My "Thrillefest" Agentfest Experience - Jo-Ann Carson

My "Thrillefest" Agentfest Experience


While it’s hard to squish my three and half hour experience with four rooms filled with agents into a blog post, I know that many people are curious about it. So here goes:

First the short stories:

  1. Yes, it is worth the steep price.
  2. I managed to talk to a total of 10 agents (the rumored record is 17 and the average is 7): 1 turned out to be a sneaky vanity press rep <grrrrr- more about that later>, 2 rejections, 2 requests for fulls (that means they want to see my full manuscript) and 5 requests for partials (which means they want to see part of my manuscript and a synopsis, length varying from 1 to 3 chapters). This result is better than I dreamed.
  3. I have no idea if any of these contacts will result directly in a publishing deal, but I learned a lot about presenting “my stuff” and the experience furthered my development as a serious writer. I feel less virginal.

The Rejections

I had one hard rejection and one soft.
The Hard: The hard rejection took me by surprise. He was the third agent I talked to and I was flying high on the success of my first two encounters. After telling me that I looked like a good friend of his he listened to my pitch he interrupted me mid-sentence and said, “No not interested.” I gulped. But hell, I had too much on the line to leave it there so I asked him why. He blinked and leaned back in his chair. Then we discussed his rejection and arrived at the agreement that it was my presentation. I wasn’t giving him the feeling that there was enough at stake in my story. He wanted greater conflict. He said, “It’s not enough that her life is at risk. I get that…” It was a good conversation and he suggested I send him a rock solid query. I won’t, because I think he’s looking for a different kind of thriller than mine. All in all I consider it a jarring but good experience.
The Soft: The agent liked my pitch but said she was representing a similar story, so she couldn’t represent me. She suggested I talk to her colleague in the next room.

The Vanity Press

I question what they were doing there. She was my last agent. Time was running out. I stood twenty minutes in line waiting for her. The first thing she did was compliment me on my pitch card. My inner voice nudged what was left of my brain.
“Did you do that all by yourself?” she asked.
Oh no, something’s wrong here. I pitched and she talked about the changing landscape (my word condensing hers) of publishing, and in the middle of her barrage of words I picked up $5,000.00. I stopped her and asked if there was going to be a fee for her services. “Well, yes, but you get to keep the copyright and our goal is to get you out there.”  When I accused her of being a vanity press she again talked around the term, but she knew she’d lost me.
While my inner voice swore like a sailor, I rose like a lady and left. My time with Agentfest was over.

The Requests

Each agent received my pitch in their own way and asked different questions. They accepted my pitch card and were encouraging. They all had timers on their desks but I didn’t see one use them. If it looked like I was going to lose them I blathered on about how well I’m doing in writing contests. It all seemed to work. But we’ll see. These agents read thousands of manuscripts. I just have to hope that my work will resonate with one of them.


So, if you’re out there wondering if you should dip your toe in the pond, I say forget the toe, jump in the water is warm and the possibilities are endless. But wear comfortable shoes, because the lines up are brutal.
(Back to my apartment saga tomorrow.)