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Writer-Talk Tuesday: Let’s Practice Our Elevator Pitches

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What’s an elevator pitch?

You need to be able to explain the gist of your story in twenty seconds or less—about the length of time you’ll have if you find yourself in an elevator with your dream agent or editor at a conference. You will also hear people call this a one-sentence pitch. Start by figuring out what your main theme and conflict are. Then try to summarize the story from each of your main characters’ viewpoints. You may discover you come up with several sentences that you like.

Here are some examples from my work:

  • Falling in love with a client could cost wedding planner Anne Hawthorne her business; learning the true identity of the groom could cost her heart. (Stand-In Groom)
  • An American woman is sent to England to marry wealth, but finds herself torn between the poor man she loves and the viscount who offers the wealth and stability that can save her family. (Follow the Heart—the one I just turned in)
  • A physician with a secret past falls in love with the daughter of one of his patients. He must choose between revealing his past and risk losing everything or keeping his secret and watching her marry another man. (An Honest Heart—the book I’ll start writing June 1)
  • Stephen Brightwell, Viscount Thynne, wants to be loved for himself, not his money or title. Mercy Timperleigh has never married because of the shame of her family’s past. When the aristocrat and the schoolmistress fall in love, is it a love that has been worth waiting for? (The Heart That Waits—the third book on my current contract)

I used all of these on the proposals for these books. (You can see the proposal for my current series here—but be warned: the proposal includes the full synopsis of each book, including how they end.) I also sent all of my “elevator-pitch” ideas to my publishers when it came time to work on the marketing packets for each book—and because I’d already come up with several for each book, that made the task so much easier.

Now it’s your turn. Share your elevator pitch with us. If you’d like help with it, please let us know!

72 Comments leave one →
  1. Lily Bishop permalink
    Tuesday, May 15, 2012 7:55 am

    Wow – Thank you for this topic idea. Here’s mine:
    An administrative assistant returns from Las Vegas to learn that her one-night stand is her new boss and he believes she took millions from the company. She suspects her former boss, but then learns her sister is involved. With her career on the line, can she clear her name while protecting her sister at the same time?

    I am fairly happy with it, but not sure if her goals are clear — she has just gotten her Master’s degree, and wants to move into a professional job in marketing. Any suggestions?

    Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:24 am

      That’s a lot of information to get in! But it is definitely intriguing 🙂

      Like

    • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:28 am

      Lily—that is a lot of information to get across. Try to see if you can come up with a “logline” pitch (you know, the kind of marketing blurb you might see on the front cover of the book—like mine for Stand-In Groom above) which is 30 or fewer words. The idea of an elevator pitch is to generate interest, not necessarily cover all plot points.

      Like

      • Regina permalink
        Tuesday, May 22, 2012 9:40 am

        You know, you could almost leave out that middle sentence – that way the mention of the sister in the last sentence gives it even more intrigue.

        Like

  2. Tuesday, May 15, 2012 9:03 am

    Let’s see… the one I have ‘down pat’ is Suburban Straightjacket:

    When Andrew Carpenter inherits his sister’s four kids, he knows he can’t do it alone. He can’t mail order a bride – can he find one on Craigslist?

    At conference last year, that was enough to hook several editors/agents who then asked for more info and I launched into my back cover copy type spiel.

    Still working on them for about 4 others… :p

    Like

    • Lily Bishop permalink
      Tuesday, May 15, 2012 3:46 pm

      I would SO read that! Great job.

      Like

      • Tuesday, May 15, 2012 4:28 pm

        Thanks, Lily! It’s done well in a couple of contests and had a couple agent nibbles but no bites yet… 😀 One of these days… 😉

        Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:23 am

      That sounds really great!

      Like

    • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:29 am

      Carol—I like that one . . . but instead of his name, can you use a descriptor (a carpenter, a lawyer, a soldier) that will tell us more about who he is?

      Like

      • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:37 am

        Yeah – [and you may have seen me mention this below] – I usually call him a confirmed bachelor… Not sure why I didn’t here ;).

        Like

  3. Rachel Wilder permalink
    Tuesday, May 15, 2012 11:41 am

    As much as I would love to participate in this and get some help on my current WIP, I have to stay quiet! Even talking about the current WIP will give away to Genesis judges which entry is mine and I don’t want to do that.

    Ah, the lovely curse of being unique…

    Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:25 am

      Indeed LOL. How do you find these contests?

      Like

      • Thursday, May 17, 2012 1:44 pm

        The Genesis is run by ACFW. There are a lot of RWA contests too.

        Like

      • Thursday, May 17, 2012 2:14 pm

        Seekerville does a post once a month about upcoming contests. That’s where I find out about a lot of them.

        Like

      • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:30 am

        Chrissie, if you’re a member of Romance Writers of America, the magazine they send out each month has lists of upcoming contests in the back.

