My long time friend asked me what my novel was about. I stammered and blurted out some incoherent description. (Don’t laugh! At least I remembered to mention the protagonist.)
This brain freeze, unlike Governer Rick Perry, was not a matter of forgetting, but a matter of not having a succinct pitch scripted.
What if that had been a literary agent or an editor I was pitching my book to? How long would you would stick around until I got my act together?
In the business world, that one compelling sentence is called an elevator pitch. You have exactly 30 seconds to introduce yourself and entice them to get to know you. This is what you need to do with your novel…write an elevator pitch that will sell your novel to whomever will listen.
An elevator pitch is one or two power pact sentences that not only identifies who you are, but also tells the person to whom you are talking to what you do, implying how you can help them make life easier or solve a problem. The elevator pitch for a novel introduces your protagonist and his conflict. It tells the person how he will benefit by not only spending money to buy your book, but also what will he derive from spending his coveted leisure time reading your story. Your one sentence summary needs to convince him that he will get the satisfaction of learning something or being entertained. Maybe you will transport him to another place far from the pressures of his life, even it is only for a few hours. Or maybe he can live vicariously through your protagonist?
Randy Ingermanson, also known as the Snowflake Guy, recommends that fiction writers start with a one sentence plot summary. He points out that who is going to know and love your story more than you do.
A solid one sentence summary will anchor your story to a plotline and be the guide to decide what scenes advance your story. It will be the single best marketing tool to sell your story. It will help you sell your idea to a literary agent, to a publishing house, to your editor, to the book sellers, and most importantly, to your readers.
Ingermanson suggests that the sentence should be 20 words or less. That means every word has to work to remain. No extraneous adjectives, no subplot inclusions. Simply your novel’s compelling storyline.
Here’s some basic rules to create yours:
1. Ingermanson’s 20 word limit.
2. Sentence includes protagonist, conflict, and a sense of context (either cultural, venue, political etc)
3. Power verb such as coerces, endangers, or challenges. (You get the idea.)
Ask yourself: If your book title and one sentence summary appeared on a booklist, would you be tempted to spend $15 to buy the book if you weren’t the author? Does it have a strong enough hook? Who will the book appeal to?
Let’s take a simple basic boy meets girl plotline and see how we can craft a good summary sentence. Remember, the real writing is in the rewriting, so this exercise may take you more than 10 seconds. It may take you hours, even days to decide if the sentence is the best one when you announce the birth of your baby (novel).
Draft summary sentence: An athlete puts his girlfriend in a difficult position when he uses her to advance his career. (17 words)
Second draft: A struggling soccer player betrays a middle-aged female when he uses her contacts to advance his career. (17 words)
Third draft: A struggling soccer player betrays a lonely female advertising executive when his romantic involvement with her threatens her company. (19 words)
Now, what if I include an ethnic reference? She is Asian and he is Ukrainian. How will that color the summary?
Last and most important. You finished the best one sentence summary ever. Now you have to memorize it. You have to be able to rattle it off as if it were an involuntary reflex. Live the sentence. Breathe it. And then, you will claim it with confidence.
Like that 30 second elevator pitch, you want to grab the person’s attention. You want them to be so intrigued that they ask you for more information…like “Where can I get your book?”
You are the reader. You are in a book store with a $20 bill. Of course, whatever book you select, you want it to be compelling. You want the best novel, let’s say, in the horror genre. You want the writer to carry you into his/her world and make chills go up your spine. You don’t want to settle because the one thing you love is page turning stories.
How does the position writer himself to the reader to communicate that his novel is the best, worthy of the reader’s $20 and time?
One way for the writer to make the connection is to create a unique value position or UVP. Very simply, UVP is communicating what you do best —- communicating your value.
If you have ever watched a someone sell a product to a stranger, he will give the 30 second elevator pitch. This is one sentence that tells who you are, what you are selling or what you are about. The pithy sentence should hook the stranger into asking for more details, thus making a connection and the start of a relationship. If a salesperson can’t say it in 30-seconds, he may lose the stranger’s interest.
Writing a good elevator pitch is similar to writing a UVP; both are harder than you think. Before a writer starts writing his novel, he needs to think about the following elements and wrap it into a tight sentence or two.
1. Identification your target market.
2.What the reader will get out of your novel
3. A brief description of your novel (s).
4. Why your book is unique in the marketplace or what is the perceived value.
Here are a couple of examples:
Stephen King: Master writer whose dreams keep us up all night.
Amy Tan: Asian novelist swept up in the generational differences in the Asian culture.
Benefits of writing a UVP
1. It identifies your unique position as a writer and how you may be different from other writers.
2. This helps readers understand what you are about and thereby establishing a fan base.
3. It helps you craft a series of novels in a particular genre…
4. It establishes your goal, your focal point, so whatever UVP you write, you must have passion to sustain you.
5. If you want to make writing your career, one that pays, all your writing efforts should be centered around your UVP. This will jumpstart your career direction and you will be surprised that identifying who you are and what you intend to write will bring you amazing success much sooner than had you not finished a UVP. This is creating your own brand (we’ll discuss this later).
If you are a professional, your readers will expect you to deliver the same genre and writing quality in every book you publish. Writing a good UVP will make it happen.
Write a unique value position and send it here or email them to me. With your permission we can review them.