ThrillerFest XVII • May 31 – June 4, 2022 • Register Today!

Frequently Asked Questions About ThrillerFest

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After looking through this document, if you have any specific questions about ThrillerFest, please feel free to contact Executive Director Kimberley Howe at

Q. What is ThrillerFest?

A: ThrillerFest is the annual conference of ITW, International Thriller Writers. The unique, popular, and rapidly expanding gathering was created in 2004 by successful, bestselling authors to bring thousands of writers, readers, publishers, producers, editors, and agents together to promote and support thriller authors everywhere.

The ThrillerFest conference has six main components: Master Class, CraftFest, ConsultFest, PitchFest, ThrillerFest, and the Awards Banquet.

  • Master Class was designed as an educational tool for aspiring writers as well as debut and midlist authors to gain advanced training from the masters of the craft in an intimate, day-long training session.
  • CraftFest was designed for all writers to learn from bestselling authors and subject experts who kindly offer their advice and assistance to advance attendees’ writing techniques and further their careers. We also include CareerFest under this heading. It was designed to help educate attendees about the business aspects of the publishing industry.
  • ConsultFest was designed to get instant feedback on a query letter or first two pages of a manuscript by an industry leading expert.
  • PitchFest was designed to match writers with agents, producers, and editors.
  • ThrillerFest proper, the final two days of the conference, is intended to offer readers a chance to meet the best authors in the industry and be introduced to debut and established authors. Expect innovative panels, spotlight interviews, and workshops to educate and inspire.
  • The Thriller Awards Banquet allows ITW to honor its ThrillerMaster, Silver Bullet Award, Thriller Legend, and Thriller Award winners.

Find out more about this exciting five-day thriller extravaganza by browsing our website at

Q: What is ITW?

A: ITW, International Thriller Writers, represents professional thriller authors from around the world. ITW is an honorary society of authors, both fiction and nonfiction, who write books broadly classified as thrillers. This would include (but isn’t limited to) such subjects as murder mystery, detective, romantic suspense, horror, supernatural, action, espionage, true crime, war, adventure, and a myriad of similar subject areas.

ITW’s mission is “To bestow recognition and promote the thriller genre at an innovative and superior level for and through our Active members; to provide opportunities for mentoring, education, and collegiality among thriller authors and industry professionals; and to grant awards for excellence in the thriller genre.” ITW By-laws: Article II, Purposes, Section 2.

One of the main purposes of the organization is to provide a way for successful, bestselling authors to help debut and established authors advance their careers. To that end, ITW has designed numerous programs and events that promote debut and midlist writers and their work, sometimes in partnership with the masters in the field. In addition, ITW promotes literacy, gives money to worthy organizations, supports libraries, and advances the thriller genre. Finally, it brings together almost a thousand writers, readers, publishers, producers, editors, and agents at its annual conference, ThrillerFest; as well as at CraftFest, a writing workshop program; and PitchFest, where aspiring authors can meet and pitch to top literary agents, producers, and editors.

ITW represents over 4,500 authors in 49 countries with 3.2 billion books in print. Join ITW today!

Q: When is ThrillerFest, the annual conference for ITW?

A: The event is held at the same place and time each year, in New York City during the second week of July. New York City is the hub for the publishing industry in the United States and provides a convenient venue for the top industry representatives to attend.

This year, ThrillerFest will be held from July 7 – 11, 2020, in New York City, New York, United States of America. The official hotel for ThrillerFest is the Grand Hyatt Hotel located in Midtown Manhattan at 109 E. 42nd Street at Grand Central Terminal, New York City, NY 10017 (212) 883-1234. The conference hotel is conveniently located near Grand Central Terminal and offers tranquil rooms and good dining options.

Q: Why is ThrillerFest always in New York City?

A: New York City is the home of the American publishing industry. Bestselling authors, editors, agents, publishers, and publicists can walk or cab to the convention from their offices to meet with readers, writers, debut, and established authors, which make them far more likely to help ITW with an extraordinary level of programming and events.

ThrillerFest organizers recognize that if the venue changed from New York City, far fewer of the industry movers and shakers would be able to attend this unique conference. And although the expense is higher for attendees, the quality of ideas, advice, and assistance is far greater in comparison to other conferences designed with economics, sandy beaches, or other siting criteria. This conference is all about connecting writers and readers with the best talent in our industry, which is why ThrillerFest will remain in New York City.

Q: How can I better manage my budget for ThrillerFest?

A: Spending time with the very best in the business, in big numbers, is worth the investment of attending ThrillerFest. Attendees are important customers of the Grand Hyatt Hotel and they treat us accordingly by offering ThrillerFest discounts. Find a roommate for the Hyatt’s rooms with double beds and you’ll both enjoy the incredible amenities of the newly renovated Hyatt. Enjoy the food court in Grand Central Station next door for a more economical meal while gazing at the hustle and bustle of New Yorkers on the move.

Q: How do I get to the hotel from the airport?

A: LaGuardia is a nine-mile cab ride from the hotel at about $50 (plus tip) round trip. A more economical alternative is the New York Airport Service, which offers a bus for $26 round trip. Once tickets are purchased, the bus pick up is near the luggage area of LaGuardia and drop off is a half-block from the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The hotel concierge can help with travel arrangements. Similar deals are offered from Kennedy and Newark airports.


Q: What is Master Class and when is it?

