Your Elevator Pitch

86538827You are standing in an elevator and have two minutes to tell someone about your book. Today we’re going to talk about crafting that one-sentence summary, also known as a logline, a hook, or a one-sentence (elevator) pitch. This is not your book’s tagline!

What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book.

Why: To get someone interested in reading your book.

When to use it: The start of a query, or anytime someone asks you, “What’s your book about?”

What it does: A one-sentence summary takes your complex book with multiple characters and plotlines and boils it down into a simple statement that can be quickly conveyed and understood, and generates interest in the book.

What it should include:
→ A character or two
→ Their choice, conflict, or goal
→ What’s at stake (may be implied)
→ Action that will get them to the goal
→ Setting (if important)

Tips:
→ Keep it simple. One plotline, 1 or 2 characters.
→ Use the strongest nouns, verbs and adjectives.
→ Make the conflict clear but you don’t have to hint at the solution.

In your one-sentence summary, try not to pitch a theme. Pitch what happens. Examples of themes:

This book explores forgiveness.
This book looks at the thin line between right and wrong.
This book explores the meaning of independence, and asks if it’s really possible.

Here is Nathan Bransford’s simplified formula for a one-sentence pitch: “When [opening conflict] happens to [character(s)], they must [overcome conflict] to [complete their quest].”

Examples of one-sentence summaries:

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
• A boy wizard begins training and must battle for his life with the Dark Lord who murdered his parents. (Thanks Randy Ingermanson for this one.)

→ Character=boy wizard
→ Conflict=battling the Dark Lord
→ Stakes=his life
→ Setting=none
→ Action=wizard training; avoiding the same fate as his parents

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
• In the south in the 1960s, three women cross racial boundaries to begin a movement that will forever change their town and the way women view one another.

When Faith Awakes by Mike Duran
• Chaos is unleashed on a quiet coastal town when an unassuming crippled woman raises a young boy from the dead, unlocking a centuries-old curse.

Medical Error by Richard Mabry
• Identity theft becomes fatal for a patient and puts a young doctor’s reputation and medical practice in jeopardy.

Chasing Superwoman by Susan DiMickele
• A successful attorney and mother of three battles discrimination, exhaustion, and a clueless boss while balancing a career, a family, and a life of faith.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. Leave your one-sentence summary in the comments.

Posted in

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!

68 Comments

  1. Top Picks Thursday 09-17-2015 | The Author Chronicles on September 17, 2015 at 11:01 AM

    […] Whether looking for an agent or going it on your own, you will at some point have to write a synopsis and elevator pitch for your book. Rochelle Deans lays out how to edit your synopsis, and Rachelle Gardner explains how to create an elevator pitch. […]



  2. Tracy L on September 14, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    A timid, young girl whose introduction to God came from Jim
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  5. Top Picks Thursday 09-10-2015 | The Author Chronicles on September 10, 2015 at 11:03 AM

    […] all need pitches and short synopses, no matter how we publish. Rachelle Gardner talks elevator pitches, Cait Gordon shares 5 signs of going through pitch wars, and Mike Wells uncovers a secret formula […]



  6. Anne Sweazy Kulju on September 9, 2015 at 7:18 PM

    A shy German immigrant who survives the coffin ships, The Trail’s bloodiest history, and the Shanghai Tunnels, brings real beer and true love to 1850’s Portland, Oregon–and encounters his greatest danger yet.



  7. Tracy L on September 8, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    A timid young girl whose introduction to God came from Jim
    and Tammy Faye Bakker on The 700 Club spends
    a lifetime seeking to find approval and her place with God, faith and
    religion.



  8. K.B. Knight on September 7, 2015 at 8:20 PM

    After discovering his wife’s bludgeoned body in the
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  9. Kade Cook on September 7, 2015 at 5:54 PM

    A young logic wired psychologist is thrown into a paranormal world that is anything but logical and must find control of her true self in order to survive the Darkness that haunts her.



    • Amanda Griffith on September 8, 2015 at 8:45 PM

      Why is Darkness capitalized? The Devil! Very intriguing. Or is it the dark recesses of her mind?



      • Anne Sweazy Kulju on September 9, 2015 at 7:21 PM

        Perception is reality…



      • Kade Cook on September 10, 2015 at 12:02 PM

        Hi Amanda, it is something very much of both. The Darkness is the mixture of an evil that lies condemned in a place called Erebus and it is also the darkness that harbors deep within her subconscious. This evil tempts my characters moral judgment and uses his sympathetic façade of her suffering to pull her onto a dark path in attempts to trigger the darkness within her; using her gifts and naivety for his gain. Trials and tribulations.



