I will always be a big fan of of ITW and Thrillerfest because I owe my career to this conference. It was here that I met and signed with four agents–one film, one foreign, two lit–and also found my writer’s group.
When I went to the very first Thrillerfest in Arizona, I looked up at the debut author’s panel, just a handful of authors back then, and promised myself I’d sit up there someday. I’d had some hard knocks, but was reinventing myself and I wanted to be published more than anything in the world. I continued to return like a holy pilgrimage, listening to authors like Lee Child, R.L. Stine, Jim Rollins and more, and I absorbed every word. Lee told us there was no magic to getting signed; getting an agent was procedural. I’d never heard it that way before, and it made so much sense.
The next time I went, I signed up for Pitchfest. An author I’d become friends with at the first conference heard I was going to pitch his big agent, so he offered to put in a recommendation. Pitchfest was an amazing opportunity, a chance to meet so many agents in one room – and they all want to hear your pitch!
That agent signed me, but didn’t sell my first manuscript. I was devastated – for a day. Then, when I next wrote a YA manuscript, he felt he couldn’t sell a YA in that market, and nicely released me from my contract. Within hours, I had several agents who wanted the full manuscript. In 24 hours, I had offers of representation and they kept coming. The one I ended up choosing was someone I had met at Thrillerfest when a different author friend introduced us. This agent went on to sell my debut in a preemptive bid by Random House the night before the auction. STARTERS was a lead title that sold for seven figures, becoming an international bestseller published in over thirty countries, several that I toured. They made a live-action trailer that played in front of The Hunger Games movie in ten cities and abroad. It was more than I ever imagined.
Many exciting moments followed, but the one that meant the most to me, because of the secret pact I’d made with myself at that first conference in Arizona, was getting to sit on that debut author’s panel.
Thank you, ITW, for creating this place for us.
Lissa is a diverse author and supports diversity. To learn more about her, please visit her website.