A: Master Class is an extra session, held the day before CraftFest, and will require additional Registration. This program is a one-day, intensive workshop on the craft of writing offered on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. Please take advantage of this unique opportunity to work in small groups under the tutelage of New York Times bestselling authors. Our instructors this year are: Steve Berry, Grant Blackwood, David Corbett, Karen Dionne, Robert Dugoni, Steven James, D.P. Lyle, MD., Gayle Lynds, Donald Maass, and F. Paul Wilson. Whether you are a new writer or an experienced one, we’ll offer a class that will elevate your writing to the next level.

Q: Are there attendance packages that contain Master Class?

A: A Master Class and PitchFest package is offered.


Q. What is CraftFest and when is it?

A: Running all day Wednesday and Thursday morning, CraftFest is the fastest growing section of the conference and is ideal if you are looking to hone your writing skills. Everyone is welcome, from aspiring authors to established authors, and you’ll be privy to writing secrets from New York Times bestsellers and other phenomenal professionals. CraftFest includes a line-up of information about firearms, explosives, forensics, pathology, and other information that will help you write realistic scenes. There will be a “CareerFest” line-up, which will focus on marketing, promotion, and other career-related advice. Sign up soon so you don’t miss out!

Q: What can I expect at CraftFest?

A: CraftFest is an intensive series of hour-long classes taught by some of the most established authors and industry experts in the thriller business. These courses cover everything from your opening sentence to marketing your finished product. You’ll learn how to pitch your manuscripts to agents and editors. You’ll get tips on working efficiently and smoothly. You’ll be taught everything worth knowing about writing thrillers. Expect to bring plenty of fresh pens and notepads, because you will find yourself busy taking notes of treasured advice and jewels of ideas. Or buy the CDs available for sale immediately after the sessions at a table in the book room.

Q: Who organizes CraftFest?

A: Kathleen Antrim has taken over the reins from Dr. Doug Lyle, MD, a cardiologist who’s also a professional thriller writer, and has been the director of CraftFest since its inception. Thank you Dr. Lyle for many years of great CraftFest memories. We welcome Kathie as she dives in and provides new leadership for this exciting event.

Q: Who are the other teachers?

A: In addition to Kathleen Antrim, who is always willing to impart her wisdom to attendees, CraftFest Instructors are generally writing experts, New York Times bestselling authors, such as Steve Berry, Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, Heather Graham, John Lescroart, Greg Iles, Andrew Gross, Linwood Barclay, Grant Blackwood, Walter Mosley and countless others. We also have experts from the US Secret Service, the ATF, the FBI, the US Marshalls, blood spatter gurus, forensic dentists and many other talented and knowledge individuals. Like the ThrillerFest schedule, the specific list of classes and instructors for CraftFest will be posted closer to July.

Q: Can I sign up for CraftFest and nothing else?

A: Yes. The writing school stands on its own, so you can register just for CraftFest.

Q: Are there any new CraftFest programs?

A: CareerFest will be held from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm on Thursday, July 9, 2020. It is designed to help answer questions and provide ideas for even the most seasoned authors. The classes are designed around learning more about traditional publishing and indie publishing as well as tips on securing an agent.


Q: What is CareerFest?

A: CareerFest offers panels highlighting success in the world of traditional publishing, landing an agent, and finding success to Hollywood. Tilted as much to the independent leaning author as the author seeking a more mainstream road to success, CareerFest seeks to help all authors find the best and most viable routes to success.


Q: What exactly is ConsultFest and when is it?

A: In 2019, we created ConsultFest for writers who weren’t yet ready to “pitch” a completed manuscript, and for agents and editors who had great information to share but didn’t want to receive pitches. (Similar to the “no pitch zone” with agents and editors we established to accommodate experts who didn’t wish to receive pitches). ConsultFest allows new writers and emerging novelists to access industry expertise and advice on how to better prepare themselves for the presentation of their work—that “pitch”—and established authors to get advice on career path options and publishing from experts in the industry.

To more appropriately focus PitchFest towards its original intent—an opportunity for writers with a finished manuscript to pitch their work to an agent or editor for representation or sale— we created ConsultFest.

Q: Should I attend ConsultFest or PitchFest or both?

We know your time is valuable and advise all writers to balance their writing time with the many facets required in our industry, including marketing, selling, growing business, craft, brainstorming, and carefully choosing every turn in the career path. PitchFest offers to help you network with the industry’s top selling agents and editors in very short bursts, hopefully making that special connection that will lead to a sale of your work. ConsultFest offers more time with the experts to perfect your manuscript or query letter, improve the marketability of your writing, or even answer career path questions.

Please see the PitchFest/ConsultFest table for more specific guidance.

Q: How is ConsultFest different from PitchFest?

A: PitchFest is designed to connect writers who have a completed, polished manuscript with eager agents and acquiring editors and producers. With 4 rooms filled to capacity at 54-57 agents, acquiring editors, and producers, (and an overflow 5th room – back of Book Room – for added experts) available to hear 3-minute pitches on Thursday afternoon, the event connects writers with agents and editors who might offer representation or buy their manuscripts. The goal is to produce success stories of writers becoming published authors. Until we developed ConsultFest, a PitchFest attendee had a 15 times more likely chance of signing with an agent and 10 times more likely chance of landing a book deal. With the narrowed focus on who should attend, our goal is to increase the number of successful contracts for writers.

