Saturday, 30 January 2016

Check your elevator pitch

Hey - so today I want to do a little thing with elevator pitches. In fact, I want to do something with your elevator pitch.

The thing is, elevator pitches are tough. And it's hard to be objective. So I'd like to offer a pair of objective eyes. I'm an agented author and full time scriptwriter (I also have a copy and content writing background in marketing) so I'm not a bad pair of eyes, I don't think.

So short and sweet: feel free to post your elevator pitch below and I'll give my honest response and advice that I think might improve it.

Not sure what an elevator pitch is? Well, the dictionary defines it as "a succinct and persuasive sales pitch." At the end of the day, we need that to sell a book - to an agent, an editor, the sales department, the bookstores, a whole host of other people involved in the publishing process and finally, the reader. 

 Things your elevator pitch needs to be:

* Unique
* Easily communicated
* Concise
* Done in 30 seconds

What forms an elevator pitch:

* Genre
* Character
* Setup
* Conflict
* Consequences

Here's a great post by my agency: Elevator Pitches

So let's have at it.

Post your pitch below and I'll give you my feedback!

P.S. You can see one version of my elevator pitch here in my About Books section (just scroll to the bottom of the page.

P.P.S. At least once a month I'll be posting with something I can help you with - first lines, queries, how to improve one of your scenes, etc. So make sure to subscribe so you don't miss out!   


  1. Nata is a wolf who desperately wants the life of a fairy tale princess in a world where the only story a wolf can expect is one that ends with getting shot or stabbed or with a belly full of rocks. When a witch tricks her into trading places, Nata suddenly finds herself in a human body... Sure it's an old woman's body, but it begins her quest to fulfil her dreams. But to stop the witch's evil plans to dethrone the princess, Nata must risk her only chance at the life she's always wanted. MG/F

  2. And thank you so much for this opportunity!

  3. Hi. I really love your concept, Karah. This fairytale twist is very nice indeed. It has good logic and good sense in it. There are some elements that I’d love to see brought out though. Particularly, I think you can bring out the emotion and voice in the pitch. It reads very well but I don’t get a strong emotional gut reaction and I think that’s because it reads just a touch mechanical. What is the tone of your story? Dark? Brooding? Humorous? Thoughtful? If you can put that into your pitch it would really help make it stand out. Here’s a little example of what I mean. I’m going to take the angle of brooding and lonely in tone. It can just be select words that change but it will make a difference in your tone.

    (The starred words are the ones that I think show your emotional content if you go for a lonely tone. My blog comments won't let me bold!).

    Nata’s *nothing but a lonely wolf* who *yearns* for the life of a fairy tale princess in a world where the only story a wolf can expect ends with getting shot or stabbed or with a belly full of rocks. *Desperate* to get what she wants, she is tricked by a witch into trading places. *At last* she has the human body she wants and she can finally fulfill her dreams. But when the witch plans to dethrone the princess Nata has *(come close to? Respects? Befriended?)*, she must decide whether to risk her only chance at the life she's always wanted or *(other option*.

    You’ll notice above that I added in some brackets asking questions. This is because we need to see a) why saving the princess is important to Nata and b) what happens if she doesn’t save the princess and why this is important to Nata enough to risk her only chance at the life she wants.

    Hope this helps! Love where you're taking this tale!

  4. Eleven-year-old Steve Abernathy knows he has what it takes to be a real hero like his big brother who is fighting in Europe. His chance to prove it comes in the summer of 1944 when German prisoners-of-war are brought to town to work in the canning factory. Morse code flashes from the POW camp at night. Miss Brown, Steve’s Sunday school teacher, speaks fluent German, but only in secret. Dieter Zinzerdorf, a dangerously charming young POW, gets everybody to like him, especially Steve’s older sister. When Steve discovers Miss Brown passing coded messages to Zinzerdorf, his mission becomes deadly serious. Armed with only his slingshot and his wits, Steve must expose the spy ring and save his sister.

  5. I love the detail and the intriguing world you have set up here, Judy. It already feels very developed and you look to have a good grip on your characters and who they are.

    I think you need to clarify this is in 1944 right at the start so the reader understands that when you say Steve’s brother is fighting they know he is a solider (and not some sports fighter, etc). Alternatively, keep it as it is and just insert that it’s a war he’s fighting in. Either works.

    I love all the conflict in the middle. All of that works well. What I do think needs improving is who Steve wants to expose this group to? What does he think they are doing and how will it affect him? What is the goal & payoff here?

