You have thirty seconds to sell me that book

HTB Bookmark side B copy

“Huw the Bard” bookmark side B: the business card

I try to do at least one book signing event a month. For me, these events are one of the trickier parts of the business, because I am trying to sell something I love, but I am not a natural-born salesman. You have to know what you’re trying to sell, and that is not as easy as it sounds.

First off, just because you wrote the book doesn’t mean you can give a concise two sentence pitch about it to a prospective customer. And don’t think you can just read them the blurb–they can do that for themselves and will walk away if they think you are not trying to engage them.

People have short attention spans, especially at events. You have thirty seconds to sell that book–sixty if you are really lucky.

What we are talking about here is called an “elevator pitch.” It goes like this: imagine you get on the elevator carrying a briefcase with your books in it. A fellow passenger asks what you’re selling. An elevator pitch is a short summary used to quickly and simply define your product in the time it takes for the elevator to go from one floor to the next, which is where your captive audience will get off. 

Remember what I have said about the internet giving you a free education? Here is one great example of that, quoted directly from Salisbury University’s career services webpage:

Essential Elements of a Powerful Elevator Pitch:

  • HTB Bookmark side A copy

    “Huw the Bard” bookmark side A: the pitch

    Concise. Your pitch should take no longer than 30-60 seconds.

  • Clear. Use language that everyone understands. Don’t use fancy words thinking it will make you sound smarter. Your listener won’t understand you and you’ll have lost your opportunity to hook them.
  • Powerful. Use words that are powerful and strong. Deliver the “Sis-Boom-Bang” to grab their attention!
  • Visual. Use words that create a visual image in your listeners mind. This will make your message memorable.
  • Tell a Story. A short story, that is. A good story is essentially this: someone with a problem either finds a solution or faces tragedy. Either type of story can be used to illuminate what you do.
  • Targeted. A great elevator pitch is aimed for a specific audience. If you have target audiences that are vastly different, you might want to have a unique pitch for each.
  • Goal Oriented. A kick-ass elevator pitch is designed with a specific outcome in mind. What is your desired outcome? You may have different pitches depending on different objectives. For instance do you want to: make a sale, gain a prospect, enlist support for an idea, or earn a referral.
  • Has a Hook. This is the element that literally snags your listener’s interest and makes them want to know more.  This is the phrase or words that strike a chord in your listener.

(end of quoted text)

Identify the key elements of your book (or series of books). Let’s consider the Tower of Bones series of books, based in the World of Neveyah.

  1. The underlying themes of the World of Neveyah series are brotherhood, family, romantic love, honor, and duty.
  2. The obvious theme is the successful resolution of a quest.
  3. The core plot device around which the story evolves is an ongoing War of the Gods, and the world in which the tale is set in is their battleground, offering all sorts of opportunities for mayhem

How do I boil that down into a seemingly off-the-cuff elevator pitch? So far, I have not been that successful, but I am getting better with each event I go to. Practice does help to improve how confident you feel when pitching your book to a potential reader.

  • WON Books Postcard Side A 6-23-2015

    “World of Neveyah” series postcard side A: the pitch

    Open your pitch by getting the potential buyer’s attention with a “hook.” This is a statement or question that piques their interest to want to hear more.

  • Craft your spiel so it’s about 150-225 words in length, as if it were a blurb. In fact, it is an alternate blurb to the one that is on the back of the book.
  • Remember, your pitch should go no longer than 60 seconds. 30 seconds is optimal.
  • Know your “script” so well that you can sound causal about it, and vary the way in which you deliver it, so that it does not sound rote or mechanical.
  • Readers expect dedication and sincere passion for the craft of writing from the authors they meet, so put some feeling into the delivery.
  • At the end of your pitch, offer to give them something. Would they like a bookmark or a postcard? (Both of which just happen to be beautifully crafted business cards thinly disguised to look like swag.)
WON Books Postcard white Side B 6-23-2015

“World of Neveyah” postcard side B: the business card

Two sorts of handouts are absolutely crucial, especially if they are eye-catchy. Bookmarks and postcards can be used to mark a place in any paperbook, whether it is yours or someone else’s book. When readers are just pausing as they pass through at events, bookmarks and colorful postcards are always welcome because they can use them, and your name and your book cover(s) will be there where they will see it.

These are even more critical if they only buy ebooks. Readers who only buy ebooks love getting them both for the artwork and the information they contain. These cards will tell them where they can get those morsels of goodness, all primed and ready to send to the electronic reading device of their choice.

I have been assured that over time, my elevator pitch will evolve, becoming more clear and powerful. And it’s true–as time goes on I’m becoming more confident in what I have to sell, and I am selling more books.

As I have discovered, confidence in your work does convey itself to the prospective reader.  Each time you, as a person, make a positive impression on a potential reader you have the possibility of creating a lifelong fan who will tell their friends about your work.

WON Books Postcard with writing as of June 2015

Mock-up for a possible banner/poster for the World of Neveyah. Did not use–too busy, but liked some aspects of it. Will likely cut it down to just the two main sentences that tell it all.


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2 responses to “You have thirty seconds to sell me that book

  1. I practice my pitches in the car on the way to events, but it still sounds too rehearsed. One day…
    The sentence on the poster that’s sold me is the one that starts ‘In a universe…’
    Now I just HAVE to read them!


    • Well I get to practice again this next week, only at a conference. Natural…must sound natural….

      I’m glad you liked that line, I did to . I am going with that line, but making the finished product a whole lot less busy than this mock-up is.

      Liked by 1 person