How to develop an elevator pitch

Describe yourself in three words. I’m sure you’ve been faced with this dreaded, near-impossible task at some point. The longer you consider your options, the farther you seem to be from your goal. How can anyone distill their identity, with its many layers, into only three words?

As an author, you’re about to face a similarly head-scratching challenge: creating a 1-2 sentence elevator pitch for your book. Packaging the plot, emotional interest and core selling points of your work into such a small container may feel daunting, but with a systematic approach it can be simple and pain-free. And, as you navigate through the various stages of your book’s life, you’ll quickly find this pitch to be one of your most valuable assets!

What is an elevator pitch?

Also called a logline, an elevator pitch is a brief description of a book that serves as a plot summary and presents a sales hook. Traditionally, this logline will be no longer than two sentences, so concision is key. 

Your goal with your elevator pitch is to grab your audience’s attention–whether they are an agent, publisher, bookseller, librarian or general reader–and get them excited about your book. That said, your pitch can’t be full of empty promises. It has to accurately describe your plot, match the tone of the book, and reflect what makes your work compelling and unique. 

How do I write an elevator pitch?

A good logline will use original, descriptive words and will address the following questions in a clear and concise way:

  • What is the setting?
  • Who is the protagonist?
  • What does the protagonist want? What is their central motivation or goal?
  • What is at stake for the protagonist?
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist, and how do they relate to the protagonist?
  • What will the protagonist actually do in the story? What action will they take?

25-Word Example (based on André Aciman’s “Call Me By Your Name”):

  • Italy in the 1980s: 17-year-old Elio falls passionately in love with an American man. The six weeks they spend together, though fleeting, change him forever.
  • What is the setting? Italy in the 1980s
  • Who is the protagonist? 17-year-old Elio
  • What does the protagonist want? To find love
  • What is at stake for the protagonist? Heartbreak (implied)
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist? The fleeting six-week time limit that restricts their romance; a society that doesn’t understand love between two men (implied)
  • What will the protagonist actually do in the story? He pursues a life-changing romance with an American man

50-Word Example (based on Mason Deaver’s “I Wish You All the Best”):

  • When 18-year-old Ben comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re kicked out of the house and forced to switch schools. Dealing with heightened anxiety, they’re torn between their desire for anonymity and their growing attraction to charming student Nathan, whose friendship helps Ben believe a happier life is possible.
  • What is the setting? High school
  • Who is the protagonist? 18-year-old Ben
  • What does the protagonist want? A happier life
  • What is at stake for the protagonist? They risk losing the safety net of their anonymity 
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist? Their parents who kicked them out; their heightened anxiety
  • What will the protagonist actually do in the story? What action will they take? They attend a new school, and they fall into a promising new friendship with Nathan

75-Word Example (based on Lisa See’s “Shanghai Girls”):

  • In Shanghai in the late 1930s, 21-year old Pearl and her younger sister May have their glamorous lives upended after they learn they’ve been sold as brides to suitors from California. As bombs drop suddenly on their beloved city, traveling to the United States may be the fresh start they need; but living with these strange men in an unwelcoming country puts their bond as sisters and best friends to the ultimate test. 
  • What is the setting? Shanghai in the late 1930s
  • Who are the protagonists? 21-year old Pearl and her younger sister May
  • What do the protagonists want? A fresh start; safety from the bombs that fall on Shanghai
  • What is at stake for the protagonists? Their bond as sisters and best friends
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist? The war that’s destroying their city, the unknown suitors they marry, and the unwelcoming Americans they encounter
  • What will the protagonists do in the story? Marry suitors, and move from Shanghai to the United States to escape the threat of war

What should I avoid doing when writing an elevator pitch?

Avoid major spoilers

You’ll want to share enough information in your logline to pique the reader’s interest, but not so much that they know every major plot detail. You should leave the reader wanting to know more. 

Avoid buzzwords, cliché phrases, and vague language

Words that are overused in book marketing lose their impact and become vague over time. They can also detract from what makes your book unique. Instead, opt for original adjectives and precise language whenever possible.