ConsultFest allows 15 minutes with industry experts who can offer advice on how writers might consider improving their craft or their approach to agents and editors. Our goal is to better prepare writers to be ready to pitch someday. As one agent suggested about the inaugural event in 2019, “ConsultFest offers connection with hope” while PitchFest is all about making that connection.

Q: Will the same industry experts at ConsultFest be attending PitchFest?

A: Some editors and agents choose to attend both ConsultFest and PitchFest, although the majority choose one or the other. The editors and agents who want to meet authors with completed and polished manuscripts ready for sale attend PitchFest to hear your pitch. If they like your pitch, they’ll ask for a partial manuscript to review your writing and determine if they can take your novel to market.

At ConsultFest, a writer commits NOT to pitch to the editors and agents, instead asking for advice. It’s not that these agents and editors aren’t looking for talent, too, they just don’t want to hear a pitch. Instead, they’d prefer to review your query and/or manuscript pages and advise you on your work. ConsultFest offers an opportunity for the agent or editor to meet authors and review writing samples in advance. This allows many industry experts who prefer not to “hear pitches” to offer valuable advice to inexperienced writers and still have the opportunity to find potential talent at ThrillerFest.

Because the two venues are so different, some of our experts like to experience both opportunities.

Q: How long is my time with an industry expert, and what does it cost?

A: Writers pay $100 for 15 minutes of consult time at ConsultFest with the best editors and agents in the industry who will give advice on either of the following:

  • Advice on a one-page query letter where the topic of the 15-minute discussion between writer and consultant is about tips to improve the writer’s approach to an agent or with an acquiring editor, OR
  • Advice on the first two pages of the writer’s manuscript to discuss how the writer could improve his or her craft before approaching an agent or acquiring editor.

Writers can pay $200 for two consecutive sessions with an expert to receive advice on both the query letter and the first two pages from that same expert during a single consultation of 30 minutes.

Q: What do I get out of a consultation?

A: We can promise you will get as much out of the consultation as you put into it. We’ve designed this event for you to get advice on…

1) how to better pitch your work to an agent or editor through a query letter,

2) how to improve your chances of selling your manuscript through critique of the first 2-pages, or

3) things you could do to better guide your career path. We suggest you prepare questions to ask the experts in advance.

Most writers who attended last year were amazed at how much help they received in such a short time. The agents and editors also offered suggestions on submission requirements, in case they wanted to read more about you and your work. Although it’s not required for them to read anything more than the query letter or first two pages of your manuscript, many of our experts wanted to read more (which is great news for you!). We now require that you submit 7 pages described in the next question consisting of a Query Letter, first 5 Pages of manuscript, and Synopsis.

Q: What do I have to submit to attend ConsultFest?

A: To be eligible for a consultation, Writer must submit…

  • By no later than June 1st to assure assignments
  • 7-pages in Word Document format titled with writer’s name (ie: “Jane Smith”) to include,
    • 1-page Query Letter addressed to “Dear Agent/Editor:”, single space, letter format, 12-point font, 1” margins.
    • First 5-pages of manuscript (NOTE: only two-page- critique guarantee), double-spaced, 12-point font, 1” margins, noting writer’s name at top and working book title, and
    • 1-page Synopsis of novel or non-fiction work, double spaced, 12-point font, 1” margins.

Only 1 submittal is required for any number of consultations you choose to purchase. When you register for a consultation, we will ask you whether you’d like to have advice on your Query Letter or on the first two-pages of your manuscript. If you sign up for more than one consultation, you choose how many agents/editors will review the letter or the manuscript pages. We will let your advisors know.

Q: Can I pitch my work to the agent or editor at ConsultFest?

A: We ask that you commit to NOT pitching your work at ConsultFest. Most of the experts who volunteer their time for this event would prefer not to hear pitches and expect you to honor that preference. However, if they ASK you to pitch them, please feel free, but only if they specifically ask.

Q: Can I request the expert to focus on the query more than the manuscript or on the manuscript more than the query?

A: When you sign up for a consultation, we will require you to decide which document you want the experts to review—you will choose if you want help with your Query Letter or on the first two-pages of your manuscript. If you sign up for more than one consultation, you choose how many agents/editors will review the letter or the manuscript pages. We will let your advisors know. Under no circumstance will we choose for you. If you do not choose at the time we ask, your agent or editor may not receive your submission for review in advance of your consultation

Q: Can I ask the expert to give me feedback on both the query and the manuscript?

A: Each 15-minute consultation is designed around either the Query Letter or the first two-pages of the manuscript, but not both. We also offer the opportunity to sign up for consecutive sessions with the same agent or editor so one person can review both Query Letter and manuscript pages, or to simply have more time to discuss career advice.

Q: Why do I have to submit a synopsis and both a query and manuscript pages if I only want advice on something specific?

A: Many of the agents and editors from the inaugural year of ConsultFest asked if they could receive more pages representing your work. Some will read everything you send in just to give you advice on a single page, and others will focus only on your specific questions and won’t read anything but that work.

Even if the agent/editor doesn’t review all 7 pages, it is in your best interest to submit enough of your work for the experts to read. If an expert is interested in your work, submitting all three documents—Query, Manuscript, and Synopsis—would provide them with more of your writing to evaluate.

Q: Where can I find an example of the requested submittal for ConsultFest and the formatting required?

A: Please see submission requirements above.