    I love the detail about the slingshot and wits, btw. :-)

    When it comes to the of the pitch, I’d perhaps put in a line that shows the either/or element. The "If Steve does X then Y will happen and if he doesn't do X then A will happen" Show a conflicting result - two options that both seem as bad as each other and he has to choose. This will entice the reader to go to the story and find out how he gets out of this difficult conundrum.

    Finally, I think you could tighten up the word count just a smidge. Terms such as “his mission becomes deadly serious” are filler. Show this through the specifics. Anything that sounds generalized should be tweaked to be unique to your story. How do things become deadly serious? Also, look for the chance to cut extraneous words and reword for concision. For example:

    Eleven-year-old Steve Abernathy knows he has what it takes to be a real hero like his big brother who is fighting in Europe.

    This could become:

    Eleven-year-old Steve Abernathy knows he can be a real hero like his big brother fighting in Europe.

    That would save you 6 words. Granted, 6 words doesn’t sound like a lot but it is in the elevator pitch as you want to make everything as concise and pithy as possible.

    Overall, I like this a lot! You have a lot working for you here. And you've done a good job, because you have me wanting to read more despite me having some comments for you to think over :-). This really sparked my interest!

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Replies
    1. You're very welcome. Best of luck with this very intriguing idea!

  7. Thanks so much for doing this! I'm working on the query letter right now, so I have a one-minute pitch. (I timed myself reading it out loud.) Seeing your post prompted me to cut it down to 30 seconds for conferences. Here it is:

    Venus, an avatar for the goddess Aphrodite, has three weeks to help the women of Berkeley embrace their inner goddesses or else it’s goodbye Olympus, hello Hades! To succeed, she’ll need a favor from Jack Holloway, the taciturn owner of the Beanstalk Cafe & Bar and the one man who seems immune to her charms.

    Burned out and suffering from massive writer’s block, Jack struggles to keep his father’s dream alive and his brother’s family afloat. The vibrant dance instructor leading sensual movement workouts at his cafe dredges up dreams he abandoned long ago. Rather than risk getting his heart broken again, he’ll do whatever it takes to get Venus out of his hair.

  8. Hi Alexis! This has a great, pithy approach and you have your stakes right up front for your first POV character (I’m assuming there are 2 POV characters as you have separate paragraphs for each of them). You really know how to capture the voice in your pitch too.

    I do have a couple of comments though. What I’m wondering is *why* Jack is the one Venus needs help from. I know he is immune to her charms, but how is he the one who will help her turn the women of Berkley into inner goddesses? What is the connection here? What is it he has that she needs?

    I also really like Jack’s contrasting (down to earth) real life. It provides a good balance to your plot. I’d love to know what his father’s dream is (was his dream to be a writer, to have a successful café?). A little specific detail will make this more concrete and show your unique angle and how it connects to Jack. Also, what dreams did Jack abandon years ago? We need to see the connection between those dreams and why the dance instructor brings it out in him.

    You have a wonderful pitch here and great conflict shown all the way throughout. It just needs a couple of connecting bridges to make it all make sense. Good luck with this!

  9. Great points! I'll take a look at connecting those elements. Thanks so much, Fiona.

  10. What a generous thing to do, thank you! I’m entering my pitch in a Twitter party so I have to limit it to 140 characters including hashtags (which is why some words are shortened/abbreviated). I can’t decide which of my three pitches to use. Could you let me know your thoughts and also maybe your favourite?
    NYC. Moody dark glam. 4 wealthy sexy Execs. 5 brilliant beautiful backstabng alpha-girls. Only 1 $1M internship up 4 grabs.

    Beauty brains&balls. These stunning Wall St interns will stop at nothng 2 get what they want. & what they want is evrythng.

    What do u get when u mix super-HOT Wall St benefactors & interns? A whole ‘lota sex, a side of crazy &maybe a murder or 2!

  11. Oooh! I'm really glad you posted this as I adore twitter pitches. It's such a wonderful challenge to boil down a book to 140 characters.

    First up, I need to say that tone is all important here. Your first two speak to a darker tone but the last one reads humorous. You need to pick one that parallels the theme of your novel. I'm going to work on the assumption that the first two are closest to your theme (if I'm wrong, tell me and I'll revisit these pitches).

    Okay, so on to the pitches. I actually really like the tone of the first two. The thing is though, there is a bit of inconsistency over what the core plot is - is it the murders, is it the $1 million internship, is it sex and crazy? What is your core focus?

