ThrillerFest XIV • July 9 – 13, 2019 • Grand Hyatt • New York City

PitchFest Was Brilliant!

By Vaughn Ripley

My 89,000 word cyberthriller was complete and I was ready to run to the highest mountain, or at least a hilltop, and scream, “I did it!” I have no illusions about books and publishing… You see, a few years ago, I self-published my memoir, “Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C.” My original plan with SURVIVOR was to type it up and then everything else would fall into place… Right? Wrong! I couldn’t have been further from the truth. In all honesty, I think that writing the book was the easiest part of the whole crazy process. I’m totally serious! After some harrowing months (nearly a year) of writing agents, editors, publishing houses, and so on I finally broke down and self-published.

With my fictional book, I was determined to get a traditional publisher. Self-publishing may have worked for my autobiography, but I was convinced that my fictional cyberthriller, DECRYPTED, would have a much better chance for success going the traditional route. So, I started investigating my options. I quickly determined that an agent would be the best bet for success. On top of that, it would also help me through this serious maze of the publishing world. Now that I knew my direction I needed an avenue to find and partner with the appropriate agent. Reading and research revealed writer conferences as a perfect venue for me to meet face to face with potential agents. I’m a people person and passionate and I knew immediately that this would be a practical way for me to sell myself and my story.

As I searched for conferences, you can imagine my shock when I found ThrillerFest; which was the precise genre that I was pitching! Then I saw that they do agent speed dating during the PitchFest part… Holy crap!!! It was like the conference was designed specifically for me. I knew right then and there that I would go. I also knew in my heart that I was going to win over an agent!

Deciding to go with my pitch in my head, I carefully crafted the short and sweet single sentence… This is the pitch I created and memorized for DECRYPTED:

“A female hacker stumbles on a plot to assassinate the Vice President, only to discover a deeper plan to attack several major cities with nuclear weapons.”

Perfect… Right? Hmmm… Did I mention that sometimes nerves get in the way? HA! Okay, so I had the pitch memorized, but when I sat down with the first agent, I stumbled and fumbled for the right words. It’s all a bit of a blur… As a matter of fact, I’m not positive I even mentioned that I’d written a book. HA! This leads to my first piece of advice: If there is any chance of you being uncomfortable with the first and/or second speed date interview then choose the first agent with this in mind. Make it someone that you don’t mind stuttering in front of. In short, save the best for the middle. Middle? Yep… You don’t want to leave them for last, because you might not get to them before the day ends (that was piece of advice 1a).

My incredible PitchFest experience had me sitting down and chatting with ten people (eight agents and two editors). I figure the time allotted (about three hours) would allow any normal author a chance to meet eight to twelve agents (give or take one). So, that puts the middle around four or five. The fourth person was right around where I started to hit my pitching groove. Guess what… The fourth person was Francine Edelman of the Schiavone Literary Agency. She was the agent I most wanted to sign with because of her amazing marketing background. When I sat down and introduced myself, Francine said, “Oh, I remember you… You emailed me to say you were coming to this… How are you?”

Ah hah! I forgot to mention that prior to the conference I did what many of the others did and investigated each agent carefully. But, I took it one step further and wrote each of them a brief email introducing myself and simply saying that I would see them at the conference. No pitch. No hidden agenda. Just a brief “hello” and “see you soon.” This put my name in the back of their mind, and provided a smile for me when I said my name. My second piece of advice is to investigate each agent, pick your dozen (or so) carefully, and email them to say “hi” a week or so before the conference.

Francine–along with nine out of the ten people I met with–asked me to send her a copy of my manuscript. I sent it to her, and she wrote me the next morning to tell me, “I read the whole thing last night, enjoyed it, and would like to work with you.” I was elated! Francine was the number one agent on my list of twelve. And, not only did she want to work with me, but she loved my story to boot. WOW!

PitchFest was officially a success! And, it was brilliant!!!

Let’s discuss my third piece of advice… Your manuscript. Before you sign up for agent speed dating at any conference, make sure that your manuscript is done and edited. And, have a short pitch memorized. It also really helps to have a two-page and four-page synopsis completed (most of the agents will request this).

It is important for you to be responsive with the agents and editors that request copies of your work. If you don’t have your ducks in a row for this easy part of the timeline, how can an agent, editor, or publisher trust that you’ll be ready at other stages? You are a professional… Act like one!

My last piece of advice may be the most important. I was a volunteer for the event and this really helped me, because I met some of the more famous authors, a few editors, and some agent. And, it allowed me access to the central nervous system of the conference. I can’t tell you how awesome of an opportunity it was to volunteer and work side by side with some amazing people in the coolest business in the world – writing!

