“I’m writing a novel.”
“Oh really? What is it about?”
Story of my life.
How do you answer this question? How do you resume a 80,000-140,000 word project to a pathetic string of simplistic, confused words? How do you encapsulate a web of delicately woven plots and sub-plots in one sentence?
How do you craft a compelling elevator pitch?
The image is simple, really. Say I’m the literary agent and you’re the author. We meet on the ground floor. The elevator doors open and we step in. I press number 23 and as the doors close, I question that big manuscript you’re holding in your hands. You tell me you’re writing a novel. Intrigued, I raise my eyebrows and ask the most dreaded question in a confused writer’s universe: “Oh? What’s your book about?”
You have until we reach floor 23 to convince me. Let’s call that 30 seconds. You have 30 seconds to convince me.
No easy task, is it? Unless of course you have practised diligently. Persevered, rehearsed, killed yourself over and over again to find the words that will get you noticed, the words that will ring true to who you are AND get the one in front of you hooked.
You can practise any time, anywhere. When I worked at the airport, on a good day, I would see 24,000 passengers wander through the World Duty Free. In another post, I compared this to “24,000 hypothetical characters” passing before your eyes. But that was also an ever-growing opportunity for me to practise my elevator pitch with whoever cared to listen.
Make it a constant experiment.
Repetition Experimentation is key to success. The first person I told at work tried her best not to look bored. She nodded, hummed and harred but I could see the light slowly die in her eyes. It wasn’t because my book sucked (I hope!) It was because I sucked at selling it. And it was because at the time, I still had no clue what the hell the grand scheme of my book was.
I have been improving my answer over the months and because this is my first novel, I get many things wrong. That means I’m slow. However, that also means the longer I take, the more opportunities I get to perfect my elevator pitch.
Crafting an elevator pitch is all trial and error. Experiment. Be the puppeteer. TWEET THIS!
Be the puppeteer. Use your audience for feedback. Go out, meet new people, talk to them, tell everyone you’re writing a novel. Everyone.
Since I moved to Paris, two weeks ago to the day, I have had to rethink my elevator pitch, translate it from English to French, make it more appealing. I have met many people who’ve asked me the question and you know what? I’m dreading it less and less because I’m preparing more and more. That’s how it works.
This isn’t a how-to post. I can’t claim to know the secret to crafting the perfect elevator pitch. Not yet. All I can tell you is to experiment. Maybe you’ll find that creating a storyboard will help you get your plots in line. Maybe you’ll find that reading more how-to articles will dissipate the confusion.
Or maybe you’ll just realise you can’t do it on your own. You need interaction. You need others.
Basically? You need a blog.
I leave you with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson I’ve come to like:
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.