Elevator Pitching to Relatives

Not many people outside of the internet know that writing is what I do to stay sane.  This weekend a close member of my family asked what the book I’m writing is all about.

My reply went something like this:

Sadly, mentioning the word "Fantasy" when speaking about books usually means this to most people.

“It’s set in a pre-industrial world, no electricity, cars, explosives, etc,  kinda like the dark ages.  Think feudal lords and fiefdoms and stuff like that.  In this world there are both normal people and people with the use of magic.  The magic people have to hide themselves from the rest of the world because of the superstitions of the normal people.”

Ding, times up.  We got interrupted before I could tell him anything about the story or why on earth anyone would be interested.  You’d think I would be a little better at this by now.

Had this been at a conference and I had 3 minutes to impress an agent I would have been laughed at politely declined. Sure, with fantasy setting the scene is almost as important as the story.  But the story and the characters that populate it are what people care about.   It’s up to us writers to find a way to share the heart of the story without giving anything important away or driveling on about too many details.

To be able to successfully give an elevator pitch you must understand the following about your work:

  1. What is the greatest overall challenge that your main character must overcome?
  2. What is the price of failure should he or she fail?
  3. Why is it the main character’s duty to take on the challenge (why do they care?)

With this in mind I could have given a better feel for my work, and maybe even gained a fan.  Here’s another try with the above in mind.

“In my story immortal magic user Jarand has sworn an oath to keep his adopted daughter Katira safe until she comes of age.  Her abduction is his worst nightmare come to life.  As he faces challenge after challenge to get her back he uncovers a dark plot designed to destroy the world of magic.  His failure to recover Katira and put a stop to the madness could mean the death of his people, the Wielders of the Khandashii.”

Note – I don’t care for the terms magic or magic user.  I only use them in the pitch because they are easily understood.  In the book itself the terms “Wielder” or the more coarse “Stonebearer” or “witch” is used exclusively. 

I did try to do something like this in an earlier post, but it missed the mark by not spelling out what was at stake.  It looked something like this:

“Stonebearer’s Betrayal is a fantasy novel about a wizard who, in the face of adversity, must choose between saving the love of his life or rescuing the girl he has sworn to protect.”

If anything, doing this exercise helps for that awkward moment when someone asks what your book is about.  I know it will help me avoid that awkward moment of trying to share without looking lame.

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About Jodi

I'm an aspiring novelist working in fantasy and suspense, for now. I also have two pretty awesome blogs! https://myliteraryquest.wordpress.com and http://jodilmilnerauthor.wordpress.com
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5 Responses to Elevator Pitching to Relatives

  1. clarbojahn says:

    Your elevator pitch is good. I want to know more and will read the book when it comes out even though it’s not what I usually read. I actually gave a pitch to an editor and publisher at the Pennwriters Conference this past weekend and though they had a similar book and only do one of a kind she said to keep selling the book because someone was sure to pick it up. It was bittersweet news.

    • tsuchigari says:

      One day I’ll finish it – hopefully this year. Then I would love readers! Congrats on your pitch, even though it wasn’t a yes it’s gotta feel good that they think your work has potential.

  2. Eleven Eleven says:

    I found that what I wrote ahead of time and what I ended up saying were two different things, the spoken version being so pared down because sometimes you only get ten seconds of an agent’s attention, and it’s rarely undivided.

    I always started with the genre and word count, but went straight from there to the inciting incident, and finished up with character goals and challenges to those goals. It never breached anything in the last two thirds of my novel, but it didn’t have to, because it was meant to be enticing, not comprehensive. When I got my scheduled slot of time with an agent, she actually said I was the first writer that day who had given her everything she wanted up front; genre, word count and initial conflict. We spent the rest of our ten minutes brainstorming sequels.

    It sounds like your inciting incident is the kidnapping, and the goal growing out of that incident is to find the girl, but the complication lies in the revelation of a bigger plot to destroy all the magic in the world. If that’s the case, maybe something like this would fit your novel:

    When an immortal wizard’s adopted daughter is abducted, he’ll stop at nothing to get her back. But all his power may not be enough when he discovers his daughter’s kidnappers plan to destroy all magic in the world, including his.

    Best of luck. I do know that I spent almost as much time figuring what my book was about as I did writing it in the first place. It is not an easy task.

    • tsuchigari says:

      I’ve always wondered where the genre and word count was to be included. If I were an agent I’d want to know as well. Thanks for sharing your experience with pitching! I love your version of the pitch, much more clean and concise. Sometimes a new set of eyes can make a world of difference. When pitching time comes I’ll be more than ready.

  3. Michael Knudsen says:

    In my experience, most people (those who don’t really have any power to publish, represent, or otherwise benefit financially from your work) aren’t REALLY interested in the answer to such questions and don’t listen to what you say. I know this because they ask the same question again a couple of weeks later. They’re just being polite, and hope your response will be brief. I oblige them by exceeding their expectations of brevity.

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