  10. Kade Cook on September 7, 2015 at 12:56 PM

    A young logic wired psychologist is thrown into a paranormal world that is anything but logical and must find control of her true self in order to survive the Darkness that haunts her.



  11. Josey Bozzo on September 7, 2015 at 6:54 AM

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  12. doreenmcgettigan on September 7, 2015 at 6:13 AM

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  14. Sharalee Sherman on September 6, 2015 at 4:33 PM

    Negative words turn into negative thoughts and actions, but they can be displaced and replaced with positive words, changing a mind and life forever!



  15. Aaron Netsky on September 6, 2015 at 11:26 AM

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  31. Kendra Burrows on September 5, 2015 at 9:04 AM

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  36. Zan Marie Steadham on September 5, 2015 at 7:42 AM

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  37. Jan Cline on September 5, 2015 at 7:21 AM

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  38. Amanda Griffith on September 5, 2015 at 7:15 AM

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    • Sandy Hogarth on September 7, 2015 at 6:47 AM

      This seems a really good example. And exciting



  39. Susan Finlay on September 5, 2015 at 7:11 AM

    Embittered by his fiance’s betrayal, a young American leaves Paris and accepts a handyman job in a nearby village, unaware the elderly woman he works for has a decades-old secret.



    • ellenmulholland on September 6, 2015 at 10:31 AM

      Well done! Makes me want to read.



      • Susan Finlay on September 9, 2015 at 7:20 AM

        Thanks, Ellen. This is the first book in a new cozy mystery series set in France. My first mystery series, also set in France, is already published.



    • Amanda Griffith on September 8, 2015 at 8:47 PM

      This is definitely a book I would read. What is that secret? Does he reconnect with betraying fiance?



      • Susan Finlay on September 9, 2015 at 7:19 AM

        Thanks, Amanda. The secret is about a murder, which the protagonist begins to research, along with his new love interest and the elderly woman. I’m working on edits now and hope to get an agent and big publisher for this book. I have five self-published novels, three of them set in France, one in Germany, and one in the U.S.



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  41. Linda Strader on September 5, 2015 at 5:24 AM

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  42. Sandy Hogarth on September 5, 2015 at 4:03 AM

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    • Amanda Griffith on September 6, 2015 at 2:22 PM

      Sounds like a great thriller.



      • Sandy Hogarth on September 7, 2015 at 6:45 AM

        Thanks Amanda. Salutary. Shows how badly I’ve written the pitch. Although there is stalking, it’s not a thriller although could make one. Back to the drawing board. Since you’d made that comment it’s blindingly obvious thriller is what I’ve made it sound like.



  43. Sandy Hogarth on September 5, 2015 at 3:52 AM

    Ruth must find a way of overcoming her sister’s betrayal and the loss of her daughter and stop running



  44. Britdave on September 5, 2015 at 2:36 AM

    “A damaged
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  46. Dean K Miller on September 4, 2015 at 5:45 PM

    A widowed father must choose life with his new love or death with his family, granted by the man who killed his wife and daughter.



    • Kendra Burrows on September 5, 2015 at 9:36 AM

      I’m not sure what that means, “granted by the man …” but I am intrigued.



      • Dean K Miller on September 5, 2015 at 6:40 PM

        The widowed father’s choice of further life or dying is given to him by the man who killed his wife/child. The bad guy is also dead but has the ability to offer this choice.



  47. Blessfulwritings on September 4, 2015 at 5:11 PM

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  49. Justin Hayward on September 4, 2015 at 9:30 AM

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  51. Suzanne Craft Bailey on September 4, 2015 at 8:53 AM

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  53. Jon Gibbs on September 4, 2015 at 2:45 AM

    Abraham Lincoln Stole my Homework (UMG)
    It’s about a 6th-grade loner who gets chased through history by the time police and a cold-blooded killer, for crimes he hasn’t even committed…yet.



    • Peter DeHaan on September 5, 2015 at 7:51 AM

      Jon, I like it!



      • Jon Gibbs on September 5, 2015 at 10:02 AM

        Thanks, Peter 🙂



  54. » Your Elevator Pitch on September 4, 2015 at 1:13 AM

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