Crafting the Perfect Nonfiction Elevator Pitch

by Leila Campoli, Literary Agent, Stonesong LiteraryLeilaRC

Whether you’re shopping around a personal memoir or a prescriptive guide, having the perfect pitch for your book is the most essential tool you have in crafting a wow-worthy proposal. This seems obvious and easy, right? Not always. Pinning down pitch and positioning can prove very difficult for most authors—particularly if they are working on their first book.

As a nonfiction literary agent, the first thing I ask to hear from authors I’m considering for representation (shortly followed by a litany of questions about platform) is a quick elevator pitch on their book. Many authors I work with can go on at length about the story they want to tell, but when it comes time to catch the attention of an editor, you don’t always have the luxury of being long winded. An elevator pitch should entice an editor, outline the topic, and indicate what shelf the book belongs on.

One of my clients, Rhett Powers, reached out with an unsolicited pitch letter that really wowed me. Rhett really singled out what his book would do in a few simple phrases:

“There are roughly 27.9 million business owners and entrepreneurs in the United States who work in their business every day and want to find ways to grow personally and professionally but don’t have time to go to school or take a class.  THE ENTREPRENEUR’S BOOK OF ACTIONS is a 53 day business devotional that will show those entrepreneurs and business owners how to transform their businesses and their lives one day and one page at a time.”

His book, The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions, will be available January 2017.

When crafting your own pitch make sure to consider all of these questions before boiling down exactly what you want to say:

  • Who is the audience for this book?
  • What value will the book bring this audience?
  • Who are your competitors and how is this book unique?

The answers to the questions may not show up in your pitch word for word, but they’ll certainly help you hone in on what you want to say versus what you need to say.


Leila Campoli is a literary agent at Stonesong. She represents prescriptive and narrative nonfiction projects in business, science, technology, history, current events, and self-improvement. Her ideal author has a strong platform, groundbreaking ideas, and unique style. She’s particularly interested in books that offer a window into remarkable lives and little known operations.

Some of her previous titles include: David Hoffeld’s The Science of Selling, Elaine Pofeldt’s The Million Dollar One-Person Business, Dr. Stan Beecham’s Elite Minds, Gene Fax’s With Their Bare Hands, and Steven Cook’s Thwarted Dreams.