BLACK ICE BURNING (Oct '16)
Claire lost it all
and in those ruins
she'll find revenge.
ECHOES OF MEMORY (March '17)
Chris hoped to save Kaira
but with gods in their veins
no future is safe.
American Gods meets The Secret History in this suspenseful start to a brand-new fantasy trilogy about a girl named Kaira Winters, the murders that keep happening at her artsy boarding school, and the lengths she must go to in order to protect the people she loves.
Filled with murder, mystery, and a little bit of magic, this fresh genre-bending novel is a thrilling page-turner you won’t be able to put down until the very last page.
After the unspeakable events that Chris has witnessed, his view of reality is forever broken. Kaira is sick from supernatural forces. The voices he forced away have grown louder, more violent. And when the god slowly taking over his mind promises a future of bloodshed--all at Chris's hand--Chris knows he must do whatever it takes to keep his friends safe. Even at the cost of his own life.
But when the gods of the underworld are involved, even death is just the start of a different, darker adventure...
The exciting new spinoff series to The Immortal Circus!
As royal assassin for the Faerie Queen, Claire is used to moving between the mortal world and the Winter Kingdom. When the queen commands her to kill, Claire does the job and doesn’t ask questions. Her deadly skills and loyalty are soon tested when Claire is sent to the Immortal Circus. It is one of the many places where “Dream” is harvested from the imaginings of mortals, and someone is causing it to mysteriously disappear. Claire’s job is to find the culprit before the Winter Kingdom’s supply of Dream is depleted enough to threaten the very survival of the Fey.
But when she meets Roxie, a beautiful mortal singer with a strange link to the Dream thieves, Claire quickly recognizes an odd and unexplained connection that may cloud her judgment. As each new clue unveils another secret, Claire finds herself confronting the riddle of her own buried past—and a dangerous illusion that, as part of the Immortal Circus, is just another act in the show.
Though trained as a ruthless and efficient killer, Claire barely survived her last assignment. Still reeling from the summoning of the deadly Pale Queen and Roxie’s betrayal, she’s unprepared for Queen Mab’s next demand: to help uncover a new threat to the kingdom, Claire must hunt down the mortal mother she’s never known.
But Claire’s divided loyalties may be the least of her worries: her mother, the former star of the Immortal Circus, has other enemies—including the Summer King. To save the Winter Kingdom from the Pale Queen’s dark designs, Claire must attempt to awaken her mother’s hidden magic. But even if she succeeds, is there magic potent enough to protect her from the dangers lurking in the treacherous forests of the Wildness—or from the shadows in her own heart?
The Summer Kingdom has fallen to the Pale Queen, and it’s Claire’s fault. The Winter Kingdom faces destruction, and it’s her fault. Her mother is dead. Everything is her fault.
Once the designated assassin for Queen Mab, Claire is now nothing more than a humiliated mortal haunted by her own failures. Abandoned by her former allies and stripped of her magic, Claire is banished to the Immortal Circus.
In place of this once-vibrant show now stands an empty husk. Performers who should be tethered to it for eternity are leaving, negating Winter’s last hold on the Dream. Someone is targeting Winter’s power by weakening its contracts—even Claire’s own. And it’s not hard to guess who’s behind it.
Power or no power, contract or no contract, Claire has an obligation to uphold. And with the fate of the worlds hanging in the balance, she takes on the hit she knows will be her last: the Pale Queen.
Enter the provocative and deadly world of the Cirque des Immortels and discover why this international bestseller has sold over 100,000 copies.
Under this big top, nothing and no one is as it seems. And in this show, you truly can run away forever.
If you live that long...
Murdered contortionists aren’t exactly what Vivienne signed up for when she ran away to join the circus. But like most things under the big top, nothing is what it seems. With a past she can't quite remember, Vivienne finds that running away forever might not be as appealing as it once sounded—especially not when she realizes the devilishly attractive ringleader Mab is the Faerie Queen of legend…and that she and the rest of the troupe are locked in an age-old rivalry between the otherworldly Courts.
