Monday, September 24, 2018

How to Write A Great Logline/Elevator Pitch


Hey, gang! Over the past couple of months, we've looked at how to create a one sheet and how to write an author biography. Today I'd like examine how to write a great "Logline" or "Elevator Pitch" as it is sometimes known.

First, let's define terms. A Logline is a SHORT, 30-50ish word description of what your story is about. It's sometimes called an "Elevator Pitch" because you can deliver it in the time it takes you to ride an elevator from one floor to the next (if you are ever in an elevator with an agent or editor or movie producer. 😀 ) A logline can also be known as the "Hook." Don't you love how there are so many words to convey one thing? Good thing we're writers and we like words!



The goal of an elevator pitch is to grab the attention of your listener/reader with something that will make them say 'Oooh! I want to know more!' (It's also useful when you're being interviewed on the Today Show and the interviewer asks, "So, what's your book about?"...hey, dream big!)

But, you say, how can I encapsulate my entire 90,000 word novel in just 50 or so words? That's impossible!

Naw, you can do it. I believe in you!

But it can be a daunting task, especially if you've never done it before.

Let's break down the essentials of a good elevator pitch, and tackle creating yours one bite at a time.

There are three 'must haves' in a good pitch, the who, the what, and the why...not. These can come in any order, and with varying complexity, but all good pitches contain at least a form of these elements. Let's look at them individually, and then we'll put it all together.


The WHO. This is where you mention your protagonist. Don't just say "Suzy Smith." In fact, you don't have to use the main character's name at all, because it doesn't give enough information. Use a descriptor instead, something that makes your character unique, interesting, or memorable. This can be an unusual occupation, ability, disability...the possibilities are endless.

  • "The first female SWAT team commander...
  • "A blind-from-birth photographer...
  • "An impoverished prince...

All of these raise questions. What kind of woman would it take to command SWAT officers? How can a blind person be a successful photographer?  Why is a prince penniless?
        
Think about your protagonist. What about them is unique? What makes them different from every other police officer, shutterbug, or royal out there? If you can't think of anything, then your character might be falling short of being captivating and memorable. Give them something that makes them distinct.




The WHAT. What does this character want or need. What is their goal? And make it big. Bigger than they are. Not something that everyone wants or needs. And nothing boring! 

  • ...wants to be the first female Chief of Police of St. Paul, MN...
  • ...holds the dream of exhibiting his work at the MET...
  • ...agrees to become TV's "Mr. Available" to boost the economy and tourism of his tiny nation...

Lofty goals only need apply here. These goals imply why they want what they want. Career advancement, lifelong dreams, a financial need...And these goals need to set up the next part, the WHY...NOT If the goal has nothing to do with the conflict, it's  the wrong goal! 

The WHY...NOT. This is what is keeping them from reaching their goal. This is what tells you what's at stake and why you should care. This is the "oooh!" that will have folks wanting to know more about the scenario you've set up.

  • ...but to take the top job, she must hide her past...a past that would send her straight to jail.
  • ...but when he accidentally photographs a serial killer committing a murder, his dreams and his life could be gone in a flash.
  • ...but though there are many rich, gorgeous women candidates who would be more than willing to become his Princess Bride, he finds himself falling for the show's a-dork-able caterer.
There are lots of things at stake here: personal and professional freedom, life and death, true love, a nation's prosperity. What's at stake in your story? What's keeping your character from getting what they want, and what is at risk if they don't get it? Can you put it into a few words that pack a punch?



Start with this framework and see where it leads you:

TOTALLY INTERESTING AND UNIQUE CHARACTER wants LOFTY BUT NOT QUITE IMPOSSIBLE THING but BAD THING WILL HAPPEN IF THIS MAJOR CATASTROPHE IS NOT AVERTED OR OVERCOME. 

This is a basic, streamlined version of a logline, a sort of fill-in-the-blank that can get you started, but you don't have to follow precisely this order or format to write a great elevator pitch. Lots of the best elevator pitches, while they state or imply the major conflicts, have interesting characters, and great goals, don't employ just this formula. When you get yours into "Who, What, Why...Not" shape, then start massaging/tweaking/working it over and see what you can come up with that will make it sound like YOU. 

My current WIP is The Accidental Earl, book one in a new Regency series that debuts with Kregel Publishing in 2019. 

