#pitchShredding: Eco-Terrorist

2012-Jul-18 -> from the perfect-pitches department Tags: #pitchshredding 

Pitches come in many forms. A standard long-form pitch is generally used for sending to agents and editors. A book blurb (also a type of pitch) is used to rope in readers. If you want to be successful as an author, you need to master all of these pitch types. Today's pitch is an example of one of the most important pitch types in my opinion: the elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a short blurb about your book that is designed to intrigue in a very short amount of time, such as the length of an elevator ride. If you were in an elevator with a big-time agent or editor and they asked about your book, what would you tell them? You have to be quick, and enticing. Thus, the task of putting together a good elevator pitch is near monumental.

Here is today's pitch:

Natalie moves to Wyoming to get away from her past with MI5. She has 24 hours to hunt down an Eco-Terrorist who plans to poison her land and America's water source.

Overall, I think this is a good example of an elevator pitch, and so like the pitch, this post will be short.

It's tough to boil a story down to a few short sentences, but the key to an effective elevator pitch is getting lots of information into a very short space. You want to be able to recite the pitch by heart, and it should be enticing enough to get the person you're pitching to ask for more.

Elevator pitches are personal. You use these in a one-on-one scenario, like when you're in an elevator together, and they ask you what your book is about.

This pitch covers all the bases. We know who the main character is, the setting, a bit about her past, and most importantly, we know the conflict and the stakes. I would want more if I was going to spend money on the book, but the elevator pitch isn't designed to sell a book. It's designed to sell an idea.

Discussion

Do you think this author has done an effective job of conveying their story?

What is the maximum length you would put on an elevator pitch?

Given that an elevator pitch is often spoken, not read, what advice do you have for remembering that elevator pitch at the critical moment when it matters most?

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8 Comments:


By Caroline Gerardo on Wed 18 Jul 2012 10:14:19 am [ Reply ] One more thing, I would add about an "elevator pitch" The sound of the words is important. Since you are acting the brief sentences I suggest you practice in front of friends on sykpe and watch yourself in a side screen. Pay attention to their faces as you speak your one time only chance to grab that guy by the <sic> :) huevos attention.

By Rodney Walther on Wed 18 Jul 2012 11:45:49 am [ Reply ] First comment is to consider the listener. You're crafting this pitch almost as if crafting a joke. The setup is critical. Therefore, don't start with "Natalie moves to Wyoming". The listener doesn't know Natalie and doesn't need to know her name.

You need the thumbnail description of Natalie, somehting like "Former MI-5 agent". Boom! That is attention-grabbing. Actually, I might say "A former British spy" (even better, as it removes MI-5 reference that many might not understand).

Try: "A former British spy moves to rural Wyoming to escape her past." (by the way I think I want to know why. Does she abhor killing? was spy life too dangerous? etc.)

Then you need the "When she..." line. "When she discovers that an eco-terrorist plans to poison her land and America's water source," (now here are the stakes!) "she has twenty-four hours to prevent blah lah blah."

Putting it all together, it might read something like: "Former British spy Natalie Churchill moves to rural Wyoming to escape her past life in the MI-5. When she discovers that a terrorist plans to poison her land and America's water source, she has twenty-four hours to prevent a ecological catastrophe."

A few more things. An eco-terrorist is someone who commits terrorism/sabotage out of a fervor for the environment. I have a hard time believing a whacked-out tree hugger would poison water to PROMOTE THE ENVIRONMENT. I would totally get a radical Islamist or neo-Nazi group plotting such destruction. Be clear on your terms here.

Again, craft this pitch by challenging every word and the position of each word in its sentence. Good luck!

By Cynthia Echterling on Wed 18 Jul 2012 11:47:12 am [ Reply ] I think I'd move the MI5 up. Neither Natalie or Wyoming are all that interesting alone.
Natalie, a former MI5 agent, moves to Wyoming to forget her past, but now she has 24 hours to hunt down an Eco-Terrorist who plans to poison her land and America's water source.

Personally,I really hate doing synopses and blurbs of any kind, but I think I'll stay out of elevators.

By Rodney Walther on Wed 18 Jul 2012 11:48:39 am [ Reply ] When I was pitching to some agents at a conference, I had a standing agreement with my wife and kids that they could ask me "So, what's your book about?" at ANY TIME, ANY PLACE. At totally random times, they'd ask me what my book was about, and I learned to minimize the hemming and hawing and just let the practiced pitch slide off my tongue. This approach really worked for me!

By Rodney Walther on Wed 18 Jul 2012 11:50:07 am [ Reply ] man, I wish I could edit my typos...

By Thomas A. Knight on Wed 18 Jul 2012 11:52:55 am [ Reply ] Rodney: It would be nearly impossible for me to enable comment editing on a user-by-user basis without creating some kind of sign-up system... which wouldn't be a bad idea... but is a lot of work. :)

Regardless of that, thank you, and all the other commenters for their contributions today. This is fantastic. :)

By Caroline Gerardo on Wed 18 Jul 2012 02:10:51 pm [ Reply ] Great wonderful help. I like Rodney's idea that her name has no value, and some may not know what MI5 actually is.
Is it better to then say British agent or retired spy? He is an Eco-terrorist a bit deranged, thinking he is saving water rights for individuals but this concept is too complex convoluted for an elevator pitch. Perhaps I call him a deranged terrorist, as he is not Islamic. I know what you mean about typos, see how I spelled skype. @Cynthia people ask me all the time what my next book is about, it actually is a good practice to have something you can offer, think of it as a present with a neat ribbon, and bravely go into the elevator. :) You guys offer GREAT help thanks

By Rodney Walther on Wed 18 Jul 2012 02:33:50 pm [ Reply ] Just playing with it a bit, because I think the story has a nice hook. I took liberties with the story since I don't know what the stakes are or what Natalie's backstory is. Be sure to ask yourself if each word in your pitch has the POWER you want/need it to have.

(use your "Mister Movie Trailer" voice when saying this pitch out loud) :-)

Former British spy Natalie Churchill craves safety, even relocating to rural Wyoming in hopes of escaping her danger-filled past. But when she discovers an extremist's plans to poison American water sources, she finds herself back in the secretive and perilous world of international terrorism. And she has only twenty-four hours to prevent ecological catastrophe.

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