Start Writing a Book
If you are an author, then you also need to be a salesperson, and as a salesperson it is important to have a
few brief 'commercials' readily available to promote your product. You need to be ready to respond to
someone who says, "Tell me about your book" because that someone could be in a position to help you
promote it, write a review about it, choose it for their book club read, or tell their screenwriter brother-in-law
You never know when or where your next valuable connection will present itself, so be prepared.
First, some definitions:
Elevator Speech A 20- to 30-second verbal statement about your book, taking no longer than your
average elevator ride between two floors, that provokes interest in your work and solicits questions
about the story line.
Blurb Used for promotional purposes to entice readers, a brief description of the story line including
one or more of the following: hint of the plot; theme of the story line; mood of the story line; setting;
potential problems facing the main character; and insight into the main character. A blurb is what is
typically found on the back cover of a book and on promotional sites.
Synopsis A summary description of the major points of the story line.
the writer’s advice sections (about one per quarter).
- Learn of my future book releases (about one per year).
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copy of one of my books (your choice).
The Elevator Speech
When I started writing my first book, a friend of mine asked me what it was about. I clumsily went on and on about the story line until
which time I was losing even myself. Lesson number 1: It's never too early to have your elevator speech ready.
When creating your pitch, keep in mind when someone asks you what your book is about, what they're really asking is, "Why would
anyone be interested in your book?"
Here are some things to take into consideration for your elevator speech:
- Keep it short—one or two simple but powerful sentences.
- Use more nouns and verbs in your sentences than adjectives and adverbs.
- Introduce the protagonist (main character) and his/her initial situation.
- Add what the protagonist wants.
- Include an interesting roadblock, challenge or conflict the protagonist faces.
- End with a hook--what is unique about the book, why people should be interested in it, but don't give away the ending.
- Speak enthusiastically, with believability and a smile.
- Practice your speech in front of a friend, family member, or mirror. The words should roll off your tongue in a natural way. Then
memorize it until you can recite it in your sleep.
After you have delivered your elevator speech, stop talking. If you've done a compelling job with it, your audience will ask a question or
make a comment. If you haven't, they will look at you as if to say, "So what?" If you get the latter reaction, go back and revise it.
Here are three examples of elevator speeches.
Example 1: The title of my book is "Looking for Meinhard," and it's the story of a terminally-ill woman who searches for her long
lost brother, even though she's resentful for what he did to her five years earlier.
Example 2: "In My Shoes" is about a foreign-born young man coming to America searching for freedom, only to discover that
freedom in America for an immigrant from Iran comes at a very high price.
Example 3: "Safety Net" is the story of two sibling orphans who escape being rescued by the authorities during their year-long
adventure on the seamier side of Chicago, and what they find is that life on the streets may be safer than in someone's home,
where more than just their lives are at stake.
Like an elevator speech, a written blurb is key to catching someone's attention and interest in your book. Not only will the blurb
showcase your book, it will showcase your writing style as well. Whether you're pitching to an editor or promoting it for prospective
purchase, an effective blurb can be a very important selling tool.
You will use all or part of your blurbs everywhere, and I say blurbs (plural) because you'll need more than one. You'll use them in your
press release, on book promotion sites, in interviews, on your website and social media pages, on the back cover of your book, and
with agents and publishers. Your book blurbs should be ready to go as early as possible—it's never too early.
I suggest starting with four blurbs, each containing the same general information, but in varying lengths and level of detail.
- 400-500 words – It's rare to be asked for one this long, but you'll be glad you have it if you are.
- 150-200 words – You will find this length suitable for most promotion sites and interviews.
- 100-150 words – This one is about the right length for your back cover.
- 50 words or less – This will typically be one sentence, even shorter than your elevator speech.
It will make things easier if you start with the longest one, because once it's written, all you have to do to create the shorter ones is
delete and tighten. If you are asked to submit a blurb that is somewhere in between, it will be very easy to shorten or lengthen one of the
existing ones to suit that particular need.
You might think it's impossible to boil down your several-hundred-page book to a page, let alone one sentence. And while many
authors will agree it was more difficult to write the synopsis than it was to write the entire book, it's not impossible.
Here are some tips:
- Check out movie blurbs on http://www.movies.com or any other movie site. They do a good job at boiling down a two-hour movie
to a few well-written sentences.
- Get ideas from the back covers of books in your genre. Take note of what captures your attention.
- Include the following:
The writing style should be clean and tight. Do not embellish it with excessive adjectives and adverbs. Use as many nouns and verbs in
- The setting (time period and place)
- Thumbnail description of the major characters
- What the protagonist wants and why he/she wants it (the bare bones of your story)
- Conflicts, roadblocks, or challenges the protagonist encounters along the way
- What's at stake for the protagonist
- The change that occurs for the protagonist between the beginning and the end.
your sentences as you can. Talk about the action, not the description of things.
Avoid writing about the sequence of events. Instead, write about the charactersʾ emotions, fear, and excitement. Include twists and
turns, but without giving away the whole story.
Be sure to include the incident that gets things into action, again, without giving away the whole story or the ending. Talk about the
protagonist's conflicts--inner and exterior.
Try to make the blurb interesting, intriguing, and compelling.
Here are two articles further discussing the creation of effective book blurbs. http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/4-easy-steps-to-an-
irresistable-book-blurb/ and http://authorsociety.com/17-tips-how-write-blurb-sells
I personally haven't had much opportunity to use my book synopses--where just a summary of the major points of the story are stated--
but I have them on hand just in case. And if you take my advice and write your book blurbs first, the synopses can be easily extracted
Like blurbs, I suggest writing more than one synopsis. But unlike blurbs, I don't think you need four. I would write two, and if you need
one of a different length later, you can taper down one of the them. I would start with creating one with 400-500 words and another one
with 100-150 words.
A synopsis tells the story in a condensed form by including just the major points of the story. Synopses do not include hooks, themes,
conclusions, or the promise of anything. Just the facts.
Here is a good article on writing a tight synopsis http://www.bethanderson-hotclue.com/workshops/writing-the-tight-synopsis/. And here
is a good book on the subject, How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis by Bryan Cohen.