In addition, here are links to some wonderful advice from experts on…

Q: We learned from ConsultFest 2019 that there may be some things you are, or are not, expecting.

A: This event was designed to give you expert advice on your work. That’s it. Everything else is gravy.

If you’re ready to hear honest, direct feedback from agents or editors, this is the event for you. If not, you will probably walk away disappointed. Even if your writing is stellar, you can always learn something new.

Whether or not you agree with the advice you receive, please don’t argue with the experts about their opinions. It’s fine to clarify your intent or offer more information if it helps the expert understand your work in more detail, but arguing with them about their advice will just frustrate both writers and experts. Invest your time wisely and redirect the conversation with a pre-planned list of questions.

Remember, a writing journey is all about differing opinions on the same body of work.

Q: How do I sign up for ConsultFest?

A: When you register (link to registration) for MasterClass, CraftFest or ThrillerFest, you will be eligible to sign up for as many consultations as you wish. If you have already registered, simply email the registrar at You can register for as many consultations as you wish. Remember, this is a first-come, first-served registration process and you will be assigned to the experts randomly although those of you who register for more than one will definitely be assigned to differing agents or editors. If you sign up for more sessions than agents or editors left with openings, we will contact you and allow you a refund if you don’t want back-to-back with any of them.

Q: Why cant I choose who I want to see during ConsultFest?

A: Coordinating schedules for both experts and participants at such a massive conference is challenging.

We coordinate the experts’ schedules based on their other conference responsibilities, such as speaking on panels, helping with the event, and travel plans to and from NYC. We then assign registered writers to confirmed agents and editors on a first-come, first served basis, also coordinating with the writers’ conference schedules. In late May, we confirm schedules again with our industry experts to make sure they are still available to volunteer for ConsultFest. By mid-June, we email confirmed schedules to the writers. We regret that we are not able to pair you with agents or editors per individual requests. We do assure you that you will not be assigned agents and editors repetitively for the current year, but we cannot promise you we won’t occasionally pair you with someone you’ve met in the past. We do our best to please you but can’t assure everyone can get his or her specific wish.

Q: Can I request back-to-back consultations with the same industry expert?

A: Yes, you can. You can register for up to 2 consultations back-to-back with the same expert and with as many experts as your maximum consultation limit allows. My Assistant Director will send you an email regarding the number of consultations you may register for and the submittal format.

Q: Should I bring anything with me to the consultation to give to the industry expert Im assigned?

A: We recommend bringing a business card with your contact information. This saves time taken by the agent or editor to write it down, and it eliminates transcription errors. (I’d hate to have you miss an email from an agent or editor because of a misprinted email address.)

We also strongly advise that you bring copies of your 7-page submittal, in case the expert is unable to refer to your submission due to a last-minute IT or printing glitch.

Q: Why do I have to bring a copy of my 7-page submittal if my work has already been forwarded on to the industry expert?

A: We do our best to distribute your work to the assigned expert but mistakes or unexpected things happen—we’re all human. So please print copies before you travel to NYC Grand Hyatt, just in case.

Q: Can I get the experts contact information to communicate with him or her after ConsultFest?

A: Sometimes the agent or editor shares their contact information and sometimes they don’t. At ITW, we are protective of the experts who volunteer their time to help you, so we do not give out any of their contact information unless they tell us to. Thank you for understanding in advance.

Q: Has anyone ever received representation from an agent or a book publishing deal by attending ConsultFest?

A: Absolutely! A side benefit to connecting writers with agents and editors at ConsultFest is that sometimes the expert finds a writer particularly interesting. Connections certainly do happen, and the agents and editors are just as excited as you are when that happens. Their job is to find you, that special talent, so be the best version of yourself at ConsultFest.

Q: If Ive already registered for ThrillerFest events, how can I sign up for ConsultFest or PitchFest or both?

A: If you have already registered, simply email the registrar at Sign up for as many consultations as you choose and we will assign you to experts as long as we have spaces left. See you in July!

And one last note:

We love coordinating these events for our attendees, but please be patient with us—we’re all volunteers.


Q: What exactly is PitchFest and when is it?

A: On Thursday afternoon following CraftFest and Practice PitchFest, we will host PitchFest, where you can pitch your novel to some of the best agents and acquiring editors in the business. Each year, we have over 50 agents and editors attending this special event with movie producers attending the event from time to time. Read about the incredible tales of success under the Success Stories tab. PitchFest has become the world’s largest gathering of top agents and acquiring publishing-house 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?

A: A number of authors have gotten representation from this event, including our very own PitchFest Director, Sandra Brannan, who found her agent through pitching. Several writers’ manuscripts have become real, published works, as evidenced by a few sharing their Success Stories. PitchFest, held every year on the Thursday afternoon following CraftFest in the morning and Practice PitchFest after noon, is designed for authors who want to pitch their work to the agents and acquiring publishing-house 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?

A: 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 editor from ITW-approved publishers are invited.

Q: Why do you have agents AND editors at PitchFest? What’s the difference?

A: Because most publishing houses require that work from new authors be submitted through agents, the most common route to publication is for you is to secure a contract with an agent who sells the work on your behalf 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 to see 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?

A: Every agent and editor who attends is actively seeking thriller manuscripts, and many are looking for other things in addition: mystery, suspense, romance, non-fiction, supernatural, and other genres. Review the participating bios and photos on the ThrillerFest website for what each 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?

