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

The First Two Said No

By John Dixon

The first two said no.

They were both really cool about it, explaining they weren’t actually repping young adult titles anymore, and both offered referrals to agents who did rep YA. I jotted down the recommendations, thanked them, and moved on, turning once more to the daunting yet oh-so-exciting event that was PitchFest.

This was my first PitchFest—my first ThrillerFest, for that matter—and I’d come to New York with fairly humble hopes: if I could get one agent interested in seeing pages from my newly finished YA thriller, PHOENIX ISLAND, I’d count the experience a success.

But turning back to the room full of agents, editors, and hopeful writers, success seemed a long shot. I was 0 and 2 on the day. Gulp.

Truth be told, I didn’t tumble into total pessimism. I loved my book, and with the help of Jon Land, I’d polished and practiced a pretty good pitch. So I leapt once more into the fray.

And everything changed.

The rest of the agents I “speed dated”—nine in all—wanted to see the book. Needless to say, I was over-the-top excited.

I submitted to five agents. A week later, one offered representation. I couldn’t believe it happened so quickly. I was even more surprised when three additional offers of representation poured in. Thus began a very exciting, incredibly nerve-wracking time, where, through multiple phone calls, emails, and a face-to-face meeting, I got to know the agents and worked out my best fit. The agents were great, one and all, brilliant and charismatic and generous with their time and patience; but in the end, I knew the right choice for me: Christina Hogrebe of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

Christina read the first half of PHOENIX ISLAND in one night and e-mailed the next morning to let me know she was soliciting further readers within the agency. The next day, we had a nice phone conversation, and she invited me to visit the agency and meet “the team.” A few days later, when I rode the train into Manhattan, at least four people at the agency had already read my manuscript. Four people in just a few days’ time—talk about an advocate!

With the help of all the amazing people at JRA, Christina and I knocked the manuscript back and forth, creating what she calls a “mean, lean thriller machine.” She also secured the help of Joe Veltre from the Gersh Agency, who agreed to handle the film rights.

Joe put me in touch with another great guy, film producer Tripp Vinson, the man behind a ton of blockbusters, including THE NUMBER 23, THE GUARDIAN, and the remake of one of my all-time favorites, RED DAWN. Tripp loves the book, and he’s been a great champion. He teamed up with NORTH COUNTRY writer, Michael Seitzman, and together they pitched to ABC Studios, who optioned my thriller as the basis for a TV series called INTELLIGENCE. From there, they approached the networks and sealed a deal with our top choice, CBS. INTELLIGENCE premiers this fall (2013), starring Josh Holloway, Marg Helgenberger, and Meghan Ory.

Finally, the happiest news of all, literally a dream-come-true: PHOENIX ISLAND sold in a two-book deal to Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books imprint, where I’m overjoyed to be working with editor Adam Wilson.

Needless to say, I’m a big, big fan of ThrillerFest and PitchFest. I owe a huge thanks to Shane Gericke, Kimberley Howe, Jon Land, Kathie Antrim, and the entire army of amazing folks who make the convention come together so perfectly. If you’re an aspiring thriller writer, I can’t recommend the experience highly enough. ThrillerFest changed my life, and I can’t wait to attend again next year.

To learn more about John, please visit his blog.