Your Elevator Pitch

86538827You are standing in an elevator and have two minutes to tell someone about your book. Today we’re going to talk about crafting that one-sentence summary, also known as a logline, a hook, or a one-sentence (elevator) pitch. This is not your book’s tagline!

What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book.

Why: To get someone interested in reading your book.

When to use it: The start of a query, or anytime someone asks you, “What’s your book about?”

What it does: A one-sentence summary takes your complex book with multiple characters and plotlines and boils it down into a simple statement that can be quickly conveyed and understood, and generates interest in the book.

What it should include:
→ A character or two
→ Their choice, conflict, or goal
→ What’s at stake (may be implied)
→ Action that will get them to the goal
→ Setting (if important)

Tips:
→ Keep it simple. One plotline, 1 or 2 characters.
→ Use the strongest nouns, verbs and adjectives.
→ Make the conflict clear but you don’t have to hint at the solution.

In your one-sentence summary, try not to pitch a theme. Pitch what happens. Examples of themes:

This book explores forgiveness.
This book looks at the thin line between right and wrong.
This book explores the meaning of independence, and asks if it’s really possible.

Here is Nathan Bransford’s simplified formula for a one-sentence pitch: “When [opening conflict] happens to [character(s)], they must [overcome conflict] to [complete their quest].”

Examples of one-sentence summaries:

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
• A boy wizard begins training and must battle for his life with the Dark Lord who murdered his parents. (Thanks Randy Ingermanson for this one.)

→ Character=boy wizard
→ Conflict=battling the Dark Lord
→ Stakes=his life
→ Setting=none
→ Action=wizard training; avoiding the same fate as his parents

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
• In the south in the 1960s, three women cross racial boundaries to begin a movement that will forever change their town and the way women view one another.

When Faith Awakes by Mike Duran
• Chaos is unleashed on a quiet coastal town when an unassuming crippled woman raises a young boy from the dead, unlocking a centuries-old curse.

Medical Error by Richard Mabry
• Identity theft becomes fatal for a patient and puts a young doctor’s reputation and medical practice in jeopardy.

Chasing Superwoman by Susan DiMickele
• A successful attorney and mother of three battles discrimination, exhaustion, and a clueless boss while balancing a career, a family, and a life of faith.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. Leave your one-sentence summary in the comments.

  1. Tracy L says:

    A timid, young girl whose introduction to God came from Jim
    and Tammy Faye Bakker on The 700 Club spends
    a lifetime seeking to find her place, and approval, with God, faith and
    religion.

  2. Travis Sullivan says:

    In Tokyo, a foreigner discovers his magic makes him an international criminal, so he joins the yakuza to escape the government agents.

  3. Kerry Johnson says:

    An eleven-year-old boy with a metal neck circle and no memory escapes a kids’ work camp, fighting to discover why his memories–concealed in a small golden orb–are more valuable than his life.

  4. A shy German immigrant who survives the coffin ships, The Trail’s bloodiest history, and the Shanghai Tunnels, brings real beer and true love to 1850’s Portland, Oregon–and encounters his greatest danger yet.

  5. Tracy L says:

    A timid young girl whose introduction to God came from Jim
    and Tammy Faye Bakker on The 700 Club spends
    a lifetime seeking to find approval and her place with God, faith and
    religion.

  6. K.B. Knight says:

    After discovering his wife’s bludgeoned body in the
    bedroom of his own home, Travis embarks on a mission to not only kill the
    person responsible for her untimely death, but to rid the world of his entire
    family as well.

  7. Kade Cook says:

    A young logic wired psychologist is thrown into a paranormal world that is anything but logical and must find control of her true self in order to survive the Darkness that haunts her.

    • Amanda Griffith says:

      Why is Darkness capitalized? The Devil! Very intriguing. Or is it the dark recesses of her mind?

      • Perception is reality…

      • Kade Cook says:

        Hi Amanda, it is something very much of both. The Darkness is the mixture of an evil that lies condemned in a place called Erebus and it is also the darkness that harbors deep within her subconscious. This evil tempts my characters moral judgment and uses his sympathetic façade of her suffering to pull her onto a dark path in attempts to trigger the darkness within her; using her gifts and naivety for his gain. Trials and tribulations.

  8. Kade Cook says:

    A young logic wired psychologist is thrown into a paranormal world that is anything but logical and must find control of her true self in order to survive the Darkness that haunts her.

