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I don’t know about you, but while I love to talk about writing, I often find it hard to talk about my own work.  Unless I’m prepared for it, the words “What’s it about?” send my brain into automatic shutdown. 
 
I find myself in helpless burble mode: “Well it’s er… it’s a book, and er… it’s about this guy and this thing happens to him… well, it doesn’t so much happen to him, it’s more that it happens when he’s there. It’s good. At least, I like it anyway. Ooh, and there’s a giraffe…’ 
 
The poor unfortunate soul in front of me, who more than likely just asked out of politeness, stands there with a fixed grin on his/her face, staring over my shoulder in search of an excuse to get away.
 
Then I learned about elevator pitches, those one-sentence book summaries which we all need for query letters and chance encounters with potential agents. 
 
My
GSHW friend, Gary Frank, has an excellent one for his novel, Forever Will You Suffer.   Ask him what it’s about and he’ll say, “It’s a three hundred year love story gone horribly wrong.”
 
Over time, I came up with my own one-line summaries. Now when someone asks me ‘What’s it about?’ I’m completely relaxed:
 
“It’s about a boy who meets a talking cat that only he can hear.” (Fur-Face)
 
“It’s about a shy scientist who gets the brain patterns of a bad-tempered CIA agent stuck in his head.” (Waking up Jack Thunder)
 
“It’s about a medieval James Bond-type, set in a world where humans are just one of many species to evolve into ‘humanoid’ form.” (A Union of Snakes)
 
Of course, those only work for my own books. Ask me about someone else’s novel and all bets are off - though if you wait long enough as I attempt to describe it, I’m pretty sure I’ll throw in a giraffe somewhere. 
 
How about you?
 
What’s your elevator pitch?





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mikandra
Jan. 6th, 2010 10:29 am (UTC)
my trilogy is about a magician of sorts who is such an arrogant prick he thinks he's got his Big Plan all worked out, but it all goes wrong. Badly. After the big kablooie, he has no option but to ask *his enemies* to help him fix it.
jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 10:41 am (UTC)
Interesting. Do you have one for each individual book too?
peadarog
Jan. 6th, 2010 10:37 am (UTC)
Ah, an elevator pitch... I wish I had one of those.
jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 10:40 am (UTC)
Lol, how about a 'lift pitch'? :)
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a_r_williams
Jan. 6th, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
Good post!

I think it can be a good idea for a writer to craft an "elevator pitch" or a synopsis before they ever start to work on their novel.

It can help make clear what their story is going to be about. If they add to it and refine it as they write, it can then be used in their query letter when submitting to agents.
jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:06 pm (UTC)
Most of my novel ideas start from a 'What if...?' After I let them fester for quite a while before I sit down and type up a rough, half-page summary.

The novel grows from there - or doesn't, depending on whether I like where it's going :)
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jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:07 pm (UTC)
Good one. By the way, where did you get that great video footage for your book trailer?
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ex_naomi_ja
Jan. 6th, 2010 11:25 am (UTC)
Love the pitch for A Union of Snakes - I'd read that!

I'm not great at elevator pitches (or query letters for that matter!). I guess the pitch for AFTERLIFE would be "It's about a ghost tour guide who gets caught up in a murderous supernatural conspiracy."

Which is rubbish, really.
jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:09 pm (UTC)
You must have done something right :)

I find elevator pitches hard work. There doesn't seem to be a method to them, they either sound right or they don't.
out_totheblack
Jan. 6th, 2010 11:32 am (UTC)
An unwilling anti-hero/bad guy with an unlikely band of minions saves the world from the big-bad. The anti-hero does NOT get redeemed.
jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:10 pm (UTC)
Is that from a finished novel? What's it called?
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out_totheblack
Jan. 6th, 2010 11:34 am (UTC)
Those all sound really good. I'd probably pick up Jack Thunder and Union of Snakes on just those.
jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks. It's weird how a single sentence doesn't really tell us about the story, but somehow we fill in the blanks ourselves and decide from there.
(no subject) - out_totheblack - Jan. 6th, 2010 01:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
mtlawson
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:25 pm (UTC)
This is a classic problem, whether you're a writer or not. If you're a researcher, software developer, or even an entrepreneur, you have to be able to sell people on what you're doing. What sucks for those of us not gifted with a Type A personality is that we have to think hard about what to say so we don't have that deer in the headlights look.

You figure it out, you rehearse, and you prepare for what questions people might ask. In a way, it's almost as much work as the actual work of writing.

I don't have any pitches to work with, but I can tell you what I tell others who ask what I do for a living: "I protect my customers' computer systems from themselves."
jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:28 pm (UTC)
"I protect my customers' computer systems from themselves."

Lol, sounds perfect :)
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bodgei
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:35 pm (UTC)
It's about these teenage Changelings, who are Dancers, dealing with the jealousy and rage of the dancers around them who are 'Only Human'.
jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC)
Interesting. What's the title? :)
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sarah_prineas
Jan. 6th, 2010 01:05 pm (UTC)
I don't have one. It's just terrible. People ask me what my books are about, and I say, "Oh, magic and adventure and dragons and stuff."
out_totheblack
Jan. 6th, 2010 01:16 pm (UTC)
Hey, works for me.
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reneesweet
Jan. 6th, 2010 01:40 pm (UTC)
“Well it’s er… it’s a book, and er… it’s about this guy and this thing happens to him… well, it doesn’t so much happen to him, it’s more that it happens when he’s there. It’s good. At least, I like it anyway. Ooh, and there’s a giraffe…’

HA!!! That's hilarious because it's so realistic. :D

Great point, though. I often sell myself short and just stop with, "It's about shapeshifters and vampires." Largely because a lot of the people I'm talking to don't read UF. But, still - why sell myself and the book short? I will make an elevator pitch. Thanks, Jon!
sandy_williams
Jan. 6th, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
Good point. I find that I ramble on a lot longer when I have to 'pitch' my book to non-uf readers. I can't say 'fae' because they'd have no clue what I was talking about. They would understand 'fairy', but that's so not the impression I want them to have of the people in my book. Tinkerbells flying around? Um, no.
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 6th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
dferguson
Jan. 6th, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
I don't have a pitch at all. And I guess I'm that rarity among writers in that I really don't like to talk about my work.
sarah_prineas
Jan. 6th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
I feel incredibly awkward when I have to talk about my work. Usually because whatever the person is interested in was something I worked on a while ago and my pathetic long-term-memory has moved on and I'm obsessed with the new book.
(no subject) - heleninwales - Jan. 6th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
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brian_ohio
Jan. 6th, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC)
I have one I normally use...

"It's just like Harry Potter, only without the magic or Harry Potter."

But, from now on I'm going to say...

“It’s about a boy who meets a talking cat that only he can hear.”
bogwitch64
Jan. 6th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC)
You're a pip, you know that right?
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 6th, 2010 03:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
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jl_johnson
Jan. 6th, 2010 02:03 pm (UTC)
*sigh*

I never have this problem because no one ever asks me what my stories is about. :(
jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
Lol :)
bondo_ba
Jan. 6th, 2010 02:20 pm (UTC)
I never really had a problem with hesitation, but I also don't do the one-sentence summary for friends. I give them subplots and character arcs. It isn't easy being a writer's friend!!
jongibbs
Jan. 6th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
Serves 'em right for asking :)
(no subject) - dqg_neal - Jan. 6th, 2010 04:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Jan. 6th, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there


No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there















 











THE MEAGER PUDDLE OF LIMELIGHT AWARDS


Books by my writer friends - compressed

NJ Writing groups - compressed

NJ writing conference - compressed

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