Whether you’re speaking at a local bookstore or you find yourself in an elevator with an inquisitive friend, as an author you will find yourself pitching at every turn. This toolkit will help you develop pitches to navigate any situation.
The Elevator Pitch
From family gatherings to networking events and everywhere in between, a solid “elevator pitch” is critical to getting people excited about your book in the shortest amount of time. A clear, memorable pitch will help with word-of-mouth when those you tell repeat the pitch in conversations with their friends, book clubs, or local booksellers.
To start working on your elevator pitch, consider the following techniques:
- Start with a comp title. As we’ve discussed in a previous article, a comp title works as an effective shorthand hook for your book. Think of other popular titles—or even films, video games, or events—that offer an interesting comparison to your book. Check the copy for your book for ideas, as your marketing team might already be referencing comp titles in the marketing materials.
- Detail the high-concept hook. Whether your book is commercial or literary, its high-concept elements will be key to a good elevator pitch. Think about what makes your book unique—what you’ve explored that others haven’t, or how you’ve approached a story in a new way—and note that. Instead of describing the many layers within your book, touch on the highlights.
- Introduce your main character briefly. You can certainly end the elevator pitch here, but a line about your main character can be beneficial, especially if that character isn’t mentioned in the high-concept hook. Think about your character’s profession, goals, ambitions, and distill all of that into one sentence. (For nonfiction, this is the time to give readers a quick glimpse into the subject matter.)
The Social Media Pitch
Once you’ve got a strong elevator pitch, think about how this translates to social media. You’ll be posting about your book in many mediums, but each platform needs a slightly different approach. Here are a few examples.
- Twitter: The shorter the better! If you’re including a book hashtag or mentioning any collaborators, you’ll have even less space. Trim down your high-concept hook or stick with your comp titles to keep your pitch under 140 characters.
- Facebook: With Facebook, you have a little more room to write. But there’s still a limit to what is shown before the “read more” tag. Keep it brief, and if possible, add visuals to help your posts stand out on users’ crowded timelines.
- Instagram: On Instagram, you need to let your visuals speak for you. Whether you include your pitch in the image itself or in the text of the post or story, keep the copy short and don’t forget the hashtags.
The Media Pitch
Media interviews are an effective way to let people know about your book in your own words. A pitch for a media appearance includes the same elements found in elevator pitches, but you’ll need to go deeper into the synopsis and often share personal elements of your writing or how this book came to light.
- Research the interview. Take note of the format, length, and focus of the interview you’re working toward.
- Prepare anecdotes. What made you interested in this topic? What elements of your life are reflected in the book? Did anything interesting happen as you wrote it? Think of stories associated with your book and, if possible, tie them to specific scenes that would catch the audience’s attention.
- Determine your key takeaways. At the end of the interview, what are the two or three points your audience must know about your book? Write these down, and see how they tie into your anecdotes and your pitch. Interviews frequently get off track, but if you have your key takeaways at the forefront of your mind, you will be able to bring the conversation back on track. (Click here for more information on how to prepare for media appearances.)
The Bookseller Pitch
Many times in your career, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with librarians and booksellers. These are great opportunities to talk about your book with someone who’s enthusiastic about getting books into the hands of readers.
If you’re at a pitch event with booksellers or librarians, start with your comp titles and short pitches, but also be prepared to elaborate on the main plotlines. Remember, this audience may have already read your marketing copy—so think back to what makes your story unique.
You can also start conversations by walking into local bookstores. Booksellers will in turn pitch your book to readers, so it’s important to be mindful of their time and make a good impression. For this pitch, prepare to address the following:
- Space on the bookshelves. Where will your book appear on the shelves? Make sure you can clearly answer this question. Include the following in your pitch:
- Age, category, & genre
- Comp titles that reach a similar audience
- Think about your reader. What kind of person will be in the store? Space enthusiasts, poetry lovers, history buffs—think about whom you envision holding your book and add this to your pitch. If a bookseller can connect your book to local common interests, he or she will be better able to recommend it.
- Q&A: Be prepared to answer questions and tell related anecdotes, just as in a media pitch.
Of course, your editor, marketing team, or publicist will assist you in fine-tuning the language for your pitches. Once you’ve got all this prepared, the only thing left to do is practice!
Phil Stamper-Halpin is Senior Manager, Publishing Development & Author Platforms for Penguin Random House.