Agent Pitch Sessions

Our 2019 Agents are looking for:

Word cloud of the genres that the 2019 agents will be looking for

Agents at the Writers’ Institute

The Writers’ Institute offers you direct access to accomplished literary agents who are looking for both fiction and non-fiction related materials. You have the opportunity to pitch your ideas to these established agents via 8-minute pitch sessions. See tips and instructions below.

Agents Weronika Janczuk, Paul S. Levine, Joanna MacKenzie, Steven Salpeter, Gordon Warnock, Carlisle Webber and editor Cheryl Yeko will be present to take your pitches. Please visit the agents’ and editor page for detailed information about their backgrounds and agencies and plan accordingly to pitch your materials to them.

    • No refunds for agent pitches after April 2, 2019
    • No refunds for dropping pitches onsite
    • You may add a pitch anytime & pay by credit card or check

Sign up for your agent pitches when you register.

Returning this year, our Thursday Kick-off Sessions:

At 12:45 conference director Laurie Scheer will present What to Expect at a Writing Conference – An Introduction to the Writers’ Institute. For those who are new to attending a writing conference – and for those who have joined us previously — Writers’ Institute director Laurie Scheer walks you through the overall general logistics of the complete four-day event. Included is a run-down of the conference schedule, the sessions and tracks, the hotel layout, pitching procedures with our agents and author-publishers and more…  Questions are welcomed and encouraged. Join us to be sure your 2019 Writers’ Institute experience is the best that it can be. (This session repeats at 4:30 PM on Thursday afternoon).

Beginning at 1:45 PM on Thursday afternoon, media executive Jeff Kurz will present Pitch Your Best Pitch Pitching Workshop. Sure, you’re nervous about your pitch and that’s why we’re offering a special pitching workshop on Thursday afternoon before the pitching fun begins, Jeff Kurz offers the industry’s best advice for writing loglines, synopses, and other pitch related materials. Additionally, if there is time, practice pitches are conducted for everyone to observe. You’ll also receive a list of resources to gather information to make your pitch the best pitch in the room. This workshop is being offered after overwhelming demand from previous year’s attendees. Prepare your pitch, arm yourself with information and awareness of your genre – pitch your best pitch at this year’s conference beginning here. This event is $20.

On Thursday evening, the sessions continue with advice and wisdom from two publishing experts:

At 6:00, join Joanne Berg, the owner and manager of Madison’s Mystery to Me bookstore in a session entitled Writers and Bookstores; An Inside Look at How Writers Can Improve Their Sales.

Joanne’s session is followed by agent Steven Salpeter who will present: A Literary Agent Reveals the Biggest Pitfalls Writers Miss in Revision – Steven Salpeter.

Are you getting your novel ready for submission? Before starting to build his own list, literary agent Steven Salpeter read manuscripts for agents at three major agencies, and has sent revision notes to over one hundred successful authors. Whether you’re writing your debut or your breakout, the mistakes covered in this session could potentially stop your polished manuscript from finding the success it deserves. Don’t let this happen to you! Let a literary agent at one of the top literary agencies walk you through the biggest mistakes writers make when revising their manuscripts and querying literary agents looking for new authors.

Throughout the conference on Friday and Saturday:

Meet our agents panel – Friday 3:15-4:15

Our agents will share their thoughts about the publishing industry along with candid observations about their clients. Join us for a lively insider’s look at our conference agents this year.

Q & A Sessions with Our Agents

Spend an hour with an agent discussing various topics in the publishing industry. These 1-hour casual sessions with each of the agents are $15 and space is limited. Sign up when you register.

