Writing a compelling elevator pitch is like making small talk at a cocktail party: is your audience captivated by your story or is it eyeing the fire escape, hoping for a quick death?
When I was working on my dissertation, a professor asked me for the “cocktail description.” Lost in my thinking about feminism, women writers, and gender politics in the early 20th century (I know! I can’t wait for the movie version either), I thought he was asking me about, you know, drinks.
What he meant was “how will you describe your dissertation when people ask you about it—politely and without caring that much—at a cocktail party?”
I tried: “Um…it’s Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, and this writer who was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama who no one has heard of anymore and how Wharton and Cather tried to ignore women’s issues but the other writer didn’t, and they were all very successful except one vanished from literary history because….”
The professor fell asleep.
Okay, not asleep exactly but his eyes were wicked glazed over.
My dissertation needed what 31dbbb calls the elevator pitch. I hate the elevator pitch because I’m bad at brevity, but the pitch is what you might call a necessary evil.
Let’s be blunt here, shall we? When people ask “so what do you write about,” usually the person asking doesn’t care that much about the answer. Be honest with yourself: you know that when you’ve asked this question, you’re not fully listening for the answer; you’re half-listening and half-wondering if the silence emerging from your eight-year old’s bedroom means he’s immersed in a good book or busy setting fire to the laundry.
So how to compete against polite disinterest? Try this: We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it
You won’t win against disinterest with vagueness or self-deprecation. Be bold. Be confident. Be…all those things that if we felt them, we wouldn’t be writers but would instead be multi-national CEOs or politicians—not someone who stares into space looking for the right words to describe how her son set fire to the laundry.
No one, in short, wants to read something that is “just random thoughts about my totally adorbs kids” or “snippets from the day, just whatever strikes me, you know, miscellaneous stuff…” Take a cue from the rallying cry of Gay Pride marches: “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” That’s a pitch: be present, be proud, demand attention.
Don’t just say your blog is funny or thought-provoking or radical. Let your pitch show these qualities (really? you thought a post about writing could avoid the ol’ show-don’t-tell line?). Work the pitch until it creates the correct response from your audience, so that they think “wow, that sounds rad/funny/fascinating.”
Or try this one: I’m the urban lurker who reports on the daily dramas unfolding on the crosstown 14D bus
“Snippets from the day…” doesn’t work. But “I’m the urban lurker who reports on the daily dramas unfolding on the crosstown 14D bus” will stick in their minds: it’s concise, fascinating, memorable.
Eventually, my dissertation cocktail pitch became a book title. My blog pitch, on the other hand, needs work. But right now, there’s a fire in the laundry room that demands attention.
Now try it for real: write an elevator pitch for your blog
- Your short pitch should be no more than 150 words
- Be clever, but be clear. Stand out, but stay on point
- Don’t over promise. Be confident, but stay away from hyperbole. World’s best coffee usually turns out to be fairly crappy
- Writers: show, don’t tell. Some pitches and taglines promise “funniest blog ever” then write consistently about the most mundane, unfunny topics. Don’t be that blogger
- Prepare a longer pitch just in case. You never know when someone will want to know more. Your longer pitch should be tailored to a very specific audience: who are you trying to reach? No, don’t say “everybody” or “anyone who will listen”
Write your short pitch then link it below so we can come by and check it out. Open to critique? Let us know that at the end of your post. Need some help? Let us know that, too, but keep in mind this is a quick-moving workshop and, by tomorrow, we’ll be on to another topic. Your fellow 31dbbb-ers may have to bookmark your plea and come back to it later.
Draft, draft, draft again, draft some more. Leave any questions for yeah write editors and today’s guest editor in comments…
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