One of the trickiest things about writing a novel, I’ve found, comes after you think all the hard work is finished. The ‘elevator pitch’ is a short summary or hook that has to convey the essence of your story, and make people want to read it. Many writers weep at the thought of writing a synopsis – and yes, synopses are far from my favourite things – but for me, having to come up with a few sentences that condense and sell the book (whether that’s to an agent, a publisher or a reader) is unfeasibly hard.
In conversation, I hear myself telling people that the novel is kind of about this, and sort of like that … which of course sounds very vague and unformed, and doesn’t exactly promise a rewarding read. But kind of and sort of is my natural territory as a writer. I’m interested in exploring ambiguities, and in opening up questions rather than making statements. In life, I can generally see both sides of an argument or a position, and similarly in fiction it’s the grey areas I’m drawn to – whereas an effective sales pitch is far more black and white. Still, given my marketing experience, I ought to be better than I am at this pitching business: much of the work of branding and copywriting is about drilling down to the essence of things.
Partly, the difficulty is with how close you are to your own work – so just as you need an editor to look at your novel with an outside eye, asking someone else to draft your elevator pitch could at least give you a good starting point.
And it might give you something much better than that. The very clever Jenny Hamrick has created a trailer for The Last Treasure Hunt, and it’s a stronger hook than any I’ve come up with. From now on, whenever someone asks me what the book is about, I think I’ll just pull out my phone and show them this…