Last year marked a bold experiment at ThrillerFest 2008. Basically, The Powers That Be wondered what would happen when approximately forty agents are thrown into a room with a horde of ravenous authors searching for The One Who Will Represent Me.
In order to determine if the experiment was a success, we tracked down one of the survivors -- uh, participants, Stephany Evans. Here is what she had to say to ITW Debut Author Jennie Bentley (FATAL FIXER-UPPER; SPACKLED AND SPOOKED) about her experiences:
Jennie Bentley: You attended Thrillerfest/Agentfest last year, right? Was that your first time?
Stephany Evans: Yes, last year was the first Agentfest (at Thrillerfest) I've attended.
JB: Will you be attending again this year? If not, sometime in the future?
SE: I'm not scheduled to attend this year, but wouldn't rule it out for the future. Thrillers aren't a key category for me, but I do represent mysteries and am interested in romantic suspense. I haven't really found a great deal that has grabbed me yet, but both of those are categories that Thrillerfest attracts - along with numerous other sub categories that could very broadly be called "thrillers."
JB: Why did you decide to attend last year?
SE: Well, really to "Talent Scout." There was certainly talent there, but the question is always to find the great writer who wants to write (or has written) the story one personally wants to read. When I signed on to do Agentfest, on my bio I wrote "glitz OK" - or something like that. I'm open to those big glitzy international scurries, through fabulous settings, whether it be an escape or a race to save one's corner of the world. But nobody pitched me anything like that. And certainly I was open to other things as well. I'm probably not the right agent, though, for super violent stories (no serial killers) or stories about killer viruses. And it'd be unusual for me to fall for something that didn't have a female protagonist (though this has happened) but generally, I try to keep an open mind and see what might catch my fancy.
JB: Did you have fun?
SE: I generally have a little fun among so many authors and agents. It's always nice to spend time with friends.
JB: Did you sign any new authors as a result of attending?
SE: Not this time.
JB: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers when it comes to putting their best feet forward at the pitch sessions?
SE: The best advice I can give is to just try to be relaxed. Many authors stress themselves out about sitting in front of an agent and it's not necessary. Definitely prepare what you want to convey, but remember to breathe. It'll go a lot more smoothly if you simply prepare well and then just tell us about your story. This is guessing, but it seems to me that some authors get so keyed up about how to convey their story that they say to themselves, "Oh the heck with it. I'll just wing it." I actually don't recommend this. Practicing your pitch will always make you feel more comfortable about your ability to deliver it, and thereby make you more relaxed.
Secondly, authors should remember to keep it brief. It's helpful if they can just initially give a log line - a single sentence that conveys the concept - and then expand that to about the length of pitch that could be containged in a single page letter. In this type of situation agents are hearing pitch after pitch after pitch. We can't even take in all the info contained in the "5-page synopsis" version. Our eyes will glaze, our brains will implode (you can't see it, but that's what's happening inside the skull). It's seriously painful and you won't be asked to send your work. Just hook the agent quickly - if s/he wants to hear more, s/he'll ask.
JB: Any tips for how to get the most out of Thrillerfest when attending, in other ways?
SE: I'm not really qualified to answer this since I only attended the pitch session, but I know there are lots of groovy things to do. Here's a general tip for any conference - familiarize yourself with the program early on. Can't tell you how often I've missed something neat that was happening on the first day or first few hours because I didn't get a chance to read the sked til later.
JB: Did anything especially fun/interesting/horrible/awesome happen to you at Thrillerfest, that would make a good story?
SE: In the fun category... Barbara Vey stopped by the table to say hello. I read her PW blog "Beyond her book" when I get the chance so that was neat to say hi in person.
In the horrible/awesome category... Well, make that the awesomely horrible category... The pitch sessions were held in a long, low-ceilinged ballroom - picture rows of small tables, from end to end, in this crowded room. Each table has an agent sitting at it with one person sitting opposite, and a line of a few people behind that person. There were about 40 agents and a couple hundred authors. The session moderator had in his hand a very loud brass bell, supposedly "the real bell from the TV show McGyver." OK. I confess. I've never watched McGyver. But this is the bell and that's meaningful to large numbers of the assembled, I have to assume. This bell was used to announce the conclusion of each pitch session. When it rang, it was time for the person seated to move on and the next person would sit. The moderator with his McGyver bell was standing directly in front of me. So I was getting the full brunt of the McGyver bell, every few minutes, when it was rung loudly enough to be heard at both ends of the room. In between rings I was to focus on the new person's story, often told either haltingly or in excessive detail. We had been given glasses of water - but no Exedrin to go with it. A very long couple hours.
JB: So there you have it. Huge thanks to Stephany for taking the time out to answer our questions. We really appreciate it. And although she won't be at Agentfest this year, she's accepting queries at her office. If you've written a glitzy international scurry, or something else you think she might like, feel free to visit her website, FinePrint Literary Management, for submission guidelines.
Thank you, Jennie and Stephany, for sharing, and we hope to see both of you at future ThrillerFests!
-- Introduction written by ITW Debut Author Jeannie Holmes (CRIMSON SWAN).
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