The Ultimate Sound Bite

Can you boil the essence of your novel or non-fiction book idea into twenty-five words or less?

This is one of the keys to creating a marketing hook that makes your idea sellable in today’s crowded market.

You have less than a minute to make that hook work. But it can take hours to craft that pitch.

It is also called creating the “elevator pitch” or the “Hollywood pitch.” The goal is get the marketing department to exclaim, “We can sell that without any problem!” And ultimately to get a consumer to say, “I want that” or “I need that” or “I know someone who should have that.”

When teaching this I’ll have the writer go to the front of the class and present their elevator pitch. The writer can say the genre (fiction or non-fiction genre) and the title. Then present the pitch in 25 words or less.

Sometimes the entire class will ooh and ahh. In that moment, we all learn what an effective pitch sounds like.

Then I ask,”What is the book about?” If the class cannot answer, then the pitch has a problem.

Care to give yours a try?

25 words or less. No fudging

Genre:
Title:
25 word pitch:

Go!

84 Responses to The Ultimate Sound Bite

  1. Avatar
    Jim Rubart June 23, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    Below is my twenty-three word pitch I used when shopping ROOMS. (Which I still use for radio, TV, and print interviews, describing it for potential readers, etc.)

    A young Seattle software tycoon inherits a home on the Oregon coast that turns out to be a physical manifestation of his soul.

    Jim

    • Avatar
      Robin Mason July 16, 2018 at 2:48 pm #

      which i just read and am reviwing as we “speak:”

  2. Avatar
    Nancy Massand July 16, 2018 at 5:48 am #

    Writing a short pitch is way harder than cranking out a 100K word novel! I’m working on it…here’s my attempt!

    Naive orphan elopes with cousin’s street savvy best friend, who causes her cousin’s death. A family shattered by bitterness learns to forgive.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 2:38 pm #

      Nancy,

      This one needs a little work as I had to re-read it. Then it dawned on me there are three characters in the first sentence not two. The “cousin’s” threw me.

      Not sure how to convey it easily.

      By the way I also made the mistake of speed reading at first and saw “Native” instead of “Naive.” So I thought I would need to ask what you meant by “native.”

      • Avatar
        Nancy Massand July 16, 2018 at 9:47 pm #

        Thank you for running this today. I learned so much from from reading everyone’s pitches with your comments and really value your insights. So I tried reworking my pitch:

        The Circle Unbroken
        Inspirational women’s fiction

        Sheltered preacher’s daughter elopes with a smooth-talking ladies’ man. A rash decision results in a tragic consequence and a shattered family. God redeems, but how can she trust Him with this mess?

  3. Avatar
    mark Alan Leslie July 16, 2018 at 6:15 am #

    Chasing the Music
    Thriller
    Kat Cardova’s discovery of the lost music of the Psalms would transform worship. But jihadists will do anything to stop her and black-ops veteran Max.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 2:41 pm #

      A difficulty I see here is the “thrown in” of the black-ops veteran. His intro is a tag onto the rest of the pitch. See how it reads if it ended with “to stop her.”

  4. Avatar
    Scott Rutherford July 16, 2018 at 6:32 am #

    Inspirational fiction
    Dani’s Inferno

    Addicted and publicly disgraced after degrading herself in the excess of the Sunset Strip scene’s last days, a guitar virtuoso rediscovers her father’s unfailing love.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 2:44 pm #

      The title is a play on Dante’s Inferno? But the story pitch doesn’t quite match that connect as clearly. If that is what is intended.

      This pitch could be tightened to “Addicted and publicly disgraced in the excess of the Sunset Strip scene, a guitar virtuoso rediscovers he father’s unfailing love.”

      See the subtle difference? We don’t really need to add “degrading” or “last days” to make the pitch tight.

  5. Avatar
    Maco Stewart July 16, 2018 at 7:14 am #

    A former CIA agent finds greater danger in Los Alamos, New Mexico than she had ever encountered as a spy in New Delhi.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 2:48 pm #

      Title? Genre? The title can help a sound bite be even stronger.

