Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blast from the Past: The Two Minute Elevator Pitch

I'll admit it. As you read this, I'll likely be strolling along the beach or making lop-sided sandcastles with the kiddos. But I'm not leaving you empty-handed. Here's a post of mine from earlier this year that may be helpful for those of you who will soon be attending a conference or doing a pitch session to an agent/editor.

I was fortunate enough to attend an SCBWI talk hosted by talented author Hilari Bell and author/illustrator Anna-Maria Crum. The topic: how to give a brief pitch to agents/editors. Even if you're not doing a scheduled appointment, a pitch is something you should have ready at a conference in case an editor or agent happens to ask, "What's your book about?" That's assuming you'd rather have a more coherent response than "Um, well, there's this guy and he goes to this museum, and there's this um, secret society..."

Wouldn't you rather say (well, if you were Dan Brown):
"A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ." (I found this summary of The DaVinci Code online -- doesn't it have more 'flow' than the first one.)

What is an elevator pitch?
It's one or two sentences (three max) giving an overall summary of your book -- sentences that are compelling enough to make the editor/agent ask more questions. I know, right? Anyway, Hilari and Anna Maria were masters at it. They listened to attendees read part of their query letter or give a description of their book, and within minutes, they'd distilled it into a few succinct sentences. It was amazing to watch. I listened and learned, and here are a few tidbits I picked up along the way. NOTE: All examples below are fabricated by moi, so blame me if they suck.

Be Specific/Don't Be Cliche
Bad Example:  When the space monkey arrived, her whole world turned upside down.
Better Example: When the six-foot space monkey landed in her bedroom, ten-year-old Sarah Connor knew she finally found the topic for her science fair project. 

Use Strong Verbs/Active Voice
Bad Example: When six-year-old Ben was given a black eye by the school bully, he looked for a way to get back at him.
Better Example: When the school bully pops six-year-old Ben in the eye, Ben exacts revenge the only way he knows how -- with peanut butter and a Nerf gun.

Other tip: the main character (MC) should be identified in the pitch as well as the obstacle they face. There are exceptions to this but wait until you're famous to break the rules.

So there you have it. Any questions? Now get out there and pitch.


  1. Great examples Kristi, thanks for sharing.

    Best of luck with your first live pitch!

    WV: Swedan
    Def: A Swedish sedan.

  2. Love it! Are giant monkeys in your future manuscript?

  3. Thanks, Matthew!

    Lacey - sadly, no. Maybe the next one. :)

  4. Great post Kristi! Very helpful. It's funny how some things seem so obvious and yet you don't think to do them until someone else points it out.

    Can't wait to hear how your pitch session goes!

  5. This is great information! People are forever asking me about this, and since I've never done a pitch, I can't help them much. But I can now! I'm going to forward the link to this post! Thank you!

  6. Oh, your pitch will be sssmooth, girl! Am so flippin' excited for you!

  7. Valerie - you and L will be the first to know!

    Elana - thanks, you rock!

    Jane - you are the sweet one, my dear!

  8. Great post. I wish I'd had this a week ago before I went to the DFW Writers conference. I had to do a verbal 10 minute pitch to Mary Kole. It went well, but I was super nervous!

    Your examples are hilarious by the way :)

  9. Olleymae - thanks for stopping by and I hope your pitch went well!

  10. Oh, so timely! I'm doing my first pitch session at the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference in TWO DAYS! Thanks for posting this.

  11. Great post, Kristi! I'm sure your elevator (or stairs or lobby or conference room..) pitch will be fantastic. :)

  12. Best of luck, Ruth, and thanks, Samantha. We'll see!

  13. I love your examples. Can't you do mine next. Pleeeease!!! *gives best Puss-in-Boots's eyes* Thought not, but it was worth a try. :)

  14. Thanks Stina - if yours involves space monkeys, I'm all over it!

  15. Thanks Kristi - it's exactly what I've been trying to do with my present novel in progress although I may be setting myself up for a fall but as I don't actually know when or how it's going to end - just about what happens in the next chapter etc.
    So maybe I am doing it a bit too early but it has helped me think about what the over all theme is in my novel, who is the lead role and what the 'tag line' (unless that's different to the pitch line??) would be like on the front cover IF (and this a huuuuuuuuuuuuge IF) I ever got it to print.

    Your advice has helped me see where I'm going wrong and encouraged me to keep trying to summarise in 1-3 lines.

  16. Becky - I definitely don't think it's too early. I write my pitch before I even start writing the book. :)


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