Mastering The Art Of The Elevator Pitch by Adriana Bielkova

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in Publishing, Writing | 1 comment

Mastering The Art Of The Elevator Pitch by Adriana Bielkova

You have 30 seconds to sum up your book. Starting right now. 

I’m not trying to scare you or stress you out. Summing up a book in less than a minute is hard, but is a vital skill every author should master. It’s called an elevator pitch and it does what it says on the tin. Literary agent Juliet Mushens sums it up perfectly in Get Your Book Fit. Imagine you get in a lift with an agent and you have 30 seconds to tell them about your book and, more importantly, persuade them that it’s awesome and that they should take it on.

At CompletelyNovel, we’ve found that mastering the art of an elevator pitch is a valuable skill for authors – whether they are looking for an agent, or self-publishing. It can be condensed further to a tweet or a Facebook post; you can pitch it at networking events; and last but not least, you can use it in your query letters to agents or press. However, there’s more to an elevator pitch than just its length – it should also make people want to buy and read your book.


Find the theme of your book

Let’s start with the key aspect of writing an elevator pitch – finding the theme of your book. After months or years of intense involvement with your book, it’s easy to lose sight of what its main message is. If you’re really struggling, try asking a friend to read your book – a fresh perspective can often help find the main message. It all boils down to finding the crux of your story – a phrase or a concept that is going to sell your book. For example, the theme of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist could be; ‘how much hardship can one person endure?’.


Flesh it out

Now that you have that crucial concept that is central to your book, you need to flesh it out with more information. An elevator pitch is not the place to describe all the characters and subplots in your book. Use these questions to help you focus on what to include:

  • What is the genre of your book?
  • Who is the main character?
  • When and where is the story set?
  • What main challenges does the protagonist(s) have to overcome?
  • Are there any other books, games or movies you would compare the book to? (optional)
  • What makes your book unique?

These are basic questions, but they’ll help you focus your pitch. After all, it’s not the brief appearance of the peculiar auntie in chapter two, but the troubled protagonist fighting injustice that is going to attract readers.


String it together

Once you have answered these questions, you can weave them into a paragraph to describe the theme of the book. I’ll use the example of Oliver Twist again:

  • Book: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Genre of the book: Social critique
  • Main character: Oliver Twist, an orphan
  • When and where is the story set: Primarily nineteenth-century London
  • Main challenges the protagonist(s) have to overcome: A miserable existence in a workhouse; living with the undertaker; escaping to London; getting to know a group of young criminals led by Fagin that won’t let go of Oliver, even when caring Mr Brownlow steps in.


Stringing it together might look something like this:

Oliver Twist is a critique of the hardships endured by orphans in nineteenth century London. For Oliver, neither living in a workhouse or a placement with an undertaker is a bed of roses. He escapes to London, where he is taken under the wings of Fagin, a sly elderly leader of a group of juvenile criminals. When caring Mr Brownlow steps in, Oliver seems to finally be in good hands… Until Fagin reveals his cunning plans.


Further advice and reading

If you’re still struggling, here are further tips on how to master the art of an elevator pitch:

  • Look at the blurbs of other books. Get into reader mode; browse the books on display in search of an exciting read. Which blurbs excite you and which don’t? Why? Have a close look at the bestseller section and apply what you have learned to your own elevator pitch.
  • If your pitch is still running a bit long, take a break, return to it with fresh eyes and edit a bit more. Remember, don’t say in twenty words what you can say in ten words. Reduce, reduce, reduce.
  • Try reading it out loud. You might find that this is how you’ll end up pitching it anyway and practice makes perfect!
  • If you’re writing a query letter for an agent, check out Query Shark or The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment for really useful advice about nailing a query letter. If you feel like you’d like to throw in your two cents and advise other authors on their query letters, you can comment on them on Public Query Slushpile.


Remember, an elevator pitch is a versatile marketing tool. You can use is as the basis of a tweet, a blurb or you can expand it into a more detailed synopsis. You could even impress potential readers at networking events and include it in your query letter.

Feel free to comment on this article if you have any questions about elevator pitches – I’ll be happy to answer them. Just keep at it, you’ll get there.

Adriana-profilepicAdriana Bielkova is part of the Communications team at CompletelyNovel, a friendly publishing platform and author community specialising in print-on-demand. You can find more about submitting to literary agents and writing a perfect elevator pitch in our Get Your Book Fit course, featuring advice from top editors, agents and authors.

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