PitchFest and QueryFest: Two of the Best Investments in your Writing Career
Dear PitchFest and QueryFest Attendees,
We can’t wait to meet you in person this May!
We’re Tessa Wegert and Samantha Skal, PitchFest Co-Directors, and we’re here to answer your questions and guide you through two of the best events that ThrillerFest has to offer. Whether you’re aspiring to become a published author or already a published author seeking an agent or wanting to meet editors (or even producers), each program is designed to assist both newer and experienced writers.
|If You Are A:||Then You Should Attend:|
|Writer with Completed Polished Manuscript to Sell||X|
|Writer Not Yet Ready to Sell a MS and want Advice||X|
|Writer Wondering if the MS is Ready to Pitch||X|
|Writer Seeking Help on Query Letter||X||X|
|Writer Wanting to Check Out the Process Before Pitching Next Year||X||X|
|Self-Published Author Seeking Traditional Publisher||X||X|
|Self-Published Author Seeking Advice on What to Do with Self-Published Work||X||X|
|Self-Published Author Seeking A Sale of Movie Rights (Producers don’t always attend PF. Check website for confirmations)||X|
|Self-Published Author Seeking Career Advice||X|
|Published Author Looking for A New Agent or Editor||X||X|
|Published Author Seeking Advice on a New Manuscript||X|
|Published Author Seeking A Sale of Movie Rights (Producers don’t always attend PF. Check website for confirmations)||X|
|Published Author Seeking Career Advice||X|
Like you, we wanted to invest in a writing conference and make every penny count. PitchFest and QueryFest allow that to happen. Uniquely designed to bring writers to NYC—the major hub of the American publishing industry—PitchFest is designed for writers with completed polished manuscripts and offers the best agents and acquiring editors who are ready to listen to you pitch your novel.
If you’re a newer writer who may not be quite ready to pitch or an experienced writer who might need advice on your career path, QueryFest is for you. Editors and agents are available to review a sample of your work—either a query letter or the first two pages of your manuscript—and offer you personalized advice on how to improve your chances of getting published. These 15-minute sessions can also help better prepare you for PitchFest, improving your chances of making a good first impression on that agent or editor you’ve been eager to meet. This may also be a great opportunity to express how your work has improved since the last time you met with that agent or editor and seek further advice on the next steps.
We are here to answer questions, allay your fears, and pass on suggestions to conference organizers under the guidance of our lovely ThrillerFest Co-Directors, Jeff Ayers at email@example.com and Christianna Mason, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions from writers about PitchFest, Co-Director Samantha Skal, can be contacted at email@example.com.
For questions from writers about QueryFest, QueryFest Director K.L. Romo, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, Co-Director of PitchFest, Tessa Wegert, will be supporting the hunt for the best agents and editors in the industry for you to meet at both events. She’s at email@example.com.
Our team hopes to make your journey to success an easier one, so please know we’re here to help. We’ll do our best to assist or connect you with the appropriate expert who can answer your questions. Let us know how we can help you!
Q. What exactly is PitchFest and when is it?
On the Thursday afternoon following CraftFest (in 2023: Thursday, June 1st, starting at 2pm), we will host PitchFest, an event where you can pitch your novel to some of the best agents and acquiring editors in the business. Each year, we have over 60 agents and editors attending this special event with movie producers joining us from time to time. Read about the incredible tales of success here. PitchFest has become the world’s largest gathering of top agents and acquiring editors looking for the next bestseller. More specifically, it is a three-and-a-half-hour opportunity for writers to pitch their manuscripts to as many agents as they have the time and energy to meet.
Q. Can I really find an agent for my manuscript?
Many authors have secured representation from this event. Several writers’ manuscripts have become real, published works, as evidenced by their Success Stories. PitchFest is designed for authors who want to pitch their work to the agents and acquiring editors who volunteer to hear the pitches.
Q. Are these real agents and editors or the kind that say they are the real deal but charge me to read my manuscript and then steer me into vanity presses?