Personal Practice Pitch Sessions (Friday through Saturday afternoon)

We are offering continuous opportunities for you to practice your pitch through Practice Pitch Sessions. At past Writers’ Institutes these have been very popular and they are very affordable sessions ($10, you sign up when you register-no limit to the number of times you can sign up) will allow for 15 minutes of one-on-one meeting time with our industry experts Jeff Kurz, Kristin Oakley, Sue Roupp, and Nick Chiarkas. Deliver your pitch, receive feedback, continue to perfect your pitch and then see your agent and provide a stellar pitch. No need to be nervous (or at least these pitch sessions will help put you at ease just a bit). To participate in a personal practice pitch session, see the registration form.

One-on-one pitch sessions with agents—tips and instructions

  1. Sign-up
    • There are pitching opportunities on Friday and Saturday of the conference.
    • There is no limit as to how many pitches you can give. Call 608-262-2451/ 800-725-9692 now to reserve your spot or register online.
    • You must be registered for at least one day of the conference to qualify for a pitch meeting.
  2. Free Document: How to Get the Most Out of YOUR Writers’ Conference
    As a thank you for being a part of this year’s Writers’ Institute, we will send you How to Get the Most Out of YOUR Writers’ Conference prepared by conference director Laurie Scheer. This document addresses ways to prepare for your optimal Writers’ Institute experience.
  3. Do I have to have a book completed before I can pitch?
    • For fiction writers:
      Please have a completed novel manuscript. Please do not pitch “ideas only.”
    • For nonfiction writers:
      Please have a fleshed-out book proposal (includes a brief overview of the book, chapter outline, author statement/platform, and potential market including what else is already out there and why the market needs your book). For memoir writers, your completed memoir would be best, along with a completed book proposal.
  4. What happens in a pitch meeting?
    • Agents or managers want to hear about your characters and plot, or nonfiction book in a “nutshell.”
    • Please don’t bring your manuscript with you, but you can bring along a one-page synopsis or notes. Agents cannot read manuscript pages during a pitch meeting because of their professional rules of conduct.
    • Prepare a one-page, single-spaced synopsis of your entire plot (or short outline for your nonfiction book). This is for you to refer to during your meeting. On rare occasion, agents might ask to take it with them. Have your name, email address, and phone number at the top.
    • Have a great logline—that one-sentence summary of what your book (or other project) is about. Read it out loud before you get here; revise it a couple of times. This logline usually opens the discussion in your pitch meeting. If this is your first pitch meeting and you’re nervous, write down the logline and read it from your notes. The agent is here to hear your idea, not to judge you on memorization or presentational skills.
    • For novelists, and for writers of narrative nonfiction (ex. biographies and memoir) and screenplays, your pitch meeting might go into more about the structure of the story and the character’s fatal flaw or weakness, strength, and what’s learned by the end. Know your major plot points (also called turning points) in your structure: inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint crisis, climax, resolution.
    • Be able to talk about at least one big memorable scene from your story or project, sometimes called the “set-piece scene.” This is the type of scene that might say “everything” about the main conflict or theme of your book or screenplay.
    • For all types of nonfiction books, be able to talk about “why this book at this time in the marketplace.”
    • For novelists and nonfiction book/proposal writers, please know your word count and page count. They might ask for either or both.
      Good luck!
  5. What is the usual follow-up procedure for writers who have pitched to agents at the conference?
    • Agents are professionals. They are powerful individuals who can make and break writing careers. Please give them time to properly evaluate your project based on your pitch and the materials you may have provided them.  If they are interested, they will be in contact with you.
    • In general, it is not unusual for four to six weeks’ time to pass after your pitch before you will hear from the agent or their agency via an email or phone call. In some cases, agents are now posting information via social media announcing that they have processed a group of pitches heard at a specific conference or event, and if you did not hear from them, then they are not interested in your project.  Each agent works differently. If you don’t hear anything in four weeks’ time you can probably assume it’s a pass, however, it would not hurt to follow-up with the agent and/or their agency.


PLEASE NOTE: Every agent operates their business in different ways. UW–Madison Continuing Studies writing department is not responsible for how the agents choose to run their business.  Agents are guests of our yearly conference and are free to conduct their follow-up business with you, the writer, in any way they see fit.