    Personally,I'd love to see a combination of the first two pitches that focuses specifically on the core plot.

    I love the line "Beauty brains&balls" - that caught my eye instantly. Let me know your angle and I'd be happy to look again.

  12. Thanks so much for your feedback! And to be honest, you nailed it on the head - the tone, theme and core plot are a huge mix of all of the things you mentioned. I wanted it to be realistic and contemporary so I wrote using a voice similar to my own if I were in the situation my characters are in. i.e. suddenly surrounded by beautiful people, wealth and lux in Manhattan while competing for a $1M internship. The girls are in their late 20s, grad students from the top universities in the country, very social media friendly, trendy and pop culture aware (so the tone can get humorous with Instagram and Kardashian references), who competed and won one of four coveted internships at a major Wall St firm; a firm owned by a group of super hot, wealthy brothers (in their early 30s) and their father. A fifth girl doesn't get a place in the internship so she sets out to kill one of the other girls to take her place and she's even considering killing one of the brothers too out of sheer spite! So it is dark, sexy, very glamorous with the luxurious lifestyle they're newly immersed in, cut throat and competitive and tense and suspenseful all at the same time :) So I'm happy that in my super-short blurbs you were able to pick out all of those elements :) I just found out that I'm allowed to use all three pitches so thankfully I won't be forced to choose just one, now!

    1. So glad that I picked out the elements you were aiming for. I like the concept on this very much and I'm sure you'll grab an agent's or editor's eye with this. Best of luck with your pitches!

  13. Not the original poster, but loved the pitches enough to want to chime in... what about?:

    Beauty brains & balls. 4 wealthy sexy Execs. 5 brilliant backstabbing alpha-girls. 1 $1M internship up 4 grabs... & it's worth killing for. (139 chars)

    1. Oohh!! I love that, thank you! :) Its a nice combination of everything I loved in all 3 of my pitches rolled into one. I love it!

    2. Thanks, that sounds great! :)

  14. Hi Fiona

    Could I run my twitter pitch by you? I have two I'm trying to decide between. Responses from critique groups are split fairly evenly at the moment!

    A) - Lavie started war to save Harry, but an unexpected victory risks heartbreak. She must choose: her friend or peace of a nation #A #F #LGBT+

    B) - Asexual knight Lavie must choose: help her best friend keep his prince or sacrifice their relationship for the peace of kingdom #F #A

    Thank you so much for doing this :)

  15. B for sure. Hands down for me. A is fairly generic, tbh. I don't know what the unexpected victory is, who Harry is, what the heartbreak might be, why she must choose her friend (or what even "choose her friend' means - choose him for what?) or peace of the nation. This brings up a whole host of questions (and not necessarily the kind of questions you want to be brought up). It is a bit ambiguous.

    B we're cooking with gas. There are a lot of things here that work. First off, we have a specific (key word here being "specific') goal - help the best friend keep his prince. Then we have a solid consequence "sacrifice the relationship for peace".

    I would definitely go for B. If in doubt with pitches, go for your most specific one. Best of luck with this!!

  16. Princess. Heir. A monster in making? Raylene is hunting down the traitors threatening her empire. They've already got her father; her grandmother, the empress, is next. But before she can stop the uprising, she must control her insatiable urge to kill. GRACELING meets THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING.

    1. Princess. Heir. A monster in making? Raylene is hunting down the traitors threatening her empire. They've already got her father; her grandmother, the empress, is next. But before she can stop the uprising, she must control her insatiable urge to kill. GRACELING meets THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING.

      Hi Parmita – thanks for posting your pitch . From your pitch, I think there needs to be a little clarification. Is the empress the same person as the princess? Also, you have listing commas when you say who the traitors have, so technically it reads as if there should be another name after “empress”. Do you mean “the empress is next” or do you mean “empress, and she’s next”. I know it’s only a comma but it can change the context dramatically.
      I’m wondering from this pitch also if she’s actually part real monster? If so, I’d clarify that a bit stronger as it’s a great unique twist. Just not sure whether the “insatiable urge to kill” is figurative or not. The same with the term “monster”.
      This is actually a really great pitch that has a lot of power to it. Love your comp titles, btw!

    2. Thank you so much, Fiona! I can definitely tweak the pitch to betterment based on your advice.

  17. Hi Fiona,
    Thanks for doing this :) These are a couple of twitter pitches. Wondering which one you'd prefer? Or if you have another suggestion?

