A roller coaster starts off slow, gathering potential energy, as it ratchets almost lazily up the long upward track.
A writer may work for months or years on their first thriller, driven to tell that story, sweating every bit of dialogue and twist of plot. Building suspense.
Then comes the tipping point. The coaster comes to the apex, tilts forward. The writer sends their first query to prospective agents. Or perhaps, visits PitchFest.
I first learned of ITW and ThrillerFest through my weekly writing group. With my novel PAST CRIMES rapidly nearing the point where query letters would become unavoidable, I decided to gamble – read: procrastinate – a little longer, and fly across the country for some expert advice and a bit of practice in pitching my story.
On the big day I downed extra coffee and donned comfortable shoes. I spoke with nine agents during the afternoon, including the extra Power Hour. Invariably, they were polite, focused, and friendly. And all nine requested to see part or all of the manuscript. Even better than I had hoped.
The rest of the weekend was just as extraordinary. Between writing lessons from some of the world’s top authors, entertaining panels and interviews, and making new friends, my first ThrillerFest was high on value and low on sleep.
Within a month, I had spoken to some of the agents directly about representation, including the remarkable Lisa Erbach Vance of the Aaron Priest Literary Agency. Lisa patiently answered every tiny question I had about her agency, the submission process to publishers, and the best route to take with my sort of novel.
After the summer, when much of the publishing world returned to the city, Lisa began a full-court press of the houses, and within a matter of weeks, we had a two-book deal with William Morrow in the US and Faber and Faber in the UK. Elapsed time since PitchFest: less than four months.
It can happen that fast. A bigger rush than any roller coaster.
So… get yourself and your manuscript and your sales pitch ready. Climb aboard. And hang on.
PAST CRIMES will be published by William Morrow in the U.S. and Faber and Faber in the U.K. in Spring 2015.