Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Elevator Pitch (Or: The Mortifying Ordeal of Being Known)

If there's anything I've noticed, it's the extreme love/hate relationship authors have with the elevator pitch. In the words of my favorite tag on AO3, #themortifyingordealofbeingknown. There's something... absolutely terrifying about talking about something you made to strangers, something that hits different than writing up the summaries. A lot of the folks I've talked to don't even think about the elevator pitch until they're asked for one (virtual event greenrooms are the ultimate procrastinators' playground).

So I figured "hey, I do elevator pitches for other people for a living, maybe I can help" and thus, this madness was born. I spied on my coworkers' interactions with customers and thought deeply about how I approach it and came up with a few ideas I think might help if you're also struggling with formatting an elevator pitch (or if you've stumbled upon this article 10 minutes before a virtual panel).

ID: a swirling purple background. The phrase "going up!" is written in big block letters, and there's a cartoon outline of an elevator

Part 1: How do I even explain the plot?

  • Cheat a little and take favorite sections from the flap copy and string them together into something vaguely coherent; the more you practice it, the more your brain will choose what phrases it likes in what order.
  • Zero in on the big themes and concepts.
    • I find it way too easy to get bogged down by my favorite details (and then I just start rambling because they need context darn it!)

Part 2: I think I've got words, how do I put them into people's ears?

  • Focus on the ✨vibes✨
  • Tell us the tropes! All of them. Yes, even that one. 
  • If for social media: Do a silly trend or if you're feeling extra, make a skit 
    • Be ridiculous. Look at some of the people whose entire pages are skits. Relish in the bad wigs and silly acting. Embrace it.
  • Get on the radar of the fandoms of some of your comps--especially effective if the fandom is in a hiatus period and a drought of content.
    • Nothing has made my day more than when I saw someone wearing a shirt related to Our Flag Means Death, called them out, and sent them home with four books to read until season 2.
  • Don't worry about getting it right every time or getting everything you want into a pitch every time.
    • Sometimes the words don't want to word, and that's okay.
On a slightly more serious note, if I've learned anything, it's that people are so much more forgiving than we think they will be. They want to want your books. I think the number of times I've been called a danger to parents' wallets can show that, even if you don't yet believe it yourself. Go forth and be silly and weird on the internet! 

Moth Detlaf (they/them) is a bookseller and the social media manager for Books of Wonder in NYC. They can often be found huddled in a corner somewhere surrounded by a palace of queer books for all ages--bonus points if there are dragons involved. Finding the books that make kids of all ages and demographics (including the grown up ones) feel the way they have always felt as a reader is one of their favorite things.

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