Avoid focusing too much on themes

When asked “what is your book about?” it may be tempting to reply with the book’s core themes or philosophical talking points. “It’s about liminality; second chances; the risks we take for the ones we love; the power of storytelling.” You get the idea. While important to the story, without an explanation of plot to contextualize them, these themes can end up feeling lifeless.

Avoid excessive name-dropping

Unless the protagonist is famous and the sales hook relies on their name-recognition, cutting out character names can save you lots of precious space. 

Avoid “meanwhile” statements 

Focus on one major conflict whenever possible. Mentioning too many subplots in your elevator pitch can be confusing for the reader and may detract from your primary selling points.

How should I use my pitch when it’s ready to go? 

Your elevator pitch may be one of your single greatest assets as an author. It can:

  • Help you get connected with an agent
  • Help you or your agent find the right publisher
  • Help you or your sales team pitch to buyers
  • Help you grab the attention of booksellers and librarians
  • Be adapted into a book blurb to hook readers
  • Be adapted into social media posts to promote your book

Is it okay to have more than one elevator pitch?

Absolutely! It can be useful to have a few options to choose from. So if you can’t decide on just one logline, don’t stress. As an exercise in building your repertoire, consider creating different loglines based on length– one at 25 words, one at 50 words and one at 75. Then, mix and match, or select your favorite from the bunch.

When writing an elevator pitch, try not to think about all of the exciting details you’re leaving out. You’ll inevitably have to keep much of your novel’s plot hidden from view, but that’s a good thing! Those will be the surprises that shock and delight your reader down the road. 

Instead, think of what you can include in your pitch by addressing the list of questions above. Focus on what makes your book stand out from the crowd. Keep your pitch fresh, compelling and concise, and you’ll be all set!

Books Forward November 2022 Newsletter

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What is bookish swag, and how do I use it?

As an author, you have a lot to think about, and as you make your way through your publishing journey, you might be wondering, “What is swag and do I need it?”

Bookish swag is just any item you use to help promote your book – whether it’s through a giveaway or as part of a preorder opportunity. It can be very simple, or you can make a box filled with items that pertain to your story!

Is it something that’s totally necessary? Absolutely not! But it can help your book stand out, and possibly give readers another reason to preorder. And there are options that fit almost any budget.

Bookmarks are a classic, cost-effective option, and can include a quote, your book cover, a headshot, and any other information you think readers, bookstore owners, or librarians might need. And when you order them in bulk, they are fairly cost-effective! You can also search bulk order sites for items related to your book to get ideas.

Get creative! We asked influencers about some of their favorite swag they’ve received, and here are some examples they gave!:

  • Magnets
  • Totes
  • Sunglasses
  • Candles
  • Sunscreen and lotion
  • Notebook
  • Chapstick
  • Playing cards
  • Jewelry
  • Postcards from cities visited in the book
  • Beach towel
  • Coasters
  • Pens and pencils
  • Wine glasses and cups
  • Key chain
  • Candy and snacks
  • Stickers and temporary tattoos

There are tons of different directions you can go in. When we worked on a children’s book about a character made from salt from the swamps of Louisiana, we got together with a local spice company to create custom spice blends for swag boxes with a sticker of each character from the book on them.

When possible, it’s good to brand any swag you make with your website or the book title, so readers will remember you every time they use it! And when in doubt, have your friends and early readers give feedback on what they think.

How authors can make the most of working with their publicists

There are so many great duos: Sonny and Cher. Peanut butter and jelly. Calvin and Hobbes. An author and their publicist.

If you’ve hired a publicist to help market your book, you’ve already taken the first step in building a truly dynamic partnership. And with any partnership, it’s important that both sides are working together toward a common goal.

Here are a few things to remember as you start working with your publicist:

Communicate with your publicist

You know your book better than anyone else. If you have ideas on marketing strategies, let your publicist know. Any author can hire a publicist and let them take over, but you’ll find value in collaborating with your publicist and truly being a team.

Ask questions

Whether you’re a debut author or you’ve published numerous books, the publishing world is constantly changing, and that goes for literary marketing as well. Your publicist is there to help answer questions and guide you through your book marketing journey. They might not always have the answers, but a good publicist will work to help solve problems and be a listening ear for your concerns.