A: PitchFest is held on Thursday from 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm during ThrillerFest week, with PowerHour from 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm. You may take breaks whenever you need as you are free to wander from room to room and 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 PowerHour, they remain at the event from 4:30 – 5:30 pm. We will indicate at that time if the agent or editor has decided to leave the event at our scheduled break at 4:30 pm.

Q: How does PitchFest work?

A: We recommend you study the bios of the agents and editors before arriving at the PitchFest event and prioritize whom you would like to visit based on the best fit for you and your manuscript. Once you have your prioritized list, you will find the four rooms are arranged alphabetically from A-Z or Z-A. The tables are arranged around all four walls in each room. Stand in the line of an agent or editor to whom you would like to pitch and when they are free, have a seat, relax, and pitch your manuscript. They want to know about you too, and why you feel best qualified to write the story you did. This process may take 30 seconds or 5 minutes, but normally you will be done in 3 minutes. We’ve asked the agents and editors to limit your time to 3 minutes so there’s time for all writers. The 3 minutes are designed for you to have a conversation with the agent or editor, so please don’t plan for a monologue, either from you or by them. Start with a quick, 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, concise, and succinct with your pitch. They may or may not ask questions, but normally they either give you instructions to send them a sample of your work if they are interested, or they will tell you they are not interested. Either way, 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 PowerHour immediately afterward, for a total of three-and-a-half hours of pitching time.

Q: How do I prepare for PitchFest?

If you are concerned about how to prepare, please attend Kathleen Antrim and Jon Land’s class during CraftFest (link to registration), normally late afternoon on Wednesday, to learn pitching tips and ideas from the experts. For additional advice, we have designed Practice PitchFest with knowledgeable industry experts to help you perfect your pitch. Practice PitchFest is held around Noon on Thursday, just before PitchFest. And if you’re really trying to sharpen your tools, register for ConsultFest to meet with acquiring editors at the leading publishing houses or top agents in the industry. For 15 minutes, and industry expert will give you personalized advice on how to improve your craft by critiquing the first 2-pages of your manuscript or suggesting how to improve your query letter. Learn more about ConsultFest by reading the FAQs.

Q: Why the distinction between PitchFest and Power Hour? Why not just a straight three-and-a-half hours?

A: We split the day into two parts: the main pitching event of two-and-a-half hours, at which all industry experts will be present, and the PowerHour extension, to accommodate those who are willing to stay longer for you. And no, we don’t know and can’t predict ahead of time which agents or editors plan to stay for PowerHour – it varies from year-to-year.

Make sure you visit your top expert picks during the first two-and-a half hours because he or she may not be there for the PowerHour.

Q: Is there anything besides PitchFest in which I can participate?

A: Practice PitchFest occurs on Thursday just before PitchFest. This event is automatically part of your registration with PitchFest and does not need additional registration. We recommend you try out your pitch on two of these fabulous authors and hand-selected literary agents who can provide some invaluable last-minute expert.

ConsultFest, a new event has been added to ThrillerFest week to complement PitchFest. Because so many writers wanted more time with experts to ask advice, rather than pitch a completed, polished manuscript, we created ConsultFest where pitches are highly discouraged. PitchFest is about making connections whereas ConsultFest is more about preparing the writer for an eventual opportunity to pitch. ConsultFest will be available throughout CraftFest and ThrillerFest where attendees can invest $100 to meet with one-on-one with an industry leading 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 his or her query letter or first two pages of a manuscript. By mid-June, the writer will be notified of an assigned date and time with the expert who will read the writer’s work (see required submittal), provide comments about first impressions, and offer feedback for improvements. Even with the overwhelming popularity of ConsultFest, we don’t limit the number of sessions you want to purchase, but you will only be allowed a maximum of two sessions with the same agent or editor. Eligibility for ConsultFest requires registration to CraftFest, MasterClass, or ThrillerFest. We have a limited number of experts and will confirm sessions on a first-come-first-serve basis. And of course, schedules may need to be adjusted through the event.

For writers, MasterClass on Tuesday is an excellent opportunity to have a bestselling author review and critique your work and/or impart pearls of wisdom you just can’t get anywhere else. The classes are typically intimate, meaning ten writers assigned to one master teacher.

Also for writers, CraftFest is an amazing opportunity to learn from bestselling authors and experts in the industry and is recommended if you want to attend PitchFest. PitchFest cannot be purchased as a single item (must either sign up for CraftFest, MasterClass, or ThrillerFest) because we want you prepared and professional for the pitching sessions. This is a 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.

Finally, ThrillerFest is an amazing opportunity on Friday and Saturday to meet readers, authors, the media, and many others. And of course, the Thriller Awards Banquet is Saturday night.

Q: Do I have to have a completed manuscript, or can I just pitch what I have written so far or throw out an idea I have for a novel?

A: We strongly recommend you have a completed and polished manuscript to sign up for PitchFest, unless you have a non-fiction project. Having a completed manuscript is not mandatory to participate in PitchFest but do your best to have one completed before the event. We know from experience that if agents like what they see, they want to sign you as a client and sell your book immediately to a publisher. You want that, too. They can’t sell your book unless it’s finished. And they may not be as interested months from now when you do finish. So, do your best to type THE END before coming to PitchFest. Pitch your best book. Mentioning to an agent that you have written other books is perfectly appropriate if they ask, and use that when they ask about what other ideas you have considered writing as a follow-up to the completed manuscript you are pitching. Also, feel free to pitch a self-published book although you’re better off pitching a fresh, new idea. The agents and editors love unique voices, new concepts, and books that haven’t already been out 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 ConsultFest instead.

