• Critical Components to An Elevator Pitch

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in ABCs of Writing     Comments 2 comments

    [The Whidbey Island Writers Conference is October 25-27, 2013. Follow news and tips @whidbeywriters on Twitter, and check out Yi Shun’s first piece in this series, “5 Must-Haves For a Successful Writers’ Conference Experience.”]

    Elevator PitchYou’ve probably heard it from a million different avenues: HAVE AN ELEVATOR PITCH for your novel. But what does this mean?

    First, let’s define. The term “elevator pitch” comes from the idea that if you should happen to bump into someone significant in the elevator, you want to be able to tell them about your project in the short time you have with them. Before they get off at their floor. (We all know you’re staying on until they get off.)

    So. What’s in an elevator pitch?

    Your Logline

    A logline is an ultra-condensed version of what your novel or work-in-progress is about. It’s what they used to call the “slug” in the news business, a quick line which relays the who, what, when, where, how and why. If that seems like a tall order, consider the old writing saw that says there are really only two stories: A stranger comes to town, or someone goes on a journey. Clearly, you need to be able to say more than that in your logline, so this is where specifics come in handy. Let’s consider two examples:

    The Wizard of Oz: After a twister takes her away from everything she knows and into a fantasy world, a young Kansas farm girl tries to find her way home. Along the way, she must find the strength to contend with a witch, some flying monkeys, and a wizard hell-bent on keeping her away from the world she loves.

    Back to the Future: Marty McFly is sick of his status quo. It’s not until he’s sent back to the 1950s in a time machine that he realizes just how valuable what he has is, but can he make it back to his own time without screwing up his parents’ teenage lives–and, by extension, putting his own life at risk?

    Try this with your own work, and practice on well-known movies and novels. Your logline should include the primary conflict and your protagonist, obviously, so be sure that your logline has these elements.

    Your “Comps”

    That is, your “comparisons.” Knowing other books that are like yours is useful for a few reasons: First, it can help you to query the right agents and editors. If you’re writing a thriller, you’re not going to query a romance agent or editor, are you? Second, it’ll help the folks on the other side of the desk. Being able to say something like, “This book is a mashup of Holes and The Secret Garden,” for instance, instantly reveals that this is a middle-grade book about a protagonist trying to come of age gracefully. There’s bound to be some kind of adventure in this book, and oh, by the way, the protagonist is a girl. If you can target your comps, you’ll have a leg up.

    Your Bio

    Sounds like a no-brainer, right? It isn’t. You might have a litany of writing credits on your resume, but picking the most impressive ones during a short elevator ride isn’t easy. For instance, in my resume is some editorial work, some advertising work, some corporate strategy, and some disaster-relief work. These are all significant parts of my life. But which am I going to choose? Well, that depends on the last component of the elevator pitch, which is…

    Your Target’s Bio

    Who are you talking to? Who are you pitching? This is as critical a puzzle piece as any of the three components above. Know what your elevator pal’s interests are, what types of books they represent, what books they’ve published. And it won’t hurt if you know what types of books they like to read. That’s a good conversational gambit, at least. You’re not going to hop into the elevator and immediately go into your elevator pitch, are you? That’d be weird. But you’d better at least know what you’re going to say if it does come to that.

    What other components can you think of for an elevator pitch? Tell us in the comments below.

    Yi Shun LaiYi Shun Lai is Marketing Director for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Yi Shun is a writer and editor herself, and the Fiction Editor for the Los Angeles Review. Find her on Twitter @gooddirt.

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    […] the past, like “5 Must-Haves For a Successful Writers Conference Experience” and “Critical Components to an Elevator Pitch.” And don’t forget to reread Sarah Rodriguez Pratt’s post on┬ábad writing […]


    […] wrote a great post for us once on the critical elements of an elevator pitch, which include a logline and comps. Can you give us a Marty Wu logline with info we won’t […]

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