Be open to new ideas

Your publicist’s job first and foremost is to promote you and your book, and sometimes that can mean brainstorming fresh ideas and new ways to market your book to readers. Together, you and your publicist can get creative and figure out how to set your work apart from the pack. You never know how one opportunity can lead to another, and even “smaller” opportunities have value in the short and long term.

Be timely

This one shouldn’t be a stretch: Most authors are used to working on deadline. If your publicist gives you a deadline for something, let them know if you’ll be able to meet that deadline — and then meet that deadline.

Be responsive

We know everyone gets approximately 1,187 emails a day, and your publicist isn’t purposely trying to add to your inbox (we promise!). Thankfully, the book industry isn’t one where fires are continuously being put out every single day.

With that being said, responding in a timely manner to your publicist’s communication helps them do their job. And the reverse is the same: Your publicist should be accessible to you, and you shouldn’t be waiting weeks to hear back from them.

Early on in your partnership, work with your publicist to set an expectation for response times that both of you can agree to follow. Or a good rule of thumb is responding within 24-48 working hours (aka, don’t feel like you need to give up your weekends or holidays).

And remember, if you’re going to be unavailable and away from email for an extended period of time, let your publicist know — we want you to enjoy that family vacay you planned without worrying about emails from us!

Be honest

They say honesty is the best policy for a reason. Every relationship requires honest communication, and a working one is no different. If you’re worried about an upcoming event or struggling with a particular task you’ve been assigned, let your publicist know. And also expect honesty from them in return.

Remember, your publicist is on your team

Your publicist wants what’s best for you and your book, and both of you want to succeed. Publishing and promoting a book is stressful, and the team you assemble should help make that journey easy to navigate. Cultivate a good relationship with your publicist, and allow them to take the reins so you can do what you do best — write!

Books Forward September 2022 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

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Networking tips for authors

It’s true that the writing life is often a solitary one–long nights alone at your computer, anyone?–and perhaps for that very reason, it’s important to intentionally step out of your comfort zone and find your writing community.

Writing workshops (whether in person or online) are an especially great way to meet other authors. These are spaces where you can share your goals as a writer and improve your writing in a collaborative space.

Finding peers who understand your passion is also a great motivator! You can learn from each other and grow together personally as well as professionally.

Here are some key tips for getting started on your networking journey.

Become DM-Friendly

We all know that networking involves reaching out to others, but the other half of the battle is making yourself available for contact. Here are a few steps you can take to make your online pages more approachable:

  • Include your professional email address and/or phone number on your website and social media accounts.
  • Keep your social media handles consistent across all platforms so you’ll be easy to locate online.
  • Make sure your social media pages are public and that your notifications are turned on so you’ll know when someone drops you a note!
  • Design your website to be a conversation starter! Share unique information about yourself, or include a free sample of your writing to encourage feedback.
  • Start an email newsletter. This will allow you to gather email addresses from fellow writers (and readers!). Be sure to send new subscribers a “thank you for joining” email, and see what relationships blossom.

Attend Events

Become a frequent attendee! Turn out for bookstore events, writing workshops and book clubs in your local area or online. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to find someone with common interests! Exchange business cards or contact information and set a date/time to meet up again.

Lend a Helping Hand

Offer your assistance! Set up tables and chairs for a book launch event, or work the ticket booth. Boost a fellow writer’s work on social media. Review their work on Goodreads/Amazon. Offer to be a beta reader. Be that supportive person they can count on when they’re feeling insecure or overwhelmed.

And when it’s your turn to ask for help, be specific about your needs and note any deadlines you may have. Others will be more willing to return the favor if they know exactly what they’re getting into!

What Goes Around Comes Around

Just like friendships, networking is a two-way street. If someone provides you with a blurb for your book or invites you to an event, be sure to return the favor!

And as you gain more experience in the industry, become a mentor to someone else. Introduce them to your contacts and show them the ropes. You may feel like you’re doing most of the heavy lifting at first, but you never know where your mentee will go–you may end up learning from them too!