Q: Do you assign me to agents, or do I pick?

A: Whom you pitch to is entirely up to you. Over the main event and PowerHour, you will have time to pitch to numerous industry experts. The number depends upon the length of the lines and how you prioritized the experts you would like to see. Keep in mind, pitching traditionally 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: Do I have to stay the whole three-and-a-half hours?

A: 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, and when they’re done, they leave. Many more stay the entire time and see as many 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 told you to send them a partial or the first few pages does not mean they’ll ultimately take you on as a client. So, your chances improve with getting more experts to say they are interested.

Q: Are the agents and editors paid to be there?

A: Absolutely not. They are volunteers. They are investing their time hoping to find great stories written by decent people. The more passionate they are about the manuscript, the easier it will be for agents to sell to editors, publishers to sell to the public. Don’t be discouraged if one of your top priority agents isn’t interested in your story. That does not mean you don’t have the right story. It’s just not the right story for them. Move to the next one on your list.

Q: Whom do we turn to if we have a more specific question about PitchFest?

A: The organizers have assigned me, Sandra Brannan, as the PitchFest and ConsultFest Director. I am a volunteer author who has assembled a team of experts who can help you with any questions or concerns you might have about PitchFest or ConsultFest. And if someone from my team of experts can’t help, contact me at or #SandraBrannanAuthor for FaceBook communications or @SandraBrannan on Twitter. I’ve been through PitchFest several times, finding my agent the second year I attended. And like most of us, I am a thriller author who volunteers my time to help you, to pay it forward. So please know I’m truly here to help you. My whole team is here to help. I’ve asked Jen Kreischer to be your ‘Writers’ Resource’ specifically assigned to answer any questions you might have throughout the process. She’s an awesome Assistant for both PitchFest and ConsultFest and can be reached at

Yet be warned: I’ve been PitchFest Director for years and have seen how writers who take short cuts or aren’t willing to do the work tend to wash out quickly. The business of writing is hard and takes stick-to-it-tiveness and elbow grease to be successful. And a little luck, of course. I 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 folks 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 answer questions. Respectfulness and courtesy are appreciated.

Q: If everyone is a volunteer, why am I charged to attend?

A: The cost to reserve the conference rooms, the pitch rooms, the book room, help from 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 who can help them advance their careers, it takes money to provide the venue. Even the board of directors pay to attend the conference, just like you, which helps keep the costs down for everyone.

Q: Do people who attend PitchFest actually get representation?

A: Sometimes, but not always. Some of those who have gotten 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 even a single solitary nibble—the opposite is equally true: they may all love your work. Some get representation but never 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?

A: Even if you have not one single agent interested in your story (which is incredibly rare), going through the process of pitching is still an enormously valuable experience. You will have met the top agents in the business, gone through the pitching experience, made valuable contacts, gotten feedback on your presentations, and learned a lot of things about the business. And, you’ll have the inspiration you need to strengthen your book and come back next year.

Q: Walk me through the PitchFest process.

A: You and many other writers participate in MasterClass on Tuesday, or in CraftFest on Wednesday and Thursday morning, or in ThrillerFest on Friday and Saturday. Everyone who signs up for PitchFest is eligible for Practice PitchFest which will be held in Ballroom I on the Ballroom level around Noon Thursday before PitchFest. Starting at around 1:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon, PitchFest attendees meet outside the Ballrooms on the Ballroom level (The Ballroom level is up the stairs, which are near the registration desk on the Conference Level Floor). A volunteer will direct you to where the line starts. Then at 2:00 p.m., we will escort you to the rooms on the Conference Level Floor where we hold the pitches. (The rooms will be familiar. They’re the same rooms where you attended CraftFest classes.)

Note: The initial line on the Ball Room Floor and leading down into the Conference Level Room 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 PowerHour, you will be standing in lines far more time than sitting with the agent or editor 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 me at for accommodations.

There are four rooms, each containing tables for the agents and editors. Each table has two chairs—one for you, one for them. They’re spaced along all four walls, in alphabetical order from A-Z or Z-A. There is a sign at each entry door listing who is in that room, plus their name is posted over his or her table inside the room, so you can find them with a quick glance. You will already have decided which ones you want to see, based on their bios contained on this website. When the doors open at 2 pm, you will walk into the rooms and find an agent or editor. On the wall taped behind them, you will find their name, whether they are an agent, editor, or producer, what company they’re with, what they are currently looking for, and what they are not looking for.

Q: How do they let me know if they like my pitch?

A: The agent says yes, no, or send me a partial or, in rare cases, the entire manuscript to read, then takes the next person standing in line. You then go into another line and make your next pitch.

Q: How long is each pitch?

A: Three minutes, more or less. Occasionally, an agent or editor will take longer with a writer and, although we encourage them to limit time to three minutes by providing them with egg-timers, we do appreciate when a match is being made that 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: How will we know when to move to the next line?

A: The agent or editor will tell you. We’re giving them 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 them some pages as a sample, please thank them for his or her 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 schedule because some can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in fifteen seconds, and thus 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 clocks. Please, don’t worry about any of this. Just relax, and concentrate on having a pleasant, lively discussion with them.

