Elevator Pitch Critiques
How about some critiques of those elevator pitches? I’m impressed and amazed at how many of you contributed them in the comments to my post last Wednesday. Obviously I won’t be able to critique most of them, but hopefully you’ll get something out of these few that I’m going to address.
A couple things before I start. First, some of you acknowledged that your book is something that I might not represent—that’s fine, and it’s okay to mention that in your conversation. But don’t use it as a reason to avoid pitching—you never know, you could change my mind! If you’re asked what you’re writing, by all means talk about it.
Second, length is an issue for some of the pitches. Keep in mind it takes roughly 30 seconds to deliver about 100 words, which is a nice length for an elevator pitch. Too much longer and you risk being convoluted and losing the attention of your audience. Pay attention to that word count.
Okay, let’s look at some of your pitches, and I’ll share my brief thoughts.
From Michael Seese:
I’m working on a novella called “Udopia.” It’s set in the future…not the “Star Trek” future, but rather ten years from now, in a future which could come to pass. It’s a cautionary tale about what could happen if we as a society let down our guard, and give too much of ourselves to the government and, more critically, the Internet. I could not have written this ten years ago, because there was no Facebook, no Google, no geo-tracking, and no 9/11. But now, thanks to the first three–and others as well–our lives, our actions, our THOUGHTS, our associations, indeed our complete dossiers are online. And because of the fourth, the government has a vested interest–in the name of national security–in owning that treasure trove.
Michael, I like the thinking here and I’m interested in where this is leading, but unfortunately you’ve given us a premise for a story – a foundation or a setup. You haven’t given us an actual story. I don’t have a character, a conflict, anything to care about. I’ve simply been given a setting. You’re going to have to find a way to give the set-up in perhaps one sentence, and use the rest of your time pitching the actual story. Also, in a pitch, avoid editorializing about your story, i.e. “it’s a cautionary tale” and “I couldn’t have written this ten years ago.” Just pitch the story.
My book is a middle grade adventure called Trusting Trinity. Thirteen-year-old Trinity Bishop lied about getting abducted by aliens last summer, so when she runs into real ones on vacation, she’s unable to convince her parents she’s telling the truth. Together with her best friends Maya and Nick, Trinity sets out to stop the aliens from attacking her cruise ship. But when the aliens kidnap Nick, Trinity must figure out how to save him and prove she’s not a liar before her next alien abduction story comes true. Would you be interested in reading more?
Kimmy, I read this aloud to my 12 year old (and it took exactly 30 seconds—perfect!) and she said it sounded like a story she wanted to read. I agree with her. I like how you set it up by saying it’s a middle grade adventure, then you go right into the action. You give us three character names, just enough so that we see the story is populated with people, but we never get confused. The only downside to this would be that the story doesn’t sound tremendously original, but it does sound fun, so if I were listening to this pitch, I’d ask to see pages so I could assess your writing. Nice work!
From Joseph Finley:
I’d like to tell you about my historical fantasy novel, Enoch’s Device. It’s the story of two tenth-century monks who journey across Europe to find an angelic device with the power to prevent the Apocalypse, while pursued by a black-robed bishop who’s determined to bring about the End of Days.
Joseph, this is a pretty good, although a bit brief. It’s more like what you’d provide as a one-sentence summary. For an elevator pitch, you’d want to expand it to give your listener a bit more time to become engaged in what you’re saying. I sense the conflict here and obviously the “chase” element, but there’s not quite enough here to truly intrigue me and draw me in. Find a way to make me care about something or someone here. Who am I supposed to root for—the monks? If so, then perhaps focus the pitch in that direction, show me how the monks are in jeopardy, and let me know why I should care about that. I sense potential here but I don’t think you’re quite there yet.
From Lisa Marie:
Hi, Rachelle, it’s nice to finally meet you in person. I have a completed, single-title romance called “See Sabrina Run.” Sabrina’s a Chief of Staff who works for a popular state representative. Scuttlebutt under the dome is that she’s next in line to the Hon. Rep.s’ seat when he retires. But Sabrina has a problem: she’s got payments due on a posh new townhouse she can’t afford. So she takes on a renter: Gage. Radio shock jock. Totally politically incorrect. Totally not her type. Except there’s some serious chemistry between these two. Sabrina wouldn’t mind a “no strings attached” situation – she’s too busy to for a relationship. But there’s a man of substance behind Gage’s outrageous on-air personality. A keeper. And he wants a more traditional relationship with Sabrina — marriage, family. She might have to step off the political fast track if she wants to keep him. Is this something you’d be interested in representing?
Lisa Marie, I want to like this, but it’s sounding a bit flat to me. Maybe it’s because both characters seem like “types” rather than real people, so it’s hard for me to connect with them. I can’t see them together, so that’s a stumbling block, and I don’t see a real obstacle to their romance except that he might not fit into her political aspirations. I’m missing a sense of real romance, “sparks flying” type stuff, as well as a sense of intrigue. I’d like to see you set it up so that she has a dire choice to make, something I (the listener) care about. It would be nice if you could present some kind of twist as well—say something that makes me think, hmm, that’s different. I’d need this to be a little more exciting in order to want to read your sample.
I write YA of all genres, and I currently have a high concept, speculative fiction novel. It is set in a future where science and the corruption of man have made religion illegal and laughable. Through a friendship with a girl with religious sympathies, the protagonist discovers a clue that may lead to a secret hidden by the government–a secret which may prove that religion isn’t as dangerous as the public believes. She decides to follow this clue, despite the fact that her journey has the potential to destroy the only goal she’s ever had: the goal to become her society’s idea of a god.
Taryn, this is intriguing on several levels. I think the “future without religion” is a fun, if not totally unique, setting for a YA novel. I’m intrigued by the secret she stumbles upon, and I especially like the last line – this is a protagonist who wants to be a god! That’s very nice. Overall it’s interesting and I’d want to hear more. I’d suggest you smooth out your delivery a bit. Don’t say “the protagonist” because it’s so distant, I don’t care about her if she doesn’t have a name. But it sounds like a good story, and next I’d be interested in checking out your writing.
That’s all the critiques for today! I’ll have more in a couple of days.
Q4U: In reading through everyone’s pitches on last Wednesday’s post, what overall impressions did you have? Are you noticing any common mistakes? How do you think you’d deal with hearing these kinds of pitches over and over, day in and day out?