What you will find, as you begin to go to events where you have to talk about your work is that you will need to develop what is called an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch, for those of you that don’t know, is a 30 sec to 1 min description of your work. You know, something that is just about as long as an elevator ride. I think that is the origin of the term too. If I were being less lazy, I would look it up.
Why the elevator pitch? In certain circumstances, you don’t have long to convince readers that they want to read your book…or agents that they want to represent your book…or any other number of situations where you have to think about selling your work. It is wonderful to have the luxury of a ten minute conversation with every potential reader, but frequently, that is just not the reality. The elevator pitch is, or at least it should be, the brillance of your work distilled into two or three short but compelling sentences. Whoever hears it should immediately clamor for your book. Book festivals, like the one that I attended this weekend, are a constant test of your pitch.
Here’s the problem. My novel is complicated. There are so many twists and turns, so many surprises, that it has been a challenge for me to figure out a way to talk about it without giving anything away. If I can talk about it in depth, I shine. If I have an opportunity to read, even better. But the absolutely brilliant 30 sec pitch eludes me still, even after almost a year of “being on the road” with this book. I think that one of the best ways to perfect the pitch is to write it over and over again. Constant revision has helped me to refine my pitch, and each time I use it, I have another instance to evaluate it–based on the reaction of my audience–and make it better. This weekend, I felt, sometimes that it was falling a little flat. So today, I am going to rework it again with a different kind of audience in mind.
Another thing to think about with this pitch is that different things are going to draw in different audiences. I have one reviewer that mentioned the little hints of romance that come towards the end of my book. Now, the romantic elements are peripheral to the story, but from the way that the review noted them, it was clear that this was one of the central interests of the novel. For other readers, the strong fantasy and magical elements will be the most intriguing. So, the other side of the art of the pitch is learning to gauge your audience instantly and figuring out which aspects of your book to highlight.
I write about this as if I have got it all figured out. The pitch is an art in itself: one that I am still working to master.