    1) To survive, 17yo Tanvi must face a past steeped in dark magic from India and the stalkerish lookalike of her deceased cousin
    2) The stalkerish lookalike of her dead cousin. Flashbacks into dark magic from India. 17 yo Tanvi must choose between life and sanity

    Thanks :)

    1. I really like the elements in here. Dark magic, India, stalker, dead cousin lookalike. All very appealing. However, I do think there needs to be some clarification - for example, is the stalker trying to kill her? Is that why she needs to survive? Or is her losing her mind the core plot? And if so, is it the magic that's doing it or the sight of her dead cousin stalker? I think you need to be a little more specific here.

      You have some intriguing elements here but I do think you need to clarify the core specifics. Is that clear?

      I'd love to see a second stab at this one though!

    2. Thanks, Fiona. That was very helpful <3
      I've worked something out to fit in a twitter pitch. How about this?

      Murderous lookalike of dead cousin. Flashbacks into dark magic from India. 17yo Tanvi must choose between survival or sanity

    3. This is very appealing. You could tighten it up a little more too in order to give you room for something else. For example, you can change the middle sentence to "Dark Indian magic flashbacks".

      However, I'd also like to see something that shows that she has to either a) battle these things, b) overcome them, c) avoid them? Which one is it? For example:

      17yo Tanvi battles dark Indian magic flashbacks & murderous lookalike of dead cousin.1 will cost her life, the other her sanity

      Just a thought :-) Let me know how you do!

    4. wow! That is awesome. Thanks a million, Fiona. Love it!

  18. Hi, it's lovely of you to do this, and I've really enjoyed reading the ones above. If you're still giving feedback, my effort is below. Thanks, Georgiana

    Marianne infiltrates Britain’s totalitarian government to assassinate its dictator. In love with her target and tempted by absolute power, she must choose between restoring democracy or ruling at his side – before both sides hunt her as a traitor.

    1. And for the Twitter version: Rebel Marianne plots to seduce and kill a British dictator, but must choose between democracy and loyalty or love and power

    2. Hi Georgiana (btw, I absolutely love your name!). You have an excellent pitch here. A lot of high stakes conflict and the reader can see exactly how the tension will keep rising. If I had to nitpick over something, it would be this: Why is she assassinating the dictator – work, personal mission, etc? Knowing this would show us why she struggles between restoring democracy and ruling with her target. For example, if it’s work then she may be in fear of her job and life from her ruling powers. If it’s personal, she might be in moral conflict or in conflict over disappointing her comrades.
      That’s actually it. I think this is super strong. Quick question – I’m guessing this is contemporary or near future? If not, I’d indicate your genre in there. Great job!

    3. (The above one is for your main pitch). Just looking at your Twitter pitch now).

    4. Okay, after reading over your twitter pitch a few times, I can't find anything I don't think works. Great job on that one!

    5. Great, thanks for the feedback.

  19. Fiona,

    Thanks for the opportunity for feedback. Distilling down to a pitch that allows for a hashtag is quite challenging. Here is the one I am working on and would appreciate any comments.

    17yo Lizzy has a secret: she cuts to escape. But she can't avoid the mess she's made of her life. Is cutting deeper the only way out?

    1. Hi Rose,

      I agree – getting a pitch to below 140 characters including hashtags is such a challenge. But a great exercise in concision and making every word count.

      I really like your pitch, actually. It has a great amount going for it. My only query is what is the mess she’s made? What is the reason she cuts? I’d love to have a more specific detail here. Has she disappointed someone? Bombed out of school? Lost a love of her life? Failed at a job? Ended up homeless? Killed someone? Obviously, these are just random situations but hopefully it shows what I mean. What is it she’s done to bring about cutting – what exactly is she escaping? The more specific you can be, the better.

      This is a wonderful start and I think that a specific detail could really make this shine. :-)

    2. Fiona,

      Thank you so much for the feedback. I will try to zoom in.

  20. Hi, Fiona, I hope this opportunity for feedback is still open. I have these 2 Twitter pitches to choose from and beta readers are split:

    1. Abused & broken, almost beyond hope, the scars of her past may lead Jesse to reject the love she desperately needs. #HistFic

    2. 1880s AZ. Damaged almost beyond hope, Jesse is stunned when the man who killed her brother confesses his love for her. #HistFic

    I recently read that names should not be used in Twitter pitches. What do you think of this?

    Thanks so much.

