I am going to Thrillerfest this year. I wanted to learn from the best, and Thrillerfest provides me an opportunity to do just that. It is a fairly expensive undertaking, but one that provides a not-to-be missed opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the big names in the thriller community and learn a lot at the same time. I have been to Thrillerfest before, but I haven’t written about it. I thought it was time to blog about it based on those past visits.
Thrillerfest takes place in New York City, at the Grand Hyatt New York, from July 10-14, 2018. The New York venue makes it a relatively expensive undertaking, but that’s where a lot of the top-notch publishing houses and literary agents have their home, so a New York location makes their attendance more likely and enriches the conference. There is a lot of a la carte pricing which makes it possible to pick and choose among opportunities and reduce your costs somewhat. The Thrillerfest website is http://thrillerfest.com/. There are three major components, Craftfest, Pitchfest, and Thrillerfest itself. There is also a pre-conference tour to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (last year was the F.B.I). There is a small bookstore where authors are available for a book-signing.
Craftfest provides opportunities where the authors teach short courses related to the craft of writing as they each see it. The authors are very generous with their time and the information about their craft that they present to a very willing audience. I have attended a lot of theses talks, and they are generally excellent, particularly for someone just learning to write a novel. Trust me, there is a lot to learn. Topics such as “Ten Mistakes New Authors Make” (I made at least six before I lost count) have been offered at prior Craftfests as well as more specific topics such as character, plot, dialog, pacing, writing career advice, etc. Every lecture I attended at Craftfest has been informative, well-prepared and well-presented. I will be attending Craftfest again this year.
Pitchfest is sandwiched in between Craftfest and Thrillerfest and in many ways is probably the heart of what goes on at Thrillerfest. It is an opportunity for aspiring writers to pitch their work to agents who are looking for writers to represent. Direct pitches to publishing houses are also possible at this event. It is like speed-dating where the author has about three minutes to sell themselves to a prospective buyer. The whole affair is crowded and zoo-like, but is extremely well run by a small army of volunteers who direct traffic and offer encouragement to nervous authors. If an agent likes your pitch, they will ask for more samples of your writing before exploring a more serious relationship. It is an intimidating process. This is a tough business, but Pitchfest provides a great opportunity to showcase your work to a number of potential agents.
Thrillerfest itself is largely topic-oriented panel sessions relevant to the thriller community. I have not attended this in the past, but it appears well-attended and has an impressive array of authors and industry leaders as members of various panels. I will be attending this part of Thrillerfest this year.
Thrillerfest is staffed by a large army of volunteers who provide the oil that makes this large conference run smoothly. I will be volunteering this year as a way to give back a little bit to this event that I have enjoyed so much in the past. In addition, it will be a great way to meet people. Authoring is a very lonely profession, and networking is necessary just as it is an any other endeavor. As at most conferences I have ever attended, a lot of learning takes place outside the formal events of the conference, and volunteering provides a great opportunity to meet a large number of extremely interesting folks. I’ll let you know how it all goes.