April 24th, 2015

Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch

Penny Sansevieri

What is an elevator pitch and why do you need one?

An elevator pitch is a short one- to two-sentence description about the book. It’s the briefest of the briefest descriptions you can develop. The reason elevator pitches are important is that we have an ever- shrinking attention span, so you need to capture someone’s attention in a very short, succinct pitch.

How do you begin crafting an elevator pitch?

The first step is to look at the core of your book. What is your book about, really? Looking at the core of your book will help you determine the primary message. The next step is to look at the real benefits to the reader. Not what you think the reader wants to know but what they actually need: What’s in it for the reader?

When I worked with people on elevator pitches, I found that they often kept the best sentence for last. This comes from being an author and saving the crescendo of the story until the final chapter. You don’t want to do that in an elevator pitch. You want to lead with the tease that will pull the reader in.

When would you use an elevator pitch? You might use it to promote yourself to the media, to book a speaking event, or to pitch a blogger. Elevator pitches can be used for a number of reasons and in a variety of ways. Once you create a great elevator pitch, you may find yourself using it over and over again. That’s a good thing!

Components of a great elevator pitch

 All elevator pitches have particular relevance to them, but for the most part, every elevator pitch must:

  • Have emotional appeal
  • Be helpful
  • Be insightful
  • Be timely
  • Matter to your reader!

Essential Elements of a Powerful Elevator Pitch

  1. Concise: Your pitch needs to be short, sweet, and to the point.
  2. Clear: Save your five dollar words for another time. For your elevator pitch to be effective, you must use simple language any layperson can understand. If you make someone think about a word, you’ll lose them and the effectiveness of your elevator pitch will go right out the window as well.
  3. Passion: If you’re not passionate about your topic, how can you expect anyone else to be?
  4. Visual: Use words that bring visual elements to your reader’s mind. It helps to make your message more memorable and brings the reader into your story.
  5. Stories: People love stories. It’s the biggest element of the elevator pitch: tell the story. I also find that when the pitch is woven into the story, it often helps to create a smoother presentation.

How to Craft Your Killer Elevator Pitch

  • Write it down: Start by writing a very short story so you can tell the story of your book in two paragraphs. This will get the juices flowing. As you start to edit your story down from 200,000 words to two paragraphs, you’ll start to see why it’s important to pull only the most essential elements from your story to craft your elevator pitch.
  • Make a list: Write down 10 to 20 things that your book does for the reader. These can be action statements, benefits, or book objectives.
  • Record yourself: Next, record yourself and see how you sound. I can almost guarantee you that you will not like the first few drafts you try. That actually is a really good thing. If you like the first thing that you write, it probably won’t be that effective. Recording yourself will help you listen to what you’re saying and figure out how to fine-tune it.
  • Rest: I highly recommend that you give yourself enough time to do your elevator pitch. Ideally you want to let it rest overnight, if not longer. Remember the elevator pitch is perhaps the most important thing that you created in your marketing package. You want to make sure it’s right.

Having a prepared “pitch” for your book will help you enormously, whether you are pitching the media, an agent, a publisher, or even a bookstore. Having a short, concise pitch will get and keep someone’s attention and also, increase your chances for a positive desired outcome. Keep in mind that if your elevator pitch is tied to current events, it might change as events change. A good elevator pitch can be fluid, but it should always be an attention grabber. In a world cluttered with information and filled with noise, the shorter and more focused you can be, the more exposure you will get for your message!

Have you ever delivered an elevator pitch? Share your experience with us!


Author MarkketingPenny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert and an Adjunct Professor with NYU. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of fourteen books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload. AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through online promotion and their signature program called: The Virtual Author Tour™

To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at http://www.amarketingexpert.com. To subscribe to her free newsletter, send a blank email to: mailto:subscribe@amarketingexpert.com

Copyright @2015 Penny C. Sansevieri



24 comments to Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch

  • Holly Robinson

    Penny offers very solid advice here. Even though I already have an agent and publishing house, I use a lot of these tips when I’m putting together a synopsis for a new novel. Although the synopsis is a description of the highlights of the entire book, I also write a “snapshot” of the book for the editor to use when convincing her higher ups to buy the book, and this snapshot is essentially an elevator pitch. I find it useful to ask myself whether I would read this book if I picked it up in a store and glanced at that paragraph–or that elevator pitch, essentially–on the back of the book.

  • Fabulous post. Thank you:)

  • I would like a few examples of this system for books that may already be published, because my major issue with this is choosing the exact right elements to say. This is great advice, and an example would really help. Thanks so much. These posts are always great helps!

    • Fae Rowen

      Oh, you’re right, Luccia! I’d love a couple of concrete examples, too.