ThrillerFest was a fantastic venue and I can’t recommend CraftFest and PitchFest too much. These are awesome and a terrific way for you to shine as an author. If you’re a fictional author and working on getting an agent or publisher, you MUST sign up for ThrillerFest, CraftFest, and PitchFest!!!

To learn more about Vaughn, please visit his website:

The Trick is to be Prepared

By Simon Gervais

When I registered for the 2013 ThrillerFest last February, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be signing with an agent before the event was over. I was confident the agents would like my pitch but never did I expect to hear from one of them only a few hours later. It was surreal…actually, when I think about it, it still is.

There’s already enough information available about the actual PitchFest and how it’s run, so I’ll share with you my personal story on how I ended up signing with an agent at ThrillerFest. I hope it will help you decide how best to psychologically approach PitchFest.

The first time I pitched my book was at the 2012 ThrillerFest. I pitched to twelve agents and all of them either requested a partial or the full manuscript. So far so good, right? Not really. I had a problem. A big one. My book wasn’t completed. I was still working on the edits. By the time I was confident the manuscript was strong enough to send to the agents who requested it, we were late in January 2013. My gut told me not to send it. The same gut that saved my life twice during my career as a federal agent was telling me to wait until the next ThrillerFest. What did I do? I sent it anyway.


Too much time had elapsed since the pitch. I know we all think we’re special and that the agents will remember us forever, but that’s not always the case. The magic connection you had felt with the agent months before during your three-minute pitch has disappeared. It might still be alive in your heart, but for these poor agents who received between 15 and 50 queries a day, it’s long gone. Mercifully, I’d only sent one full and one partial. The partial became a full but the agent finally passed. I was crushed. I had just lost my only chance with one of the biggest agencies in the business. I was mad at myself for not listening to my gut instinct and decided right then and there to stop submitting my manuscript until the next ThrillerFest. It wasn’t easy and temptation nearly got the best of me. But I resisted the urge. Days, weeks and months were passing by too slowly for my liking. I was dying to start pitching again. ThrillerFest couldn’t come fast enough.

When PitchFest finally came around, I was ready, I was pumped but most importantly, I was confident. There was no doubt in my mind I was going to be successful. I knew I had a good and proven pitch that would attract interest. Nonetheless, like every other author who pitched that day, it would be a lie to say I wasn’t nervous, that I didn’t feel the stress. The trick is to be prepared. And prepared I was. I had spent the previous two weeks analyzing and researching all the agents that were going to be present during PitchFest. I knew which authors they were representing, the style of writing they preferred and what genres they weren’t looking for. I’d also practiced my pitch a dozen times facing a mirror and I had recorded myself to ensure proper intonation throughout the pitch. Like I had done in 2012, I decided to wear a business suit. If you’re wondering why I did that when most of the other attendees were wearing casual clothes, I’ll tell you. Because that’s who I am. That’s how I dress when I go to work every morning, that’s how I feel at my best. Remember, the first ten seconds of your pitch are the most important. You need to capture the agent’s interest quickly. You can achieve that through how you look or with your pitch. I suggest doing it with both. In the short lapse of time you have in front of that agent, you need to convince her/him that you’re marketable, have written an amazing book and that you’ll succeed in this industry no matter what.

So when the go-ahead signal was given at the beginning of the pitch session, I took five deep breaths and walked purposefully into a room full of literary agents. The first seven agents I pitched to requested material. I felt they were genuinely interested but I didn’t feel a real deep connection with any of them. (That’s hard to do in three minutes, I’ll admit.) Ready to move on and inspired by my great start, I scanned the room and saw the waiting line leading to Eric Myers of The Spieler Agency had only six people. I joined the line and consulted my iPhone on which I had stored all the information about each agent. During my research, I found out that Eric’s reputation within the publishing industry was stellar. In addition to having solid sales figures to advance-paying publishers, I also noted he’d worked extensively as a publicist within the motion picture industry. If there was one agent in the room I wanted to impress, it was this one. Once it was my turn, I introduced myself and we shook hands. He looked at my nametag and asked me if I spoke French. I told him I did and I added that it was the language we spoke at home. He then explained to me he had studied in Paris for a number of years and that he was fluent in French. I replied that I had recently returned from Paris where my wife and I had spent a long weekend in the company of our two children. We exchanged a few more pleasantries before I began my pitch.

I started by telling him about my background as a federal agent within my organization’s counter-terrorism unit and how I landed on the protection detail of numerous heads of state. (Tip: always start with something that will force them to pay attention to you.) While he was listening to the pitch, I saw him nod a few times. At the end of my pitch, I let him know I had hired a well-known editor to go through my manuscript in order to correct any mistakes that I could have missed. (Tip: try to conclude with something that will show you’re serious about the craft and the quality of your book.)