Aided by her friends Kingston—a feisty stage magician whose magic is quickly stealing her heart—and his smart-ass assistant Melody, Vivienne finds herself racing against the clock to discover the culprit behind a series of deaths that should be impossible. However, the answer she seeks might reveal more about her own bloody past—and future—than she bargains for.
The show's just beginning. Step right up....
Vivienne is almost content with her new life in the Cirque des Immortels. She has moved up from selling cotton candy to telling fortunes, she has a gorgeous, magical boyfriend, Kingston…and no one has been murdered since the clash between the otherworldly Courts. Her life under the faerie big top would be perfect, in fact, if not for the nightmares and visions that compel her to seek and confront her half-remembered past. But for Viv, not knowing her past may well be a blessing. There's a reason she ran away. But can she truly escape herself?
The second act of the fantastically evocative Cirque des Immortels series, The Immortal Circus: Act Two draws readers further into a world that’s at once wonderful, seductive…and deadly.
The riveting final book in the seductively magical Cirque des Immortels trilogy!
Despite Vivienne’s broken heart and deadly truths, the show must go on at the Cirque des Immortels. But it takes more than glamour and sex appeal to keep the Big Top running; without the magic and support Viv came to rely on, the circus is in danger. Now the troupe verges on rebellion, the war between Mab and Oberon rages on, and a horrifying menace looms—with Vivienne stuck in the middle of it all.
When Mab’s manipulations put others at risk, Viv has to decide where her heart lies. Everything depends on her choices. How can she know her true desires? And will she have what it takes to fight the demons she must face?
New possibilities and old passions collide in this ravishing grand finale to the trilogy.
Runebinder (book one -- COMING DEC 2017)
Three years have passed since magic destroyed the world.
Those who remain struggle to survive the monsters roaming the streets, fighting back with steel and magic—the very weapons that birthed the Howls in the first place.
Tenn is one such Hunter, a boy with the ability to harness the elements through ancient runes. For years, the Hunters have used this magic to keep the monsters at bay, but it’s never been enough to truly win the war. Humans are losing.
When Tenn falls prey to an incubus named Tomás and his terrifying Kin, Tenn learns there’s more to this than a fight for survival. He’s a pawn in a bigger game, one with devastating consequences. If he doesn’t play his part, it could cost him his life, his lover and his world.
“Darkly beautiful, surreal, and devastating. Martyr will grab you and not let go until the last heart-pounding page.” — Julie Kagawa, NYT bestselling author of The Iron Fey and Talon series (On Martyr, book one of THE HUNTED)
“…a deliciously dark love child of an epic fantasy and a stark dystopian that will keep readers up all night, shivering. With an intriguing magical system and a gay protagonist sure in his love and uncertain in his powers, this story will appeal to Potterheads who see thestrals and devour the books of Cassandra Clare.” — Delilah Dawson, author of Servants of the Storm, HIT, and the Blud series (On Martyr, book one of THE HUNTED)
Please note: RUNEBINDER was initially released as THE HUNTED and will be re-released (and complete re-imagined [read: everything is different]) by HarlequinTeen!
Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Hayes has always wanted to perform on the flying trapeze. To soar above the audience, to sparkle under the spotlights...nothing could be better. And when the very performers she idolizes announce they are going to be holding a week-long camp near her home town, her dreams are finally in reach.
When she arrives for her first day and gets a good look at the people attending, Jennifer realizes she is way out of her league. She’s never done ballet, gymnastics, or any kind of high-balance performance art before. Just as she thinks things can’t get any worse, Jennifer realizes she has a gigantic fear of heights. Not only is she scared of falling flat on her face, but after one glimpse of Branden—the best trapeze student at the camp—Jennifer’s worried that she’s falling for him…and she’s falling hard!