      Maco? I wonder if there is a specific inciting incident that might be more illustrative. This is merely stating that New Mexico is more dangerous than New Delhi.

      Is “former CIA agent” at the top and “spy” at the end redundant?

      A former spy finds greater danger in New Mexico than she ever had during her assignment in New Dehli…

      • Avatar
        Maco Stewart July 17, 2018 at 6:36 am #

        Thanks, Steve. The inciting incident was the murder of her father, who worked for the agency a decade earlier. She turned from an academic path to pursue the family business. The underlying theme is her return to faith, which was shattered by her parents’ deaths. She, like her father, had thought she was “out of the daily game,” now working as a black projects manager for IARPA. Ooops!

      • Avatar
        Maco Stewart July 17, 2018 at 6:44 am #

        Deception is the title, and it is an inspirational thriller.

  6. Avatar
    Loyd Uglow July 16, 2018 at 7:18 am #

    Genre: Historical Inspirational Novel

    Title: The Tree

    Pitch: A Civil War veteran with PTSD joins an expedition to find the Garden of Eden, but his real goal is peace with God and himself.

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 16, 2018 at 2:30 pm #

      Loyd, this sounds great. Really good stories on characters with PTSD are hard to find, and they can help so much.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 2:52 pm #

      Lloyd,

      My pushback here is questioning whether PTSD could have been a diagnosis in the Civil War era. It was not called that until recently. Wouldn’t it have been “shell shock” or “fog of war” or some other generic term?

      How about this? “A troubled Civil War veteran joins a tumultuous expedition to find the Garden of Eden. In the dark continent he finds the peace he was always seeking.”

  7. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 16, 2018 at 7:57 am #

    ‘Lady Stonewall’:

    When the captain of the Confederate navy’s last and most powerful warship is lost, their only option is a disgruntled Yankee…and a woman.

    • Avatar
      Loyd Uglow July 16, 2018 at 10:35 am #

      Sounds like one I’d like to read, Andrew.

      • Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 16, 2018 at 10:48 am #

        Loyd, thanks! The protagonist is a ‘fictionalized’ Ellen Cressy, who navigated the clipper Flying Cloud in the early 1850s (it was the fastest ship in the world at the time, and her husband was captain). I presumed to alter some of the events in her later life to make her available to the Rebels at the commissioning of CSS Stonewall in Europe just before the end of the war.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 2:54 pm #

      Andrew,
      You did something very well here. You added a twist at the end.
      Civil War… Confederate…needs a Yankee’s help…but she’s a woman! Well done twist.

      Does your title give that twist away?

  8. Avatar
    Tiffany Price July 16, 2018 at 7:57 am #

    Christian Suspense
    “Take Flight”

    A small town girl takes flight to the big city to flee from her abusive husband. Can she trust God and escape for good?

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 2:56 pm #

      Tiffany,

      Well done. You’ve described the tension of small town to big city.
      You got the “inciting incident” of the abusive husband. Then you’ve given the spiritual take away.

      Steve

      • Avatar
        Tiffany Price July 17, 2018 at 8:09 am #

        Hi Steve,
        Thank you for the encouragement! I learned so much from you at the BRMCWC, and I find that I’m still gleaning from new concepts with each of your blog posts. Thanks for what you do!

  9. Avatar
    Bob July 16, 2018 at 8:16 am #

    I think it was Stephen King in: On Writing said that if you can summarize a story in 25 0r 30 seconds, it’s not a story. I wrestle with this realizing how critical a pitch is in getting noticed.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 2:58 pm #

      Bob,

      That is true. It is not a story and is not meant to be. But we all create our sound bites when telling someone about some movie we saw or book we read. We summarize.

      You aren’t retelling the entire story. The pitch helps create, in an instant, interest in the entire book.

  10. Avatar
    Diane T. Ashley July 16, 2018 at 9:01 am #

    Genre: Speculative Fiction

    Series Title: Born 2 Be More

    Pitch: Zane has lost hope. Rissa is running from her ability to dream the future. When they team up the world will change. Will you?