Q: Should I carry a stack of printed manuscripts in case an agent wants one?

A: 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, which would be very rare.

Q: Can I keep a copy on my computer or iPhone, so I can instantly e-mail it to the agents if they ask?

A: That’s fine. If they want your manuscript e-mailed, they will give you their e-mail address and give you 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 wonderful industry experts.

Q: How about business cards?

A: Although it’s always a good idea to have business cards with you, it’s not a good idea 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: and

Q: Should I have a website?

A: A website is not needed at all 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 trajectory, yet it will be needed eventually when you become a published author.

Q: In past years, some writers brought one-page summaries of their books to hand to the agents. Do you still recommend doing that?

A: What we’ve heard from the agents and editors lately is that they 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. We had created a ‘suggested template’ years ago but have removed the example from the website. The agents and editors are no longer interested in a one-page summary at this event. Instead, focus on preparing a one-page synopsis, in case an expert asks you to email them a synopsis along with sample pages for them to read. 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 hop lines if mine is too long?

A: 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?

A: You can take a break whenever you need. Go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, sit down, and take a deep breath. When you come back to the room all refreshed, join a new line, and please, don’t cut.

Q: Can I practice my pitch while I’m in line?

A: Please don’t. Every room will contain more than fifty people, simultaneously hearing and making pitches. That’s a lot of noise, and the rooms don’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: Who will be there during PitchFest in case I have questions?

A: The PitchFest Director, Sandra Brannan, (that’s me) will be there the entire time. And I always carry ibuprofen, if you need it. Assistant Director Jennifer Kreischer and ThrillerFest Executive Director Kimberley Howe will also be there and open to questions. Plus, we’ll have Room Captains—veteran author volunteers who know the pitching drill—stationed at the doorway of every room. Ask them anything.

Q: What happens when it’s over?

A: 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.

Q: Can I sign up ONLY for PitchFest?

A: In order to attend PitchFest, you must also sign up for MasterClass, CraftFest, or ThrillerFest. Although you can sign up for MasterClass, 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 MasterClass, 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’ve never made a book pitch. Will I learn how to pitch at CraftFest?

A: 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. Look for Kathleen Antrim and Jon Land’s class in the CraftFest Schedule as it gets closer to July to find the times.

Q: What should I wear that day? Suit and tie? Dress and high heels?

A: 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 want to thank the agents and editors but I don’t want to appear desperate or as a suck up.

A: 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: How do I contact someone if I have questions about PitchFest?

A: As the PitchFest and ConsultFest Director, I, Sandra Brannan, am a volunteer author who has assembled a team of experts who can help you with any questions or concerns you might have about PitchFest or ConsultFest. And if someone from the team of experts can’t help, contact me at or #SandraBrannanAuthor for FaceBook communications or @SandraBrannan on Twitter. Contact my team members or me directly and someone will get back to you as quickly as possible.


Q: How do I register for ThrillerFest and what options should I consider?

A: Registering for ThrillerFest is easy. Simply go to Registration on the ThrillerFest website and choose from a menu of options. The options include four main tracks plus a banquet that spans five days celebrating thrillers, the authors who write them, and the fans who read them. The options for registering include:

  • Master Class: An extraordinary opportunity for writers and authors to meet and learn from the best in the industry in a full day of teaching and review of sample writing on Tuesday.
  • CraftFest: A host of industry experts or phenomenal teachers helping writers and authors improve their craft or assist in advancing their careers in classroom-type settings of hour-long sessions throughout the day Wednesday and Thursday morning.
  • ConsultFest: A career must! New writers and emerging novelists finally gain access to industry expertise and to advice on how to better prepare themselves for the presentation of their work—that “pitch”—alongside established authors seeking advice on career path options and publishing from experts in the industry.
  • PitchFest: An incredible opportunity for writers to pitch their manuscripts to as many of the best agents, producers, and editors in the industry as they want on Thursday afternoon. (Note: Registration for PitchFest is an additional cost to either CraftFest, Master Class, or ThrillerFest and cannot be purchased as a stand-alone event for writers.)
  • ThrillerFest: A wonderful opportunity to meet the most successful and bestselling thriller authors in the world, starting with the Opening Night Cocktail Party on Thursday evening, and continuing with panels, interviews, and autograph sessions on Friday and Saturday.
  • The Thriller Awards Banquet, which is an added feature on the registration options, provides attendees a chance to see authors recognized by their peers for their work on Saturday night, the closing event. This is an amazing experience for both the readers and authors and should not be missed.

Various attendance packages are available that bundle options as discounted, single-priced events. Day passes are available for CraftFest and ThrillerFest.

Q: Tell me about ThrillerFest, the two days for readers and fans.

A: ThrillerFest kicks off on Thursday night at the Opening Cocktail Party, and then runs all day Friday and Saturday through the closing event, the separately priced Saturday Night Awards Banquet. Although it is a traditional conference in that the days are filled with author panels covering a variety of subjects and the nights are filled with cocktail parties and special events, ThrillerFest is unique in that so many of the most successful, bestselling authors attend and make themselves available to talk, sign autographs, and simply enjoy getting to know the readers.

