Ryan Jo Summers Elevator Explanation Writing Tip

  ‘The Elevator Explanation’

            As writer’s we eventually end up in that position in which someone says to us something to the effect of “You wrote a book. What’s it about?”  It might come up at a book signing, convention, festival, at work, while shopping, while having your car towed (true story, happened to me) or hundreds of other places. And my stumbling block has always been answering the question. I either offer a succinct one or two line summary or I prattle on endlessly. Finding that middle ground of an answer has been most difficult.

            To counter this quandary I have employed a few tricks of what business refers to as an elevator pitch. Designed to sell interest in a product or service in a few moments, elevator pitches usually follow a basic formula, which can be easily modified for a writer’s use. First, they have to start with a strong opening, much like writing. They have to be interesting, yet clear and concise. Think of this as a 10-20 second meeting in which to build initial interest.

            Next, it’s important to know your audience. An agent or editor at a conference will want different information about your book then the people in line at the grocery store or the folks at a book signing or the nurse drawing your blood. (Another true story)  So be flexible with your delivery. Keep it conversational, not sounding memorized like a robot. Yet all variations of your explanation should be consistent. The goal here is to connect with the person, hoping they find the snippet interesting enough to ask for more. So have more available if they want it. In business this is networking or building a relationship. I have something and they are curious.

            Next step is to ask a question if possible, should your audience still be interested at this point. Lastly, you want to hook the listener, making them want what you have.

            So to put this all together, you might end up with something like this: “I have written a book. It’s called _________ and it’s about ___________. People who like _________ will find it __________.  “(Insert an appropriate adjective here) “It’s along the lines of ________, but different in that __________”  If your audience is still interested, you can further the pitch by adding “Do you like ________ stories? So far the reviews ______________. Sales have been ____________” or “Critics are saying __________”.  A good ending would be something like:  “My website has all the details about all my written work.” (Hand a card at this point)

            Don’t mention every example listed, only a couple for each explanation, tailored to your audience. It’s smart to have a wallet full of cards handy with your website, email and blog at a minimum, to end the conversation with. Of course your buy links should be available as well.

            Practice your elevator explanation, trying different approaches for different situation.  I know now that one never knows when they will be called upon to affirm they have written a book, or books, and someone will want more information. Another thought might be to video your more polished explanations on your smartphone or device and offer to send it to an agent or editor as a follow up to your conversation. And if you are ever stuck in an elevator with someone, at least you have something to talk about. Just keep the cards or wag handy.

When Clouds Gather:


Darby Adams has a full, happy life with a successful Bed & Breakfast Inn called The Brass Lamplighter, her teen-age son, Matt, and a menagerie of stray pets she oversees. Then a guest is found dead in one of her rooms, murdered, stabbed to death. Suddenly she becomes Driftwood Shores' number 1 suspect. With her world spiraling out of control, she desperately needs a friend.


The surviving family wants answers so they hire Private Investigator Sam Golden to prove her guilt. Busy with his own rebellious, disobedient teen daughter, Madison, Sam takes the case. He begins in a dual role in the guise of a much needed friend for Darby yet still with plans to investigate and send her to prison.


Then strange things start happening at the B & B, scary things. Darby leans on Sam's friendship and he has to seriously question her guilt or innocence. Until feelings start to develop between them in the heat of the mysteries. Until the day arrives Sam has to tell her the truth. Until someone kidnaps their children.


Reeling from Sam's confession, Darby knows she has to trust him to get their kids back. But can she ever trust him with her heart? 


Logan Riley, Civil War hero turned outlaw, was hanged in 1869. He survived, watching time progress for over a century. Anthropologist Dr. McKenzie Lynne is hired to find him. Once she discovers him and learns the real plans the scientists have in mind to study him, she bolts, taking their living treasure with her. 

Pursued by obsessed physicists and the military, Kenzie and Logan race across the vast desert and mountains of Arizona and New Mexico, struggling to stay one step ahead of their hunters. But Logan has spent four years in the Civil War and five years running as an outlaw. He knows how to stay alive, survive on nothing, when to run and when to hole up. He may not understand much about this new world, but he knows how to outfox hunters and that Kenzie is one Thoroughbred of a woman and he vows to keep her safe. 

Kenzie is not so sure she buys into this time travel stuff but there is no denying the physicists and military are anxious to get Logan back. There is also no denying his disarming smile and relaxed, easy charm. He could charm the hide off a buffalo. If they get caught, it’s a lifetime of imprisonment and tests for him and probably worse for her. But staying free means forever on the run, hunted and homeless. Her career would be over and she would never see her family again. 

Running and hiding, hunted like criminals, they also find attraction and love blooming like desert flowers. Her Christian faith gnaws at him far better than the hangman’s noose had, convicting him of his past crimes. As their love grows, can Logan keep them continually safe? And can Kenzie’s Christian faith turn this bad boy’s heart around? 
As their pursuers close in, their love will face the harshest test of all–Christian morals against nineteenth century outlaw justice.