04 Jul Crafting an elevator pitch
If there’s a more overused term than ‘elevator pitch’, I’d love to know about it.
But cliches become cliches for these reasons: because they’re highly effective at invoking a particular concept and because no one has yet found a better way of doing so. And the concept invoked by the elevator pitch is crystal clear. You’re an entrepreneur seeking start-up capital and your dream investor walks into your elevator. You have as long as it takes them to reach their floor to pitch your big idea – and secure their backing.
(I bet investors the world over are fitter and slimmer than ever, now that they’re forced to take the stairs so often…)
The idea is just as relevant to writers. Can you describe your book succinctly and persuasively, weaving in the points that make your book unique and relevant, in under 30 seconds? Does your description roll eloquently off your tongue and make readers want to buy your book? Can you adapt it to suit the situation, from dinner parties to radio interviews to conversations with cab drivers, where uniqueness and relevancy may differ according to your audience?
You might be surprised at how many authors can’t properly describe their work. Here’s my guide to crafting a great book description.
1. Understand what your book is really about (or: finding the non-fiction in the fiction)
It might be a novel about the experiences of four students volunteering on a gap year in Asia at its most basic level, but what bigger issues are discussed? Is it also about how we use social media to shape perceptions of our lives? The effects on developing countries of the West’s rapacious desire for resources? Cultural imperialism? Sexual jealousy? Gender identity? Class? What issues, if any, were you trying to explore in your novel? Identify top-level themes and work the most important into your book description.
Imagine delivering your book description to a variety of audiences. First, you’re in front of your favourite radio interviewer and he or she has just welcomed you to their show and asked what your book is about. Next, you’re at a birthday party and your friend says they’ve heard you’re writing a book. Finally, you’re writing a guest blog post and beginning the piece with a book description in order to establish your credentials as a commentator. You’ll see that each situation requires subtle changes to your description to meet the needs of the audience.
3. Record yourself
Once you’ve moved past the horror of hearing yourself speak (or perhaps that’s just me?), recording yourself is really helpful in assessing delivery and timing your pitch. Keep practicing until the description rolls off your tongue.