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Nail Your Elevator Pitch

The Elevator Pitch is an important step in building the foundation for your nonfiction book. Your Elevator pitch—or your logline (what they call it in the movie biz)  is the 1-2 sentences you want to glide easily off your tongue when someone asks you what your book is about.

If you do the hard work now, you will save yourself a lot of heartache and embarrassment and the uhh … my book is kind of about this … and it’s about ... Trust me, I know all about fumbling when it comes to describing your book.

Photo by Russ Ward on Unsplash

Why an Elevator Pitch?

An elevator ride is about the amount of time you have to capture someone’s attention. If you stammer and hesitate, that elevator door is going to open and your audience is going to walk out … you will have missed your chance to tell them about your book.

Let's talk about WHY it’s important to have an elevator pitch. 

Once you decide to write a book—you should start talking about it. You want to create a buzz. You want people to get interested. You want to see what resonates with people—and what doesn't.

And once you start talking about your book, people are going to ask you about it!

  • At cocktail parties: do we have those any more?
  • Happy hour: virtual or otherwise
  • At your writers' group, at a writers' conferences: maybe you'll have an opportunity for a brief conversation with an agent.
  • Chance encounters at the supermarket or over Zoom.

It looks like this:

"Hey Suzette, great to see you! It’s been too long! What are you up to?"

"Actually, I’ve been working on a book."

"A book? That’s amazing. What’s it about?"

Here's where you insert that catchy and clear pitch or logline.

Note,  I am focusing on pitches for self-help, personal and business development books, known as prescriptive nonfiction. If you are writing a plot-driven narrative, you’d use a slightly different formula, but the same principles apply.

Five steps to craft an effective elevator pitch

Step 1: Start with your book's point. I have a friend named Othelia who hasn’t written her book yet, but she does have a very clear idea of her main point: "Everyone can learn to love math!" 

Let's play with that idea. Othelia has a point she wants to make; everyone can learn to love math. But saying: "I’m writing a book that proves that everyone can learn to love math." Is only partway to an effective elevator pitch. Let’s dig deeper.

Step 2: Your audience. Who is your book for? Othelia’s still working on all of this, but let’s play with some possibilities. One idea she had was that her book could be for parents who are homeschooling their kids.

So that’s her reader/her audience. I’d actually urge her to get more granular —homeschooling preschoolers? Elementary age kids? Middle school? High School?

Let's layer on to the pitch: "I’m writing a book for parents homeschooling elementary-age kids that proves that everyone can learn to love math."

Getting closer, but still not there. 

Step 3: What do you want your reader to do? In this example, Othelia’s trying to get her reader to understand the fundamental building blocks of math so that when the parent is homeschooling her six-year-old, she can explain the concepts in a way that will feel interesting and fun to her child.

Let’s layer on that step:

"Othelia, what’s your book about?"

"I’m writing a book that helps parents homeschooling their elementary-age kids understand math fundamentals better themselves so they can teach their kids to love math." Getting closer!

Step 4: Takeaway: What’s the payoff after a reader reads this book? Here there’s a clear payoff: A child who loves math AND a homeschooling situation that is less frustrating and stressful.

Let’s layer on the takeaway: "I’m writing a math book for parents homeschooling elementary-age kids that takes away the stress and frustration of teaching and results in children loving math."

Step 5: Genre/Format: If your book fits into a specific genre or format, add that too.

So let’s complete Othelia’s elevator pitch/logline.

"Hey Othelia, that’s so great you are writing a book! What’s it about?" 

"I’m writing a math workbook for parents homeschooling elementary-age kids that takes away the stress and frustration of teaching and results in kids loving math."

Can you imagine how many parents would be dying to buy that book? Can you see how clear it is: we know the format, who it is for, what it will do, and what the outcome will be. 

That’s where we all want to land! Othelia, you can thank me later! 

Developing your elevator pitch will help you get clarity on your book idea—and it has practical ramifications. You’ll be ready for your next Zoom happy hour or chance encounter at the supermarket. Working through this exercise will result in something you can actually use!

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