Our agents and editors are the real deal. They are part of or sell to major publishers around the world, and they are highly respected in the field. They do not charge a fee to read your work, and they do not steer you toward vanity presses. (Which, for those unfamiliar with the term, are companies that will “publish” your book only if you pay them.) Our agents only work with publishers who pay YOU for your writing. All agents who attend PitchFest are either members of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) or they have sold to an ITW-approved publisher. Only editors from ITW-approved publishers are invited.
Q. How does PitchFest work?
We recommend you study the bios of the agents and editors before PitchFest and prioritize which experts you would like to pitch based on the best fit for you and your manuscript. Once you have prioritized your list, you will find the agents are arranged in the room alphabetically from A-Z or Z-A. Stand in the line of any agent or editor and when they are free, have a seat, relax, and pitch your manuscript. They want to know about you and why you feel qualified to write the story you did. This process may take 30 seconds or five minutes, but normally you will be done in three minutes. We’ve asked the agents and editors to limit your time to three minutes so there’s plenty of time for all writers. The three minutes are designed for you to have a conversation with the agent or editor, so please don’t plan a monologue. Start with a succinct high-level pitch, then answer questions from the agent or editor. Be prepared to continue the discussion if asked.
Just like speed dating, it serves you best to be prepared and concise with your pitch. The experts may or may not ask questions, but normally they will either request a sample of your work or they will tell you they are not interested. Either way, please thank them for their time, then move to the next name on your list and make your next pitch. The main event is two-and-a-half hours, with an additional Power Hour immediately afterward, for a total of three-and-a-half hours of pitching time.
Q. How do I prepare for PitchFest?
A “pitch” at PitchFest is a ~60 second description of your story that explains the story hook and doesn’t give away the ending. A pitch includes a description of who/where/when the protagonist is, what they want, what they’re up against, and why they care about their goal. The hook is the unanswered question your story answers: for example, does the hero catch the villain? Do they have to make a life and death choice to save the world?
For additional advice, we have have put together a video compilation of the best advice from agents and editors from the last two years of Virtual CraftFest. This video is available to all registrants of PitchFest. If you would like the link and do not already have it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve also put together the following advice from agents and editors about developing your pitch:
- DO have at the ready an elevator pitch (also known as a logline) for your book. Approximately 25 words, loglines are extremely useful at the cocktail hours and at the conference itself when you get asked the inevitable question “What’s your book about?”
- DO practice your pitch. Aim for no more than 60 seconds, because your entire time with the agent or editor at PitchFest will be ~ 3 minutes, and you want to leave room for conversation. We don’t encourage memorization, but rather getting comfortable talking about your story succinctly and concisely. Remember that this is a conversation about your book, not a recitation.
- DO be passionate and be yourself! No one knows your story like you do, so bring that passion and excitement about your story when you talk about it. PitchFest may feel intimidating, but agents and editors are just people too, and we’re all there for the same reason: to be excited about hearing about new stories.
- DO have some comps (other books published in the last 2-3 years that are similar in tone/style/content to your book) at the ready. This helps an agent picture where your book may sit in the marketplace.
The PitchFest team is also here to answer any of your questions and will be on-site the day of for any last-minute things that may come up. For questions ahead of the event, please email email@example.com.
And if you’re really trying tohttps://thrillerfest.com/consultfest/faq/ sharpen your tools, register for QueryFest to meet with acquiring editors at the leading publishing houses or top agents in the industry. For 15 minutes, an industry expert will offer personalized advice on how you can improve your craft by critiquing the first two pages of your manuscript or suggesting how to improve your query letter. Learn more about QueryFest by reading the FAQ.
Q. Why the distinction between PitchFest and Power Hour? Why not just a straight three-and-a-half hours?
We split the event into two parts: the main pitching session of two-and-a-half hours, where all industry experts will be present, and the Power Hour extension, to accommodate those who are willing to stay longer. And, no, we can’t predict ahead of time which agents or editors plan to stay for Power Hour – it varies from year-to-year.
Make sure you visit your top picks during the first two-and-a half hours because they may not be there for the Power Hour.