The Host with the Most

As your circle grows larger, it’ll be easier for you to take initiative and host your own networking events. Depending on where your network is based, you can host events online or in person. Here are a few ideas to try out:

  • Go live on Instagram or Facebook. You’ll see lots of familiar faces during your livestream, and you may make a few new friends too!
  • Host a writing workshop, book club, or other event in your community
  • Offer to host a friend’s book launch party on Zoom or in person

All in all, networking is a give and take. It’s about supporting other writers and learning from their successes (and mistakes!) just as much as it’s about getting assistance in promoting your work. The most important rule of thumb is to be genuine. Be true to yourself! If you put out positivity, you’ll be sure to get it back from your community.

How to use social media to promote your book

We get it — social media is daunting. But here’s the secret: There is no single right way to be on social media. *Sigh of relief*

Every author should be on at least one social media platform, so check out these tips below to find what works best for you and how to make the most of it!

Highlight the basics

No matter what platform you’re on, make sure you’ve got your basics covered. You want your username and profile picture to be the same, if possible, across all your social media accounts. That way, your followers can easily recognize that it’s you on whatever platform they’re on.

This also includes adding your author bio, website and other social media links wherever possible. And, of course, if you’ve got a book coming out, you’ll want to include buy links right at the top of whatever platform you’re on so everyone can see!

Pick the right platform for you

Try not to feel too overwhelmed with all the different platforms – choose the ones that work best for you and build up slowly. Work with what works best for you, where your audience is, what you enjoy most and where you feel most comfortable engaging. If you know you aren’t going to enjoy making videos, then don’t worry about starting a TikTok account.

As long as you’re active somewhere readers can find you, that’s already a step in the right direction. When you’re ready, you can always take on another platform. Even though they’re on the internet, people can tell when posts and interactions are genuine, so if you aren’t having a good time, your followers will be able to see that.

Creating content

Creating content doesn’t have to be a time-consuming ordeal. You can even post the same things across all your different platforms, though keep an eye out on the different formatting.

Also, don’t be afraid to reuse content. Some of your followers might have missed you posting about a podcast you were on, so don’t worry about posting about it again. Reusing content helps take the load off you, and it’s also a great way to recognize the people who took time to review the book, interview you, etc. But make sure you have some sort of plan when you post: Be creative with your content — don’t post the same thing over and over — mix it up and plan out posts in advance if you can.

And if you’re worried you’re posting too much about your book, here’s a secret: You aren’t. In fact, you probably aren’t posting enough about it. Not everyone is going to catch every single post of yours, so don’t worry about inundating your platform with stuff about your book. It can be weird talking about yourself, but you should be proud of that book you’ve written — and the people following you are following you because they want to know more about you and your career!

Scheduling Apps

We know most authors want to spend their time…well…writing! Social media can seem overwhelming when trying to keep an active presence on various platforms — honestly, it’s a full-time job. And if you’re looking to save time, consider utilizing scheduling apps to create content in bulk so you don’t have to post in real time. This saves time and allows you to focus on what you love most! Different apps work for different platforms, but a few of our favs are Buffer, HootSuite, and Later.

Using social media to network

Use the search tool on each platform to see what’s trending and where you can join in on the conversation by using the same hashtags. It’s also important to always tag locations, companies, authors, etc. whenever possible. You want people to see you’re talking about them. This gives them the opportunity to share your posts to their network, which will hopefully make it back to yours.

In addition to following people who follow you and other readers, consider following accounts in the industry, other authors, bloggers, book stores etc. You can even follow media outlets and reporters local to you, as well as any local businesses, organizations, associations, etc.

And don’t forget to repost other authors in your genre, as well as interacting with them via replies. Promoting yourself and your work is great! But it all goes back to networking. The more you engage, the more likely their followers will see you and consider following and learning more about you and your work.

Building an audience

Does social media translate directly to sales? Probably not. But acquiring an engaging audience and building your author brand are both equally important, and cultivating that dedicated fanbase can indirectly lead to sales.

As you build your following, people will want to see that you’re active, so try and set a goal for yourself to post frequently. This can start with 1-2 posts a week and then slowly increase until you feel comfortable posting more often.

In addition to posting, you’ll also want to make sure that you’re frequently engaging not just with people who follow you but also with people you follow. Carve out time when planning your posts to also reply to comments, read posts from other people, and share posts when possible.