Here's my current Elevator Pitch for the story: 

A war hero suffering from partial amnesia is granted an earldom, an aristocratic bride, and a dilapidated manor to repair in anticipation of a royal visit, but his new bride is keeping secrets, and what he can't quite remember could put the Prince Regent in his grave.



Have you written an elevator pitch before? Share! I'd love to read them!


Look what landed Sept. 1st! Nine Christmas Stories set during the Victorian Era! You can get your copy at: 


ChristianBook: https://bit.ly/2MlIhz8

Barnes and Noble: https://bit.ly/2QjP3Zq

Or wherever Barbour Books are sold!
Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she is married to her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!


63 comments:

  1. PITCHING ALWAYS SCARES ME.

    So then I have to fake it and pretend I'm not a babbling idiot and I trip over my feet and I probably drool under a pretense of supreme self-confidence and oh my stars....

    You know the nice thing about this part of my life after 40+ books?

    No pitching!

    I pitch on paper and if someone doesn't buy it, I go indie with it and no backward looks... because I've been around the block enough times to know that rejections are one person's refusal... or a committee that looks at a multitude of marketing factors...

    But when those numbers don't crunch right for them, there are still thousands of readers out there who will love the story... so we have the best of both worlds.

    BUT... having said that, I pitched to editors and agents dozens of times and practice makes it better. The more I did it, the more confident I became and that made a big difference.

    Erica, great advice...

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    1. Ruthy, I agree. I end up babbling even if I've prepared multiple times, and even if I've PRACTICED my pitch. Fortunately the people I've pitched to have had a sense of humor.

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    3. For the love of fish-sticks (which I do NOT love, btw) Blogger signed me out and I was commenting as Unknown!

      Here's the original comment, now that I am me again according to Blogger:

      Ruthy, I am NOT good at pitching in person, so my lovely agent does it for me!

      I love your fearlessness! So encouraging, such a positive outlook that just pulls me right along with it.

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    4. Kathy, humor can get us through so much! First, CONGRATULATIONS on your Genesis Win!!! I am so happy for you! Your speech was just perfect!

      Second, I have to take my one sheet into pitch appointments with me, because I need something to hold onto and to remind me of what I wrote! :)

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    5. Okay, am I the only one who can't imagine Ruthy having trouble pitching??? Ruthy, you always seem so confident!!

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    6. I know, right? Ruthy and courage are synonymous!

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    7. Aren't we all sort of faking it all the time?

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  2. Erica -- excellent, excellent, excellent post on how to write a captivating logline! I often start out my book proposals with something similar. And I love the one for YOUR book! :)

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    1. Glynna! Thank you! Sometimes I can start with the logline, and sometimes I have to write the synopsis first to see what the story is about. But I always have it down before I write the story...else I wouldn't know where I was going!

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  3. I haven't written a pitch yet. I thought writing a blurb was difficult to get to 100 words of less. but I will try one when I get a chance,

    In March I gave a copy of what I was entering in the Genesis contest to one of my friends at church. She is wanting to read the book and wanted to know if I had finished it yet and then why not. Actually it is written a first draft. I am on the 4th draft as I polish it. Since my Genesis entry was a complete failure, I know it is not ready to be pitched or submitted anywhere but the fact that people want to read the rest of it tells me it is still worthy for me to work on.

    Today will be busy, Card making class in the morning. A funeral in the afternoon. We lost one of the men in our church to a heart attack that took him suddenly and unexpectedly. This will be the first since Dad's two months ago. I hope to also get some writing in also as well as reading. I am so behind but hopefully will get caught up. I have been notified two packages will be arriving today so will be adding even more to my baskets that are my currently and to be read pile

    Hope everyone has a great day.

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    1. Dear Wilani, no Genesis entry is a complete failure! Why?

      1) You finished writing a book!
      2) You sent it in! A big step!
      3) You received valuable feedback for future revisions of your work!

      I'll let you in on a poorly-kept secret: I never placed in the Genesis contest. Never. But the times I entered each took me a bit farther along on the path toward publication. :-)

      And I'll be praying for you this afternoon.

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    2. Actually one of the judges told me I should never have entered. It was that bad I was crushed And ready to quit. But I am still writing. Although I may never enter another contest. That's why I call it failure. I could not afford the entry fee. But wanted advice on how to improve.

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    3. Jan thanks for your sweet comment. I will keep striving to improve but I do wizw they would teach judges how to critique and comment in ways that encourage and not tear down.