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:00 pm #

      Diane,

      I would drop the final question. The reader is not part of the pitch.

      May say why Zane has lost hope. That might add some spice to the pitch.

  11. Avatar
    Ann Coker July 16, 2018 at 9:05 am #

    Thanks for the challenge. I wrote pitches for two WIP:

    Genre: Spiritual Growth
    Title: Journey with Bunyan’s Pilgrim
    Pitch: 20 words
    Connect Scripture with your personal life while reading John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. The value of journaling adds thoughtful application.

    Genre: Pastoral Resources
    Title: Pastoral Prayers: the Why and the How
    Pitch: 25 words
    Why does a worship service require a pastoral prayer? Should it be prepared ahead or prayed ad lib? Prayer connects the pastor with the people.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:04 pm #

      Ann,

      Our first non-fiction pitch! Hooray!

      the first is good because you’ve added in the use of journaling to the sound bite. There is no question what this book is about.

      The second is more of a magazine article, not a book. But this pitch is a great query for a magazine pitch. But I would rethink the last sentence “Prayer connects the pastor with the people” That is making a declarative statement without supporting material.

      Maybe have it end with “corporate prayer is a vital part of a community’s worship, so what is the best way to prepare?”

      Something like that…

      • Avatar
        Ann Coker July 17, 2018 at 8:02 am #

        Thanks, Steve, for the encouragement and critique. Here’s my re-do:
        Genre: Pastoral Resources
        Title: Pastoral Prayers: the Why and the How
        Pitch: 25 words
        Why should a worship service require a pastoral prayer? Corporate prayer is a vital part of church worship, so what’s the best way to prepare?

  12. Avatar
    Angela Carlisle July 16, 2018 at 10:09 am #

    No One Can Hide Forever – Romantic Suspense. When strange happenings begin, a young woman uncovers a decade-long vendetta: someone is killing off her family one by one, and she’s his next target.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan July 16, 2018 at 3:02 pm #

      Angela

      This is intriguing! Romantic suspense is my favorite genre(s).

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:05 pm #

      Angela,
      Well done. Inciting incident. main character in danger.

      Good job.

  13. Avatar
    Nancy C Anderson July 16, 2018 at 10:17 am #

    Book title: Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow Affair Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage.

    I had an affair. My husband forgave me and we stayed married. This book will help couples who want to predict, prevent or pardon infidelity.

  14. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D July 16, 2018 at 10:22 am #

    Title: Victoria Susan

    Genre: Speculative Contemporary Romance Suspense

    Pitch: Sue Prescott learns that her adulterous husband wants her dead. It appears that he might get his way but for a bizarre twist of events.

    That’s 25 exactly.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:14 pm #

      Sheri,
      The title needs explaining since it sounds like a character’s name.

      Genre… ? – Mixing a couple genres together. Does it need to be both speculative and contemporary? Maybe “romantic suspense with a dose of the supernatural”??

      As for the 25 word limit? Inthe old newspaper days word count was often calculated for every five characters. So the word “a” doesn’t get counted as one word. I may not have that anecdote exact but you get the idea. 🙂

      The sounds bite is good. We’ve got the two main characters. The deadly motivation of one. And then the bizarre stuff added in.

  15. Avatar
    Lori Roeleveld July 16, 2018 at 12:59 pm #

    Non-fiction:

    Your next conversation could impact someone’s life forever. The Art of Hard Conversations will give you practical, biblical tools for the tough talks that matter.

    • Avatar
      Claire O'Sullivan July 16, 2018 at 3:05 pm #

      Lori

      We need books like these to tame our tongues. What escapes our lips can bring life or death to a person’s soul, their dreams, and their faith.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:19 pm #

      Excellent pitch. No question what the book is about AND gives the takeaway, the benefit, of reading the book.