Many readers attend the two-day event, as well as authors, agents, publishers, editors, the media, and other industry icons. One of the highlights of the conference is the one-on-one interviews with the famous authors who are our ThrillerMasters and Spotlight Guests. Coffee and soft-drink breaks are sponsored by a variety of publishers and organizations, who use the opportunity to promote their books and authors. The official release of the ITW anthologies and other special publications are part of the conference.

Fans have come to enjoy the countless opportunities to connect with their favorite authors by listening to them at panels and in interviews, by hanging out with them in the book room, at the bar, or at the many sponsored events by publishers, and by chatting with them during autograph sessions where authors make themselves available for photos and engrossing conversation with fans.

Q: Who are this year’s ThrillerMasters and Spotlight Guests and when can I hear them speak?

A: The schedule for this year’s special guests includes:

  • 2020 ThrillerMaster Diana Gabaldon
  • 2020 Silver Bullet Award recipient Michael Connelly
  • 2020 Spotlight Guests Joseph Finder and Veronica Roth
  • 2020 Thriller Legend Writers House

Q: How do I get to learn about the debut authors or find authors who are new to me?

A: Not only do we host the Debut Author Class at breakfast with introductions from New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry on Saturday morning, a significant part of our programming on Friday and Saturday is dedicated to fifty-minute panels, where five or six authors discuss and sometimes debate different topics related to thriller subjects. Panels are often moderated by the authors’ peer and the spontaneous answers are fun and interesting to attend.

Whether the authors are new to the industry or new to you, the panels afford the traditional opportunity for readers to get to know authors at conferences. The generous manner in which ITW authors make themselves available throughout the conference by hanging around in the hallways, in the bookstore, or at sponsored events allows for individual interaction with attendees. Subjects and authors are on the website schedule.

Q: Several panels are scheduled at the same time. Can I go to all of them?

A: Several great subjects are discussed concurrently by panels and during interviews. The attendees are encouraged to sit in on any of the sessions as long as they’d like. By leaving a door open in the back of the room, the attendees are welcome to come and go to any and all of the sessions throughout the day. Stay as long as you wish. Visit as many as you’d like. It’s entirely up to you. If you miss a workshop, the CD for that session is available to purchase at a table in the book room.

Q: How are the panelists chosen for ThrillerFest?

A: Authors who are ITW Members sign up for the event and check the box at registration indicating their interest in being on a panel. While the organizers cannot guarantee placement on a panel due to the overwhelming number of ITW authors interested in being on one, Kimberley Howe will submit the author’s name to the panel committee, who do their best to accommodate all ITW authors.

Q: Who are the people running this event?

A: Kimberley Howe is the Executive Director of ThrillerFest. She is amazing and handles the day-to-day challenge of making this event happen. She works closely with Jessica Saunders – Conference Coordinator; Jillian Stein – Social Media Director; Dennis Kennett – Registrar; Kathleen Antrim– CraftFest Director; and Sandra Brannan – PitchFest Director. Kimberley works under the direction of the ITW board of directors, the wonderful and talented authors who continue to find ways to make this event great for writers and readers alike.

There are more than a dozen volunteer committee chairs, who handle everything from event planning to marketing to selling ads in the program books to getting the posters in the right place at the right time. Be sure to volunteer when you come to ThrillerFest, as it’s a great way to meet people. And authors should keep in mind that the goal of ITW is authors helping others advance their career, which means volunteering and being available to help others throughout the conference.

Q: When is the schedule of authors and subjects posted, so I know where I should be?

A: As time draws near to July, the schedule of events for ThrillerFest will be posted on the website. Check back regularly for details.


Q: What is the awards banquet all about?

A: On Saturday, July 11, 2020, please join us at the annual Saturday night banquet where we will honor 2020 ThrillerMaster Diana Gabaldon, present the Thriller Awards, and offer other fabulous entertainment. There will be a cocktail party before the dinner and an after-party following the dinner. During the banquet, the key people who make this organization work are introduced. The highlight of the night is hearing from our ThrillerMaster and of course finding out who wins the coveted Thriller Awards, which are given every year for the best thriller books in hardcover, paperback original, debut, e-book original, and other categories. The nominees for each category for the Thriller Awards are on the ThrillerFest website, thanks to Anthony Franze, the VP of Awards and all their volunteers who read, judge, and choose the winners.

Q: Are there two cocktail parties, one before and one after the Awards Banquet?

A: On Saturday night before the banquet, attendees join the cocktail party held outside the banquet hall. After the awards banquet, the event shifts venue to an after-party—and it’s all included in the price of the banquet registration. It’s a tremendous evening of fun and excitement and an incredible opportunity to chat with the best in the industry and your favorite authors.

Tickets for the Thriller Awards Banquet must be purchased separately from other events and can be purchased through Registration on the ThrillerFest website.

Q: Do I have to dress up?

A: You certainly don’t have to dress up. Some people wear jeans or other casual clothes. But the vast majority of folks do dress up. Most men wear suits and ties, and a few wear tuxes. Most women wear cocktail dresses, and a few wear gowns or pants outfits. It’s an opportunity to look as good as you feel, and most people take advantage. Again, there’s no dress code, but be forewarned that only a few will dress casually.

Q: Is the ThrillerFest Awards Banquet the last event of the conference?

A: The five-day event ends with the post-banquet cocktail party Saturday night, so say your goodbyes until next year.

Q: Where do I sign up?

A: Register for any and all events for the ThrillerFest week on the website: Click on ‘Registration’. We’d love to see you there. Thank you for reading!