Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Elevator Pitch and Your Manuscript

Your elevator pitch, or simply your pitch, is a very condensed, yet concise description of your story. It can be one to several sentences long; the idea is to grab the publisher, editor, or agent’s attention and interest with the core of your story in the span of under 3 minutes.

The marketing arena’s idea of the pitch is a one sentence calling card – you’re unique selling proposal or proposition.

The idea behind the elevator pitch is to imagine that you get on an elevator and surprisingly you’re there with a potential client, or in the case of writing for children or writing in general, a publisher or agent. You are given just the time for the elevator ride, which was approximated at 3 minutes, to pitch your story. That’s the elevator pitch.

It may also happen that the time you have to pitch your manuscript may be under a minute. Suppose you’re at a conference and happen to get on the elevator at the end of the day with a frazzled publisher or agent. You want that very short span of pitching time to be as effective as you can make it, without annoying or further frazzling your target. It may be the only opportunity you’ll have for a direct, although very brief, uninterrupted pitch.

The one sentence pitch, also known as a logline, takes time, effort, and a lot of practice. You need to condense your entire manuscript into one sentence. Within that sentence you need to harness the soul of your story in a simple, concise, and hooking pitch.

The general writing consensus is to do your best and create one sentence that tells what your story is about. Once you have it nailed, expand it into a few more, adding only the most important aspects of the story. This is excellent practice for tight writing.

This way you’ll have two different versions of a micro pitch. It’s important to always be prepared – you never know when or where you may come upon an unsuspecting publisher, agent, or editor . . .  maybe you’ll have a few seconds, maybe you’ll have 3 minutes.

Here is an example of a one sentence pitch from

Two brothers and their female cousin decide to track down a serial killer themselves, not realizing that one of them may be the very killer they seek.

Here’s another one from the blog at Buried in the Slush Pile:

The Emerald Tablet -- In this midgrade science fiction novel, a telepathic boy discovers that he is not really human but a whole different species and that he must save a sunken continent hidden under the ocean.

And, here’s my own one sentence, 28 word pitch for my children’s fantasy chapter book. The 99 word version of my pitch hooked a contract with a publisher:

Children 7-10 love fantasy and magic and Walking Through Walls has just that; twelve-year-old Wang decides he’ll be rich and powerful if he can become a mystical Eternal.

Obviously, if you have a scheduled pitch you will need to adhere to the publisher or agent’s rules. You may be able to provide a pitch with 100-200 words. But, it’s a good idea to have that one sentence pitch on hand for that you-never-know moment.

Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, and editor. For more on writing and marketing visit and sign up for her FREE newsletter, A Writer’s World. You’ll get TWO free e-books on writing and marketing in the process.


  1. Great post. And remember, even after you have an agent or publisher, you'll need your pitch every time someone asks you "What's your book about?"

  2. You would be surprised at how many people "pitch" their manuscripts and have no idea how to do so. At one conference I spent more time telling writers what I wanted and didn't want than I did actually listening to what they had to say about their work. They wanted to give me a blow by blow summary of the whole plot and details about characters. Ish.

    Thanks, Karen, for good points.

  3. Excellent post. I agree with Kristine. But even after you're published, you'll still need the pitch. Pitches and synopses are some of the most difficult copy I write, because it's so important, and so challenging, to get a whole novel into a sentence. Write a hundred drafts if you need to!

  4. Kristine, Absolutely. That pitch needs to be on hand for whenever it's needed.

    Vivian, this would make a good article topic from a publishers perspective. :)

    Laurie, Pitches are great examples of really, really tight writing. :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I have used this topic for articles and for presentations. Even those of us who "know" how to prepare and give a pitch can use a refresher.


  6. Great topic! Honing one's skills both in writing and pitch is a constant education not to ignore. Thanks for examples!

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  7. As part of my presentation at the 2012 Oklahoma Writers' Federation Inc "Story Weavers" Writer's Conference (May 3-5, 2012) I will be describing a variation on this idea: How to Flash your Manuscript. Visit for details and registration on the conference.

  8. Excellent post, Karen. If you ask me, pitching is one of the hardest things about writing.


  9. Donna, I agree!

    Star Wizard, Sounds like a great workshop. I love the variation on heading!

    Cheryl, Pitching is certainly a toughie, but for me it's all the must-do marketing. UGH.

    Thanks for stopping by.