Cover reveals — what are they and how do I set one up?

How To: Cover Reveals

We know how precious book covers are for authors and readers alike. For authors, it’s a visual representation of all your hard work and an important milestone in your publication journey. And for readers, it’s a window into the soul of your book. Especially in the age of BookTok and Bookstagram, first impressions matter!

One way to take advantage of a beautiful cover is through a cover reveal. These scheduled unveilings help build excitement for upcoming releases and may help increase pre-orders as well!

While cover reveals are most popular for middle grade, YA, romance, mystery and sci-fi/fantasy books, there are no rules for who can and cannot have one. If you’re proud of your book cover and want to show it off in a memorable way, go ahead!

Keep reading for our tips on how to put together a successful cover reveal.

The timeline

Cover reveals are traditionally held about 6 months in advance of publication day; however, this is just a loose guideline. In general, reveals can be held any time after the cover art is finalized but before it’s been posted online.

If you’re thinking about setting up a cover reveal, check in with your publisher first and ask what they have planned. These days, it’s fairly rare for a publisher to coordinate cover reveals, but it’s worth checking, just in case.

If they don’t have any plans, take matters into your own hands! Start out by choosing a date for the unveiling. Ideally, this would be about 2-4 weeks in the future, so you have plenty of time to tease it on social media beforehand.

DIY hosting

There are two main strategies for running cover reveals. The first is to self-host, and the second is to call on an influencer, blogger or your street team and have them host your reveal for you. (Wondering what a “street team” is? Check out our previous post on street teams here.)

If you choose to self-host, you should alert your publisher and publicity team of your plans, and make sure anyone else who has access to the cover image knows to keep the file a secret until cover reveal day!

Then, simply tease the upcoming cover reveal on your social media for a week or so to build hype. Tell your followers that something exciting is on the way, and remind readers to check your social media pages on the planned day.

A little help from your friends

If you’d rather have your cover reveal hosted by an influencer, blogger, or street team, then you’ll have to prepare for a bit more work. You’ll need to wrangle a willing participant (or several) with a schedule that will allow them to post within your preferred time frame.

(Wondering what a blogger/influencer cover reveal looks like? Check out these examples from Dru’s Book Musings and @readtotheend)

Some influencers may want to be the exclusive host for a cover reveal, whereas others may not mind being part of a larger push where several outlets share the cover at the same time. Be upfront with your contact about your plans, and make sure they are fully onboard.

Additionally, to make your cover reveal stand out from the crowd, you can offer to give away an excerpt of the book or send some swag to the influencers’ followers.

If you’re not keen on reaching out to influencers, you can also call on your street team to help you out with your cover reveal. Try creating a sign-up sheet for team members to let you know their availability to post, what accounts they can share a reveal on, and how many followers they have.

We often recommend self-hosting because it’s easier to get exactly what you want, and requires less coordination. That said, having influencers or your street team help you out can connect your cover with a much wider audience than you could reach on your own. If you’re willing to put in the extra effort, it might all be worth it in the end!

The big reveal

When unveiling the image on your social media accounts, be sure to include links to pre-order if available, and thank the artists who worked hard on your cover! If your pre-order links aren’t live yet, you can link back to your website and encourage traffic in that direction instead. You can also share fun “behind-the-scenes” stories about how the design came to be, or share pictures of initial sketches or inspiration.

After the cover reveal post goes live, you’ll need to update the cover in all the relevant places: Goodreads, your author website, and your Facebook / Twitter headers. You can also create a “pinned tweet” on Twitter so your reveal remains at the top of your feed for several weeks, which is a good way to keep it visible until your next piece of important book news!

Cover reveals may not be for every author, but if you’re fairly social-media savvy, a cover reveal can be a memorable way to celebrate all you’ve accomplished so far while building excitement for your upcoming book release. Ultimately, your network of readers, friends and followers want to share these exciting milestones with you, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

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Hyperlinks used:
https://booksforward.com/street-team-promoting-your-book-books-forward/
https://drusbookmusing.com/2022/04/17/cover-reveal-deadly-intent/
https://www.instagram.com/p/COaws1ELOGp/

Books Forward August 2022 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

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