        Like

  4. Tuesday, May 15, 2012 3:02 pm

    Here’s mine –
    Tricked into marrying the wrong man, Deirdre Murdock has a choice to make. Stay with the man who manipulated her, or become a pawn in the other’s selfish games?

    Or –
    ‘Let Your will be done…’
    Can Deirdre Murdock trust God to do what’s best for her – even when she’s tricked into marrying the wrong man? Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.

    And lastly…
    Let Your will be done.
    Deirdre Murdock had no idea that simple prayer was about to change the rest of her life. Tricked into marrying the wrong man, she has a choice to make. Stay with the man who manipulated her, or become a pawn in the other’s selfish games?

    Ideas are appreciated and welcomed! Thank you, Kaye. This was exactly what I needed today.

    Like

    • Lily Bishop permalink
      Tuesday, May 15, 2012 3:49 pm

      Of the three, I like number one or three the best. In my opinion, number two falls flat. I think between these two, it would depend on what exactly you want to emphasize in the story. If you want to emphasize the “inspiration” in “inspirational romance”, then three does that better. If you want to leave that to the book, then number one does that. I do have a question about the use of the word other in both of these. Are there two men? Or does other represent the man she was tricked into marrying? That confused me a bit. Still, it sounds like a good premise to me.

      Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:26 am

      The first is my favorite!

      Like

      • Amanda Stephan permalink
        Thursday, May 17, 2012 3:51 pm

        Thanks, Chrissie 🙂

        Like

    • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:32 am

      The first and third work better for me (I’m not a fan of using second person pronouns in a blurb for a third-person (or even first person) book. That said, I’d probably change “the other’s” to “another’s” because you haven’t actually mentioned the other man in the blurb. So to me, “the other” is a little confusing.

      Like

      • Amanda Stephan permalink
        Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:36 am

        Yes, I see how that makes it better. Thank you, Kaye! Appreciate the help. 🙂

        Like

  5. Regina permalink
    Tuesday, May 15, 2012 3:33 pm

    Hmmm . . . I haven’t practiced one in a while (yes, go ahead, cook those wet noodles with which to whack me! 🙂 ) , so here goes . . .

    A crazy dream and a letter sends Sarah Crawford running to South Carolina. Is she going in hopes of avoiding her ex-fiancee’s wedding, or to see if the man of her dreams might just exist?

    And no, I still haven’t given up on this one . . .

    Like

    • Lily Bishop permalink
      Tuesday, May 15, 2012 3:50 pm

      I like it!! And I live in South Carolina. Sure, he’s down here, and he speaks Southern! lol This one intrigues me and I would read it.

      Like

      • Regina permalink
        Tuesday, May 15, 2012 4:45 pm

        I visited North Litchfield Beach in 2004, went back in 2009, and haven’t gotten it out of my system yet! 🙂

        Like

      • chrissiedesign permalink
        Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:28 am

        Which part of SC? I’m in Myrtle Beach / Socastee 🙂

        Like

        • Lily Bishop permalink
          Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:33 am

          I’m in the Upstate/Anderson. I work at Clemson.

          Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:27 am

      This one intrigues me because of the location. I’m in SC as well! I like to look for books set in places I know 🙂

      Like

    • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:34 am

      Regina, as I mentioned with Lily’s above, instead of giving the character’s name, can you use something about the character instead—her occupation, her status in life—to give us a little more insight into who she is?

      Like

      • Regina permalink
        Tuesday, May 22, 2012 9:37 am

        Yes, I believe I can do that! 🙂 Maybe “a jilted music teacher?” I started to say “heart-broken,” but at this point she’s more angry than heartbroken at herself AND her ex-fiancee.

        Like

  6. Tuesday, May 15, 2012 4:10 pm

    I like the pitches you all have made. One suggestion I’d make is instead of using your character’s name, use that as a chance to tell something about the character. For instance, instead of Carol saying Andrew Carpenter, she could say, “When a high-powered executive” or “When a lonely farmer”…see the difference?

    Here’s mine, and I didn’t follow the suggestion I just offered. 🙂

    He wins a ranch in a poker game. She claims the ranch is her inheritance. He’s not leaving–and neither is she.

    I could have said: A tired drifter wins a ranch in a poker game. A feisty Texan claims the ranch is her inheritance. He’s not leaving–and neither is she.

    You get more information, but for some reason, I like the first one better. What do you think?

    FYI – this pitch is for my latest book which releases June 1st called End of the Trail.

    Waving to Kaye!

    Like

    • Tuesday, May 15, 2012 4:31 pm

      Vickie! I’ve seen that floating around and keep waffling on whether to preorder, wait until I know I have more funds, or see if I can find it on a review site. Because it keeps intriguing me.