Q. Do I have to stay the whole three-and-a-half hours?
We do not take attendance. You can stay for one pitch, one hour, two hours or the whole three-and-a-half. It’s entirely up to you. Some authors have their list of six or twelve agents and editors they want to see, and when they’re done, they leave. Others stay the entire time and pitch as many experts as they can. Pitching is a numbers game—the more you see, the more likely someone is to say yes. Also, just because a few agents requested a partial manuscript, it does not mean they’ll ultimately take you on as a client. Your chances of securing an agent improve with getting more experts to request your work.
Q. Are the agents and editors paid to be there?
Absolutely not. They are volunteers investing their time, hoping to find captivating stories written by decent people. The more passionate they are about the manuscript, the easier it will be for agents to sell to editors. Don’t be discouraged if one of your top agents isn’t interested in your story. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the right story. It’s just not the right story for that person. Move on to the next agent on your list.
Q. Who can answer more specific questions about PitchFest?
The organizers have assigned, Samantha Skal and Tessa Wegert, as the PitchFest Co-Directors and K.L. Romo as the QueryFest Director. We are volunteer coordinators who have assembled a team of experts who can help with any questions or concerns you might have.
And like most of us, we volunteer our time to help you, to pay it forward. So please know we are truly here to assist. Please don’t hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Yet be forewarned: We’ve been involved in PitchFest for years and have witnessed how writers who take shortcuts or aren’t willing to do the work tend to wash out quickly. The business of writing is tough and takes elbow grease along with a little luck to be successful. We know it’s important to guide you through – not do – the work for you, so please read through the FAQs first, peruse this website, and educate yourself before emailing our team with questions. ITW staff and ThrillerFest event volunteers work hard to provide you with the information in advance, but we have other jobs (writing and otherwise) and responsibilities that limit the time we can commit to answering questions. Respect and courtesy are appreciated.
Q. Walk me through the PitchFest process.
Everyone who signs up for PitchFest is eligible for Virtual Practice PitchFest in the months ahead of PitchFest. Virtual Practice PitchFest ended on May 6th in 2022 (still planning for 2023).
Since we are expecting increased interest and participation in 2023, details on the layout and location of PitchFest itself will be posted closer to the conference.
What we know – the initial line will be long because there will be hundreds of you. Do not be concerned about the length. We have dozens of agents signed up and you will be able to talk to as many as you want, even if you’re at the tail end of the line initially.
What you DO need to be concerned about is that during PitchFest and Power Hour, you will be standing in lines for more time than sitting with agents or editors, so wear comfortable shoes. And if you have trouble standing that long, please consider investing in a $20 travel seat to carry with you. As always, we appreciate and accommodate all special needs. Email email@example.com for accommodations.
Q. How will we know when to move to the next line?
The agent or editor will tell you. We’re giving our experts three-minute timers and/or having them manage their own schedules. Once they tell you they’re not interested in your work or invite you to send pages, please thank them for their time and move on. You’ll know. Bring a pen and some paper to write down contact information.
We allow the agents and editors more freedom in managing their own schedules because some can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in fifteen seconds, and then hear more pitches during the event. Others require a minute, still others, three or four minutes, maybe even five or six. Each book idea is unique, so we decided to let them manage their own time. Please don’t worry about any of this. Just relax and concentrate on having a pleasant, lively discussion with them.
Q. Can I keep a copy on my computer or iPhone, so I can instantly e-mail it to the agents if they ask?
That’s fine. If they want your manuscript e-mailed, they will give you their e-mail address and provide instructions. Again, bring a pen and paper to write down the agent’s or editor’s contact information because we will not share contact information after the event. We are very protective of these generous industry experts.
Q. Should I have a website?
A website is not required for pitching. You may want to consider having one anyway, so people can find you easily. If you’re not ready to build a website, at least reserve the domain name you’ll want to use as a writer. That way, it’s there when you’re ready to unveil yourself to the digital world. Again, having a website as a writer is not necessary at this stage of your career, yet it will be needed eventually when you become a published author.