    • Luccia, I just taught this class on elevator pitches for Romance Writers and often I found that writers have a tendency to keep the best for last. The punch line should be the first piece you lead with. Though sometimes the short pitch builds as it progresses I’m going to share an example of one but changing the names because I need to get the author’s OK to list her exact elevator pitch here.

      Janet divorced dark explosive Francisco and left Hollywood behind, moving to the idyllic English countryside with gentle Brit Drew Duncan. Did she really think that Francisco would let her be happy without him?

  • Carolyn Toms-Neary

    Yes, an example would be wonderful. I’m still struggling with my synopsis, although now that I’ve hired an editor, she will be assisting me with that. But an example of an elevator pitch would be great! I could use it every day as I talk about my book with everybody and of course, their first words are, “What is it about?” I go blank. Where to begin…

    • Fae Rowen

      I remember the first time an editor asked me what my back was about. Talk about green! I knew nothing, and rambled for way too long. You’re absolutely right, Carolyn.

  • Great tips, Penny – and I agree with storywrtr – may help to have a couple of examples. I’m going to throw out a couple from books you’d know:

    An archaeologist is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. Raiders of the Lost Ark

    A meek and alienated little boy finds a stranded extraterrestrial and has to find the courage to defy authorities to help the alien return to its home planet. ET

    A tough principal takes revolutionary measures to clean up a notoriously dangerous inner-city New Jersey high school. Lean on Me

    The one thing I’d add on tips – practice on friends, family, the mailman – anyone who will stand still long enough to listen. Yes, you’ll be nervous, but better to get the nerves out with someone who doesn’t hold the power of ‘no’. Watch their faces while you’re saying your pitch – if they light up, you’ve got a winner!

    Thanks, Penny!

    • Laura it’s too bad I can’t upload something here because for the class I mentioned in a previous comment I sent them some book descriptions that I pulled out of Publishers Weekly and – surprisingly – most of them were horrible. Elevator pitches can be used for a lot of things, even blurbs in magazines. Actually, especially there because you only get a split second to pull in a reader.

  • I’m working on my book blurb and this piece offered great advice that I can apply to that as well. Thanks so much for writing it!

  • Penny (and Laura) – pitching is not an easy thing for me. I can do it conversationally, but the minute things get “official” I freeze. Any tips?

    • Practice in front of the mailman, Jenny. Seriously. If you can do it in front of almost strangers, you can do it in front of a gatekeeper.

        • Learn to breathe is the key to not freezing up. I realize that’s a contradiction in terms in some ways, but learning to effectively breathe isn’t automatic. We have to practice getting breath down into the diaphragm as singers do. One way is to lie on the floor, knees bent, hands on your belly, and practice pushing out the air in your lower body and then filling up your abdomen with breath: push out/draw in. Keep practicing until you can draw breath down into the lower lobes of your lungs while sitting and feel your ribs expand.

          The second thing is to teach your mind to stop freezing up in fear. That’s even more difficult and takes practice changing the way the brain synapses fire automatically. The key is to notice when the mind starts negative patterns and then tell it “peace” or my favorite “trust.” Your brain is acting on automatic. Change the pattern. You’re not going to die. No lions, tigers, or bears on the escalator.

          None of this is easy, but it’s the most effective way to change “freeze” (i.e. fear) into manageable. Hope this helps. I’ve been teaching this for years and it works.

          I’ve often been helped with tips on this site, so hopefully, I’ve now given back.

  • Andrea R Huelsenbeck

    I thought I had a great elevator pitch for my fantasy until I used it at a conference. As it rolled off my tongue, my ears said, “Lame-o.” You can bet I re-worked it. So I agree with Laura–not only do you have to say it out loud, you have to try it with a real human being, preferably someone who is not high-stakes (so to a mailman, rather than first to an editor). Here’s what my pitch is now: A high school student becomes obsessed with The Unicorn Tapestries, but when life imitates art, she is forever changed. (The Unicornologist)

  • I’m with Jenny – freeze up every time on pitches. But I should be able to say one sentence without looking at my notes. Still writing and rewriting that one sentence and practicing, practicing. Great post. Thanks for the examples, Laura!

  • Carolyn Toms-Neary

    I’ve only given one pitch to an editor at a conference last year – epic fail… Talk about freeze, After finishing, I wasn’t even intrigued with my book.

  • One thing that helps me – remember – they’re not judging you on your delivery. They could care less if you’re the world’s most introverted nerd. What they care about is the BOOK! As long as you have a good pitch for the book, the delivery doesn’t matter.

    Unless you hurl on them, of course…

  • I really like your suggestions for working through and finding a good elevator speech. I, too find I get tongue tided in the middle, as I realize what I’m saying is not working, mainly because I am trying to wing and that definitely does not work. iLaura thanks for the examples.