The 20 Second Sales Pitch

Portrait Of Female Bookshop Owner Outside StoreI was recently introduced as an author to someone whose first question was, “What is your book about?” My book has been published for an entire year, so my answer should have been well rehearsed, but I froze. Whatever I did say was a mumbled mess unmemorable to even me.

Before your book is finished being published you will be asked this question many times. The answer to this question is sometimes referred to as the “20 second sales pitch” or the “elevator pitch”. Your answer will either engage a potential reader or turn them away. Your pitch should be both interesting and concise. When you begin working on your pitch, pretend you have stepped into an elevator and you only have 3 floors to sell your book to the other riders in the elevator.

My 20 second pitch for The Common Hours is (when I don’t freeze), “A woman is caught in an affair with the local minister and leaves her family in shame. The story tells the events in her life and the life of her daughter in the year following that event.”

Once you develop your pitch, know it. It might come easier when you are asked this question at a book event such as a signing. I am easily thrown off when I am in a different context. What if you freeze like I did? It might help to always have some tools nearby. Here are some tools I like to keep with me:

A copy of the book:

I keep a copy of the book at my office, in my car, my computer bag, and my purse. If you freeze, you can always grab a copy of the book and hand it to them to look at. The person who asked the question has something to look at as you re-engage your brain. They can read the summary on the back of the book too.


I designed bookmarks to hand out to people. I find bookmarks more enticing than a business card. A bookmark has the artwork of your cover, a summary of the story, possibly reviews, and contact and purchase information. Bookmarks also come in handy at book events and signings. A business card gets tossed into a pile of other business cards, a bookmark will probably find its way into the readers library where they may come across it often.

Bookmark design is offered through as part of the marketing design package. Your custom template can be sent to your preferred business for printing. I chose to use my local UPS office where I ordered 1,000 high quality glossy bookmarks for $50. See for more information on purchasing marketing materials for your book.

If you are asked about your book and you freeze. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take it as a reminder to refresh or sharpen your 20 second pitch. You will be asked the same question again, and you will ace it the next time.

Tina Stephens

Author of The Common Hours &

owner of Armchair Books Publishing







Tips on Cover Design & Illustrations for your book

Tips on Cover Design & Illustrations for your book

The Cover

You will only purchase a book that has first attracted you by its cover. A well-designed cover can sell a book; a poorly designed cover will lose a sale.

I have been a professional graphic designer for 7 years but when it came to designing the cover of my first novel I was unable to create an excellent product. I was too close to the project.

Most self-publishing companies offer cover design templates or custom cover design in their publishing packages but I never saw a cover sample I liked. I researched other options online.

Ultimately I settled on a website called 99 designs. Here is the link to the cover design section of 99 designs.

Once I signed in, I set my price then created a contest for the cover design. I gave information about the book, any information I required on the cover, and some pictures I had from the book. Multiple designers began competing to win my approval of the cover design. During the decision making process I was able to post an opinion poll on Facebook for readers to help choose the cover; this created anticipation for the soon to be released novel. I chose one designer who I continued working with on the side until the design was complete.

The winning designer, Tara Mayberry, will be featured on as an independent contractor. She is easy to work with and timely in her responses. Here is a link to her website:



When I wrote The Common Hours, one of the characters in the book was a young artist who dealt with the loss of her mother through pictures she drew of her mother. I cannot draw but I liked the idea of the art being included in my novel. One day, while browsing through Instagram I came across some drawings a casual acquaintance of mine posted. The style of the drawings matched the style of drawings I had in mind for the book. I messaged her to see if she was interested. Once I determined a price per picture, and a general time line for completion of the pictures, I had her sign and notarize an illustrator agreement.

Your illustrator can be a family friend, an artist in your church, or an online contact through various illustrator companies. Using a local artist made it easier to go back and forth as she perfected the look of the drawings. In order to help my artist capture what I had in mind, I set up a photo session with a friend who dressed in period costume. I chose the photographs which best communicated the mood I was trying to create. These became the inspiration behind the drawings my artist created. Although I set a timeline, I was flexible enough to allow my artist time to perfect her creations.


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Tina Stephens

Author of The Common Hours

Owner of Armchair Books