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For other advice on elevator pitches, check out the Elevator Pitch Project: http://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/492684.html

An elevator pitch is something you need if you plan on attending conventions or writing conferences or if you go any place where you may potentially run into an editor or agent or even a fellow writer who might be interested in what it is you’re writing. If you happen to end up chatting with someone like this, they may ask you to describe your book. The elevator pitch is a short, quick statement—no more than a sentence or two—that is intended to hook the editor/agent/writer into asking you more. You need to snag their interest. Fast. It’s called an elevator pitch because, if you happen to run into this person in an elevator (which happens more often than you’d think), you need to be able to get it out before the elevator door opens and your prey escapes.

So, how do you summarize your whole book in just a few sentences? You don’t. That’s not the point here. The point is to give the editor/agent/writer a piece of your book that makes them want more. So you should focus your elevator pitch on whatever it is about your book that makes it cool, what makes it different from all of the other books out there on the shelf, what will make a reader pick it up and flip to that first page and start reading. That’s essentially what you want the editor/agent/writer to do: ask for more. If they do ask for more, then you can expand on what you’ve started and go into more details. How many details depends on the setting. (Are you chatting at the bar with drinks in hand? On a bus ride to the airport? In that elevator?) But if you can’t get them to be interested in enough in a few sentences to continue the conversation, then you’re dead in the water.

So, if you think the magic in your world is unique and interesting and never-been-done-before, then you should focus your pitch around the magic. Something like: “In the world of Evernon, the price for using magic is not pain or energy, it’s the loss of your senses—smell, touch, even sight. The mage Terell has nearly exhausted all of his senses when his arch-nemesis abducts his only daughter. Blind and deaf, does he have enough left to free Averie from Gondor’s clutches?”

If you think the world itself is cool, then focus on the world: “The luxury starship Excalibur has crash landed on an asteroid in the middle of a deadly nebula. The survivors’ only hope is to traverse the ionic storms, plasma geysers, and shifting rock of the asteroid’s surface and reach the abandoned relay station before the nebula tears the asteroid apart!”

I think you’re getting the idea. Focus the pitch on what stands out about your book, whether it’s the world, the magic, the characters, whatever. But as you can see, you can’t rely on just the “cool” aspect of the book. You should give at least a hint of the plot, the motivation of the characters. A glimpse of the overall conflict gives the editor/agent/writer the knowledge that there’s more going on here than just a cool concept. I’ve read many short stories as an editor where there was a cool concept but not story. You can’t sell a story or novel on concept alone. There has to be a conflict and human characters behind it to call it a story. The pitch needs to show that there is, even if no real details are given. Again, once you’ve snagged the editor/agent/writer’s attention, then you can go into the details.

So sit back and think about your characters, your world, your magic or science and ask yourself what it is about your novel that will make it stand out. The hone your pitch down to just that, with a hint of the conflict the novel is centered around.

But once you’ve done that, you aren’t done. Having a pitch is great; being able to deliver it is even better. You need to practice your pitch so that it rolls off your tongue smoothly, so that it fits into casual conversation. When the editor/agent/writer asks what your book is about, you don’t want to stop and stammer or say, “Hold on a second,” while you pull out a piece of paper with the pitch written on it. You should start right into it, “THE QUEEN’S WRATH is about …” A casual presentation will increase the chances that the editor/agent/writer will want to talk further, because it says that you’re so familiar with your work and world and characters that they’re like old friends.

This post makes it sound easy to come up with a good elevator pitch. It’s not. You don’t want to be doing this on the fly, so spend some time thinking about your work and practicing the pitch. It will pay off in the end. Good luck!


And now a word from our sponsor:

*****************


Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter (tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals) to fund THREE new SF&F anthologies and we need your help! We can't produce anthologies unless we can get the funding to pay the authors, the cover artists, the print and ebook designers, and the printers. That's where the Kickstarter comes in, and you, THE FANS! We've got a ton of stunning anchor authors on board, including NY Times bestselling authors and award winners. And we've got a ton of great reward levels, such as tuckerizations, signed copies of books by your favorite authors, and more! Our themes for this current Kickstarter are:

PORTALS: In the blink of an eye, the familiar disappears as you step into the unknown. What new creatures will you meet? What strange planets will you explore? Will you find happiness, or doom? Open the pages of PORTALS, the newest anthology from the small press Zombies Need Brains, and you just might find out. From wardrobes to monoliths, wormholes to fairy rings, there is a rich tradition of stories in both science fiction and fantasy that explore what happens when--by accident or design--characters are transported from one world to another. Join fourteen of today’s leading science fiction and fantasy authors as they offer fresh takes on this classic theme. Whether a routine trip or unexpected journey, each tale will explore new worlds of adventure, mystery, humor, and horror, with stories for every taste and fancy. Edited by S.C. Butler and Patricia Bray, PORTALS will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of up to 6,000 words each. It will include short stories by: Jacey Bedford, F. Brett Cox, James Enge, Esther Friesner, Nancy Holzner, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, Jaime Lee Moyer, and Ian Tregillis.

TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED: In our spam boxes today, we both received notices that our bank accounts required resolution, and the content of the spam contained the following sentence: "We have noticed that you need to resolve important security issues on your account to prevent temporal deactivation." Of course, our immediate thought was of a new anthology called TEMPORALLY DEACTIVATED! For this follow-up to 2015’s TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER, we are looking for stories that take a person, object, event, or phenomenon and somehow, during the course of the plot, “temporally deactivate” it, whatever that may mean in the context of the story. “Temporal deactivation” should refer to something more than a simple death, malfunction, or termination, and instead should touch in some way on issues of time — its flow, distortion, dislocation, etc. Edited by David B. Coe & Joshua Palmatier, it will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of up to 6000 words each. It will include short stories by: C.S. Friedman, Faith Hunter, D.B. Jackson, Gini Koch, Stephen Leigh, Misty Massey, Jenna Rhodes, and Edmund R. Schubert.

ALTERNATE PEACE: All too often, alternate histories are based on a battle or assassination. We’re looking for stories where change grew out of more peaceful activities…science, business, and culture. Imagine a world in which the branch point from our own was caused by scientific endeavor, social change, natural forces, or other points of divergence which don’t rely on military activity or violence. Edited by Steven H Silver & Joshua Palmatier, it will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of up to 6000 words each. It will include short stories by: D.B. Jackson, Stephen Leigh, Ian R. MacLeod, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kari Sperring, Harry Turtledove, Rick Wilber.

If you'd like to help fund these anthologies, swing on by the Kickstarter at http://tinyurl.com/ZNBPortals! And share the Kickstarter with your friends, family, and total strangers! We need more SF&F anthologies!




"Portals" by Justin Adams of Varia Studios

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Joshua Palmatier

October 2018

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