New York Pitch Conference: The Art of Selling Your First Book

The calm before the creative storm: This is what the Ripley-Grier Studios hallway looked like before writers arrived to pitch their manuscripts.

The calm before the creative storm: This is what the Ripley-Grier Studios hallway looked like before writers arrived to pitch their manuscripts.

Do you have a manuscript you want to pitch? Perhaps you want to test the waters for a book idea? If you’re nodding as you read this, you should check out the New York Pitch Conference. I belong to the first camp, and I’m glad I attended. 

The event, part of the Algonkian Writer Conferences, was held Sept. 25-28, 2014, at the Ripley-Grier Studios in Times Square. Pre-conference assignments started as soon as I registered. I wrote a thorough description of the major elements of my historical novel. I read articles and researched comparables.

In New York, we worked on our pitches through group discussions and one-on-one consultations. Most of all, we pitched to agents and editors, who gave us invaluable feedback. Some of them requested my manuscript.

Unlike other writer conferences I’ve attended, this event is not about learning how to write, though we certainly received writing tips during discussions. As its name suggests, the conference focuses on pitching—as a method for selling a manuscript and as a diagnostic tool to evaluate the commercial viability of your work.

Who Should Attend

From what I’ve observed, the writers who gained the most at the New York Pitch Conference fall under the following categories.

. Ready to Go: These are writers who have completed their manuscripts and are ready to get published. They have done the hard work long before the conference. Their manuscripts have been critiqued in workshops or by beta readers. They’ve revised their works more than once. Some attendees have worked with professional development editors. I, myself, have revised my manuscript a few times after getting feedback from a literary agent and an editor in writing conferences. I worked with a writing-critique partner for 10 months.

. Seeking a Reality Check: These are writers who want to know if their book ideas have a commercial potential. Some of them came with proposals, but they haven’t written or completed their manuscripts. They were mostly nonfiction and memoir writers. Others haven’t decided whether to write their stories as memoirs or as fiction. They needed feedback to guide their writing.

. Open to Revision: These are writers who have finished a full draft of their manuscripts and want a reality check. They are open to suggestions for changes in genre, POV, characters, book length, and other things. Their manuscripts are still malleable.

Pitching Your First Book

The conference is primarily for writers who want to get published traditionally, especially those who want to market their manuscripts as commercial books. We were there to sell our manuscripts, ideas, and yes, ourselves as writers.

There were many first-time authors, including some without writing backgrounds, but they have compelling stories and experiences. There were attendees like me who have published short stories in literary journals and magazines. My first book, a novella, is going to be published by Lyrical Press, an imprint of Kensington Publishing. It’s scheduled for release in April 2015.

New York Pitch Conference: Top 4 Benefits

The conference offered many benefits. Here are my top four:

(1) Small Groups Worked Well: We were divided into four groups based on genre. I was part of a class of 11 writers whose works fell under the literary fiction and memoir genres. Each class was assigned a workshop leader. The group size was just right. It was big enough to generate diverse opinions and small enough for each of us to get the attention we needed. My classmates were extraordinary. I expect to read their published works one of these days.

 (2) Workshops Led by Publishing Pros: The workshops were led by experienced publishing professionals. My group leader, Susan Breen, is a literary author and a professional writing instructor. She has the perfect combination of  calm, reassuring personality and great writing and publishing background. She is perceptive, patient, and very supportive. She’s a New York Pitch Conference poster girl who successfully pitched her first novel at the event a few years ago. So when she told us, “I understand how you feel,” during the nerve-racking pitch sessions, we knew she wasn’t just being nice. I felt lucky to be in her class.

(3) First-Rate Editors and Agents Participated: My class pitched to a literary agent from a reputable agency and editors from Penguin Random House, St. Martin’s Press, and William Morrow. As a bonus, we each picked another workshop leader to critique the first page of our manuscripts.

 (4) Creative Atmosphere: The conference was held at the Ripley-Grier Studios in Midtown Manhattan. I worked in Midtown for almost a decade. The area pulsed with vitality, exactly as I remember it. I was glad to be back. While we talked about writing and pitching in our class, we could hear a soprano and a pianist warming up. Classical music spilled out from another room. During breaks, we bumped into tap dancers and ballerinas, their outfits giving them away. While we lined up for our pitches, they did the same for their auditions. The creative energy and anxiety were palpable. It was great. I felt like I could do anything.

Attending the New York Pitch conference is the best three-and-a-half-day investment I’ve made in my writing in a long time. I met a lot of interesting, smart, and creative people. I learned new things and “unlearned” some misconceptions. It was an experience I won’t soon forget.

For more information about the New York Pitch Conference, click here.

To learn more about other Algonkian Writer Conferences, click here.

Leave a comment


  1. I was at the June conference and I completely agree. It was a fabulous (and anxiety causing) experience. Congrats.

  2. Hi Ice Scream Mama. Yes, I read your blog post about your experience. I even asked you about it on the comment section, and you replied back. Thanks for your info. It helped me decide to go.

  3. Thank you for visiting my site and for “liking” my post. And thank you for the valuable information on your site.

  4. Hi jpbohannon. Thanks for stopping by!

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