The Elevator Pitch

Katherine Longshore 6 Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Elevator Pitch.  Logline.  Single sentence synopsis.  They are not necessarily the same thing, but all boil down to one essential problem:  How to distill your 80,000+ word novel into a single sentence?  30 seconds.  140 characters.

Conferences are coming up (and many have already happened), do you have your elevator pitch ready?  No?  Why not?  Because it's impossible?

I always thought so, too.

I have a confession to make.  I never had one.  Not for one single conference I have ever attended.  Not for queries.  Not for unintentional run-ins with editors.  Not for Twitter.  If anyone asked what my book was about, I would say:  Well, it's the story of the fifth wife of Henry VIII told from the point of view of her best friend.  Yawn.  Good thing only my friends asked.  At least they pretend to be interested.

But lucky for me I now have a brilliant editor in Kendra Levin, and a few weeks ago she shared with me  some ideas for writing a logline.  She learned it herself at an SCBWI conference.  This is what she said:

--Try using "what if" statement.  As in, "What if an ordinary girl became the Queen of England?"

--Logline formula:  "After [inciting incident], a [character description, without name] must [primary action] or risk/while risking [stakes] in order to [end goal].

--The parts of the logline can be juggled around in an order that suits the statement/story

Using the formula and a few insightful suggestions from Kendra, I came up with the following logline/elevator pitch for GIRL IN A DIAMOND COLLAR:

When her best friend marries Henry VIII, a previously disregarded maid-in-waiting must learn to walk the fine line between secrets and treason, knowing her life and that of the Queen could be threatened by any wrong word spoken (and those left unsaid).

Still a bit wordy, perhaps.  But much more interesting.  I found that having a formula -- and thinking precisely about what is most important to the story -- helped me get over my fear of the single-sentence sales pitch.  This can then be tweaked to fit your needs more particularly -- add the character's name, the objective of the quest, etc.  Play with it.  Sure, it's not as fun as the 80,000 words, but for me it wasn't nearly as dire as I expected it to be.  

Good luck!  And if you want to, post your logline in a comment!  It will earn you another entry into the Prep Your Pages contest! (so will just commenting, of course).


Great tips, Katy! I've never really given much thought to the "elevator pitch" but now I'm going to try doing this for my new ms!

I definitely freeze when people say, 'So what's your book about?' I've avoided doing an elevator pitch because the thought of it made me panic. however, these little formulas seem handy! I'm going to give it a go tonight!

The second I read this I started trying it out. VERY helpful, thank you. I think your logline reads well--it would catch my interest if I happened upon it(the book's title, too).

I need to start thinking about this. Even though I'm still in the revision stage, I'd like to be able to tell my friends about the book without them yawning.

Okay. Deep breath. Here goes. Remember, it's a log-line-in-progress... Just before her sixteenth birthday, a magically-impaired witch must escape to a ruined city to save her life and that of her twin brother, battling dark creatures, flesh traders, and her own doubts about the moral standing of her coven.

I'm so glad this was helpful to people! The formula was a real eye-opener to me.

Beth -- I LOVE your logline! Especially the "moral standing of her coven". Very intriguing...

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