But she’s not the only one crushing on beautiful Branden. Soon Jennifer understands that she’s competing for both the trapeze and for Branden’s attention. Now, if she could only get over her fear of heights—and her fear of a broken heart.
In the middle of life, we are in death.
In the snow-torn city of Sovelka, oil is the last resource keeping its inhabitants alive. But the oil comes with a price, and the demons raised from drilling deeper have brought the world to its knees.
It is up to a mute exorcist to fend off the evil that bleeds her town.
If she can face the shadows of her own broken past.
“Psychopomps are born, not made.”
Eleven-year-old Edgar Wight was born into a formidable family of psychopomps—those who lead souls to the afterlife, or the “Other.” In a world wracked by a cureless plague, their skills help keep the balance between life and death. The only problem is, Edgar is the first in his line born without the ability—and his father has recently contracted the agonizing disease. With the day fast approaching when the rest of the family will escort Mr. Wight to the other side, Edgar fears he won’t be able to participate. Then the guardian of the Other appears and catapults Edgar into a mystical realm that is eerily familiar yet utterly unknown. There, Edgar is faced with a choice: Will he follow his family’s path or realize what he once considered a downfall is really a gift?
Commissioned works set within the entrancing realm of The Vampire Diaries, as part of Kindle Worlds.
The Tristram Cycle
A mysterious, handsome, altogether magical young man arrives in Mystic Falls, winning the attention of everyone … and, before long, the heart of Bonnie Bennett, the town’s most accomplished (and alluring) witch. But is his sudden appearance in Mystic Falls a coincidence, or is he after something more sinister? Bonnie knows how to look after herself and is ordinarily a shrewd judge of character. But she now finds herself oddly powerless and indecisive in the stranger’s presence. That’s what can happen when the heart keeps intercepting messages sent from the brain.
With Blood on His Hands
Stefan, the good vampire brother, returns home to Mystic Falls in a mesmerizing short story collection inspired by the best-selling young-adult series, The Vampire Diaries. Kinder and more tender-hearted than Damon, his malevolent older brother, well-intentioned Stefan returns home to help his true love, the series’ intrepid teenage heroine, Elena. Too soon, however, Stefan realizes he poses a threat to those he holds dear when he begins sleepwalking. Making matters more dangerous still, these nocturnal wanderings may include deadly midnight snacks. Bonnie is an apprentice witch who, in exploring her powers, is revisited by the ghosts of former lovers. Can the young sorceress learn how to properly employ the fire inside or will the spreading flames of Bonnie’s unkempt passion burn and destroy everyone she loves?
Elena’s no-nonsense best friend, Bonnie Bennett just wants to explore her powers – to learn more about being a nice, reasonable witch and making her grandmother proud. Bonnie’s intentions are noble, but her quest soon becomes more difficult and dangerous than she could have imagined when the angry ghosts of her family’s past come flooding back to haunt her. Bonnie, you see, comes from a long line of witches, not all of whom were as well intentioned as she. And it turns out the Bennett witches have made quite a history out of burning and betraying lovers and friends who dared enter their lives. Can Bonnie summon all that is good within and learn to handle the passionate, consuming fire inside? Or will her dark instincts rise boiling to the surface, scorching everyone who reaches out to love her?
I'm working with some fabulous designers to create merch you're sure to love.
Since this is my personal site, I figure I should give a slightly more personal bio. For my 'official' (ish) bio, click HERE.
First off: my name. Because I realize it doesn't sound at all like it's spelled. Kahler rhymes with Taylor. And my first name is Alex. ;)
I was born in a tiny town on the eastern edge of Iowa on Nov 26, 1986 (I appreciate fine dark chocolates and whisky, in case it's that time of year). No, I didn't grow corn and no, you probably haven't heard of the place. We didn't even have a coffee shop (though apparently we now have Starbucks! Moving up!). I got out of there at age 16 by sending myself to boarding school. I know what you're thinking, but this was artsy boarding school. Interlochen Arts Academy, to be exact. I majored in creative writing my junior and senior years of high school.