      This books is coming out in 2019!
      https://www.amazon.com/Art-Hard-Conversations-Biblical-Matter/dp/0825445558

      • Avatar
        Lori Roeleveld July 16, 2018 at 3:26 pm #

        Credit for that title and pitch goes to you, Steve! I listened and learned in a class where you discussed titles that are too clever for their own good (ahem, Jesus and the Beanstalk). I studied bestselling non-fiction titles and kept it simple. Thank you!

  16. Avatar
    Claire O'Sullivan July 16, 2018 at 1:10 pm #

    Wow –

    I usually start my pitch with “What if?’ This may fly or flop. A friend may be the life or death of that all of that work (and yes this was a lame pitch for non-fiction).

    I aim for 15 words, carving away useless words, giving me space. As an aside, my favorite 8 word logline is: ‘In space, no one can hear you scream’ from the movie, Aliens. Genre/s obvious: Science fiction/horror. And I screech to a halt. I want to see that movie. I don’t even care much for those genres, however, what a grab. I don’t even recall the pitch.

    Here is one of mine I am still working on:

    Title: Glass Slipper
    Genre: Noir Christian comedy suspense romance. OK so that’s a lot. I break it down to Christian Noir.

    A morose pathologist seeks to solve a string of murders. An ex-boozing womanizer, his struggles worsen with a lovely tech. Things aren’t going his way.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:21 pm #

      Assuming you mean that the “lovely tech” is a woman in the office.

      Morose pathologist is great as it describes both the personality and the profession of the character in only two words!

      • Avatar
        claire o'sullivan July 16, 2018 at 3:33 pm #

        Steve,

        Thank you. Yes it does, however since I am reworking the noir, the pitch is not yet ready. Though writing the pitch can help with direction.

        It’s an over-the-top noir comedy on the romance, while still a forensic murder investigation, heavy on the forensics.

        (first lines: I was still mulling over how I’d been shot. Nearly sleeping the big one at the hand of a crazy blonde could make a man cranky, and I’m not likely to take another broderick, emotionally or otherwise.)

  17. Avatar
    Cameron Bane July 16, 2018 at 1:19 pm #

    SF

    Full Burn

    The intelligence of every living creature on Earth has begun expanding at an unstoppable rate … including the brainpower of the most evil among us.

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 16, 2018 at 2:28 pm #

      Love this, Cameron!

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan July 16, 2018 at 3:03 pm #

      Cameron

      and so true! Not so much Sci Fi anymore. Sounds great.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:22 pm #

      Cameron,

      Bam! No question what this novel is about. Well done.

  18. Avatar
    Claire O'Sullivan July 16, 2018 at 1:19 pm #

    oops. HE struggles. Sigh. No edit button!

    Next one: Alex and the Very Dead Doxy

    Genre: Christian crime fiction/romance

    Tag: A rural deputy is appointed chief of police. She’s the only one who knows she’s not qualified to investigate a murder. Except Jake.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:25 pm #

      The title needs to be explained as not everyone knows what a Doxy is.

      Contradiction in the pitch – She’s the only one who knows she’s not qualified. But there is someone else who knows too.

      This one needs some clarification in the pitch to avoid that.

      • Avatar
        Claire O'Sullivan July 16, 2018 at 3:38 pm #

        Good points. I may add a descriptor of the word (now that you mentioned that, it does rather sound like a wee dog, doesn’t it?)in the blurb or change the title altogether. This is my third and I often go through several when it comes to pitch/logline/blurb.

  19. Avatar
    Robin Mason July 16, 2018 at 2:59 pm #

    The Whispering Winds of Spring
    Historical Fiction
    Pitch: 25 words
    Amnesiac Simone Bishop returns to her home after sixteen years. How will she sort through misty memories and discern the truth of who she is?

    • Avatar
      Claire O'Sullivan July 16, 2018 at 3:15 pm #

      Tiffany, Diane, Sheri, Andrew, Robin –

      I like them all! Fiction buff, here. I skirt non-fiction due to years and years of textbooks. Christian non-fiction however is intriguing, and have read several, most of which have to do with … marriage. 🙂 My husband and I read several together before we married and based our vows and our relationship on Ephesians 5.

