The Elevator Pitch, Third Floor
Today let’s talk about the process of crafting the elevator pitch. I think your best chance for success is to take it seriously as a multi-step process (because I know you have nothing else to do) and put some time into it. The effort will allow you to overcome shyness, discomfort with verbal presentations, and even nervousness around publishing professionals. Preparation always boosts confidence, and if there’s one thing I see writers struggling with, it’s confidence. So how do you prepare?
8 Steps to the Perfect Pitch
1. Write it. Craft your pitch 10 or 20 different ways and different lengths. Don’t skimp on this step. Challenge yourself to get out of your mental box when it comes to the way you think of your own manuscript. Even if you’ll never use some of your attempts, it will tap your creativity and help you figure out what might make your project interesting to someone else.
2. Record it. Speak all your pitches aloud into a recording device.
3. Wait. Let some time elapse before going back to your recording.
4. Listen. Go back to your recording, and take notes as you listen to each pitch. Which parts work, which don’t? What do you need to improve about your delivery? Piece together the best parts and…
5. Rewrite. Try to come up with at least five good pitches based on what you’ve learned.
6. Record again. And let some time elapse before listening.
7. Final edit. Take one more shot at revising. Finish with at least three good pitches tailored for different situations or audiences.
8. Practice. Now’s the time to begin using the mirror, your spouse, your kids, your friends.
Don’t get so “polished” that you sound unnatural, but DO get to the point where you know your pitch so well you can rattle it off without thinking much.
Rather than offering critiques today, I’m going to highlight a few of your elevator pitches that I felt were almost there. These have a chance of making an agent or editor want to know more:
John UpChurch: As a former atheist, I write with a heart to reach the lost and engage the culture with the gospel in a fresh way. So, my pitch for my novel, The Connection, is: Brent Nelson knows the road home, but he has no idea what waits for him there. When his brother falls under the spell of a New Age guru, Brent, a skeptic, returns to his hometown to shatter religious illusions. Instead, his rationality will be stretched to the breaking point.
It’s a story of suspense with the smarts to stick around and theological chops to please a Christian audience–with the careful attention to detail that I love as an editor. The manuscript is completed and in revision, and I’m praying for God to provide the right venue.
Marla Taviano: 52 Zoos in 52 Weeks. My hubby, 3 young daughters and I hit our first zoo on August 1, 2008 and we’ll end on August 1 of this year. We’ve done 24 already, and we’re having a blast!
The book is a story of our adventures and inspiration to other families to seize the day, live LARGE and do it all on a very small budget. Times are tough, but that doesn’t have to stop you from living a full–and FUN!–life. Don’t waste a single day!
David A. Todd: My book is a baseball thriller, the story of a Kansas farm boy who makes the big leagues, then becomes an unwitting pawn between two Mafia Dons who have a long-term bet involving his team. After persevering through a swirl of strange events orchestrated by the Dons, he finds himself in a cross-fire in Yankee Stadium at the World Series.
Sarah Salter: My story is about a beautiful, intelligent, 22-year-old judge’s daughter named Allie. She has breezed through life, a success at everything she attempts, and the apple of her Daddy’s eye. Her parents push her into law school, but she gets there and realizes that as successful as she is, she’s miserable. In the midst of this realization, Allie’s 16-year-old sister is in a horrific accident and falls into a coma. At her sister’s bedside, Allie has to decide if she’s going to follow her parents’ dreams for her or if she’s going to break out of the mold, find her own dreams, and in the process, maybe inspire her little sister to do the same.
Ralene: My finished novel, The Impossible Choice, explores the impact on faith and family when the opposing beliefs of siblings are challenged by anti-religious terrorists. The practical themes of terrorism and love balance the emotional questions of identity and spirituality in this 75,000 word Christian suspense novel.
Lady Glamis: “I’m writing a novel about Monarch butterflies and terrorists. I know that sounds weird, but it’s really fun! My main character is a CIA agent who was double crossed by his friend in the DEA. Nick, the CIA agent, is in love with a lady in West Virginia who is hiding his two daughters for him. You know, since terrorists are out to kill him. He’s been pinned for murder, and even the CIA is after him now. Sound interesting? It’s a mix of suspense, romance, and things that explode.”
Bryan Allain: “It’s called Prayers For Blowouts – The Christian’s Guide To The Frequent Collisions of Sports and Faith. It’s a humorous book that covers everything from a biblical history of sports to a Christian’s guide to playing Fantasy Football to the athletes who love to namedrop Jesus after a big win. There’s also some great stories from my life in sports that readers will relate to – from not making my little league team to where I am now as a sports parent for my two children. It’s a book that will hopefully leave readers entertained and encouraged that sports are more than just a trivial distraction to their spirituality.”
Jennifer @ Conversion Diary: I was raised in an atheist family and was a militant atheist most of my adult life. Now I’m an orthodox Catholic. I’m writing a memoir about that.
You can tell that each of these is unique and they don’t all fit an exact “formula.” But they each have some element that is intriguing. Even Jennifer’s (the last one), which is too short and should be expanded by a couple of sentences, has a nugget of interest for me.
For all of you whose pitches I didn’t critique:
→ If it was a one-liner, sounding like a tagline and less than about 50 words, chances are it’s too brief to incite interest, and it may sound “canned.” Work on expanding it to at least 30 seconds of verbal delivery.
→If your pitch was longer than about 150 words, it’s probably too long and too detailed or convoluted, so that a listener wouldn’t be able to follow your plot. Work on paring it down to 30-60 seconds, and remember that you don’t have to tell the whole story.
Thanks for contributing your pitches and submitting yourselves to my (always subjective) opinions! I hope you take this to heart and make the elevator pitch something you’re really good at.
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent who really enjoys hearing your pitches!