Yeah, You're Profound. But What's Your Elevator Pitch?
Ask someone what they look for on dating apps, and they’ll likely give you a long answer that focuses mainly on compatibility and depth, with a side of looks.
And they’ll probably tell you the same thing when they browse for books. “Well written, informative,” blah, blah, blah.
It’s not that people are shallow—it’s that they only care about depth after looks. It doesn’t matter how compatible you are with someone you aren’t attracted to—we call those people friends.
Selling books is more like Tinder.
When searching for books (or a romantic partner), we all look at superficial things (looks, book covers, etc). first. They aren’t the only things we look for, but they are the first things we look for.
Nobody will take your book seriously if the cover isn’t good. If the title isn’t good. If there’s no clear hook.
Our most recent release at Platypus Publishing is Ticketless, by Trevor Kraus.
If you ask Trevor what it’s really about, he’ll tell you that it’s a deep exploration on his struggle with isolation and depression as his father’s life spiraled out of control—and how sneaking into sporting events kept him sane.
Sounds nice, but you don’t care about a stranger’s father until you’ve been hooked by something superficial. Nobody wants to read a diary entry—but everyone wants to read George Clooney’s diary entry. Or Harry Potter’s.
There’s a reason that the book’s title is: Ticketless: How Sneaking Into the Super Bowl and Everywhere Else (Almost) Held My Life Together.
We start with a superficial hook (I snuck into the Super Bowl and everywhere else.)
Then we tease the deeper, emotional content—with some tension.
Whether your book is fiction, memoir or even informational nonfiction, you must catch a stranger’s attention with a hook.
People are browsing the Internet (or book stores) with millions of things competing for their eyes. You’re not even competing with just books. You’re competing with memes, porn, and birdpoop falling from the skies.
No matter how profound your book, you need to start by selling its superficial side.
That will get them piqued, with a promise.
Then comes the hard part. Your book needs to keep them interesting with rising and falling levels of tension (storytelling)—and deliver on that promise of depth.
Because nobody wants to read just about the superficiality. Then all you’re getting is casual sex (casual browsing), and nobody recommends a mediocre book (or brings a fling home to mom).
In all books, the depth is what facilitates word of mouth.
The depth is the effect your book has on the reader.
In fiction or memoir, that’s the theme (emotional core).
In informational nonfiction, that’s the return on investment (the intellectual or emotional transformation).
What problems, fears, obstacles, hopes and dreams did the reader have before reading?
How have they changed (in terms of transformation or results)?
What do they have that they didn’t have before? How do they feel?
Most people skimp on one of these two things—but like your looks and your soul, both are essential in the real world.