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Kick Butt Elevator Pitch: The most important three lines you will ever write

Guest blogger: Heather Burch

So, what’s your book about?

You may be asked this by an agent, and editor, a reader, a TV host, a book reviewer, your aunt Betty, a movie producer, a publisher, a reporter, a major magazine …

I have been asked “What’s your book about” by all of the above. That’s right. And I’m not alone. If you write—no matter what stage you’re at—you WILL be asked this. The question is, are you ready?

Photo by Pgiam • iStockphoto

What you don’t want is an answer like this … Well, my story is about this girl and she discovers, well, she doesn’t discover it right away but in the course of the plot, she learns she’s important to this group of scientists and this laboratory. Oh, also, there are three guys sent to her to protect her and they’re half angel.

Yeeeeah. That’s the opposite of what you want. So, what are the elements of a great elevator pitch? And what the heck is an elevator pitch, anyway?

First, it’s three lines (no, you don’t have to be rigid about the three lines, but approximately one short paragraph) describing your book. A quick rundown of what makes your story. A quick description you could easily give in the time it takes an elevator to reach your floor.  🙂

What elements are important? Who, what, why and how. (Where is important too if you can fit it in naturally.)

Who = main character

What = what does your main character do/what happens

Why = This is the “who cares” element. This is where you make the reader INVEST.

How = How does this affect the character

Your elevator pitch should be full of active descriptive words and powerful prose. Here’s my elevator pitch for Halflings:

Hunted by men and demons, (why) seventeen year old Nikki Youngblood (who) entrusts her life to three half human, half angel young men (what). The Halflings are sworn to protect her, but when two of her guardians fall for Nikki, it puts more than their lives at stake. (how)

WHO? 17 year old Nikki

WHAT does she do? Entrusts her life

WHY? Because she’s being hunted

HOW does this affect her? Two of her guardians fall for her, putting more than their lives at risk.

Two lines. Easy to memorize. I’m always ready. In fact, I can probably recite it in my sleep. (Remember, you still have to say it like you mean it. Whether it’s the fifth time or the five-thousandth time. Your excitement about your project is crucial.) I vary my elevator pitch depending on the situation. If I’m being interviewed on a morning show, they want a little more so I usually add something like …

Nikki is the central force of an evil scientist’s plan. As she and the Halflings draw closer to solving the riddles surrounding her, the threat intensifies. Nikki discovers her choices may alter the future of an entire race of heavenly beings.

What makes this a good pitch? I’ve got all the info needed to give you a glimpse into the book. I leave you wanting to know more. It’s full of active verbs and strong description. (BTW, I can’t take all the credit, when I was working on my elevator pitch, I had ten writer friends give input. Yes, ten.) Why is it such a big deal? You will start your query letter with your elevator pitch. It may be the only three lines an agent reads. It’s THAT important. Then, said agent will pitch to editors using … you guessed it … your elevator pitch. (She may tweak it.) Then, an editor takes it to pub board and tries to get a green light for your project using … your elevator pitch. You get the idea. Even your back jacket copy may grow from these few lines.

Hollywood is amazing at the elevator pitch! Here’s your homework.

Pull out all your movie DVD cases and read the back jacket copy. As you do, you’ll get a feel for the lingo. Pay close attention to movies similar to your book. Then, write a kick-butt elevator pitch. You can do it!


Heather Burch is the author of Halflings, published by Zonderkidz in January. The sequel, Guardian, is scheduled for release in October, and the prequel novella 11:15 is available as a free Kindle download. Visit her website at http://www.heatherburchbooks.com.

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2 comments on “Kick Butt Elevator Pitch: The most important three lines you will ever write

  1. Great advice. I appreciate the way you broke it down into simple parts.

  2. […] found the NAF blog with guest blogger Heather Burch, who describes a disastrous elevator pitch, then goes through […]

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