      • Avatar
        Tiffany Price July 17, 2018 at 8:13 am #

        Hi Claire,
        I have to confess that I rarely read non-fiction books; however, just as you have suggested, Christian non-fiction can be quite powerful. My husband and I find that reading books related to marital concepts exposed throughout scripture is undoubtedly uplifting! Thanks for sharing!

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:27 pm #

      Robin,

      We know this is a memory loss novel! Well pitched.

      • Avatar
        Robin Mason July 16, 2018 at 4:40 pm #

        thank you, Steve! i tried to work the tag in but it’s too many words! LOL it was fun exploring the mind riddled with memories that were so cloudy!
        ps – this was the fourth and final book in a series

  20. Avatar
    Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:29 pm #

    A lot of great pitches here. I hope the critiques are helpful to everyone else reading. To see how hard it is to make something pitch perfect. As Claire mentioned, the tag line for the movie Aliens is compelling. In fact it is a reminder to look at Hollywood and how they create those pitches.

    Steve

  21. Avatar
    Steve Laube July 16, 2018 at 3:34 pm #

    By the way,

    To all our blog readers? This exercise is a tiny picture of what the inbox of an agent looks like.

    Imagine this every day of the week, all year. Different ones each day.

    Steve

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan July 16, 2018 at 3:44 pm #

      Cannot imagine.

      I look at previously sent tags and am ‘surprised my own self’ (<– line from a Sci Fi captain). Not to mention dismayed.

      rewrite and repeat.

    • Avatar
      Angela Carlisle July 16, 2018 at 4:53 pm #

      I think my mind would become quite boggled before long with so many emails. I conveniently ignore half of mine as it is (or save them for a future date that may never come).

      Thank you for taking the time to critique each of us. Especially on top of a Monday inbox!

  22. Avatar
    Tisha Martin July 16, 2018 at 4:26 pm #

    Historical fiction
    To Protect
    Caught between their wealthy uncle’s espionage ring, two brothers must fight to protect each other, until lies and deceit drive them apart.

  23. Avatar
    Brennan S. McPherson July 16, 2018 at 6:10 pm #

    Wow, Steve! You consistently give SO much to the readers of this blog. Critiques of a bunch of elevator pitches in the comments section of a BLOG? This is why I love this blog even though I’m no longer seeking representation. You and your fellow agents are wonderful lights in the world. Blessings!

  24. Avatar
    Leola Ogle July 16, 2018 at 8:38 pm #

    Pitch for my current WIP The Sassy Sisterhood of Pastors’ Wives.

    Amidst laughter and tears, four diverse women bond as they support their husbands, help their congregations and community, and discover the depth of who they are.

  25. Avatar
    Molly Jo Realy at Frankly, My Dear . . . July 16, 2018 at 9:00 pm #

    Genre: Mystery
    Title: NOLA
    Pitch: Escaping to New Orleans, Josie’s new friends are accused of murder. Will she be able to uncover the truth between the lies, and save herself?

  26. Avatar
    Savannah Grace July 17, 2018 at 8:59 am #

    Genre: Fantasy / Retelling
    Title: Forgotten

    Asher Grey must find a way to save his would-be fiancé, Snow, from a murderous competitor in the annual Sibohán Game – before it’s too late.

    (this is my first shot at writing a pitch for any of my novels, so I don’t know much about what I’m doing ;D. Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself with that attempt!)

  27. Avatar
    Abbey July 17, 2018 at 9:14 am #

    Title: Lovingly Broken!

    An inspirational memoir with life-riveting examples to help readers find strength in God’s truth, growing from trials to triumph, and finding peace through pain.

  28. Avatar
    Kristine Hall July 17, 2018 at 9:33 am #

    genre: Online Marketing
    Title: Kingdom Marketing

    People are searching for answers that God wants you to provide. Learn online strategies that are immune to censorship so your audience can find you.

