Nail That Elevator Pitch
Written by
Maria Murnane
September 2016
Written by
Maria Murnane
September 2016

If you're an aspiring author, get ready to hear the following question approximately 10 billion times:

"What's your book about?"

As you already know if you've already written a book, pretty much everyone and anyone in your life will ask you that question, from people you know well to people you just met in the waiting room at your dentist's office. So it's really important to be able to answer it quickly.

Short and sweet. 

Make it count. 

Pique their interest.

You get the point.

If you start describing your book as, "Well, it's kind of hard to explain, but..." there's a good chance that you've already lost the interest of whoever is on the other side of the conversation. If your pitch grabs someone';s attention, however, he or she might whip out a smartphone right there and then to order your book on Amazon. That's happened to me many times, so I'm not just saying that in a "you never know" kind of way. Trust me; I know! Every interaction you have is a potential sale.

While it's critical to have a concise, compelling description of your book when it's available for purchase, having one as you're writing it is also important. Why? Because it ensures that you have an interesting plot. Trust me, I know this too, because I recently spent way too many months struggling to write a novel for which I never had a clear vision. I should have realized that I was in trouble early on because anytime someone asked me what I was working on, I found myself uttering the dreaded "Um...well it's hard to explain, but..." 

You know what happened to that manuscript? Nothing! Once I (finally) realized I didn't have an interesting story, I pulled the plug on it. It was a painful lesson to learn, and I wish I'd read a blog post like this one to save me a lot of time and effort. So please, learn from my mistake!



Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services to aspiring and published authors. Have questions? You can find her at


This blog post originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. © 2016 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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  • Mary L. Farmer

    I like to think of my "elevator pitch" as a good way to test my story idea. If I have trouble boiling it down to a back cover-type, blurb-sized version or less, it's a good indication that the story is probably way too complicated and won't hold reader's interest (which has happened to me SEVERAL times). 

  • catherine meara

    I've recently read a few different blogs that beg the question "what is my book about?" And the elevator pitch.

    I thought about this, and came up with one sentence:

    My book is a memoir about my experience with domestic abuse.

    That's the short and sweet version. If I could I would add that I include facts and information regarding the signs of future domestic abuse, and the experience of being in it, in order to connect directly with my readers who find themselves in the same position as I was in. I also intend this book as a warning to all women, what to look for, and how to avoid domestic abuse. I encourage empathy, sympathy and lessons, in the hope that this problem, which is now coming to the forefront of society's consciousness.

    How's that? 

  • Nancy Babcock

    Pamela--You remind me of me because what you've written is a lot like what I initially came up with about my book, and yet it was too complicated for me to even remember when asked "what's your book about?" I've finally got it boiled down to what I think works--not sure if it does, but at least I can remember it, which is progress.

    My book is a memoir and my elevator pitch as of now is "How I lost my head while following my heart."  

    In looking at your paragraph, I think it can be condensed way down in part by not necessarily mentioning all (any of?) the specific places by name, and maybe not tell so much about all that happens to her when she gets thrown in prison, but just include how she finally gets to the freedom epiphany after being stripped of it as well as of any power.=--or something like that. I'm no expert, for sure, and I've been thinking about mine for a long time, so it didn't just instantly come to me, in case that offers you any encouragement.

  • Pamela Olson

    Gawd, I'm having all kinds of trouble "elevator pitching" my current novel (which is almost finished). Here's my best effort:

    A woman who spent her twenties following her heart crashes against the shoals of reality when she finds herself 30something, single, broke, and directionless. She finds an object that grants virtually limitless freedom -- which doesn't help her find direction! So she goes off on adventures again and explores what success really means in Switzerland, lust and ego in Beirut, and her spirit in the Sinai. Just as things are finally making sense, her sister is maimed in a car accident and she's thrown in federal prison on bogus terrorism charges based on her "suspicious" activities. Powerless in jail as her sister hovers between life and death, she is finally forced to confront what freedom really means and what it is really worth.

    See what I mean? Not easy to summarize in a sentence! Any advice?

  • Nancy Babcock

    Thanks, Maria--those are helpful, and I think short & sweet one-liners like that are the best for sure.

  • Maria Murnane

    @Nancy, the elevator pitch for my most recent book (Wait for the Rain) was "Three college friends reunite on a tropical island to celebrate turning forty." The one before that (Cassidy Lane) was "An unxpected romance sparked at a twentieth high school reunion."  For Katwalk it was "A young woman wakes up one day and decides to quit her job and start over." Years ago I went to a writers conference, and there was a lot of buzz about a book being pitched that was "Girl auctions off her virginity on eBay." I have no idea if that book got picked up by an agent, but everyone was talking about it! I hope those help. :)

  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    I'd also love to see examples!

  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    This is great! Thanks for posing this, Maria. It's so important to be able to answer “What's your book about?” masterfully.

    I recently read this post, which also shines light on the elevator pitch:

    I've been working on mine for my memoir, RAW: A Midlife Quest for Health & Happiness.

    It used to tell people: 

    My book is about raw food, raw emotions, the writing life, anxiety, and two midlife crises, personal and existential, which led me kicking and screaming into spiritual adulthood.

    But the post I linked to above says it's best to use your pitch to tell about your protagonist, the conflict, and stakes, which made me think I could revise it to something like:

    In an effort to cure chronic stomach problems, I adapted a 100% raw, vegan diet, which launched a decade-long search for healing of my body, but also of my anxious, fearful mind—and led me kicking and screaming into spiritual adulthood. 

    I'm open to feedback. :)

    The link above says if you can't memorize your pitch, it's too long.

  • Nancy Babcock

    Got examples?