Because of my innate oh-look-shiny nature, I bounced around colleges after that, finally getting my degree from Bennington College in '10. I didn't study writing in college. Instead I did literature and visual arts and anthropology--because I think I just wanted to be unemployable forever. During this time I spent a little over a year living, working, and studying in Scotland, namely Glasgow. I also did some work with various circus groups. Because why not?
After graduating from Bennington I moved to a town in western Massachusetts and opened an art studio. It flopped. So I did what I always do: picked up and moved on. This time to get my Masters in Creative Writing from Glasgow University. (Again: I wanted to be unemployable.)
I landed my amazing agent Laurie McLean a week before leaving the country. A year later (yes, a year later. Publishing take time), we sold The Hunted. A month after that, we sold my graduate thesis project, The Immortal Circus. The rest is history in the making.
I'm strongly dedicated to positive queer representation in literature, especially for young adults (I'm gay, and found that area sorely lacking as a teen).
Currently, I'm playing nomad and traveling the world. Turns out there's a lot out there, just beyond my laptop screen....
WANT SWAG/SIGNED BOOKS?
I love sending things out, and I've curated a lot of really great items (thanks to my friend Matt David of Rock and Hill Studio) to send your way.
Just shoot me an email (AlexRKahler @ Gmail DOT com) with your address and what books you've fallen in love with, and I'll send you something happy.
PLEASE NOTE: I am currently traveling and will not be able to send swag for quite some time. I'd still loev to hear from you, though!
At this time, I'm unable to send out signed books (or 'reader copies' for bloggers, etc). However, I have bookplates I can sign. And if you really need your personal book signed, email me and we can chat about logistics.
Email me : AlexRKahler @ gmail DOT com
For anything business-related, I am represented by the fabulous Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary.
I am currently traveling, and thus don't have any events planned. To schedule, please contact me at alexrkahler @ gmail.com
- May 17: University Bookstore, Seattle, WA. 7:00 p.m. With Lish McBride, Kristin Halbrook, & Jennifer Bosworth
- May 20: King's Books, Tacoma, WA. 7:00 p.m.
- May 21: Inklings Bookstore, Yakima, WA. 11:00 a.m.
- May 21: Bookworm Bookstore, Kennewick, WA. 3 p.m.
- May 22: Auntie's Books, Spokane, WA. Noon.
July 28: University Bookstore (4326 University Way, N.E.) –Seattle, WA. 7PM. In conversation with John Corey Whaley, author of Noggin and Highly Illogical Behavior.
July 28-31 : Seattle, WA : The Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference
A few years ago, I made a pact with myself: once I started earning money off my works, I would donate a percentage of my income to charity. And so, on this page, you'll be able to track the organizations that your support is directly helping. Because every time you buy one of my books, your money is moving out into the world and multiplying in power.
Feel free to send out your own donations! And who knows...if you send me a screencap of your receipt, it may just earn you some swag.
2015: YOUTHCARE SEATTLE
A few days ago I was getting another round of work done on my tattoo, and the shop artists were discussing what it meant to be an artist. One of them said something that has stuck with me, and pretty much inspired the majority of this page: “Artists give themselves deadlines and deliver–we need to stress out about it because it’s our job. If you’re not pushing yourself every day, you’re just doodling for fun.”
I should warn you: this isn’t a post to pat you on the head. This about as real as I can be when it comes to the publishing world (and the arts world in general). But if you want my honest advice for getting published or finishing a book or whatever, read on.
If you want to call yourself a writer, you have to put in the time. Otherwise, shut up.
