Pitch sessions

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 25th annual Writers' Institute. We are already looking forward to 2015. All information below is from the 2014 event, here for your reference.

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 agents (and one editor) via 8 minute pitch sessions. You may sign up for 2 sessions before February 28th. (After February 28th, if space is available, you may sign up for additional pitch sessions—no limit). We also offer general and personal practice pitch sessions and a free document, 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Pitch, to help you prepare. Also, view our helpful tips and instructions below. Agents and Editor Pitch Sessions are $15.00 each.

Agents and editors at the Writers’ Institute

Agents Marilyn Atlas, Laura Biagi, Jen Karsbaek, Elizabeth Kracht, Jodell Sadler, Tina Schwartz, Rebecca Scherer, and Rachel Stout will be present to take your pitches. Editor Jacquelyn Mitchard will also be taking pitches. Please visit the agents page» (and for editor Jacquelyn Mitchard, the instructors page») for detailed information about their backgrounds and agencies and plan accordingly to pitch your novel, non-fiction proposal, script, or treatment directly to them. Please see our agents’ wish lists there as well. Sign up for your agent and editor pitches when you register.

General practice pitch session (Thursday night only)

We have a terrific opportunity for you to practice your pitches in a FREE (yes, free) practice pitch session that will take place on the eve of the conference, Thursday April 3rd, 2014 at 5:30pm. Settle into Madison's charm and join us at the Madison Concourse Hotel where the Continuing Studies staff will conduct a group practice pitch session. Receive feedback on your pitch (this is especially important for those of you who are pitching first thing Friday morning at the conference), gain confidence, and be ready to excel with your official agent pitches. This event is a good way to break the ice and move wholeheartedly into this year's event. You don't want to miss this opportunity to hone and define your perfect pitch!

Additionally, at 6:30 that evening we feature a great panel of leading experts who will address The Lure of the Logline. These sessions are open to combo attendees only.

Personal practice pitch sessions (Friday through Saturday afternoon)

We are also offering continuous opportunities for you to practice your pitch through personal practice pitch sessions. These very affordable sessions ($10, you sign up when you register—no limit to the amount of times you can sign up) will allow for 15 minutes of one-on-one meeting time with our industry experts Jeff Kurz, Ken Miyamoto, and Kristin Oakley. Deliver your pitch, receive feedback, continue to perfect your pitch, and then see your agent and/or editor 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 page»

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Pitch

As a thank you for being a part of this year's Writers' Institute, we will send you 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Pitch, prepared by conference director Laurie Scheer. This document outlines 5 questions to ask yourself as you prepare for your agent pitches.

Tips and instructions


  • There are pitching opportunities on Friday and Saturday of the conference.
  • Each attendee is limited to 2 time slots when they first register. This policy enables more writers to have a chance to meet with an agent. Call (608) 262-2451 or (800) 725-9692 now to reserve your spot, or register online»
  • You may call or register online after February 28th for any time slots remaining open. After Feburary 28th there is no limit.
  • You must be registered for at least 1 day of the conference to qualify for a pitch meeting.

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 script writers: Please have a completed script to pitch.

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 1-page synopsis or notes. Agents cannot read manuscript pages during a pitch meeting because of their professional rules of conduct.
  • Prepare a 1-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 1-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, and resolution.
  • Be able to talk about at least 1 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.

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 3 to 4 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 4 weeks’ time you can assume it’s a pass.
  • 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.

Great pitches don't have to be difficult. Learn from the experts and pitch like a pro!