5 Things I Learned at the Pitch Conference (and one thing I forgot)

I spent the last four days at the New York Write-to-Pitch Conference, helping a group of 15 fabulous authors write pitches for their novels and memoirs. We met with three editors and two agents and had a lot of successes and a few failures and everyone survived and now I’m home and my mind is brimming with information. Here are some of the things I heard, or overheard.

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What I Learned at the pitch conference

  1. Magical realism is popular. There was a time if someone said they were writing magical realism, editors would glare at them and gag, but this year they were really interested. Two of the most popular books at the conference involved magical realism.

2. Sexy, handsome chefs are a staple of women’s fiction. (Might be time to start thinking of other types of sexy men.)

3. A lot of people are writing about cults. I learned a new word: exangelical, which refers to someone who’s left an evangelical church.

4. Second coming of age stories are hot. People who turn their lives around when they’re thirty, or sixty. Or one hundred. (I didn’t get that last one, but I can see it coming.)

5. Editors and agents were more receptive to memoirs than they’ve been in the past few years, though they’re still wary of taking anything on unless you are famous, have a huge platform, or a really interesting concept. But if you can think of a great hook…

What I forgot

How quickly things can change. There was one person at the conference who was trudging along. One rejection after another. At one point he asked me if he should go home because maybe he was wasting his time. But I said, no. Stick it out. You can never tell. So he got to the last agent, gave his pitch, and the agent was absolutely beside himself. Loved the pitch, the author, the book. You just don’t know.

So now I’m inspired, and exhausted. Have you been to a pitch conference? What have you learned?

Susan Breen is the author of the Maggie Dove mystery series. Her stories have been published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The MWA anthology, Crime Hits Home, in which she has a story, just won an Anthony Award. She teaches novel-writing at Gotham Writers and is on the staff of the New York Write to Pitch Conference. www.susanjbreen.com


  1. Never been to a pitch conference but I did try to pitch agents at several conferences way back when. I’m horrible at pitching but I did it.

    I got turned off pitching at conferences because I had one to many agents say, ‘send me the full manuscript’ then never respond. Stupid me. I expected that if you met the agent face to face they would at least have the courtesy to send a form ‘not for me’ letter.

  2. I don’t think I’d survive…. I’m curious to hear what makes a solid pitch though. Maybe in a future post? Thank you for sharing your experience!

  3. Susan, I think you folks need a resident therapist for those Pitch conferences. I can feel the stress just reading your post. Bravo to those who dare to pitch. They deserve to be published.

    1. You would be surprised at the number of therapists and doctors who come to the conference. And lawyers. Yes, a resident therapist, or dog, would be very useful. 🙂

  4. I grew very disillusioned with the whole pitching process. I remember standing in those long lines and the people all around me were so nervous and stressed out sometimes they’d be shaking. And they come out ecstatic because someone asked for the manuscript, but I’d see the same people in line the next year, shaking and terrified all over again. Life’s too short.

    1. I know there are conferences like that, Sharon, but we actually keep things fairly small and have a pretty good track record. We’ve had lots of our participants sell books, myself included, and many more get agents. You just have to pick the right conference.

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