A Writing Article by Karen Cioffi

The Elevator and One Sentence Pitch for Your Manuscript
By Karen Cioffi

Your one sentence pitch is a very condensed, super-tight yet concise description of your story, specifically the plot of your story. Think of it as a one sentence calling card – you’re unique selling proposal or proposition. A beginning step on your book marketing journey.

You might ask why does it have to be only one sentence. Well, it may happen that the time you have to pitch your manuscript is under a minute.

Suppose you’re at a conference and happen to get on the elevator at the end of the day with a frazzled publisher or agent. You want that very short span of pitching time to be as effective as you can make it, without annoying or further frazzling your target. It may be the only opportunity you’ll have for a direct, although very brief, uninterrupted pitch.

This is where the one sentence pitch come in.

The one sentence pitch, also known as a logline, takes time, effort, and a lot of practice. You need to condense your entire manuscript into one sentence. Within that sentence you need to harness the soul of your story (the plot) in a simple, concise, and hooking pitch.

The general writing consensus is to do your best and create one sentence that tells what your story is about. Once you have it nailed, expand it into a few more, adding only the most important aspects of the story. This expanded version is consider your elevator pitch. This is excellent practice for tight writing.
This way you’ll have two different versions of a micro pitch. It’s important to always be prepared – you never know when or where you may come upon an unsuspecting publisher or agent . . . maybe you’ll have a few seconds, maybe you’ll have 3 minutes.

EXAMPLES OF ONE SENTENCE PITCHES:

From Nathan Bransford (1):

Three kids trade a corndog (FLAVOR OF THE STORY) for a spaceship, blast off into space (OPENING CONFLICT), accidentally break the universe (OBSTACLE), and have to find their way back home (QUEST).

From Writer’s Digest (2)

NOT: “A burning skyscraper threatens the lives of thousands, including a pregnant woman trapped on the top floor.”
INSTEAD: “A former firefighter, fired for insubordination, races to save the lives of thousands of people in a burning skyscraper, including his pregnant wife.”

From Madeline Smoot (3):

The Emerald Tablet — In this midgrade science fiction novel, a telepathic boy discovers that he is not really human but a whole different species and that he must save a sunken continent hidden under the ocean.

From Janice Hardy (4)

A meek bank teller discovers a magical ancient mask that unleashes his deepest desires — and gives him superhuman abilities to act on them. (The Mask)

And, here’s my own one sentence pitch for my children’s fantasy chapter book. The 39 word version hooked a contract with a publisher:

Twelve-year-old Wang decides he’ll be rich and powerful if he can become a mystical Eternal; but after a year of hard work as an apprentice, and very little magic, he quits, but not before learning to walk through walls.
Obviously, if you have a scheduled pitch you will need to adhere to the publisher or agent’s rules as to the word count. But, even if nothing is scheduled, it’s a good idea to have that logline on hand for that you-never-know moment.

References:

(1) http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/05/how-to-write-one-sentence-pitch.html
(2) http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/thrillerfest-2011-pitch
(3) http://www.madelinesmoot.com/the-art-of-pitching-your-book-to-a-childrens-book-editor-in-just-one-sentence/
(4) http://blog.janicehardy.com/2011/10/heres-pitchits-hit-crafting-your-novels.html

About the Author

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author, children’s ghostwriter, and an author/writer online platform instructor. For more on writing and book marketing, and lots of valuable freebies, get free access to The Writing World http://thewritingworld.com

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