  9. Josey Bozzo says:

    When a detective investigates a murder at the church of his estranged father, he his forced to face his past decisions and the life he left behind,

  10. doreenmcgettigan says:

    The true story of Sophie, an 80 year-old- homeless woman that fell in front of my husband. He didn’t know what to do with her so he brought her home and she lived with us for 2 1/2 years.

  11. Susan A Ring says:

    A surrogate mother gives birth to twins, the intended parents never come to pick them up and she has to decide whether to take them home or send them to social services.

  12. Sharalee Sherman says:

    Negative words turn into negative thoughts and actions, but they can be displaced and replaced with positive words, changing a mind and life forever!

  13. Aaron Netsky says:

    When Willa’s new boyfriend tells her he fears for her
    immortal soul, she starts to explore the tempestuous world of religion and
    atheism.

  14. Cynthia Torres-D'Alessandro says:

    A semi-mortal, Taina spiritual warrior is saved from certain destruction by her sworn enemy and must solve the mystery of his intervention while battling to keep the mortal world from plunging into eternal darkness.

  15. Samantha says:

    One woman’s solo trek through Europe, where she meets the most incredible couch surfers, find’s her faith, and ultimately learns how to survive in the real world.

  16. Author Phillis T Forrest says:

    Through A Child’s Eyes structured rules and guidelines to protect children from child sexual predators that mothers may unintentional bring into their lives.

  17. Mark Finn says:

    Stuntman Clay Stark steps into the gorilla suit on the movie set, only to find himself the target of the police and a mysterious saboteur.

  18. Jane Merkley says:

    Altarn travels in disguise across Endendre to discover if she is on the cusp of being responsible to dethrone a king, but never imagined she would dethrone his heart instead.

  19. Jeanette Andersen says:

    Fourteen-year-old Missy is excited for school to end and summer to start, but things change when her family’s past becomes part of her current nightmare.

  20. Crystal Sellers says:

    A young woman moves home with her pre-teen son, after witnessing her husband’s affair. Can she move on and find herself again while dealing with her terminal grandfather?

  21. I punched a ten-year-old in the face, stole marijuana from a drug dealer, and dumped thousands of donated dollars into a few dubious business ventures, all in the name of being a missionary.

  22. Juliet D. Jones says:

    “The Secret They Kept” by Juliet D. Jones
    Everybody knows nothing exciting ever happens at band camp; until one chilling night in the woods changes seven teens and one band director’s lives forever, forcing them into keeping a foreboding secret.

  23. Laura says:

    A young girl, considered mentally challenged in this world but trained by angels, must use all her supernatural skills to save an African village against genocide thereby rescuing herself.

  24. Anita says:

    A scared teen in 1969 is pregnant, sent away and forced to give up her baby, searches and finds him 29 years later.

  25. THE GIRL IN THE JITTERBUG DRESS is the parallel story of two young women struggling with love, loss, and redemption, united across generations by a 1940’s swing dress.

  26. Kathy Sheldon Davis says:

    A Rosie-the-Riveter escapes her abusive family only to find herself in the arms of a determined shell-shocked soldier.

  27. Janelle’s restaurant explodes, and she sleuths with handsome
    Caden, her rescuer’s buddy, in hopes of finding the arsonist before she’s targeted for what she knows.

  28. N. L. Brumbaugh says:

    The Meeting Place: Lookout Point is the author’s weekly destination where she seeks God’s presence for healing and peace while immersed in the solace and beauty of nature.

  29. Kendra Burrows says:

    We send our kids to college knowing the dangers in the dorm room but not the ones in the classroom. As a college instructor, a parent, and a Christian, I will help you count the true cost of higher education.

  30. Seraph Stein says:

    A disgruntled, but noble, clone must battle in a virtual reality arena for her life and others while rediscovering the meaning of love in a tattoo-addicted world that has forsaken the concept. The City of Ink.

  31. Patricia Beal says:

    A small-town ballerina who’s engaged and dreams of dancing at the Met, makes a mistake and loses everything when her famous ex-boyfriend shows up in town to dance with her and win her back.

  32. Tammi says:

    Enslaved from childhood in the first president’s household Ona realizes freedom will not be granted, and chooses to right that wrong by running away, compelling George Washington to right that wrong in several ways, with enormous stakes for both.

  33. Cathy Alexa Maxwell says:

    Gap Year: a Memoir – A woman battling depression after a crushing breakup and empty-nest syndrome travels as a volunteer through Spain and South America, seeking adventure and clarity.