      And you’re right – usually I say “When confirmed bachelor Andrew Carpenter inherits his sister’s four kids…” – dunno why I forgot it this morning – my only excuse is that I was giving finals today and my brain’s fried ;).

      Like

    • Tuesday, May 15, 2012 4:38 pm

      Vickie, I like the first one better too. 🙂 Can’t wait to read your new book.

      Blessings,
      Jodie

      Like

    • Tuesday, May 15, 2012 11:29 pm

      Vickie – I like the first one as well. Congrats on the upcoming release – sounds like a great read!

      Good idea about not using the names – I’ll have to see what I can come up with. 🙂

      Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:28 am

      I love the first one!

      Like

    • Monday, May 21, 2012 2:42 am

      I agree with the others. I think “Tired drifter” loses the punch.
      I’ll definitely keep an eye out for this one. =)

      Like

  7. Tuesday, May 15, 2012 4:36 pm

    Here’s mine. I’d appreciate some feedback. 🙂

    A gun toting, breeches wearing wife with a questionable past wasn’t what the minister ordered.

    Thanks in advance,
    Jodie Wolfe
    digging4pearls(at)comcast(dot)net

    Like

    • Regina permalink
      Tuesday, May 15, 2012 4:46 pm

      I love a good fish-out-of-water story when a minister is involved! Great opportunities for LOTS of storylines!

      Like

      • Saturday, May 26, 2012 1:46 am

        I like this too, Jodie! I take it this takes place in the early 1800’s, you didn’t say. Or it could be today and the woman is a police detective, secret agent, private detective or Army captain. I take it she’s literally a mail order bride? I simply became carried away here. This is a story I’d love sink my teeth into!

        Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Thursday, May 17, 2012 2:27 pm

      I really like this one! ROFLOL!

      Like

    • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:36 am

      Jodie, I like how you’ve started this one . . . but I feel like it needs a second sentence. Sure, she isn’t what the minister ordered. Now what? Does he keep her and try to work it out? Does he try to get rid of her? Does she bring chaos to his life? Does she turn out to be different than how she’s described in the first sentence?

      Like

  8. Lily Bishop permalink
    Tuesday, May 15, 2012 5:10 pm

    i would love some feedback on the one I posted above….

    Like

  9. Tuesday, May 15, 2012 5:21 pm

    Lily, I like your pitch a lot. You do need to make it clear whether or not it is a romance. Also, it’s a bit longish for a quick pitch. Just my two-cents worth.

    And thanks Carol and Jodie!

    Like

    • Lily Bishop permalink
      Tuesday, May 15, 2012 5:31 pm

      Thanks, Vickie! That helps, because I thought it was clearly a romance. I’ll have to think about this some more.

      Like

  10. Tuesday, May 15, 2012 8:24 pm

    Maddy needs to find her biological father before the killer strikes again, but will the truth destroy the only “daddy” she’s ever known?

    Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:33 am

      I do like this one! It took me a minute to see the difference between “father” and “daddy”, but that could be early morning sleepiness =P

      Like

    • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:41 am

      Jean, I think you need a little more setup with your pitch—what killer? What is the difference between “biological father” and “daddy”? No, you can’t explain too much of that, but play with your pitch (trying to keep it under 40 words) to see how much more clarity you can achieve.

      Like

  11. Tuesday, May 15, 2012 8:37 pm

    Raised under the striking belt of her father, a young college student gets knocked up with the wrong guy who is like her father.

    Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:36 am

      I do like this. I think I would change “gets knocked up with the wrong guy who is like her father.” Perhaps something like “is now carrying the child of an equally abusive schoolmate”.

      I’m making a few assumptions about your work there, of course – I apologize if I’m wrong 🙂

      Like

      • Wednesday, May 16, 2012 10:49 am

        Thank you. I want to reach unbelievers, so that’s why I mentioned pregnancy from the beginning, so readers know what to expect from the story. I just don’t know if I should tell them right away that the protagonist will get pregnant. Would I take away the suspensful moment while she takes the test? Or maybe it’s better that readers know and the protagonist doesn’t–the dramatic irony in that. 🙂

        Like

        • chrissiedesign permalink
          Thursday, May 17, 2012 2:27 pm

          I’m forced to think of Francine River’s “Atonement Child”. The pregnancy is clear form the beginning and is the basis of the whole book, and I still was drawn to read it. 😉

          Like

      • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 5:11 pm

        I’m goint to try again: one sentence pitch.

        Raised under the striking belt of her father, a college girl gets pregnant with a guy who holds nothing to his name.

        I like it much better! 🙂

        Like

    • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:44 am

      Anna, as I’ve suggested to others, play around with this a little bit. This comes across as rather harsh—and not something that’s going to appeal to many people (focusing on only the abuse and bad situations). If the story has a hopeful/redemptive bent to it, you need to see if you can somehow work that into your pitch.

