Apr

24

2012

elevator pitches

Filed under: writing

On Twitter, @suefortin1 was asking for tips on writing one-sentence blurbs for her novel, and I suggested that Twitter was a really good tool for producing these. When you only have 140 characters to get your ideas across, and when the messages are read whilst zipping down a tweetstream, you have to be both brief and catchy.

These are also called ‘elevator pitches’ because they’re the sort of thing you can tell to an agent or an editor, or indeed to any old half-interested stranger, whilst in an elevator between one floor and another. They’re extremely useful for selling your book—not only to a publisher, but to the book buyers once it’s published. They’re also useful at parties, when being interviewed, or basically any time you want to tell someone what your book is about without boring them to death.

I volunteered to tweet some elevator pitches for my three latest books, all of them 140 characters or less long. Here they are:

A woman tries to escape tragedy in her real life by pretending to be in a Regency romance.

(The Summer of Living Dangerously)

An erotic science fiction romantic comedy about a woman falling in love with a big blue robot.

(Love Machine, by Electra Shepherd. I used these exact words in my query letter.)

Dear Thing follows a couple as they try to have a baby, and focuses on their best friend’s decision to carry one for them as a surrogate.

(This is taken from The Bookseller article about my next book.)

They’re all quite different, but they sum up the book’s premise, outline the main conflict, and give some idea of the genre and the tone. One of them starts with the main character; one starts with the book’s genre; one starts with the title. So there’s no formula. It’s whatever works.

Some other writers have taken up the challenge and tweeted theirs as well. Here’s one for Veronica Henry’s (@veronica_henry) The Long Weekend:

Eight people check into a Cornish seaside hotel for a long weekend,bringing their emotional baggage with them.

Lovely word play on that one, and emphasis on setting, emotion, and the fact that there are multiple, possibly connected, storylines.

This one is from Catherine Miller (@katylittlelady):

When there are more than miles keeping Grace and Adam apart, will they ever go the distance?

Catherine tells me that this is for a women’s fiction novel, but to me it reads like a straight romance, probably on the lighter side of the spectrum. I love the play on words, though. What do you think?

This one is for Sophie Hannah’s (@sophiehannaCB1) latest thriller in progress, and is quite different in style as well as genre:

Plane delay. Hotel overnight. Share room frantic stranger whose friend’s charged with murder. Who? Only man you’ve ever loved.

This is from Shelley Harris’s (@shelleywriter) debut novel, Jubilee, and combines subject with period and also major symbol:

Iconic photo of street party taken on Silver Jubilee day – but only British Asian boy at its centre knows truth behind picture.

If you take up the challenge yourself, please post what you’ve done in the comments. No more than 140 characters please (including spaces and punctuation)! I’ll try to add some more from Twitter onto this post. The discussion is hashtagged #elevatorpitch

 


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  1. My genre is contemporary romance from both male and female POV equally. I had something already which is more of a tag line than a pitch – ‘When the past and present collide, love is the casualty’. So I’ve tried to work on that and come up with – ‘A woman’s battle to divorce her husband and her lover’s battle to commit to a relationship since the death of his wife’ It’s very clumsy, I know but it fits in a tweet.

    Sue

    Reply

    • I think you’re right, Sue…the first is more a cover shout line, and your second says more about what the book is about. I’m thinking it’s emotional, relationship-focused, and focuses on heroine and hero. Am I right?

      Reply

      • Yes, I like to think of it in that way. The husband is involved but it’s not from his point of view – he’s a pain in the backside and a nasty so and so at times.

        Not sure if I need to put the word ‘estranged’ in there so it’s clear that she doesn’t have an affair. I’ve noticed a few reviews of books where they are put off if the main character is having an affair.

        Reply

        • It didn’t bother me, but it might some romance readers.

          I might pick apart the wording a bit more. I can understand a battle to divorce, as that’s a common metaphor…but a battle to commit? How does that work?

          Does it work in a more straightforward way? ‘A is battling to divorce her husband to start anew with her lover, B…but widower B is still haunted by the love of his first wife.’

          Or is there a way to use the past in there as the connection? ‘A and B want to start a new life together, but…’ etc etc

          Just brainstorming. I don’t know if these fit into 140 characters. 😉

          Reply

          • Thanks Julie, I did at one point have a reference to being haunted, but thought it was too much of a cliche but thinking about it, using a widely understood expression would save me a whole load of explaining.

            Lots to think about.

            Thanks so much for answering my plea for help this morning, it’s been so useful. Advice very much appreciated.

  2. Fantastic idea! Here’s mine for my YA/crossover romance – Stonewylde. This is slightly cheating as it’s a series of five books – this elevator pitch is for the first three books.

    “Girl with allergies moves to walled-off country estate for healing. Forbidden friendship turns to love resulting in five deaths.”

    I love the idea of doing several with different POVs, and will now go off and write a whole string of them. In fact – I might run this as a competition on my website for my readers. What fun!

    Reply

    • An elevator pitch for three books at once. Now that’s a hard job!

      Reply

  3. A bombshell from Callies sister makes her realise that until she deals with the past, no matter how hot her deployed airman is, and how steamy the emails with her new boss are, she’ll never have a chance at happily ever after.

    Reply

  4. Oh that’s longer than it felt! Back to the drawing board…

    Reply

  5. News makes Callie realise until she deals with the past, no matter how hot & steamy her potential men are, she’ll never give love a chance

    Reply

    • I like how you’ve cut it down, Natalie, to only include the important elements. As a reader I’m wondering if there’s anything more specific about the past or these men or Callie or the setting that will really make me sit up and go, ‘I NEED to read that!’

      One of the things I like about the pitches I’ve had in the main post is their specificity. Veronica mentions the setting and the several interacting characters; Sophie mentions the setting, the suspicious coincidence and the murder. Shelley mentions the occasion, a potential race-related conflict, and a potent symbol. They’re so specific and so original. I think this is something we all need to focus on in short pitches.

      Reply

  6. I don’t have an elevator pitch for my current Wip, but the way I’ve been describing it is: The Warlord, The Blind Slave, And A Dog Called Brutus.

    (I sent this to my publisher, and she replied, “Er, let’s just call it The Warlord for now, eh?”)

    Reply

    • That reminds me of my book that had the working title, ‘Remarkably Penetrative Sperm.’

      Quite sensible of your publisher.

      Reply

  7. This is so much harder than it sounds. I pitched my first novel as ‘women’s fiction with a time-travel twist’ but I do find hard to sum things up.

    Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong!

    Reply

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