Q. Can I hop lines if mine is too long?
Absolutely. If the line you are in is long and you see a shorter one, feel free to move over (not cut in). Pitching is a numbers game: the more experts you talk to, the more likely you are to find one who wants what you’re selling. Follow your agent/editor priority list and try to see some of the others, too. You never know who’s going to love your work. Only one rule for the lines: please don’t cut. Be courteous and go to the back of the line. And try to keep your conversations in line to a minimum out of respect for the writers meeting with agents and editors.
Q. Can I go to the bathroom during the pitches?
You can take a break whenever you need one. Go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, sit down, and take a deep breath. When you return to the room all refreshed, join a new line, and please, don’t cut.
Q. Who will be there during PitchFest in case I have questions?The PitchFest and QueryFest team will be there the entire time. There are also Room Captains (2 per room) who are published authors who volunteer to help things move smoothly while assisting the agents and authors. Finally, the wonderful on-site ThrillerFest staff can help.
Q. Why do you have agents AND editors at PitchFest? What’s the difference?
The most common route to publication is for you to secure a contract with an agent who then sells the work to an editor at a publishing house. However, if you can get an editor interested in publishing your work at PitchFest, agents might take notice and request your work. Some editors at the event don’t require an agent and you have an opportunity to sell directly to them, although this is an exception, not the rule.
Q. Are the agents and editors really taking new clients?
Every agent and editor who attends is actively seeking thriller manuscripts, and many are looking for other genres, including: mystery, suspense, romance, non-fiction, supernatural, and other genres. Review the participating bios and photos on the ThrillerFest website to discover what each expert is looking for and what they are NOT looking for. This is a numbers game and without PitchFest, you are much less likely to secure an agent.
Q. When is PitchFest?PitchFest is held on the Thursday of Thrillerfest from 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm (in 2023: Thursday, June 1st), with an additional Power Hour from 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm. The Power Hour is no different from the regular hours of PitchFest; there just may be fewer agents and editors present. You may take breaks whenever you need as you are free to stand in line for whichever agent, publisher, or editor you’d like. We ask agents and editors to commit to be at the event from 2:00 – 4:30 pm and if they participate in Power Hour, they stay for 4:30 – 5:30 pm. We will indicate onsite if the agent or editor has decided to leave the event at our scheduled break at 4:30 pm.
Q. Is there anything besides PitchFest in which I can participate?Because so many writers wanted more time with experts to ask advice rather than pitch a completed manuscript, we created QueryFest, an event where pitches are strongly discouraged. PitchFest is about making connections and pitching whereas QueryFest is more about preparing the writer for an eventual opportunity to pitch. QueryFest will be available throughout CraftFest and ThrillerFest where attendees can invest $77 to meet one-on-one with an industry expert for 15 minutes. Recruiting the top acquiring editors and agents for this opportunity, ThrillerFest organizers are excited to offer one of the most valuable opportunities in any writer’s career to get instant feedback on query letters or first two pages of a manuscript. Due to the overwhelming popularity of QueryFest, we limit the number of sessions you can purchase to five, but you will only be allowed a maximum of two sessions with the same agent or editor. Eligibility for QueryFest requires registration to CraftFest, Master Class or ThrillerFest.
For writers, Master Class on Tuesday is an excellent opportunity to have a bestselling author review and critique your work and/or impart pearls of wisdom that you just can’t get anywhere else. The classes are intensive and intimate, with ten or fewer writers assigned to one instructor.
CraftFest is also an amazing opportunity to learn from bestselling authors and experts in the industry and is highly recommended if you attend PitchFest. PitchFest cannot be purchased as a single item (you must either sign up for CraftFest, Master Class or ThrillerFest) because we want you prepared and professional for the pitching sessions. This is a professional business and they expect you to conduct yourselves accordingly. CraftFest will help you prepare for PitchFest and is held on Wednesday and Thursday morning, just before PitchFest.
ThrillerFest takes place on Friday and Saturday and provides a unique opportunity to meet readers, authors, the media, and many others. And of course, the Thriller Awards Banquet is held on Saturday night, our last hurrah before closing for another year.
Q. Do I need a completed manuscript or can I just pitch what I have written so far or throw out an idea I have for a novel?