Let me put this as simply as possible: If you want to be a writer, you have to write. There will never be a magical moment of free time to sit at your computer and type. You will never have constant inspiration. There will always be external factors–work, social life, freak acts of nature. The fact is, life will always try to get in the way. It’s really good at it. If you want to write a book, you damn well put on your grownup panties and write a book. You make it a priority. I didn’t have time to write my first book. Or my second. Or my third or fourth or fifth. I made time. I made lots of time. I wrote in the morning and worked at night, gave up social events and fancy dinners and late night benders. When people say they’re envious of the fact I wrote so many books, I get pissed off. Because they’re assuming the clouds magically parted and I just had hours and hours to spend happily writing away. They’re ignoring the amount of work. No one tells a surgeon I’m so jealous of the fact that you’re a surgeon because we know that they put in the time and the sweat and the money they invested to get there. It’s the exact same thing for writing or any other art. If you want to be an artist, you make the sacrifice and you dedicate yourself to being an artist. There is no shortcut. Ever.
The first thing you write should not be your last.
I spent about six years writing my first book. I started writing it in high school and kept rewriting and revising until I’d beaten that dead horse more times than is healthy. I workshopped and queried and pitched. It never sold. Looking back, I’m grateful–because that book, time-consuming and enlightening though it was–was crap.
Your first book is your chance to experiment. This is you finding your voice and style. This is you cutting your teeth on the artform. Your first book may sell. It may not. If you’ve spent five years hammering at a story and it’s just not going anywhere, maybe you need to write a new one. Agents and editors aren’t looking for a one-hit-wonder. They’re looking for clients who want to make a career out of writing. And that career means more books in more worlds.
So, rather than hanging all your hopes on one book, why not ease the pressure? Start another book. Know that pretty much everyone in the industry had to write at least one book that never saw the light of day. Sometimes they wrote dozens.
Don’t give up.
Go read that last paragraph. Most authors have written a handful of books that can’t sell. That’s how they got better. They learned what worked and what didn’t, they found how to avoid cliches (or use them to their advantage). If you want to call yourself a writer, don’t throw in the towel when things don’t go your way. If you can’t wallpaper you room with rejections or aborted first drafts, you’re not putting in the time.
It gets easier.
I said before that constant inspiration doesn’t exist. It’s true. Some days you will wake up and you’ll stare at a page and you’ll have nothing. It doesn’t matter. Write anyway, even if it’s crap. (They made the ‘delete’ key for a reason.)
The fact is, writing is exactly like running or any other physical activity. The first few times hurt like hell. Inspiration doesn’t come. Words fail you. Then, with time and patience and dedication, your writing muscles start kicking in, the routine gets established, and suddenly writing starts happening a little more naturally. Remember: all athletes have bad days. Some days (or weeks), training just doesn’t happen. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. You dedicate yourself to pushing past it. You power through. Even ten minutes a day is better than nothing.
If you don’t use it, you lose it. Be it wordsmithing or a sexy six-pack, the truth is the same.
You need help.
Writing is solitary. Take it from someone who knows: some days, waking up and thinking “today I’m going to sit in front of my computer all day and then I’m going to go to bed” can be painful. Find comrades-in-arms. Write outside of your room or office. Find other writers (we’re everywhere) you can talk and drink with. Even if you aren’t chatting business, being with people who understand the conversations you have with fictional characters is good for the soul. Although not necessarily good for the liver.
Criticism sucks. But it will make your book less sucky
Your manuscript needs other eyes to make it it’s best. This is your baby–of course you think it’s perfect. The rest of the world, however, probably sees a poopy, slobbering mess. Find a workshop to critique your work; make sure it’s people whose advice you trust. Go to conferences. Take classes.
I did a graduate program in creative writing. The most helpful aspect was the workshop. In critiquing other people’s work, I learned how to edit as I wrote. In having my own pieces torn apart, I learned my shortfalls and strengths as a writer. This allowed me to strengthen and flaunt appropriately.
Do something else. For the love of sanity, do something else.
No, no, I’m not saying you should give up writing. I’m saying you should have an anchor. A hobby. It’s so easy to get lost in words or consumed in the pitching/rejection/pitching-again process. Go take a walk. Adopt a plant. Watch really weird foreign films and make fun of them the entire time.
