With my third book, The Fifth Petal, coming out tomorrow, I’ve finally put the finishing touches on my elevator pitch. I come from a marketing background, so you’d think it would have been the first thing I’d do, but, for each of my books, there could have been at least 5 different quick pitches: some seemingly contradicting others, some so vastly different that you wouldn’t have thought they were for the same book. The one I settled on was this: With modern Salem now home to thousands of neo-witches, could the hysteria happen again? What would a modern day witch-hunt look like in Salem?
I’m not a big fan of elevator pitches, but I understand that they’re a necessary compromise. If you have just a moment to speak, and someone asks what your new novel is about, you’d better have some polished verbiage ready. If you don’t, you’ll have lost a valuable opportunity to spread the word. Not that it does the story justice, there’s always so much more to tell, but a concise pitch can offer a potential reader an invitation to a broader, deeper conversation.
But what do you do when you need to tell them more? As I set out on my book tour, something I haven’t done since 2012, I find myself trying to see the bigger picture. I have one hour at each location to tell my story, do a reading, and conduct a Q&A with the attendees. That all sounds good, but to really talk about the book would take days. So what parts should I reveal, and what should I leave for the reader to discover? What will motivate audience members to read the book for themselves?
Let’s start with a dose of truth. This book took five years to write, and it’s not a simple story. It contains three mysteries, winding through three time periods that move all the way back to Salem’s witch-trials of 1692. The subject matter touched on is vast as well: colonial and European history, witchcraft, murder, music therapy, alcoholism, sound healing, tree lore, biblical references, Norse and Celtic mythology, banshees, non-linear time, psychology, and complex trauma. Even PBS would need a month of nightly specials to cover the same territory.
So how do you include those subjects in your talk without confusing a potential reader? When is less actually more? The elements I listed above weave in and out of the story, providing imagery and building texture, but they in no way describe the narrative. If I tried to speak about them all in my presentation, potential readers would probably run screaming from the building. So how do you find a balance between discussing the broad scope of the novel and getting lost in the weeds?
I’ve learned some of the answers through trial and error. Hopefully, I can make the process easier for you. At least I can let you know what works for me. I’ll share a few dos and don’ts and, wherever possible, I’ll give examples that tie-in to my new novel. [Read more…]