We strongly recommend you have a completed, polished manuscript before signing up for PitchFest (unless your manuscript is a non-fiction project). We know from experience that if agents like what they see, they will want to sign you as a client immediately and try to sell your book to a publisher. You want that, too. They cannot sell your book unless it’s finished. And they may not be as interested in your idea/book months from now when you do finish. Do your best to type THE END before coming to PitchFest. And pitch your best book, not several. But it’s fine to mention to an agent that you have written other books, especially if they ask about other projects you are working on. You can pitch a self-published book, although you’re better off pitching a fresh, new manuscript that has not been published. The agents and editors love unique voices, new concepts, and books that haven’t already been on the market. This pitching session is not ‘practice.’ This is business. If you want advice on how to complete your novel or whether or not you’re headed in the right direction, please sign up for QueryFest instead.
Q. Do you assign me to agents at PitchFest, or do I choose who I see?
You decide who to pitch to. Over the main event and Power Hour, you will have time to pitch to numerous industry experts. The number depends upon the length of the lines and how you prioritize the experts you would like to pitch. Keep in mind, pitching via email to a dozen agents or editors through a query letter or email would take months. At PitchFest, you accomplish that in one afternoon. Plus, they get to meet the writer behind the work, which should be a bonus in selling your manuscript.
Q. If everyone is a volunteer, why am I charged to attend?
The cost for the conference rooms, the pitch rooms, the book room, hotel staff, refreshments, air-conditioning, and keeping the bathrooms fresh and breezy is why we charge for the event. Although our main purpose is to help writers make the necessary connections with people in the industry, it requires a large investment to provide the NYC venue. Just like you, even the board of directors pay to attend the conference, which helps keep the costs down for everyone.
Q. Do people who attend PitchFest actually get representation?
Sometimes, but not always. Some of those who have secured representation have shared their success stories with us. While there’s NO GUARANTEE, REAL OR IMPLIED, that any agent will like your work—I made that all-caps to impress upon you the fact that you might not get a single nibble—the opposite is equally true: they may all love your work. Some writers secure representation, but never get a publishing deal. There is no definitive outcome here other than one: If you don’t attend PitchFest, those agents will miss an opportunity to hear you pitch.
Q. What’s the worst that can happen at PitchFest?
Even if no agents are interested in your story (which is incredibly rare), going through the process of pitching is still an enormously valuable opportunity. You will have met the top agents in the business, experienced the pitching experience, made valuable contacts, received feedback on your presentations, and learned a lot of things about the business. And you’ll have the inspiration needed to improve your book and return next year.
Q. How do I know if they like my pitch?
If the agent is interested, he or she will request a partial or, in rare cases, the entire manuscript, to read. If there is no interest, he or she will not request any material.
Q. How long is each pitch?
Three minutes, more or less. Occasionally, an agent or editor will take longer with a writer and we appreciate that when a match is being made, it may require more time. Listen and learn, rather than get upset at another writer’s success. Agents and editors appreciate your patience and so do I as an organizer. This is all about match-making, and your time will come.
Q. Should I carry a stack of printed manuscripts in case an agent wants one?
No. Keep your manuscripts in your hotel room, or better yet, leave them at home. The agents will ask you to send one via mail or by email if they’re interested. They don’t want to haul a hundred pounds of manuscripts on the subway when the day is over. And please don’t hand agents a flash drive. Agents will not insert flash drives into their computers, for fear of viruses. Be professional and have pen, paper, and even business cards available if the agent or editor asks for one.
Q. How about business cards?
Although it’s always a good idea to have business cards with you, it’s better not to force your business card on an agent or editor unless they ask for it. Make sure your contact information is prominent, especially your e-mail. You can get cards printed online, or at a local print shop. Less is more. Keep it simple and clearly legible. Two online shops I’ve used with great success: www.iconix.biz and www.vistaprint.com.
Q. In past years, some writers brought one-page summaries of their books to hand to the agents. Do you still recommend doing that?
