How to Write an Elevator Pitch
Last Friday I had the opportunity to participate in #WMPitch, a Twitter pitch event. During #WMPitch you can share a Twitter-length pitch for your book, and if an agent "likes" your tweet, they think your book might be a good fit for them. Since tweets can be a maximum of only 280 characters, I had to create and polish my elevator pitch.
A book's elevator pitch should be a pitch so short that you could tell it to an agent or publisher while riding in an elevator with them (thus the name). At the most it should be three sentences, and in my case, in needed to be under 280 characters.
Writing an elevator pitch can be just as much of a challenge as writing the novel itself, so I've compiled my favorite pitch-writing advice below! I'm also sharing the pitches I ended up using during #WMPitch for my YA dystopian novel, Devereaux.
Elevator Pitch Template from @writinglaraferrari on Instagram:
This is one of my favorite elevator pitch templates--you can see how simple and effective it can be with this example The Hunger Games elevator pitch:
1. Set the scene:
In the dystopian future…
2. Describe your protagonist:
…an impoverished teenager…
3. The thing that turns their life upside down:
…volunteers for a bloodthirsty reality tv show…
4. What they want:
…to save her sister…
5. What’s standing in their way:
…where she is forced to kill—or be killed.
Putting it all together:
In the dystopian future, an impoverished teenager volunteers for a bloodthirsty reality tv show to save her sister, where she is forced to kill—or be killed.
Elevator Pitch Template from Katie Phillips Creative:
"BOOK TITLE is the story of AGE/NAME OF MAIN CHARACTER, a THREE WORDS DESCRIBING MC. She/he wants more than anything to MC GOAL IN STORY, but VILLAIN/MAIN CONFLICT/OBSTACLE stands in his/her way. MC’S STATUS QUO, but then INCITING INCIDENT HAPPENS and MC must decide TO TURN BACK OR PURSUE GOAL. He/she TAKES ACTION to ACHIEVE GOAL, but COURSE OF ACTION only INTRODUCES COMPLICATIONS."
Simply replace the bolded text with your book's information, tweak the pitch until it's to your liking, and voila! A quick and painless elevator pitch.
Elevator Pitch Formula by James Scott Bell
James Scott Bell is the author of some of my favorite books on writing. His simple three-step formula for writing an elevator pitch is as follows...:
Sentence 1: Your main character's name, vocation, and initial situation.
Sentence 2: "When" + inciting incident + the main plot problem.
Sentence 3: "Now" + the story's stakes (what does the character have to lose if they don't meet their goal?).
Elevator Pitch Formula by Save the Cat!
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is another of my favorite books on writing. On their website they have a quick elevator pitch formula that utilizes the Save the Cat! "story beats," which are discussed in their book. The suggest the following story beats should be in your elevator pitch (I'll put a quick summary of each beat after its name in case you're not familiar with them):
Opening Image (The main character and their situation at the beginning of the book)
Catalyst (The problem that changes their status quo)
Break into Two (An action the character takes to address the problem)
Midpoint (How that action affects the plot and/or a midpoint twist)
All Is Lost (When it looks like the MC will lose)
Break into Three (How they overcome the odds; the climax of the book)
Final Image (The book's resolution)
This method includes more of your book's story in the pitch than the other templates, which can be helpful if you're pitching in-person and the agent wants to know the full plot of your book.
Elevator Pitch Examples from Randy Ingermanson:
Randy Ingermanson, creator of "The Snowflake Method" of plotting novels, has some tips for writing elevator pitches on his website. He also provides several elevator pitch examples using well-known movies and books.
My Elevator Pitches:
After much research, writing, and refining, I was able to come up with an elevator pitch I was proud of. During #WMPitch you can pitch the same story up to three times, so I expanded my elevator pitch into three different pitches. They're not all equally high-quality, unfortunately, but below I've broken them into their basic elements and analyzed why some work better than others:
"Ignorance is bliss. Truth is lethal. Escape is impossible.
This is my favorite pitch of the three--I was able to fit my tagline at the top, and in one sentence clearly communicate the main elements of the story:
"To save her mother from imprisonment [STAKES/MOTIVATION], a young rebel-turned-pacifist [MAIN CHARACTER] must find a way past her utopia’s walls [GOAL + SETTING] and defy the corrupt city leaders she was groomed to join [ANTAGONIST]."
"In a lavish utopia built far above a war-torn earth, a rebel’s daughter trains to join its corrupt governing Assembly. Her true loyalties are revealed when she attempts to free her mother from their custody, forcing her and her family to escape their walled city. #WMPitch #SF #YA"
This is a slightly longer pitch--it's not as snappy, but it still contains the crucial elements of my story:
"In a lavish utopia built far above a war-torn earth [SETTING], a rebel’s daughter [CHARACTER] trains to join its corrupt governing Assembly [STATUS QUO]. Her true loyalties are revealed when she attempts to free her mother from their custody [STORY PROBLEM], forcing her and her family to escape their walled city [GOAL + OPPOSITION]."
"When the governing Assembly that murdered Sloane’s father accuses her mother of treason, Sloane and her family must escape their walled utopia and learn the truth about the world far below the city… which might require the help of a corrupt covert rebellion. #WMPitch #SF #YA"
Aaaannnd here is my least favorite of the three pitches. It provides some slightly different information that the other two pitches, but it's not quite as gripping. Let's analyze it a little...:
"When the governing Assembly that murdered Sloane’s father [ANTAGONIST] accuses her mother of treason [INCITING INCIDENT], Sloane and her family must escape their walled utopia [SETTING] and learn the truth about the world far below the city [GOAL]… which might require the help of a corrupt covert rebellion [TWIST?]."
The first problem I see is that, unlike the other two pitches, there's no description of Sloane, the main character. Our introduction to her is rather abrupt. Another fault is that the second half of the pitch (setting, goal, and twist) doesn't seem relevant to the first half. There's no smooth transition or plot point that links how learning the truth about the world below the city will help Sloane's family (and thus how teaming up with the rebellion will help her family). Not everything must be explained in the elevator pitch, but I think the first two pitches did a better job of smoothly connecting plot points that in this pitch feel disjointed.
Thank you so much for reading this post--I hope you learned a little something new and that the horrifying task of writing an elevator pitch has become a little less daunting. 😊 Feel free to share any pitch-writing advice you have in the comments below or share this post with a writer you think might appreciate these tips!
Until next time,