What is an Elevator Pitch? If you ever want to grab an agent, you must grab their attention. If you want to get a traditional publishing deal, you’ll need an agent – probably.
An elevator pitch is one or two small sentences, at most, that describe what your book is about. The idea is that it can be said to someone in an elevator between floors. (it’s not easy to summarise a book like this, but it's vital). Yes, elevator is an American term but Lift Pitch – sounds like something that happens at the end of the football season and doesn’t have that ring to it. Anyway,
Why should you take any notice of what I say? I had an agent once. We didn’t get on. It happens. I picked her on her reputation and author list (which is kind of all you’ve got to go on at first.) But it’s like any relationship. There needs to be compatibility, and we weren’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself. (I do that a lot). Some people call it enthusiasm – my wife calls it annoying!
OK, elevator pitches. Why should you listen to me? One of my best buddies is a literary agent. She’s pretty – which is nice, and she’s gay which is also nice because it means that girl/boy thing, that gets in the way, doesn’t. I’ll call her Hannah because that’s her name. We don’t see each other as much as we used to because she moved to London. I’m in Edinburgh. It’s a long trip on the train. I miss her, but her insights into the agency world are as valid now as they ever were and haven’t changed much over the years if you like, this is as much her article as mine. She won’t ever represent me. She doesn’t dabble in my genre, but even if she did – she wouldn’t – it would be weird. Her words, not mine.
Submissions Each week, she receives in her email box between 28 & 52 submissions. They are very precise numbers but she’s like that. October is her busiest month. I don’t know why, neither does she. Hannah chooses which emails to open SOLELY on the elevator pitch at the top of the email. That’s it. The next Colleen Hoover could lurk in the email, but she doesn’t care. She’s too busy, as are all her contemporaries. Her commitment is to her existing clients. They are the ones who generate her income. Now that she’s based in London, that income needs to stretch even further than it did when she lived here. She doesn’t need any new clients. But she’s too scared to completely close off her inbox just in case the next Colleen Hoover is lurking there, even though she wouldn’t know unless she can write a good elevator pitch. Last year she took on three new authors. Colleen Hoover wasn’t one of them.
Writing an elevator pitch. Is very difficult. You’re being asked to summarise an 80k-word book in two sentences. It’s not fair, is it? But then, neither is life. You might have written the best novel ever. (You probably haven’t but it’s possible.) You can have a brilliant author profile and synopsis, but it is all for nothing if you don’t immediately catch the reader's eye. I’m not suggesting that all agents work like Hannah, but many will/do. They are so inundated with stuff they have to be brutal. I might do a whole bit on pitches one day, having done literally hundreds of them, mostly unsuccessfully, but that’s when you learn. I will say here that a few publishers still accept direct submissions, BUT A WARNING – you will only get one chance with them. I advise you to perfect the manuscript and your approach first. Try it out on agents and react to any feedback they give you before you send it to a publisher. It is better to try and fail, learn, and adjust with agents (there are more of them) than a direct publisher of your genre.
Elevator Pitch Examples I have pulled a few from Amazon today just to give you an idea:
Red Queen by Juan Gomez-Jurado:Antonia Scott is special. Very special. She is not a policewoman or a lawyer. She has never wielded a weapon or carried a badge, and yet, she has solved dozens of crimes.
These are probably not brilliant examples, but they give you an idea of why an agent might want to read more. My first novel Love Byte had an elevator pitch that said: If your dead wife emailed you, offering to find you a new girlfriend, what would you do?
It’s not a gimmick, an elevator pitch is the key to getting noticed in a heartbeat which is all you will normally get from an agent or publisher (if you can find one that accepts direct approaches).