The Elevator Pitch: What Defines What & Why You Write?

Posted at 01:48am on 3rd May 2016

In my last blog post, What Makes A Writer Write,  I mentioned the World Book Night event at Stoke Lodge, in Devon.  Invited to speak, briefly, to an audience of forty-plus about my own writing career, I began by saying that someone had asked me, ‘What is an elevator pitch?’  To which I replied:

‘It’s the three minutes it takes a lift (elevator in America) to go from the ground floor to the top of a sky-scraper - which is all the time that you, as a writer, have to pitch your story and yourself to a publisher.’


So what, exactly, does an elevator pitch comprise?  Before I answer that, allow me to ask another question.


This was the question that prompted my last blog post, in which I mentioned that bestselling author/novelist, Lesley Pearse told us that her compulsion to make up stories during her childhood, was the reason why she was considered to be a naughty girl.  Embellishing the truth was perceived as lying.

I certainly related to the story-telling and the naughtiness.  However, my story-telling was the result of my naughtiness rather than the reason for it.  I was continually sent to my room as a punishment for not eating my greens or for answering back, and I resorted to story-telling as a way of whiling away the time.

Which is probably why – having been a very naughty girl and thus having had a great deal of time for writing – I succeeded in receiving my first rejection slip at the age of fourteen!  But the point is, that back then, I had little idea of what I wanted to write.  And that, as you will see, is of prime importance if you’re going to succeed in pitching your story.


I’ve just been listening to a podcast by Michael Hyatt, titled My Advice to New BloggersTop of the list of his eight points was the need to ‘determine your focus’.  What you write about, he says – the subject matter, in other words – is crucial to the following you will generate.  He also urges bloggers to write a brand slogan that conveys what they write and who they are.

Those principles are as true for book writing as for blogging.

My earliest books, written under a pen name and published back in the 1980’s, certainly came into being as a result of my suffering.  They began life as letters written to my best friend, telling her of the difficulties I was encountering in my marriage, and concluded when, with it all having ended in divorce, she urged me to write a book.

‘You need to help others who are going through the same sort of thing,’ she said.


So I did!  And with the encouragement of the then commissioning editor of IVP, the book was eventually published (though not by them).  Sharing, openly and honestly, about the traumas I’d encountered, I began to receive letters from all over the world - this being before the internet era.  Mostly from women, almost all professed to have been too ashamed to share their stories with others.  They had, therefore, soldiered on alone, believing their marital problems to be unique.  Or, worse, to be entirely of their own doing.  My book, and those that followed, were an eye-opener to my readers, proving the point that a trouble shared is a trouble halved.


Having found my forte, my genre, other books followed.  Articles, too.  Plus radio interviews and TV appearances.  The subject matter centred on what I knew about: divorce, debt, one daughter’s drug habit and her ultimate death.  Focusing on the emotions involved in the traumas I’d experienced, I attempted, also, to communicate the lessons I’d learned.  To inform my readers of the help to be found in relevant organisations.  To encourage them to explore every avenue before conceding defeat.  To inspire them to see ‘defeat’ as a new door opening to them.   Which was when I knew, without a shadow of doubt, what my aim was; the reason why I wanted to write.   It was always to comfort others with the comfort I had received.

Put that together and, you might say, this was my elevator pitch.  Or, to put it another way, the selling point for a publisher to take on me and my books.  It’s perfectly possible to say, in less than three minutes: I write about the traumas and triumphs of my life – divorce, debt, drugs and death – in such a way as to inform, inspire and encourage my readers, to comfort them with the comfort I've received, and my latest book, (title) is about . . .

I guess I must have hit the mark because, in addition to my ‘fan’ mail, and without any need of a proposal, I began to receive commissions from Hodder and other publishers.  Sometimes this was to write the traumas and triumphs experienced by others; sometimes, as in the case of my book titled Stepfamilies, it was a How-to book, collating the stories and lessons learned by others in a similar situation.  The aim, always, was to share the life experiences of others in such a way as to inform, inspire and encourage my readers.  One of those books went to No 4 in the Sunday Times bestseller list.  

And then . . .  And then everything changed . . .


COMING SOON: Chosen or Cheated? the second book in the Evie Adams series, finds counsellor / therapist, Evie, faced with a client who is terrified that a stranger is out to contest her mother's will, and another who seeks the mystery behind his adoption and that of other family members. 

This follows the first book in the Evie Adams series,Time to Shine, a story about a broken marriage and an abandoned wife who, with the help of counsellor / therapist Evie, learns the mystery lurking in her husband's past, and finds that it's her time to shine.  This book went briefly to No. 1 in its category on Amazon e-books.




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