Writing Your Elevator Pitch
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
pitch shouldn’t take more than a minute.
As you prepare to create your pitch,
ask yourself the three most important questions:
What do I write?
What makes my writing, products, and services unique?
can they benefit others?
Business author Chris O’Leary, who
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
excellent top tips for creating your pitch and associated
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
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:
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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
More Author Articles...
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