“Establishing a strong editorial relationship with my clients is very important to me. A lot of writers will spend serious amounts of time working on a project without the benefit of a second pair of eyes. The fun part of this job is getting into the weeds with them, figuring out what the best version of their book might be, and working to execute that vision together.” –Alex Kane, WME
Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings 20-25 literary agents and book editors to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 29th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 24 – 26, 2022, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our visiting agents and editors here.
An Interview with Alex Kane
Alex Kane joined WME in 2017, where he has worked on New York Times bestselling nonfiction and fiction. In both genres, he is especially drawn to stories that have a strong social or political conscience. He is looking for narrative nonfiction that uncovers forgotten moments in history, insightful reporting on contemporary events, pop-culture and music journalism about immersive subcultures, cultural commentary, “big idea” and science books by academics and experts, and select memoir. He is also looking for literary fiction propelled by dynamic plotting, genre elements, or a strong sense of setting and voice. He studied Philosophy and Mathematics at Dartmouth College, and lives in Los Angeles.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?
Alex Kane: Establishing a strong editorial relationship with my clients is very important to me. A lot of writers will spend serious amounts of time working on a project without the benefit of a second pair of eyes. The fun part of this job is getting into the weeds with them, figuring out what the best version of their book might be, and working to execute that vision together.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
AK: For a lot of the narrative non-fiction and fiction that I work on, the writing needs to be strong from the very first sentence. But for those genres and beyond, I’m always interested in voices that engage with broader cultural conversations, whether that conversation is explicitly political, takes on elements of our social reality, or questions our collective identity. We can work together to improve a project on the line level or structurally, but at the end of the day I’m looking for stories whose stakes, whether in the real world or imagined, feel truly urgent.
Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again?
AK: By the numbers, it’s incredibly hard to get your book published. Your editor should be a strong creative partner for your book, but you also have to get them to buy it first – any book would be best served by reaching as much of its potential as possible before you try to sell it.
Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?
AK: With so much of our work transitioning from in-person meetings to zooms and calls, I’m interested to see how much flatter and inclusive our industry becomes. New York-based stories, authors, agents, and editors probably aren’t going anywhere, but I think it’s still an exciting moment for an industry that has been, up until relatively recently, geographically determined.
Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and you want everyone to know about?
AK: I’m very proud to have worked with Oscar-winning director Jimmy Chin on his debut book of photography, THERE AND BACK, which debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at the end of last year. Beyond being a beautiful object, that book checked a lot of boxes for me – its life-or-death adventures invite readers to contemplate the value of our natural world, to re-imagine what we’re all capable of, and to question where they find meaning in their own lives (even if those lives are spent at considerably lower altitudes).
Click here for more information on the 2022 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 24-26) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.