Sharpening Your Marketing Pitch

One of the downsides to putting your marketing copy together before your book hits bookshelves is you don’t have the benefit of reader reactions to sharpen your message. I’ve typically used an external review process for all my manuscripts to get critical feedback for substance as well as determine what themes or characters are resonating with readers for marketing purposes. But, the process is imprecise at best; readers react to the final product, not the draft. And there’s nothing like a real live review to reveal “the truth.”

So, I found a recent exercise in crafting promotional postcards for my novels particularly useful. I didn’t have the space for a 100 word description like the back of the book. I also needed the card to keep from being cluttered. So, I had to get the proverbial thirty second elevator pitch down to…five seconds. At the most.

I was surprised at how much better my marketing pitch became because I had reader reactions to work with. For example, here’s what we put on the back cover of my most recent novel, A Warrior’s Soul (the thirty second elevator pitch): 

Luke is sure his martial arts training is worthless. That’s why he quit. But when Dirk and his thugs move into his school, Luke quickly realizes that he may be the only one who can save Lucy, Chuck, and his other friends from their relentless and violent gang. Only Luke can make the ultimate decision to help his friends and stand up to the gang. It’s a stark choice, and one he can’t make alone.

and here is what is on the post card (five second version):

A time comes-a moment in your life-when you face a test, and you have to ask yourself if you have the courage to act. Do you have a warrior’s soul?

Okay, maybe that’s really ten seconds, but the second version hits squarely on the feedback I’ve garnered from both formal and informal reviews on the book. (Check them out at and

Similarly, here’s the copy from the back cover of The Pirate of Panther Bay:

Isabella never thought her first command would be in jeopardy so soon. But pirates demand results, and she wasn’t delivering. If she could just get rid of her albatross, the dashing young Spaniard seized from her first prize. She should have killed him, like his captain. But, she couldn’t have known his very presence was about to send her life into a  maelstrom of mutiny, imprisonment, and revenge.

This hit all the marketing angles and marks we wanted. But, based on reader reaction to the themes and characters, this is what we wrote for the post card version:

Isabella was a pirate by fate, not choice. She thought that made the difference. It didn’t.

I like this one even better than the one for AWS because it’s shorter. Notably, in The Pirate of Panther Bay quote, the emphasis is on the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by Isabella as a pirate captain. That’s the part of the story that is enduring, even though the action and romance are critical to moving the story forward.

Author: SR Staley
SR Staley has one more than 11 literary awards for his fiction and nonfiction writing. He is on the full-time faculty of the College and Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University as well as a film critic and research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. His award-winning Pirate of Panther Bay series ( has won awards in historical fiction, mainstream & literary fiction, young adult fiction, and reached the finals in women's fiction. His most recent book is "The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution" due out in April 2020 (Routledge).