Monday, August 16, 2010

The Elevator Pitch

Okay, okay, I know I said I was going to write about one-sheets...
and I will,

But when I started writing about one-sheets, I had to do a bit of research on pitches and it made sense to start with the pitch THIS week and then move on to the one-sheet for next week.

Have I just confused the audience? Likely.

Elevator pitches and one-sheets have been all the rage on ACFW’s first-timer’s loops, as first time conferencees prepare for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Indianapolis in September.


What is a pitch? – a brief blurb about your story. It's called an elevator pitch because you need to be able to 'hook' an editor/agent during the time it takes for an elevator ride.

Your pitch is not about the theme of your story, the purpose for writing it, or how you hope God will transform lives through this book.
It's about the actual story. The who, what, when, where, and why of it.

And remember – most of the time you have the opportunity to present your pitch in ‘real life’ conversations, so making it conversational is good. Not like a pre-recorded radio spot :-)

Why write a pitch?

Because writing it out helps you 'figure' it out before you have to say it out loud to someone, preferable a pair of interested ears ;-).

You never know when the perfect moment will arrive and you want to be prepared. The tricky part is skimming it down to the barebones of your story - but that's also a good test to how well you know the 'heart'/core of your story.

A few helpful hints.

Some say refer to genre in your pitch and some don’t.
Your goal is to be able to say it within 60 seconds (and not at NASCAR speeds either) In a conversational way.
At the barebones of the pitch, it seems to be the same as the barebones of the novel:
Protagonist
Goal
Motivation
Conflict

So...

Who is the story about? You can answer this by name, "Scarlet O'Hara" or by description "A fiesty southern belle" either one works, from what I understand, but MOST of the examples I've seen have been by description instead of name.

What is his/her goal? What does she want to do? Destroy the 'ring of power', find the Holy Grail, save Lois Lane?

Motivation? the WHY - to save Middle EArth from the tyrannical rule of a faceless evil; to save Indiana's father's life; because he loves her.
What is the conflict or challenge for the protagonist? There has to be some sort of obstacle or you don't have a story. Frodo's path is fraught with peril, from outside of himself as well as within.; a selfish treasure hunter wants the immortality that the Grail promises and will stop at nothing to get it; a criminal mastermind will stop at nothing to destroy Superman.
What is something that makes your story unique? This is an important one. What makes your novel stand out from the 3000 other manuscripts or pitches?

So let’s use a few popular movies right now and see if I can write a 25-60 word blurb about them, using the above tips.

A teenage girl falls in love with a vampire, who vies between the urge to protect her or kill her. In the process, the girl is stalked by a trio of renegade vampires and a werewolf who wants to win her heart. Will she survive, or does she even want to?

A feisty southern belle, determined to protect her family’s plantation during the Civil War, must pull upon all her resources to survive a hostile, war-torn world, but will her conniving leave her empty-handed and alone? (35)

An eleven year old orphan discovers he has magical powers and is sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to hone his skills. But the wizard who killed his parents tries to use all his power to end the boy’s life and secure his own immortality. With the help of his two best friends, he determines to battle his enemy and protect the school from the evil wizard's dark plans.

Here are two of my own:

An Appalachian single mom of three seeks to solve a family mystery in England. But a reclusive British actor, with his own secrets, provides an unwanted distraction for her wounded heart. What follows is a clash of cultures, battle of wits, and an unexpected romance built on everlasting faith, because nobody does second chances (and surprises) better than God. (59)

Sophia Quinn kills vampires. It's her God-given calling. But when she's sent to annihilate a cult of vampires hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the only person who can help her find and fight against the extra-powerful undead is Ethan Taylor, a hybrid vampire with a thirst for the Truth. Can she trust someone who is heartless with her heart, or is he leading her into a trap from which she'll never return? (67) - I'm still condensing :-)

Helpful resources:
Check out these three sites for some GREAT information on writing elevator pitches.

http://storysensei.blogspot.com/2005/08/50-word-elevator-pitch.html
 A good idea of the process behind the pitch

http://karentyrrell.com/?p=1102
 FABULOUS tips here.

http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/01/elevator-pitch-part-1.html
Everything on this site if great, but Rachelle does a 2-part series on pitches.


So....
What's your pitch? Have any good ones? Bad ones? Pitch 'em too us and see if we can all work together to get them in the right direction. I could use help on mine too.

12 comments:

Casey said...

Nope, don't have a pitch and I must say I am thankful I have the prospects of a year to work them out! I need the time to figure out what to say. :) But I did like the post! Gave me great information for when that time comes.

Sidney W. Frost said...

Last meeting with an agent, I used my one-page synopsis, paraphrased from memory. It wasn't too succesful. I think what we need is more like the blurb on the back of the book. The one that tempts the buyer to take the book home. I appreciate your examples.

Pepper Basham said...

Case,
I LOVE the new pic. Very cute!!!
I'm still trying to figure out pitches, but I thought I could at least share what I'm learning - and hopefully some other people with drop in a share too.

I'm working on 3 other pitches besides the two I listed.
The tips I've discovered online (especially those three links) have been very helpful.

Pepper Basham said...

Right Sydney - the blurb on the back of the book idea is great. The important thing is that is has a 'hook' and the uniqueness of your book shines through. (or at least that's what the experts seems to say).
A quick-reference to catch an editor's attention.

Ralene said...

When talking to an agent/editor, it's good to have a short pitch memorized. However, on one sheets, like Sidney said, I think it should be more of a backcover blurb.

That being said, I thought I'd share the pitch for my latest WIP:

A resourceful amnesiac’s new gift thrusts her into the realm of angels and demons. With the help of a disgruntled FBI agent and a guilt-ridden pastor, she must seek and destroy a demon on a mission to obliterate Christianity using 21st century technology. (43)

I also have it shortened to 25 words in case I actually am in an elevator with someone:

A resourceful amnesiac’s new gift thrusts her into the spiritual realm to destroy a demon on a mission to obliterate Christianity using 21st century technology.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oohh, very good tips. I am hard at work on my pitches for the conference so this will help. Thanks!

Casey said...

Thanks Pepper, my cousin took them while in CA. She is an excellent budding photograher. :)

I must say that I am nearly scared spitless to just blurt out a pitch to an editor/agent. It just feels so forward, though maybe the atmisphere will be different in a conference setting, you will have to let me know.

Off to read your work.... ;)

Pepper Basham said...

Ralene,
WHAT A FABULOUS pitch! WOwzers. love it. And it sounds like a very interesting story too.

Pepper Basham said...

Cindy,
Can't wait to see you at ACFW. Woohoo!

Beth K. Vogt said...

Sophia’s Quinn’s God-given calling is exterminating vampires. Sent to annihilate a cult of vampires hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the only person who can help her annihilate the undead is a hybrid vampire thirsting for truth. Can Sophia trust him with her heart—or is he leading her into a trap?(52)
(The editor in me enjoyed the challenge of tightening this pitch for you. Intriquing story, by the way. If you add Ethan's name, you up the word count by 2-3 words. I didn't know enough about Sophie to say something about her without using her name.)
I'll post mine later.

Pepper Basham said...

Oh BETH - thanks so much. Please edit my stuff ANYTIME you want :-)

can't wait to read yours.

Beth K. Vogt said...

If I edited yours, it's only fair to post mine:
Can the wrong kiss lead to Mr. Right? In her personal life, graphic designer Allison Denman doesn’t believe in coloring outside the lines. Considered a mistake by her father, she's determined not to make any. What happens when Allison accidentally kisses her fiancé’s brother five days before the wedding? Which is the mistake? The kiss? Or the wedding? (58)