  29. Avatar
    Mary-Anne Crooks July 17, 2018 at 10:09 am #

    Harry, a baboon spider climbs into a suitcase and awakes in England. How will his new friends help the hapless spider find his way home.

    Not easy to do! I normally use three sentences to write my blurb. The above is obviously not for a novel. It is my first chapter book. After writing Y/A novels I found it challenging writing a story under 3500 words, but was blessed to find an amazing artist who just ‘gets me’ and my descriptions, and interprets the characters using water colours which I adore.

    What would we do without God creating amazing random encounters with the person, in my case the artist, after I had prayed and asked for Him to find me someone.

    • Avatar
      Mary-Anne Crooks July 17, 2018 at 10:15 am #

      Forgot to mention:

      Title: Harry Hirsute, The Baboon Spider
      Genre: Adventure

  30. Avatar
    Mary-Anne Crooks July 17, 2018 at 10:44 am #

    Title: Dear George
    Genre: Christian with a Twist of Sicklit Romance
    Word Count: 65 000

    Paige has cancer. She breaks her Godly vow and sleeps with her date. She now has cancer and is pregnant. She makes the ultimate sacrifice.

  31. Avatar
    Mary-Anne Crooks July 17, 2018 at 10:48 am #

    Title: The Hunter
    Genre: Adventure for Y/A
    Word Count: 75 000

    Blurb: 21 words

    Four children take on the African bush to try and save their father whose plane has been shot down by poachers.

  32. Avatar
    Mary-Anne Crooks July 17, 2018 at 10:48 am #

    Title: The Hunter
    Genre: Adventure for Y/A
    Word Count: 75 000

    Blurb: 21 words

    Four children take on the African bush to try and save their father whose plane has been shot down by poachers.

  33. Avatar
    Norma Ayuso July 17, 2018 at 3:48 pm #

    Genre: Christian futuristic fiction

    Title: Heirs of Worlds – United to Heaven

    25 word pitch:
    Renato died at birth and returns after the Last Judgment. Love and family leads to space travel to prepare new worlds for others like himself.

  34. Avatar
    Ashley Schaller July 18, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Title: The Crucible of Kings

    When Cressender’s king dies, leaving no heir, Darren Altonson, a dragon’s nursemaid, competes for the throne.

    • Avatar
      Jenai July 25, 2018 at 11:45 am #

      Just my opinion, but maybe less commas would help it flow better?

      Like, “When Cressender’s king dies without heir, a dragon’s nursemaid (must/chooses/decides/is forced/steps up to) compete for the throne”

      • Avatar
        Ashley Schaller July 25, 2018 at 1:13 pm #

        Thank you so much for your helpful feedback! I really appreciate it!

  35. Avatar
    Marcia Laycock July 19, 2018 at 12:35 pm #

    Genre: Fiction (fantasy)
    Working Title (or not?): Mewlinshaan

    24 word pitch:
    Abandoned and rejected, eleven-year-old Ondrea struggles to discover who she is. Pretending to be a boy will only keep her safe for a time.

  36. Avatar
    Jenai Rothnie July 25, 2018 at 11:39 am #

    Historical Supernatural Fiction
    “The Shape of Time”

    The key to stopping a rogue angel’s schemes might not be in Letti’s new time-travel powers, but in the truth of her own false heart.

    (25 words is so hard!)

    (On the title, my original working title was “My Lady of the Locks” – but I realized recently it doesn’t convey much about the book genre or it’s themes. So “The Shape of Time” is my new working title.)

    • Avatar
      Jenai Rothnie April 3, 2019 at 9:16 pm #

      Or possibly this:

      “A time-traveling regency heiress must stop a rogue angel’s schemes while confronting the truths of her own heart and soul.”

  37. Avatar
    Kyle August 6, 2018 at 12:00 pm #

    Genre: Christian Non-Fiction; Spiritual Warfare

    Title: Spiritual Defense: Fight Like Jesus

    Pitch: Satan attacks daily, yet many Christians remain vulnerable, being unaware or unprepared. Spiritual Defense engages the imagination as it equips believers to win as Jesus won.

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