      Like

  12. chrissiedesign permalink
    Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:32 am

    Okay, I’ve read and commented on most (if not all…), so it’s my turn 🙂

    … and I’m finding this really hard because now I have to pick out which information is the most important 😛

    For my book Invincible:
    Can a young military man bring the young military girl he loves out of a deeply troubled past and into God’s invincibility?

    Like

    • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:47 am

      This is a good start, Chrissie. But it’s a little too generic (and the repetition of “young” has already been mentioned). Other than the fact that they’re both military, what makes your story unique? What’s the hook of your story that sets it apart from every other romance novel out there?

      Like

  13. Wednesday, May 16, 2012 10:52 am

    I would remove young before military girl. If he’s young, and she’s a girl and in military, readers would pick up that she’s young as well. 🙂

    Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Thursday, May 17, 2012 2:25 pm

      *facepalm* You’re right 🙂 I had another one in mind, but tis gone now 😛 Thank you!

      Like

  14. Karen Wingate permalink
    Wednesday, May 16, 2012 11:53 am

    I’m preapring for a conference so this is timely!

    Here is my pitch: Annoyed at the govenement’s intrusion into the affairs of her hometown when President Roosevelt’s expansive dam construction project forces the entire town to move to higher ground, Sis Laffer wonders how long she must wait to marry her childhood sweetheart, Donald Meisner; for that matter, whether Donald is really God’s best for her.

    Like

    • Monday, May 21, 2012 3:01 am

      That’s an interesting one, Karen. (Based on some assumption – that the move caused the wedding delay) What about this?

      When a government project forces her entire town to move and delays her wedding,
      Sis Laffer begins to question God’s plan for her life and her fiance’s role in it.

      Like

      • Karen Wingate permalink
        Monday, May 21, 2012 7:04 am

        oh wow, that is so good. Same information but in a different order that gets the point across so much better! I think you must be reading my novel over my shoulder because you nailed it! Thank you!

        Like

    • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:51 am

      Hoover Dam. Between the government’s interference and the need to move to higher ground, Sis Laffer wonders if she’ll ever get married. Then she starts wondering if the man she’s marrying is God’s best for her . . .

      Then what happens after she starts wondering what’s best? I’d say go ahead and mention the project by name because it’s iconic and will capture people’s attention.

      Like

  15. Monday, May 21, 2012 3:13 am

    For tickles and grins, here’s the pitch for my contemporary romantic fantasy:

    A struggling author attends a convention, hoping to rediscover her passion for writing. Instead she’s targeted by a hurricane, saved by her characters, and thrown headfirst into a war for the future of the novel she abandoned.

    (Christian takeaway:
    God’s inspiration and spirit in you are at the heart of your walk with Him. Only when you fully submit and learn to work in harmony with His will can you accomplish His purpose for your life.)

    Like

    • chrissiedesign permalink
      Monday, May 21, 2012 9:52 am

      I would soooooo read that! I love the concept!

      Like

    • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 8:53 am

      ” . . . a war for the future of the novel she abandoned” confuses me a little bit. Is it a war for the future of her novel (as in, she has to fight a war to finish writing it?) or is it a war to fight for a future in which she regains a passion for writing?

      Like

      • Wednesday, May 23, 2012 2:42 am

        Replace “novel” with “world”.
        Too wordy to say “future of the world in the novel she abandoned”?

        Like

  16. Saturday, May 26, 2012 1:31 am

    Hi everyone. I have over 25 pitches for my 106,000 word mainstream inspirational romance novel Adam’s Eve. Would love to see what you think!

    1) Purity, perfection and a promise. Three things Eve St. John wants, waits for and wishes. She meets Adam Michaels. He is all those things except one. This can’t be right. She leaves the country seeking God’s answer. Will it be to late when she returns?

    2) Adam’s Eve is an interracial inspirational romance novel. It’s about Eve St. John a perfectionist who meets and falls in love with Adam Michaels whose complete picture is breathtaking, yet less than ideal. Something in Adam’s past suddenly makes her shaky and cautious. Seekings God’s will, she travels to Kenya on a missions trip. While there she meets another that tugs at her heart. Things take on a life of there own and Eve learns a difficult lesson – nobody’s perfect.

    3) There is nothing new under the sun. Adam’s Eve is a love story as old as King Solomon and The Queen of Sheba. Eve is passionate about God, perfection and the man she meets in the crowded local movie theater. Things become complicated for Eve along the way. We are introduced to Adam and Eve’s colorful plummage of family and friends. Laughter, joy, heartache and pain saturate this modern day tale. Join Eve on her sprited journey to discover if she really is Adam’s Eve.

    Like

  17. Tuesday, May 29, 2012 7:34 am

    I know what I’m doing today! Thanks for the challenge. 🙂

    Like

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