full Version : The Elevator Pitch: How to Sell Yourself in Seconds

05-23-2008, 07:45 PM
Quickly: You’re in an elevator talking to an agent or editor and you only have 15 seconds to pitch yourself– what do you say?
Do you have a clear, concise and captivating pitch? Something that makes you stand out from all the rest?

Do You Really?
Excitement about your new book is overwhelming and you can’t wait to tell everyone about every little aspect and detail of your work. But if you’re not careful, you’ll end up sounding like that dude rambling to himself on the sidewalk who everyone pretends not to notice. Think of your excitement as a vicious guard dog – if it’s not contained, it becomes counterproductive.

Don’t worry, it’s the same for everyone and it’s also the reason why so many small businesses fail – the owner falls in love with his idea and convinces himself it’s the best thing ever, oblivious to the fact that the market is saturated or the business plan is flawed.

How To
To write a great hook you need to first know your strong points. This means you have to be totally honest with yourself, or better yet, get several outside opinions, because no matter how hard you try, you’ll always be subjective of your own work. Let your friends and family compare your work to similar books and then incorporate their suggestions into your strong points. They should consist of
The genre (do you have an unusual mix of genres? Invented your own?)
The 5 “W”: Where, Who, What, When, Why (Special time period? Unusual setting? Etc.)
The bait (hint at a twist or major plot point)
What sets you apart from the rest (the hook; probably one of the above)
Who is your target audience? (my book targets the readers of… )You can now weave these strong points into a pitch, but don’t feel like you need to use all of them. If you do, your pitch might become too long and convoluted, or you might give away too much, too early. If you get the right signal, then go ahead and expand on your pitch.

Keep it concise, focused and relevant. You only have a few seconds, so don’t ramble on and on. There’s no need to use fancy words either; it will only alienate your audience.

The Benefits
Personalize: Make your pitch sound appealing to your readers/listeners and let them know what to expect from your book – will they be educated, inspired, shocked, touched, humbled, or simply entertained? Will they forget their every-day worries? Will your story improve their lives? Will it frighten them they’ll sleep with the lights on, or let them live out an out-of-reach fantasy?
Best case scenario: Have more than one benefit!

Take a look at your on-screen TV guide. Highlight a movie and read the short, descriptive summary.
Pick 5 of your favorites and write your own description, keeping the strong points in mind. Get it done within one sentence.
That probably wasn’t too difficult. Now pick 5 movies you dislike and similarly write their descriptions – it’s a little more difficult, but it will hone your skills.
Let some friends or colleagues read your descriptions and have them guess the movies. How many did they get right? This will give you an idea as to how good you descriptions are.

The Benchmark
Let’s look at one of the most famous and effective pitches, taglines and slogans:

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

It’s all in there:
Genre - Travel, vacation
The 5 W – Where: Vegas; Who: You; What: A secret (also the bait); When: Your visit; Why: Your secret
The bait – Only you know what you did. This is very intriguing to people as we inherently like to keep and unearth secrets.
The hook – Anything goes, and no one will ever know. Fulfill your fantasies and let loose without and repercussions.
If you can come up with something like this, you’re in business!

Paint a Picture
Watch commercials and advertising carefully – what grabs your attention? What makes you actually think about the product? There is so much advertisement these days that a person needs to be exposed to an ad on average 7 times before she notices it. That’s a lot and the main reason your pitch needs to be compelling!
To achieve that use one of the most important writing techniques: Paint a picture! You probably know all about it
use colorful words
relate to your own personal experiences
look them in the eye
ask questions
clarityYou want the reader/listener to see, hear, feel, and smell what you have to say. If they can visualize your words, the chance of your pitch reaching them increases exponentially.

Be Flexible
You can use your pitch in conversations or in written word; you can even use slight variations depending on the situation and the person(s) you are talking to. Come up with a few and test them. Keep whichever yields the best results. Remember, practice makes perfect — the more you practice your pitch, the more natural it will sound. Ideally, you should have it memorized.

It Ain’t Easy
I’m in a different position for AllTheseBooks.com, since I have to appeal to two markets: Authors and readers, each with their own agendas and needs. So I had to combine two messages.
For the authors I decided on “More readers for authors”; for the readers I went with “More authors for readers.” It speaks directly to the reader and hopefully gets them curious enough to check out the site.
Below the pitch is more detail on what we offer, followed by the websites.

More readers for authors; More authors for readers
Author Promotion | Author Profiles | Book Reviews | Author Interviews
AllTheseBooks.com (http://allthesebooks.com/) / BookHuntersBlog.com (http://bookhuntersblog.com/)

Maybe not the smoothest way, but it has everything in it. Perhaps one day I’ll come up with a better way.

Now, let’s see what you come up with.

05-23-2008, 08:31 PM
Can you give any examples of somebody who has actually sold a manuscript this way? Personally, I've never met an editor or agent worth knowing yet for whom trying to pitch a book as if it were a movie wouldn't make you look silly and amateurish. I mean, most of them do have submission guidelines and tend to get rather irked when people don't, as a certain blogger was fond of saying, Follow the Damn Directions.

05-23-2008, 09:18 PM
Don't take the introduction so literally. Of course there are submission guidelines - the point is to know your strengths which you can use in other places, like forums, websites, signatures and interviews.

05-23-2008, 09:41 PM
Quickly: You’re in an elevator talking to an agent or editor and you only have 15 seconds to pitch yourself– what do you say?. . .

Elevator pitches are a standby for business people -- esp. the small business people I hang around with. They figure on 30 seconds (we are not literally talking "elevators" only, of course) to convey their message clearly and effectively, and practice, practice, practice with each other to hone the message and delivery.

Great, succinct outline of the concept and its implementation.


05-24-2008, 03:36 AM
Ditto to what ResearchGuy said. All writers should have an elevator pitch for each of their works. You never, ever know when you will need it, although we should all hope that we will.

05-24-2008, 04:03 AM
I'm glad you guys like it. Best thing is that you can use it in all aspects of life - getting a raise, winning a debate... it's limitless.

05-28-2008, 08:01 AM
A good resource that I recently came across that can help you put together an efficient and effective 15 Second Elevator Pitch is here...