Two Minutes on an Elevator

…with a Big Five NYC Publishing Exec

By Jeff Salter

What if I had two minutes on an elevator [with an executive from one of the Big Five NYC publishing houses] to explain why they should produce my books?

Well, first of all, I’d hope that individual was in a good mood and didn’t mind being bothered. Even better (and I’ve heard this actually happens at writing conferences): that exec actually ASKS me what type of material I write.

Yeah, I know — total daydream. But what IF?

[By the way, two minutes is a LOONNNGGGG elevator ride when you’re nervous.]

elevator door 1

First Minute

But if I had experienced this opportunity, before my Called to Arms Again novel was contracted elsewhere [Clean Reads, 2013], I would have spent the first minute on my tribute to the Greatest Generation. Something like this:

“As you probably realize, Mizz Johnson, the members of the Greatest Generation are passing away at a rate of about 15,000 per week. My novel honors them and their legacy… and needs to be in their hands while they’re still alive and alert enough to appreciate that recognition. Most books and articles about that generation focus on their struggles during the Great Depression, their homefront sacrifices during the war, or their service in (or for) the military. While my novel naturally also uses that as context, Called to Arms Again focuses mainly on what those individuals are like in 2007, some 62 years after WW2 ended. My emphasis is on how these folks – though stooped and wrinkled and often frail – still possess those same qualities of courage, wisdom, and resourcefulness which earned them the title of greatest generation. My tagline captures it: Grit doesn’t fade away — it just becomes crusty. So, Mizz Johnson, if your company will publish and promote my novel, we can reach hundreds of thousands of these individuals before it’s too late. And for those who’ve already passed on, we can give their loved ones a heartfelt reminder of what those unique folks were like. My story shows their humanity, fortitude, and resilience; I tell it with affection, humor, gratefulness, and a great deal pride in what they did for future generations. And one more thing, Mizz Johnson — this will make a terrific movie, so think of all the money your publishing firm will make on selling those rights.”

Second Minute

Assuming I still had some time left – and the elevator was still moving…and I still had her attention – I’d take that opportunity to explain to this Big Five NYC publishing exec why her company needs to work with me. Something like this:

“Mizz Johnson, I don’t claim to write classic masterpieces, but I create interesting stories with believable characters, crisp dialog, and absorbing plots. Though most of my stories have humor, usually some action, and at least one developing relationship, I don’t believe my writing is limited to typical genre labeling. I think of these stories as genre blends or hybrids. I’ve been working with three royalty publishers, Mizz Johnson. In four years, eight novels and four novellas have been released… and more titles are coming out this year. Those all have contracts, of course. But I also have four completed titles which do NOT yet have a publishing home, not to mention several other works in progress — and I’d love to discuss those with you. Everything you want in screwball comedy and romantic comedy, Mizz Johnson, and they’re rated G or PG so even your Aunt Tilly can enjoy them.”

But I’m basically shy

All that said, as Patricia mentioned on Monday when she answered this question, I’m not all that great with “live” face-to-face promo efforts. I guess I was raised to be modest, or at least pretend to be… since bragging was usually discouraged as being self-centered and gauche. And when I’ve ever been in the company of another who saw fit to praise me for something, my typical response is to blush and do the “aw, shucks” thing.


If you’re a writer – and if this basic situation ever arose – would you be able to present a reasonably polished “elevator speech”?

[JLS # 267]


About jeff7salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Twelve completed novels and five completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015, "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015, "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015, "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014, "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014, "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014, "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014, "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013, "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013, "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013, "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012, "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012. Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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10 Responses to Two Minutes on an Elevator

  1. Sign here! Jeff, I think anyone who hears that pitch would be interested. It certainly made me want to read Called To Arms Again for a second time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I’m sure Mizz Johnson would be interested! Especially if she had a grandpa who’d served. But yeah, I was taught that bragging wasn’t nice.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jeff7salter says:

      and therein lies my most fundamental problem with the world of non-NYC publishing — that we authors have to devote so much time and energy to promotion. Unlike the cocky-self-absorbed celebrities and athletes and supermodels — to me, self-aggrandizing is the most UN-natural thing in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jbrayweber says:

    Nice pitch, my man.
    I’m witty, but usually in banter. Elevator pitches on the fly aren’t really my thing. If they could go for “It’s like Pirate of the Caribbean, action, adventure, a bit of humor, only there’s also sex”, then that would be awesome. Instead, I rely heavily on my stunning personality. HAHA!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You did a good job, especially considering that a lot of ‘pitching’ is done on-the-fly and to the specific recipient.That is hard to translate that into print.More on that tomorrow for my 2-cents on the matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Yeah — it would be my luck that I’ve have a pitch prepared for a screwball comedy, but the agent / editor / publisher I was talking to only wanted something staid and somber.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Joselyn says:

    Not a chance. It would be something like “I have books. They’re romancy but I can’t remember the plots or characters right now.”

    Then I would kick myself forever.

    Liked by 2 people

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