Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Using the elevator pitch to come up with a subtitle

In the July/August issue of Writer's Digest Magazine, Patricia Holt discusses creating a sales pitch for your book, as part of her "Your Publishing Survival Guide" article. In this section, she noted a pet peeve:

"I'd like to throttle whoever started calling this effort [creating a sales pitch] an "elevator pitch." Writing conferences and a lot of lousy books are very big on this. An elevator pitch is that 30-second description of your book you're supposed to have ready if you find yourself in an elevator with a potential agent, editor or booker of the "Today" show. The idea is, you pin them back by their lapels and yammer your pitch quickly and loudly before the elevator gets to their floor. They're supposed to stumble out in love with your book -- but instead they regard you as a mentally ill escapee. So none of that."

As much as she dislikes the 30-second "elevator pitch," it still comes in handy for some writers. Mainly, writers trying to get a grasp on what exactly their book should be about and/or what exactly it should offer readers.

I have a new title for the Revisions book. I call it the "Revisions book" even though the word "revisions" is not in the title! Haha. But I call it that to get it across what kind of book I am talking about here. Hey, at least I'm not calling it "the TTF book" anymore. (Just a heads-up: TTF=Trimming the Fat. That's the book's OLD title. It just sounded too much like a dieting book rather than a writing book. And for future reference, RGT is "Real Ghost Towns." But that title is getting a makeover, as well.) Anyway, this new title is one I am a little unsure of, but something tells me it's catchy enough to grab interest and maybe (hopefully!) invite a browsing bookstore customer to at least pick it up, check it out and see what it's about. The title kinda makes me chuckle and blush, even though it comes from a song title, but people might think something differently when they see it. But again, my instincts are saying, "KEEP IT! It works!"

So, the title thing was not the problem.

But the SUBTITLE was! AAH!!

Not every single nonfiction book out there has a subtitle (The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking, Gem Trails of California by James R. Mitchell), but the subtitle does come in handy. The subtitle sort of acts as the anal version of that snappy title that caught a browsing customer's eye in the first place. After all, A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer is a title that made me do a double take. It caught my attention. I see that title and think, Huh? What's THAT about? And then I read the subtitle to find out: One Child's Courage to Survive. That got me interested in reading this true story. (And I read the whole book the very day I bought it!)

Now even as I had a TITLE for the Revisions book, I didn't have a good subtitle. The subtitle can be the "anal version" of your main title, but it still has to stand out just as the title stands out. It needs to be interesting. It needs to invite readers further. It needs to get a reader thinking, "Wow, I could use that info!"

So I had to REALLY come up with something good. A subtitle that would "work" just as well as my title did.

I sat down with my notebook and started to think. My muse was busying herself with this obstacle, so it was a challenge I had to tackle NOW! You cannot keep the muse waiting. And if she must wait, don't make her wait for too long!

With that little rant on elevator pitches stuck in my mind, I decided to use it to my advantage. If I was in an elevator with an editor, what would I say to grab their interest in my book? (A publishing house already has expressed interest in seeing this book once complete, but for the purposes of coming up with a subtitle, I had to imagine I was trying to "pitch" it all over again.)

Hmmmm. Let me see...what EXACTLY will this book do for readers? What does it have to offer them? What is THE main thing they will take away from this book? What will this book give them that others don't?

I started writing ideas down:

How to Take Your First Draft to Polished Piece with Editing and Revision Tips from the Pros

Hm. That one kind of put me to sleep. And it's too sloppy. I was tripping over words by mid-sentence.

From First Draft to Polished Piece

Hm. Not enough information there. And I think I'm getting too attached to that whole "polished piece" pairing. (Gah! Somebody stop me!!)

How to Turn Your First Draft into a Polished Masterpiece with Editing and Revision Tips from the Pros

Note how I stroked the writer's ego in claiming they'll be able to turn their writing into a "masterpiece"? It helps to do that, but I need to be wary of making promises I can't be sure I'll be able to keep. I WANT to help writers create a "masterpiece" out of their work, but I need to be careful that my mouth doesn't write any checks my butt can't cash.

Also, it's too long.

How to Supercharge Your Revising Skills with Tips From the Pros

I wasn't sure if "revising skills" worked better than "revision skills." (Yay! I got the word "revision" in there somewhere! Woot woot!) And the whole "Tips" thing makes it look like some repeat or knock-off of my 365 Tips for Writers book. This book is NOT similar to that book!

How to Revise Your Writing Like a Pro with Advice from the Pros

Hmmmm.....maybe? I don't like the repetition of the word "pro."

How to Revise Your Writing Like a Pro

Maybe that will work.

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  • At 8:48 AM , Blogger colbymarshall said...

    I think about how nervous I've been when I talkd to an agent on the phone and I wonder if I'd pass out if I was actually in an elevator with one :-)

  • At 3:03 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Being THAT CLOSE to an agent or editor you want to impress has been known to make one claustrophobic. :)


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