    1. Hey Shamrock ,
      100% number 2 for me. It’s specific. Specificity is your number one friend when pitching anything – twitter, query, elevator pitch, anything at all. You need to give a reader the chance to get a personal connection and that only comes from details. Number one is very general. We don’t know the time period, we don’t know what her “past” is or whose love she is rejecting. It sounds generic.
      However, number two tells us genre, place, that a man who killed her brother loves her. This is ripe for conflict and drama.
      So yes, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that 2 is definitely your strongest pitch. I feel quite strongly about that! Lol
      There are lots of opinions on names in Twitter pitches (as there is in anything in publishing). Subjectivity rules. As for me? A name won’t make or break a pitch. But I prefer them in as it feels more personal to me. Do what you think sounds best for you and don’t stress out over it at all. No agent will turn you down based on whether you included the name or not. :-)
      Best of luck with this – it sounds fabulous!

    2. Thank you so much for your input -- it's a tremendous help. I'm going to leave her name in then, because "a woman" or even "a girl" (UGH!) is more characters!

      Thanks again!

  21. Hello Fiona. Thank you so much for doing this and helping us. There's a twitter contest coming up, and I've narrowed my story down to 4 pitches. Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
    1. Humanity died when light turned hunan shadows into demons. Crazy survivor must help glowing girl & atone for past sins.
    2. Crazy survivor must help glowing girl & atone for past sins, in a dead world where light twists hunan shadows into demon.
    3. Lightwiped out humans by twisting their shadows into demons. Crazy survivor must help glowing girl & remember his past.
    4. Deranged & amnesiac survivor from end of world has two options left: help glowing girl or never atone for past sins.

    Thank you for very much for this!

    1. Oh you have some tough choices in here! I really like 1 and 4. If I was pushed for a choice, I’d say…agh…4 as it gives a strong formula showing the stakes.
      However, I’d be inclined to do a bit of a combination of the two. The reason for this is we need to have some sort of indication of why helping the girl leads to him not recovering his memories – what is the catch here?
      Let me know what those are and I’ll have another look.

    2. Well, the girl unbeknownst to her, leads him to a place where he will remember who he is and what he has done. Pitch #4 describes him as amnesiac, you see. Don't know if this helps.

    3. So something like: Humanity died when light turned shadows to demons. Amnesiac survivor must help glowing girl but she will lead him to his past sins. #PitMatch

    4. You can't see me, but I'm on my knees praising you right now! Thank you so, so, so much! I'll start working along these lines. Thank you!

    5. You are more than welcome. Only too happy to help :-)

  22. Hi Fiona. I hope I am in time! I am new to this, but was hoping for some feedback on my Twitter pitch for a PB.

    You go, child and be passionate. Be passionate in your pursuits. This is my wish for you. Don't reach for the stars. Fly and go get them.

    Does this convey tone? Does it say enough about it? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi! Thank you for joining in. You have a lovely tone and spirit to this and it gives a great positive feel. I think that you could show what the storyline is in the pitch. For example, who is your main character and what is it they want?

      Example: Jenny wants to (name her goal), but she is prevented by (name obstacle), she must overcome it in order to learn (fly to the stars to get to her dreams).

      Do you see what I mean? You need to introduce your character and the storyline. Your theme is absolutely love, but we need a few more concrete details.

      I would be happy to look at a revised version also. :-)

    2. * sorry, I meant to say your theme is absolutely lovely x

  23. This was a pitch I created for #Pitmad so it's short and has a hashtag at the end. I chose not to submit because my manuscript needed work; however, I'd like to participate in the next round. This is for a memoir.

    A Band-Aid is ripped off Lynn’s ego when she learns drug addicts are people & parenting foster children requires commitment more than love.

    Thanks for offering this service. :)

  24. Hi - there is a lot in here that I like Lynn, and you've done a great job of capturing the essence of your memoir. I have only two small comments. The first is on the last part: "more than love". As a reader, I would say love is just as important as commitment. Perhaps it would be better phrased as "not just love".

    The second (and this will be dependent on whether you can manipulate your character count, which I am sure you can) is the lack of specificity over who it is in her life that qualifies as "drug addicts". At the moment it is quite general - is it just drug addicts that she doesn't know and simply has the children through the fostering system? How does she know they are people - what brings her to that conclusion? Does she get involved with them? Is it someone she knows who is a drug addict?

    You can get away with "foster children" as it is, but I think you need to show something a little more specific in regards to the drug addicts. You don't need to answer all of the questions I posed above (an impossible task), but by at least answering one of them then it will make your pitch a little more concrete, IMO.

    I actually really like the look of this! Good luck with it. :-)