Once I was done talking, a few seconds passed where no words were exchanged. Eric finally looked at me and smiled, “Could you send me your manuscript? I’d like to take a look at it tonight.” (Tip: This is exactly why you should always pitch a polished manuscript. You never know when you’ll meet an agent who’s as excited as you about your book and wants it NOW!).

A few hours later, I was having dinner with Ethan Cross, Barry Lancet and Jeremy Burns, three author friends of mine, when I received an email from Eric. To my surprise, he had already visited my website and read a few chapters of my book. He had a couple questions and we agreed to talk more the next day. After exchanging a few more emails, we spoke on the phone and decided to meet Saturday afternoon at the Hyatt lobby bar. We had a great conversation and we both realized rapidly that we had the same vision regarding my book and my career. We shook hands once again, and that’s how I became a client of literary agent Eric Myers of The Spieler Agency.


UPDATE from Simon:

On May 2nd, 2014, Eric Myers of The Spieler Agency sold Simon’s book in a two-book deal to Lou Aronica at The Story Plant.

Here’s the Publishers Marketplace announcement:

“Federal agent and former infantry officer Simon Gervais’s debut THE THIN BLACK LINE, in which a counter-terrorism operative and his wife, working together for a clandestine organization, must risk everything in order to prevent the US economy from total collapse, to Lou Aronica at The Story Plant, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2016, by Eric Myers at The Spieler Agency (World).”

Announcing ThrillerFest IX

We have something for everyone, whether you’re an aspiring author, a fan, an industry professional, or an ITW author. Some of the highlights include:

CraftFest: This section of the conference is ideal if you’re looking to hone your writing skills. Every year, CraftFest is growing in numbers and spaces are limited. If you are keen on hearing the writing secrets of NYT bestsellers, please sign up soon so you don’t miss out.

AgentFest: If you’d like to pitch your novel to the best literary agents in the business, this is the event for you. Last year, we had over 55 agents attending AgentFest. Read about the success stories under the AgentFest tab.

ThrillerFest: We’re planning on some fabulous panels, workshops, and lectures for ThrillerFest this year.  Stay tuned for more details.

Banquet: Please join us at the annual Saturday night banquet for the presentation of the Thriller Awards and other fabulous entertainment.

Volunteers are an integral part of the ThrillerFest experience. We couldn’t do it without you. If you would like to assist us, please send an email to Volunteering is a great way to meet people and get involved in ITW.

Please drop by the new ThrillerFest Facebook page and say hello! Then “like” us, and help spread the word!

Your ThrillerFest team is looking forward to a fun and memorable year. D.L. Wilson is our VP of National Events, D.P. Lyle, MD returns as CraftFest Director, Boyd Morrison is AgentFest Director, and Kimberley Howe returns as Executive Director. If we can answer questions or help out in any way, please touch base anytime.

We look forward to seeing you next July 10-13 in NYC!

D.L. Wilson
Vice President of National Events

Kimberley Howe
Executive Director, ThrillerFest


If you prefer to mail your registration, you can download and print the appropriate registrations forms here:

ITW Author-Member Registration

ITW Associate-Member and Thriller Fan Registration

ThrillerFest VII: A Thrill a Minute

By Anthony J. Franze and Jenny Milchman

Anything that calls itself ThrillerFest has a lot to live up to.

Luckily, this year’s ThrillerFest—the International Thriller Writers’ annual conference—delivered more than its share of thrills. Held in the heart of Manhattan, ThrillerFest VII was the largest and most successful T-Fest yet. On hand were hundreds of the world’s top thriller writers, as well as scores of industry professionals, journalists, producers, aspiring writers—and let’s not forget the readers and fans.

Haven’t been to ThrillerFest yet? Not clear what it’s all about? Come take a journey with both the Chair and the Membership Coordinator of ITW’s Debut Authors Program as we give some background on ThrillerFest, and then go behind the scenes—way behind the scenes—at this year’s event.

What is ThrillerFest?

Officially, ThrillerFest is “a four-day celebration of thriller books, the authors who write them, and the fans who read them.” Or, as Co-Presidents of International Thriller Writers, Kathleen Antrim and Douglas Preston, say: “ThrillerFest creates an environment in which readers meet authors, and aspiring authors gain the tools and make the contacts they need to get published. It’s a place where agents discover new authors, and where up-and-coming authors find resources to move their careers forward. And finally, it’s a place where bestselling authors share their experiences, advice, and wisdom with those traveling the same road.”

Read More


ThrillerFest VII CDs, MP3s, and DVDs now available!


ThrillerFest VII is over, and what a fabulous event it was! If you weren’t able to attend, or if you did, but missed some of the panels — or if you’d like to listen to what your favorite speakers had to say again — you’ll be delighted to know that CDs, MP3s, and DVDs from the CraftFest 2012 and ThrillerFest 2012 writers conference are now available for purchase. Recordings of ThrillerFests 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 are available as well.