“What is your book about?”
Take a moment and consider your response to that question. If you are an author, or working on becoming one, you are going to be asked that question a lot.
“What is your book about?”
The good news is that every time you are asked that question, it gives you time to practice your response. You should get better every time.
The bad news is it can be excruciatingly awkward, painful, frustrating, challenging (pick a word that fits for you), until you get it figured out. You want the answer to just flow from your lips and capture what you most want to say about your book…
“What is your book about?”
Can you tell me in one sentence?
Can you tell me in two sentences?
Do you feel good as you’re telling me, or are you fumbling for the right words? Do you go on and on and on…hoping I’ll just “get it” and figure out what you’re trying to say, or are you able to succinctly tell me in a way that really captures it?
Are you trying to explain the elements of your work or the plot of your book? Or are you describing it in a way that will make me — or whoever has asked you the question — want to ask you more about it, or better yet, buy your book?
There is a difference between explaining and inspiring: Explaining can be boring, so be careful.
Here is your clue: Is the person leaning forward, eyes bright, hanging on every word you say, waiting until you’re finished to say, “Tell me more!”
That is the track to be on.
Did you watch their eyes glaze over as you were fumbling around, trying to find the right words to explain your book?
If you’ve been a reader for a while, then you are familiar with how often I mention our noisy, busy world. People are inundated with information and that means they may not be willing to work hard to process what you’re saying. You must deliver quickly and easily and help the person to understand you — hopefully in a pleasant way. This is true not only face-to-face, but on the phone, on social media, in an email, and every other way we communicate with one another.
And let me add this very significant point: Figuring out how to formulate the best and most compelling way to describe what your book is about is almost never quick and easy. In fact, usually the better, stronger and more compelling your description is, the longer it has been stewing and percolating to become the fascinating response that you are now delivering. And, it inspires others to buy the book.
I have found a few techniques that can help to develop compelling descriptions. Remember, it isn’t just explaining what your book is about. It’s saying something in such a way — with very few words — that stimulates an understanding in the listener’s mind and causes them to want more. For example:
“My book is written in a way that is a combination of Agatha Christie meets Stephanie Plum.” Or, “My story is a cross between When Harry Met Sally and The Notebook.” Or “My book on the Universe is a cross between Neil deGrasse Tyson and the author of The Dummies Guide to the Universe.” “Harry Potter meets Cruella is a good way to describe my main character.” I had a client once who I described the way she writes as a cross between Julia Cameron and Elizabeth Gilbert. People would get it. Think of two things about your book, the main character, the writing, etc., and put them together. It allows the listener’s mind to wrap around some idea and get a sense of what your book is about. Test this. Practice it.
When someone asks you what your book is about, you can respond with another question. “Let me ask you something. Have you ever had a dilemma in your life that left you completely without direction? You just didn’t know which way to go?” Obviously the content needs to relate to your particular book, but when you ask someone a question, they have to go inside themselves in order to answer it. You have them at that moment in time so make it count.
Some use a kind of formula to help them put a response together. For fiction it might be something like, “My book is about a [person] who overcomes [some difficulty or adversity] to attain [whatever is the most valuable to them].” Be sure and add good tonality in your voice because how you say something is just as important — if not more so — than what you say. If you’re writing non-fiction, you can use a similar format. What is the pain your book is here to alleviate? “My book helps those who [pain point] to overcome [the difficulty] and live a life that is [whatever the desired state is].”
Those are just a few of the strategies for helping to answer this question. There are many others. The main point is that you want to say something that invites the other person to step into whatever it is you’re describing. You don’t want to talk “at them,” you want to pull them into what you are saying and describing.
The Elevator Pitch
Next, and often a little bit longer is something many call the :30 second pitch or the elevator pitch. The idea is to be able to share about your book in the time that it takes an elevator to reach the floor you’re going to, about 20 – 30 seconds.
Let’s say an agent or a publishing house representative, or the CEO of a company, or a top content producer, or anyone else who can help you with your project gets into the elevator with you. Then, you’re on. IF you can sell your idea in the right way, your life might change. But you only have a few precious seconds. What are you going to say?
Practice this ahead of time so that you have an idea of how you would handle this situation, rather than just hoping for the best if and when that moment presents itself.
Remember, you don’t want to come across as some crazed lunatic. (Pressure situations can do that.) Rather, you want to be relaxed yet enthusiastic. Practice is key.
Some questions to ask yourself beforehand
- Know your objective. What is it that you want from this person? (A book contract, a media interview, etc.)
- Why would this person be interested in what you have to say? Know your target and what is important to them.
- Be sure and include a hook. A hook is the thing that grabs a person. Questions can do this beautifully.
- What is your call to action? You need to suggest the next step. In fact, come up with 10 different possibilities and practice asking them. You want to sound natural when you make your request.
Those last two items will make a huge difference not only in how others respond to you, but in how you feel about yourself. You don’t want to be nervous or anxious when talking about your book and your vision for it. You want to be calm yet enthusiastic. Answer the question, “What’s your book about?” And create your elevator pitch and then practice them in the real world. You’ll get better every time.
And you’re on…It takes a little practice, but you can do it.
To your success!
P.S. Today it begins.
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