How to Handle an Elevator Pitch

Written by A Guest Author

by Wendy S. Delmater

Imagine you’re sharing an elevator with your dream editor, and have the length of the ride to interest them in your book. That’s the scenario behind the idea of an “elevator pitch.” You have to be able to interest the editor in a very brief period of time, to hook them on looking at your work in just a few sentences. You’ll eventually want to distill the essence of an entire novel or book into around 150 to 200 words, something you can say in about a minute.

This means distilling down your plot into its most basic conflict and characters  and presenting them in a way that leaves them wanting more. If you’ve not read my article on how to write a novel synopsis, I suggest you read it first, since it tells you how to boil down your plot to its most essential elements. You can find that article here. 

Don’t compare your book to a recent best-seller. Editors get that all the time. Save your words to describe what is different and exciting about your book. It should be a way to describe your finished work not just to editors, but to potential buyers and fans.

Here is the pitch I use with my novel, The Sands of Mime. Note that the central conflict and characters are clearly stated, and all else is pared away.

Imagine a world where the sands of a desert respond to your thoughts.

FORT STARK inherited MimeCo, a planetary claim company, from his scientist brother. The colonist found that the Sands of Mime could be beautiful, useful—or deadly. Some pirates and traders were killed by the Sands when the planet was first colonized. MimeCo bioengineered a way to control their use of the Sands, but bad press has kept people from settling there.

FORT is up against a self-sufficiency deadline—if Mime does not start making a profit, they might lose their land grant, and he’d lose everything. So FORT signed a lease allowing use of the telekinetic Sands by March Enterprises, only to discover that the wealthy RAJ MARCH may have ties with organized crime.

Someone is out to sabotage either March Enterprises or MimeCo. Although no one has died from Sanding in over five years, people are about to start dying again. Are they accidents? Or are they murders?

More than the future of the colony on Mime hangs in the balance.

Read aloud, and you’ll need to both read yours aloud and memorize it, this pitch takes 60 seconds.  When you read it aloud is should sound like a conversation; not stilted or pushy. Try reading your pitch to yourself in a mirror, and then try it out on actual humans, even if it’s only via videochat. The more you practice, the less intimidating it will be to use your pitch.

You might also want to read my article on writing “hooks”. Because the first line of your elevator pitch should be as “hooky” as possible, creating a question in the mind of the reader, and it should imply what genre, if any, your story is in. For my pitch, the line “Imagine a world where the Sands of the desert respond to your thoughts”  gets the listener in the frame of mind to want to know more and  lets them know my novel is science fiction.

Now, here is the really hard part. You literally have to know your pitch inside out like your address or phone number. That means practice, practice, practice, until you can reel your pitch out without faltering.  Since you have a passion for what you’ve written, let that color your delivery!

Then let the person who you pitched to ask you questions, and be ready with your business card. It helps if you have the name of the book hand-written on the back of the card. The worst thing the editor can do is say they are not interested, but they will usually take your card and thank you.

Good luck!


Bio: Wendy S. Delmater is the author of Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer, and the Better Dating Through Engineering series. She has been editor of the Hugo-nominated magazine, Abyss & Apex, since 2006. She is also the editor of The Best of Abyss & Apex, Volumes 1 and 2. Wendy’s recent publication credits include short stories and poetry in The Singularity magazine, Gathering Storm Magazine, Little Blue Marble, Star*Line, Illumen, and Silver Blade Magazine. You can visit her Amazon Author page, which contains her blog, or follow her on Twitter where she’s known as @safewrite.