Writing Your Elevator Pitch
by Noelle Sterne
Every writer needs an elevator pitch. This is not an esoteric baseball term but a short, punchy statement about your work. You can deliver your pitch not only on an elevator but on the Starbucks, supermarket, or close-out sale line or anywhere else a conversation starts. You need the pitch, especially after you’ve announced you’re a writer to the person next to you and you hear that dread question, “And what do you write?”
Instead of freezing, stammering, or sneaking to the back of the line, smooth as soy milk you spin out your elevator pitch. Not only for politeness but publicity. That starched executive, back-packed student, or fashion-booted babe could be the next buyer of your book, blog, or services.
Your elevator speech isn’t as easy as it sounds. To mesmerize any prospective client, whether on the two-floor ride in a midrise or 167 of a super hi-rise, you must get into the pitch everything you love and need to do. And in 25 to 75 words, depending how fast you can talk. Freelance guru Carol Tice says your pitch shouldn’t take more than a minute.
The Three Crucial Questions
As you prepare to create your pitch, ask yourself the three most important questions:
1. What do I write?
2. What makes my writing, products, and services unique?
3. How can they benefit others?
Business author Chris O’Leary, who wrote a whole book on the pitch, specifies nine essential qualities of the elevator pitch, and they apply to writing as well. Your pitch should be concise, clear, compelling, credible, conceptual, concrete, customized, consistent, and conversational.
TV commercials are also models, says elevator pitcher Peter Whelan. We can learn a lot from them (and suffer through our favorite shows to get to them):
Think about all the advertisements you see on the TV around Christmas time, especially the big superstores. Do you see them say “Come down to Wal-Mart . . . we sell everything you need!”? No, you don't; they advertise one or two specific things that may be currently of interest to “hook you in.”
Incidentally, Whelan has twelve excellent top tips for creating your pitch and associated products.
These experts and others advise you to keep your business cards always handy (have some made). When the prospect’s eyes light up at your words, magically produce your card. If you’ve had bookmarks or postcards printed of your novel or nonfiction, so much the better. When you see that sparkle of interest, whip out your material from your pocket or purse. You’re giving the person something—free—and they’ll remember you and your entertaining pitch. And hopefully click onto your website. And order.
How to Write Your Pitch
To write your elevator pitch, take your time. Answer those three crucial questions above thoughtfully and thoroughly. Review all your work, done and planned. Jot down your main projects, interests, and credits.
Now do a first draft. Let it sit. Test it against O’Leary’s nine points. Then revise your pitch. Test it on friends, family, and fellow writers (Pitch-slam, anyone?) And stay open to suggestions.
Potent Pitch Examples
Here are some attention-getting (and book-selling) pitches to spur you on:
A multitalented writer and Web designer:
We offer a rare combination of business intelligence, writing, research, strategic Internet marketing, design, security, and programming experience. Let us help you get more traffic and sales on your website. You will have a functional, profitable, amazing Web presence.
A writer of cozy novels:
Want a riveting book for those cold winter nights under your warm afghan? See my first two novels on Amazon in the Clara Bottomsley mystery series. In the third coming out in April, Something’s Knotty in the Knitting Basket, Clara offers comforting and canny advice to an unraveled friend whose husband was murdered by a cable cross stitch.
I write motivational and practical pieces for writers, spiritual pieces for seekers and doubters, and essays, stories, and novels for everyone.
In my book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams, I use examples from my academic consulting practice and life to help readers let go of regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings, whatever their age or waistline.
An essayist on women’s issues:
My collection of essays explores disillusioned wives’ road trips—the real reasons they jump in the car, gun it, and never look back; their one-night stands and Snickers orgies at truck stops; their bonding with cheap motel maids; and their notebooks recording the exact mileage on every tank of gas. You’ll laugh, cry, and identify. An excerpt from the collection was just published in Christian Women’s Monthly.
Once you’ve got the best possible pitch, memorize it and rehearse it aloud. Act it out too—ham it up (you won’t come across as exaggerated as you feel). Your delivery shows your excitement about your work, and your listener will feel it and become enthralled.
And believe your pitch.
Now, keep your pitch on a scrap of paper in your wallet or tattoo it on your forearm. And the next time a potential reader/buyer/fan at a cocktail or pizza party, or in an elevator, asks what you write, just hold up your arm and reel it off.
Noelle publishes widely in print and online venues, with a current column in Coffeehouse for Writers. Her Ph.D. from Columbia University enables her to help doctoral candidates complete their dissertations (finally). In Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), Noelle guides readers to reach their dreams and lifelong yearnings. Please visit www.trustyourlifenow.com.