Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writers, Have Your Elevator Speech Ready

I remember attending my first trade show to represent a company and its products. My supervisor asked me, “Do you have your elevator speech ready?”

“My what?” I replied.

An elevator speech is your content condensed into the amount of time you spend in an elevator. In other words, it’s your small window of opportunity – most likely a minute or less – to interest your prospective customer in your product.

The concept of having an elevator speech for my book didn’t dawn on me until I was preparing for my first book signing.

I asked myself the question, “What will I say when someone asks me what my book is about?”

The answer may not be as obvious as it seems. As an author, you know your book better than anyone else. There’s the pro. The challenge is distancing yourself from everything you know and finding a way to summarize your 200+ page novel into two or three short sentences.  
So what should an author’s elevator speech include? Here's what I suggest.

What category or categories does your book fall into? Is it fiction or non-fiction? If it’s fiction, is it a mystery, romance, fantasy, or other? If it’s non-fiction, is it a biography, informational book, or devotional? There are dozens of genres, so be specific in identifying which ones apply to your book.

For whom did you write the book? Identifying your target audience will help anyone you’re conversing with decide if the book is right for them or someone they know.

What is so interesting about your book that would make people want to read it? This is your chance to share just enough information about your story to arouse curiosity. Don’t try to summarize your entire plot; you’ll lose your audience, and find yourself floundering to finish your sentences.  

Then, take these elements, and combine them in a way that is conversational. Here’s an example for my newly released book:
Secrets Beyond Lake Winona’s Shore is a Christian fiction mystery that young adults and families will enjoy. Abigail "Abby" Grant, my heroine from book one, stumbles upon a mystery in the lakes region of New Hampshire and must uncover forgotten Cold War secrets in time to save a man’s life. The plot explores right and wrong ways to respond to situational dilemmas while underscoring the value of forgiveness.
A related exercise would be to take your elevator speech and condense it into one sentence. For a formula, check our Rachelle Gardner’s blog on Writing a One-Sentence Summary.

The takeaway from all this is to be prepared. Don’t be caught off guard when someone says, “Hey, congrats on the new book. So what’s it about?”
Be ready to answer.

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