Agents and editors generally prefer to take nothing from the writer so they can limit what they carry during their commute home. If they ask for anything, they may want a simple business card. Instead, focus on preparing a one-page synopsis, in case an expert asks you to email a synopsis along with sample pages. But you do not need copies of that at the event. If you want to learn how to write a synopsis, check out Writer’s Digest Synopsis Writing Basics or advice from one our agents, such as blogs by Jessica Faust or Janet Reid. Some agents may request a synopsis along with a partial manuscript. Most don’t. You may want to print up a dozen and bring them along, in case any of your agents ask for one. Although it is doubtful many – if any – will ask, it never hurts to be prepared.
Q. Can I practice my pitch while I’m in line?
Please don’t. The room will contain lots of people, simultaneously hearing and making pitches. That’s plenty of noise, and the room doesn’t need more. If you want to talk, please go into the hall. When you’re sitting in that pitch chair and can hear the agent saying clearly, “I love this idea! Can you e-mail me the manuscript?” you’ll thank me.
Q. Can I sign up ONLY for PitchFest?
In order to attend PitchFest, you must also sign up for Master Class, CraftFest or ThrillerFest. Although you can sign up for Master Class, CraftFest or ThrillerFest, but not sign up for PitchFest, we don’t allow you to sign up ONLY for PitchFest.
Again, we want to make sure you are as prepared and professional as possible before pitching. Agents’ and editors’ time is valuable so please prepare accordingly. Requiring Master Class, CraftFest or ThrillerFest as a prerequisite for PitchFest helps ensure that only authors who make a serious commitment to their craft or have made significant advances in their careers will get into the rooms, and that provides everyone with a better experience. After all, if the agents quit coming because the quality of pitching is poor or the writers are not professional, they’ll never hear great ideas from serious writers like you.
Q. I want to thank the agents and editors, but I don’t want to appear desperate or as a suck up.
By all means, thank them, and do so sincerely. It’s not sucking up. And it doesn’t sound desperate. It sounds courteous. Everyone likes to feel valued and appreciated, and they are going out of their way to help you sell your book. They could just as easily stay in their offices and work.
Q. What should I wear that day? Suit and tie? Dress and high heels?
There’s no dress code. Consider that you’re trying to sell your work to major agents who are professional and expect you to take this process seriously. Dress like you respect them and the process. Business casual is recommended. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes. You’ll be on your feet a lot. But if you’re THAT special writer who is only suited to write a book about a rock guitarist or motorcycle gang leader, perhaps business casual would appear a bit silly. Your real-life experience and what you bring to your story may be a huge seller, so don’t undersell yourself.
Q. I’ve never made a book pitch. Will I learn how to pitch at CraftFest?
Yes, that’s one of the goals at CraftFest: teaching you how to present your work to agents and editors and close the sale with them. We provide a full presentation on effective pitching during CraftFest on Thursday. We also offer the opportunity to practice your pitch via Virtual Practice PitchFest, which happens in the two months prior to PitchFest. The 2022 Virtual Practice PitchFest ended on May 6, 2022. (2023 schedule and times are still in planning).
Q. What happens when it’s over?
Pitching will be from 2:00 pm – 5:30 pm. When the PitchFest event is over, please feel free to take a break before the ThrillerFest Opening Cocktail Hour at 6:30 pm. Many of the agents and editors will be attending the cocktail hour, too, so please be courteous and thank them for their time. Helpful tip on what not to do? Please don’t follow an agent or editor into a bathroom, to their room, or out onto the street. What you might think is ‘inspired creativity’ may easily be interpreted as ‘creepy stalker’ and I know that’s not what you intend.
Faye and Jonathan Kellerman*
Larry D. Thompson
J. Jackson Bentley
Jack F. Du Brul*
Eric Van Lustbader*
D. P. Lyle M.D.*
Michael Palmer (2004-2013)*
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Susan Arnout Smith
B. J. Daniels
Vince Flynn (2004-2013)*
Bonnie Hearn Hill*
Harley Jane Kozak
Dennis Lynds (2004-2005)*
Carl T. Smith*
M. Diane Vogt*
Inkwell Management, LLC*
*original member joined by June 4, 2005