The lift doors open, you walk in and you press the button for the third floor. It’s only when you turn around that you notice the Managing Director of Headline is standing in the corner furtively trying to avoid eye contact with you. This is your chance. Your one and only chance. You’ve got thirty seconds before the doors open again and she disappears out of your life quicker than you appeared in hers. Your palms have gone sweaty and your mouth is drier than when you had that bought of tonsillitis back at Easter. With strength you didn’t even know you possessed, you unstick your tongue from the roof of your mouth, slightly part your lips and get ready to speak the mantra you’ve been practising your entire writing career…
“Excuse me Ms Morpeth, I know this isn’t really the time or the place, but I’ve got this fantastic idea for a book. It’s…”
…well exactly what it is escapes me for the moment but as I listened to Jane Wenham-Jones so avidly at the RNA Conference recently I realise it’s about time I came up with my own Elevator Pitch.
This is one of the fundamental hurdles I hadn’t considered when I began writing. Once the skeleton of a plot for a novel had formed in my head it seemed an uphill struggle to plot it out properly, write it, edit it and have something that I was reasonably satisfied with enough to let anyone read. If you’re a regular follower of my blog you’ll know that I’ve taken my first novel, ripped it to pieces, analysed the characters and their motivations properly before starting the plotting-to-writing-to-editing process all over again, ready to submit to the Romantic Novelist’s Associaton’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) again next month.
But when I attended the RNA Conference a couple of weeks ago it became apparent to me that it isn’t enough to produce a novel these days, you need – whether you have an agent, publisher, or choose to self-publish – to be prepared to promote yourself. One term I kept hearing over and over again – which I’m more au fait with escaping from the mouths of The Apprentice candidates – is the need to have a USP. For the more normal, less business minded amongst us, that is Unique Selling Point. And not only does your novel need one but it would be good – in relation to the novel at least – if you had one too. NB I don’t think the fact that you were trapeze artist in a former life is a USP unless the heroine in your book happens to be one too…
So where to begin? After all, we’re talking here about the girl who had to cut a three page synopsis in 11pt font down to a one page synopsis in 12pt. No mean feat, I’m telling you. And I’m afraid if you’re reading this blog expecting some answers you may wish to stop right here, because this is where I’m throwing it over to you! Or asking your opinion at the least…
I’m not sure how to go about taking a 100k word novel and summing it up in one sentence, but try I must. So I guess it would be appropriate to bullet point the issues of the main heroine in my novel:
- Stay-at-home mother struggling to keep her foot on the career ladder and still put her children and husband first.
- A recently widowed father living next door who also needs his daughter’s support.
- Interfering in-laws who feel she should give up on her career aspirations
- Husband who share’s heroines desire to fulfil her career aspirations but is torn between the need to protect his mother and support his wife.
Does this even sound like a book you’d want to read? There’s so many other sub-plots going on, weaving in and out of this main character arc, but I must remain focussed. Even here there’s too much to play with. So here’s some of the Elevator Pitches I’ve come up with:
1. Stay-at-home mum Millie’s trying to get her career back on track but she’s pushing husband Tom away. Can she get what she wants and fall in love all over again?
That’s probably too long…
2. A woman determined to break-away from the kitchen sink who rediscovers her love for her husband.
Edgy, but is it sufficient?
3. Millie wants it all; a happy family and a fulfilling career. But can she do it without pushing husband Tom away?
I’m floundering now. So perhaps it’s time to roll-out my USP? My novel is set in the property world. A dynasty of Estate Agents, I hope not on the same scale as the Ewing’s but I have discovered recently that the genre of my novel is ‘Relationship Novel’ so perhaps I’m edging in that direction. In fact – and I don’t want to sound as if I’m blowing my own trumpet here – one of the loveliest comments I received from my NWS critique last year was that the reader thought I had captured the zeitgeist as with so many property programmes on the television it’s fair to say that we are all nosy when it comes to other people’s homes. It’s also set in Yorkshire. So…
4. Location, Location, Location meets Emmerdale where a young mother fights against the odds to make a name for herself in the property world.
I like this, it sounds intriguing… but does it really tell anyone what the story is about?
5. Millie is Yorkshire’s answer to Kirstie Allsopp, but can she climb to the top of the property ladder without losing the love and support of the love-of-her-life, husband Tom?
Maybe I’m getting there? I’m really not sure, it’s a lot harder than I thought! So over to you please, if you have a little time and can tell me which of the five elevator pitches works for you I will be eternally grateful. And if you can come up with one of your own, even better… *smiles sweetly, eyes full of hope*
And my USP? Well if you asked my husband and my dad they would both say very different things, both of them not particularly complimentary, but in relation to my novel I would say it is my experience of working within the property world. And having three children. And trying to balance being a housewife whilst trying to maintain some sort of career. It’s not autobiographical honest…
But if I do get a good report from the NWS scheme and begin approaching agents this autumn, I might share more of the characters with you. Including one of my secondary heroes who bears an uncanny resemblance to Sean Bean… well who else? And as I don’t have that much experience of A-List celebrities, I need to work on my USP there don’t you think? 🙂