As I mentioned earlier, I had a great time at the SCBWI Iowa Conference. I spoke with several authors in one-on-one sessions and gave one large talk — here’s my revised SCBWI Presentation.
While my goal was to help authors and illustrators understand what they can do to promote their books and how to better interact with their publicists and marketers, I learned a few things myself. Mostly, I learned how to better explain some of what I’ve been saying.
I’ll start today with item #1: What do I mean by an elevator speech.
So, during lunch on Saturday, the first author to sit at my table has a book coming out this fall. Very exciting! So I asked her what the book was about…a few minutes later, even after asking a few questions, I still wasn’t quite sure. (I won’t name names and she isn’t alone, so don’t be embarrassed if you’re reading this.) This is a problem. I was an active listener intent on understanding and I wasn’t getting it.
99% of the people you run into are not going to be as interested as I was that afternoon. She (and you) need to be able to describe your book in a sentence, especially once it will be published. If the book cannot be described in a sentence, your publisher can’t sell it.
So now, you’re worried. Your book is so complex, the meanings so layered, that’s it’s impossible to describe it all in one sentence. Well, you may be right. But you’re elevator speech doesn’t explain everything. It’s just the hook. The main idea; the reason someone wants to know more; the reason a bookstore wants it on the shelf; the reason a reporter wants to discuss it. One sentence — maybe even one phrase.
Some easy-to-understand examples (can you guess?):
- Four siblings runaway from an orphanage to make a home in an abandoned boxcar.
- An unloved orphan boy discovers he’s a famous wizard.
- It has a stinky cheese man!
- A lonely teen falls in love with a hot, sparkly vampire.
And don’t worry too much about it. The phrasing will change as you (and we) use it and find out what works best. It might change from audience to audience as well.
Ultimately, you want the person you’re talking with to say, “Wow, tell me more.”
And don’t worry, we worked out a great 6-word hook for that author at lunch.