  34. Zan Marie Steadham says:

    A retired and recently widowed teacher finds a new calling when she meets an abused foster twelve-year-old.

  35. Jan Cline says:

    An unjustly imprisoned family discovers God’s provision in wartime, but must now face the challenge of looking like the enemy to build a life outside the barbed wire.

  36. Amanda Griffith says:

    A naive sophomore craves popularity with two cheerleader bully brats, leaving herself vulnerable to alcohol and a sexual aggressor, and dragging her into a destructive and frightening downward spiral.

  37. Susan Finlay says:

    Embittered by his fiance’s betrayal, a young American leaves Paris and accepts a handyman job in a nearby village, unaware the elderly woman he works for has a decades-old secret.

    • ellenmulholland says:

      Well done! Makes me want to read.

      • Susan Finlay says:

        Thanks, Ellen. This is the first book in a new cozy mystery series set in France. My first mystery series, also set in France, is already published.

    • Amanda Griffith says:

      This is definitely a book I would read. What is that secret? Does he reconnect with betraying fiance?

      • Susan Finlay says:

        Thanks, Amanda. The secret is about a murder, which the protagonist begins to research, along with his new love interest and the elderly woman. I’m working on edits now and hope to get an agent and big publisher for this book. I have five self-published novels, three of them set in France, one in Germany, and one in the U.S.

  38. Kirk Grant says:

    Jesus Is Coming Soon by Kirk J Grant
    The prophetic truth of the Rapture of the Church, followed by a time of trouble with millions being martyred, and ending with the second coming of the Savior and true peace among mankind!

  39. Linda Strader says:

    A young woman finds danger, romance, and
    personal and physical challenge in her true-life pioneering adventure as one of
    the first women to fight forest fires for the US Government.

  40. Sandy Hogarth says:

    When Alice’s autistic son is accidentally killed by a woman on the way to hospital to give birth to her son, Alice seeks revenge.

    • Amanda Griffith says:

      Sounds like a great thriller.

      • Sandy Hogarth says:

        Thanks Amanda. Salutary. Shows how badly I’ve written the pitch. Although there is stalking, it’s not a thriller although could make one. Back to the drawing board. Since you’d made that comment it’s blindingly obvious thriller is what I’ve made it sound like.

  41. Sandy Hogarth says:

    Ruth must find a way of overcoming her sister’s betrayal and the loss of her daughter and stop running

  42. Britdave says:

    “A damaged
    hero observes the clash of civilisations by moving through time to rescue his
    friends from another universe.”

  43. R.E. Vaughn says:

    A less-than-honorable man finds a miserable day eventually becomes a nightmare of a night when the scorned woman who loved him retaliates with an unexpected vengeance.

  44. Dean K Miller says:

    A widowed father must choose life with his new love or death with his family, granted by the man who killed his wife and daughter.

    • Kendra Burrows says:

      I’m not sure what that means, “granted by the man …” but I am intrigued.

      • Dean K Miller says:

        The widowed father’s choice of further life or dying is given to him by the man who killed his wife/child. The bad guy is also dead but has the ability to offer this choice.

  45. Blessfulwritings says:

    When the boy she has raised from birth is stolen away by his father, a young woman has to decide how far God would want her to go to get him back.

  46. Lauren Orbison Thompson says:

    A woman hires the boy next door for cooking lessons, but when she learns she is pregnant with a special needs child, she realizes love is the secret ingredient to a fight for life. Current working title: A Rue Without You.

  47. Justin Hayward says:

    In 2008, when his childhood sweetheart is
    kidnapped and brainwashed, an ex-military man is drawn in to an epic battle
    between a mysterious cabal and unwitting scientists at CERN, mastering a power
    lost to most of humankind on his journey – the manipulation of luck.

  48. Corrine Bock Loyola says:

    A woman, losing family to building collapse, and a teenager, losing his mother to war, embark on an unexpected journey, finding life in the after.

  49. Suzanne Craft Bailey says:

    When an ancient evil separates royal twins, they struggle to survive a merciless war they cannot win without each other.

  50. Caryl Cain Brown says:

    When a young woman’s best friend
    signs her up for a reality TV show, secrets come to light that not only
    threaten their friendship, but reveal that her whole life has been one big
    lie.

  51. Jon Gibbs says:

    Abraham Lincoln Stole my Homework (UMG)
    It’s about a 6th-grade loner who gets chased through history by the time police and a cold-blooded killer, for crimes he hasn’t even committed…yet.

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