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Using the Elevator Pitch at Book Signings

I did a signing in Phoenix, Az this weekend. This got me thinking about something I used to hear about in writer’s conferences: the “elevator pitch.” In other words, if you were stuck in an elevator with one of the top agents and you only had till they reached their floor, how would you describe your story to capture their interest.

This is super hard, especially for someone who has written the work. I’ve created this world. I’ve created these characters and this diverse plotline. How am I going to narrow that down to one or two sentences? Others must struggle like me because writer’s conferences are filled with classes that proclaim they can “perfect your pitch.”

As publication begins to transform, pitching to agents might not be as necessary…but I contend writers still need it. Have you ever gone up to a writer at a book signing? If a reader doesn’t shy away, but venture to the table, they tend to have short attention spans. They want something short and a quick exit without hurt feelings. And, time and time I watch writers dive into the intricate aspects of their novel. They highlight what intrigued them about the story line in the first place. They state where the idea came from and how it is so unique. They basically give the first four chapters and plot outline in their pitch. And they tend to lose—and overwhelm—many readers.

I think writers still need an elevator pitch, only now your audience can escape. How are you going to sell the novel in a sentence or two before they bolt? If the reader is interested, most still pick up the book and look at the back summary. They skim through the pages. This is what a reader does to select a new novel. It’s the writer’s job to capture them and then let them investigate. Kind of like fishing…even though I hate fishing.

Don’t get me wrong. Perfecting the elevator pitch is horribly hard. I still struggle with the art of summary and intrigue in a short space. Most of the time, when I can’t come up with a pitch, it’s because I’m trying to focus too much on the plot. So instead focus on the topic. Lord of Nightmares: Supernatural beings who toy with people’s lives for sport and a girl gets into a game for her soul. It’s so simplistic when looking at the intricacies of that novel. And yet, it does its job. On the surface, what is it about? Then let the book’s summary take it from there.

What’s nice about this type of pitch is that there is a lot of time to perfect it. More people come to my table to hear about my books than agents I was able to meet with. I can gauge their reactions and craft my pitch. Then, when I reach perfection…I tend to forget it the next time and start again. But that’s part of the joys of book signing.