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    4. Wilani, I have judged the Genesis for more than a decade, and I can tell you, that judge's comments are WRONG! The purpose of the contest is to get feedback and to LEARN. You can't learn from unkindness, other than to recognize it for what it is and flee from it.

      I am sorry this happened to you. I hope you notified your category coordinator, and if you haven't, it isn't too late. The contest coordinator, the category coordinators, the majority of the judges...they only want to give back and help the contestants become better writers. Those in charge would want to know if someone was being unkind in their comments!

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    5. I agree with Erica, Wilani. Say something to your category coordinator! Judges need to remain positive and encouraging, no matter what the contest is.

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    6. thank you. I didn't realize I should say anything. I will take care of that tomorrow.

      Tonight is relaxing time after a funeral for a dear man in our church. This was the first funeral since losing my dad so that made it difficult.

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    7. Wilani don't be so sure you're book isn't good because of a contest. I sold Petticoat Ranch about six months after it got a ONE in the Golden Heart contest. The Romance Writers of America's unpublished contest. A ONE ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN!!! I think you deserve a TWO for using black ink and white paper for heaven's sakes!!!

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  4. Good morning, Erica!

    Thank you for this tutorial in writing a log line! Like Ruthy, I don't pitch so much anymore, but I do need to write one of these for every proposal I send in. I'll be saving this for future reference - I hope to get another proposal in by the end of the year.

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    1. Jan, how's the deadline coming? You must be writing like your hair's on fire! :)

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    2. Word by word...

      I passed the 60K mark today, with one week to go! (85-90K is the goal)

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  5. Erica, it was great to meet you and all the other Seekers and Seeker Emerita this past weekend. I'll be mulling everything for months to come.
    I have a couple of elevator pitches I've been using, but after reading this I think they may be too short and too vague. One is for an historical romance set around a New York Hell's Kitchen settlement house just after World War I and reads, "Violet O'Connell found everything she needed among people who had lost everything."
    The other is for the contemporary Christmas romance I pitched over the weekend and reads, "Jane Archer isn't sure there's a Heaven and the Rev. Noah Hastings can't stand the thought of Heaven without her." I could probably stand to work on these and I think you just gave me the tools to do so.
    I liked my pitch for my Oregon Trail story, the one I'm contracted for with Pelican. "Michael had once betrayed Caroline's trust in the worst possible way. Can she trust him to get her to the Oregon Country, and can he trust himself to accept her forgiveness and God's?"
    Still coming down from the weekend. Husband left house in fairly decent shape, but so much else to catch up on, secular work etc. Slept for 10 hours.

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    1. Congratulations on your Genesis WIN!!! I'm so excited for you, Kathy!

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    2. Kathy, such a pleasure to meet you in person! You handled a stressful situation with such grace!

      Your pitches are pretty short, but that's the good news! You get to add a bit more in! :)

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    3. Kathy, I'm still celebrating for you!! Funny how even after that high, you have to get back to regular every day stuff. :)

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    4. Kathy, I'm so proud of you! Happy dancing, dear writer!!!!

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    5. Kathy I think those are really strong pitches. Maybe you can make them better. Of course we can always make things better, but these are really good.

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    6. It was so fun to meet you and cheer for you this weekend when you WON THE GENESIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      YAY KATHY!!!!!!!!

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  6. Upon Sober Reflection, I think my pitches aren't really "elevator" pitches, they're "Last helicopter out of Saigon" pitches. Work cut out for me...

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    1. LOL!!! I love that description!!!

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    2. Kathy, they read a bit more like taglines than loglines. Taglines are short, like "Don't go in the water" for JAWS, and "May the odds ever be in your favor" for The Hunger Games.

      Loglines don't have to be so cryptic and pithy. :)

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  7. Met someone this weekend that only knew me as "Kaybee." I think I have become your personal D-list celebrity!

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    1. Well, after your win Saturday night, Kathy, you are an A list celebrity. Congratulations again. I'm thrilled I was able to be there to see it and to hug your sweet neck. Now please tell me I'm not the only one suffering from conference brain today.

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    2. Yep, you've moved right up to the top of the celebrity list! :) I spoke with an editor on Saturday night after the gala, and she said your speech was her favorite! :)

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    3. Kathy, you should always include Kaybee on your name tags! ;)

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    4. It's funny how we get to know each other by online monikers... and then draw a blank at real names... Dustin Pedroia said that David Ortiz (Big Papi) asked him what his name was after years of playing together...because they'd all called him Pedey and Big Papi heard someone call him Dustin and said "WHAT??? Why are they calling you that?"

