Simon Publishing LLC
Simon Publishing LLC
The Elevator Pitch (the meat of your query)
Yeah!! You finally finished your first novel. (or your 2nd or 3rd). You want to tell the world about it. The Elevator Pitch is designed to get the word out without pinning someone against the wall for twenty minutes until their eyes glass over. It gets the story out in thirty seconds, in two to three sentences. Sound daunting to cram your 80/110K novel into thirty seconds? Well, it is but it can be done. Good news, there is a formula.
Before we get to that, what is the difference between a blurb, a log-line and an elevator pitch? A blurb is what is on the back of every book you pick up. Typically it is one to two paragraphs and tells the plot to the story. It’s purpose is to get the reader to buy your book. It may include the name of the protagonist.
The log-line and an elevator pitch are geared toward the agent or publisher that you want to pick up your story. It is much shorter, with the log-line usually 25 words or less. An elevator pitch is no more than three sentences, and preferably two sentences. This is the meat of your query letter and often the only part of the letter the agent even looks at.
Let’s get started. Since you are seeking an agent or publisher, let’s concentrate on the elevator pitch.
Here is the formula according to Karen Albright Lin in her lecture called the Mile High Concept. Lin says "The fewer the words, the higher the concept"
Every pitch MUST include the following things: Title, Genre, Protagonist, Inciting Event, Outer Goal, Plan of Action and Obstacles.
Sounds like a lot to fit into two to three sentences, doesn’t it? I am not going to tell you it is easy. You may spend more time on these few words than you did on your first three chapters. And you will need to massage it over and over again until it is right.
Test it. Next time you tell someone you wrote and book and they ask, “What’s it about?” give them your elevator pitch. If their eyes start to glass over, you don’t have it yet. If you find yourself rambling on and on about “this happened, then this happened,” you don’t have it.
The formula is clear once you can name the ingredients. Can you reword it slightly? Of course, you are the author, the God of your story. But if you skip a step, you will lose a reader (or an agent or publisher)
(TITLE) is a (GENRE) about a (DESCRIPTION OF PROTAGONIST), who after (INCITING EVENT), wants to (OUTER GOAL) by (PLAN OF ACTION). This becomes increasingly difficult because (OBSTACLES AND COMPLICATIONS)
(OBSTACLES AND COMPLICATIONS) – a shorter way of saying, “this becomes increasingly difficult because” it to follow the plan of action with the word HOWEVER and explains the obstacle.
(TITLE) is a (GENRE) about a (DESCRIPTION OF PROTAGONIST) who must (OUTER GOAL) or else (DIRE THINGS WILL HAPPEN the stakes)
· SETTING: When and where your story takes place.
· PROTAGONIST: Who your main character (hero or heroine) is.
· PROBLEM: The issue or event that causes your Protagonist to take action.
· Sometimes called the inciting incident – what starts the action. (Why would they do this?)
· ANTAGONIST: Who or what tries to stop your Protagonist.
· CONFLICT: The major obstacle, difficulty or dilemma your protagonist faces.
· GOAL: What your Protagonist hopes to win, achieve, find or defeat.
· STAKES: What would happen if the Protagonist fails?
In (a SETTING) a (PROTAGONIST) has a (PROBLEM) (caused by an ANTAGONIST) and (faces CONFLICT) as they try to (achieve a GOAL).
Examples of Log lines:
In 1960s France, die-hard imperialists hire a professional assassin to kill President de Gaulle. When the French discover the plot, the assassin must stay one step ahead of a brilliant French detective in order to complete his mission and change history. Two sentences
When an innocent advertising executive is framed for murder by foreign spies, he must evade the authorities for long enough to uncover the spies’ plot, and save the enigmatic woman who is mixed up with them. One sentence
After 9/11, a CIA analyst spends years tracking Osama bin Laden down and must negotiate terrorist bombs, moral dilemmas and skeptical superiors to find the terrorist leader’s hiding place and persuade the government to attack it. One sentence
When a mild-mannered company man gets embroiled in futuristic mega-corporations’ cyber-espionage wars, he must decide whether to trust his instincts about the only woman who might be able to save him. One sentence
Did you notice that the NAME of the protagonist is never mentioned? Why? Because the name is meaningless. The agent or publisher has no connection to that name. Leave it out. Instead, who is the protagonist besides a name: an assassin, innocent advertising executive, a CIA analyst, or a mild-mannered company man.
Now you give it a try. If you can also include the STAKES, you have a real winner. What would happen if your protagonist failed in meeting his/her goal?