      And Pedroia said "Well, that's my name, David..." :)

      It was pretty funny when he told the story!

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  8. Erica, pitching terrifies me. I do babble. And trip and stumble. In other words, it's not pretty. I'm good at making short story long, but not so much the other way around. You've given some excellent tips, though. And should I ever have to pitch again, I will be revisiting them.

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    1. If you ever have to pitch, we can practice on one another! :)

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  9. You've made it sound so simple, Erica! But, we know log lines are sometimes hard to write. Great job, you! Perhaps you should start a log line writing business. We send you an overview of our story and your write a great, pithy line that makes the editors want to buy our book. Okay? Deal?

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    1. LOL I would so do that! And then wind up procrastinating writing my own stories because it would be so much fun! :)

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    2. I love that idea, Debby! You better look out, Erica. We may take advantage! :)

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  10. This is a great breakdown, Erica. Thanks for making it sound so simple. Now, to apply ...

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    1. I hope it gels quickly for you, Amy. I needed lots of practice... and still do! Just write something down and then massage, tweak, smack it around, and otherwise edit until you like how it sounds! :)

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  11. You've offered some great advice. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi, Connie! I'm so glad you found it helpful!

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  12. Erica, I love this post!! It's such a great reminder of how helpful it is to start a story with this in mind. It truly helps keep me focused.

    I love your longline for your upcoming Kregel book!!!

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    1. Missy! :) I do love having at least a 50 word plan when I embark on a new novel! :)

      I'm excited about the new Regency!

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  13. Erica, Thank you for sharing. As a reader, I enjoy learning about the writing process.

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    1. Hi, Caryl! Thanks for being such a super supportive reader! We LOVE you! :)

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  14. Excellent! No matter what stage a writer is in, your instructions add professionalism.

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    1. DiAnn! Thanks so much! Having just returned from the ACFW Conference, I'm reminded that no matter where you are on the journey, you can always improve, re-learn, and hone your skills! :)

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  15. This is great advice! A good log line sells books for sure :) Your elevator pitch sounds wonderful!

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    1. Annie! Thanks so much! So many times, I grab a book because of the logline. A great one has books flying off the shelves, and a lackluster one means they put the book back and move on...

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  16. Another wonderful post, Erica. This idea works for all sorts of pitches. I do think it's great to have one basic pitch, but I realized that I change mine up a little each time so I don't sound like I'm reading it from a cue card. I'm better as a writer, not as an actor :)

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    1. Glynis, YES! I tweak the logline depending upon the audience. And I prefer the written pitch over the face-to-face, because with the written one, I get to edit the klunky bits!

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  17. Thank you for this break down! I would like to share my previous pitch and then revised according to this formula.

    Old pitch: The “Love is” series is based on the Bible's definition of true agape love in 1 Corinthians 13, a contemporary Christian Romance following Morgan’s saga from her first-person point of view, and set in a fictional small town in North Carolina. Morgan deals with dating, engagement, marriage, babies, family drama, and friend troubles in this realistic look at how agape love can be lived out by average Christians.

    New pitch: The saga of one, insecure young Christian woman as she struggles through all relationships in her life to show true love (each installment based on one of the descriptions of agape love found in 1 Corinthians 13), from dating to wedding planning to newlywed and beyond.

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    1. Lila! I like the tweaks you've made! I'm curious as to what specific obstacles arise, and what is at stake if your heroine doesn't get what she desires.

      This sounds like a pitch for an entire series. Do you have a pitch for the first book that is more specific? I'd love to hear it!

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    2. Lila, I like this. I like the idea of one continuing character trying to live a certain way and moving from one challenge to the next from book to book. It could be a great series.

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  18. This is great, Erica.
    Sorry I wasn't here to check in earlier because I love talking pitches.
    One tweak I might make.

    "A blind-from-birth photographer...
    "An impoverished prince...

    Instead of a descriptor that is (sort of) physical, I would make it more emotional.
    "A blind-from-birth, fiercely independent photographer...
    "An impoverished, lonely prince...

    Those aren't that good. :)
    But do you see what I mean. WHAT they are not WHO they are, but also an emotion or challenge tacked right up front with their names

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    1. ooo! That's excellent...especially if you can tap into a universal emotion like loneliness or unworthiness or the like!

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