Julia Cameron mentions in “The Artist’s Way” (which I recommend anyone reads) that ideas are like fish in a well. Every time we pick a new one out, we need to refill the well before it goes barren. We fill the well by living. Actually living. Sure, reading is important (see below) but you need to actually live a story if you want to know how to tell one.
In my opinion, at least. I mean, you’re alive. You might as well feel alive.
Don’t pigeonhole. You’re bigger than that.
Don’t focus entirely on one genre. Write sci-fi? Read Rumi. Write non-fic? Pick up Harry Potter. And then try emulating the style.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive. But the only way to really find your voice is to try out other voices. I owe most of my style to the literary fiction and poetry I was forced to read in my grad and undergrad programs. Each genre has a different strength that helps define it–some are language based, character based, plot based. Some focus on a linear narrative, others jump around.
Read it all. Try it all. Your voice will be a happy median somewhere in between them.
Take up this mantle and you’ll never be satisfied. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Being an artist is hard. It’s a long road filled with potholes and toll collectors and shitty detours. You’ll never get to the end. There is always room for improvement. There will always be critics saying you should stop doing this and pick up knitting instead.
Don’t stop pushing yourself. Don’t settle for contentment in your craft.
The best advice I ever got was this: “If what you’re writing doesn’t scare you, you shouldn’t be writing it.”
You’re not going to grow otherwise.
Research. Refine. Don’t jump the gun.
Research your genre. Research how to pitch. If you’ve written a book, don’t blow it with an agent because you misspelled their name on your query. Know their guidelines. And if you want a bit more info about how to approach an agent/editor, either in person or online, read my Etiquette Tips.
Success isn’t signing a deal. Success is a state of being.
I want to end this on something positive. But I think this is probably the biggest mindfuck of them all.
Success isn’t getting a big book deal. Because, as you’ve probably gleaned, the process of writing and improving never ends. There will be highs and lows. You’ll make and lose money. You’ll sell books and shelve others.
Success is the process. Success is waking up and writing even when it hurts. Success is the final period on the final page of your first and second and twentieth book.
Success is committing even in the face of failure.
Success is a process. It’s there every step of the way.
Where can I grab a copy of [Insert Book Here]?
There are a lot of book stores out there, so I can’t quite keep track of them all. It’s definitely available on any Amazon site that stocks American/British run books. Your local bookstore should definitely be able to order it in. If you have any troubles finding a copy, let me know!
Will you sign my copy? /Can you send me a signed copy?
I would love to. However, authors only receive a small number of copies of their own book; the rest, we pay for. And rather than have you pay for shipping, I have a better idea. Bookplates! That’s right, if you’d like a signed bookplate to stick in your book or e-reader or wherever, shoot me an email (alexrkahler @ gmail. com) with your address and your favorite character. Want more than one bookplate? Send me a screencap of your donation to a charity (of your choice, for any amount) and I’ll throw in some extra lovin’.
I want to get published! Do you have any advice? Can you help?
Again, I would love to help you accomplish your dream. But authors have a surprisingly small amount of power in these instances. I can’t get you a contract, and I can’t read your unpublished manuscript. The road to publication is a long, often grueling endeavor, and the mark of a true writer is perseverance. It’s best to build up endurance now. Trust me: it pays off in spades.
Can you read my [insert Book/Query/Essay Here]
I wish I could, but I am really quite busy (especially when I say I’m lazing around, because I’m probably doing that out of fear of the mound of work I’m avoiding) and I have to focus on my own words. That, plus a few legal issues, means I really can’t read any unpublished work. If you’re looking for a blurb for a soon-to-be-published work, your people can contact my people to potentially set something up. 🙂 (I like saying I have ‘people’)
Got a question? Feel free to ask in the comments below or by emailing AlexRKahler @ gmail. com
I’ve been to a couple different conferences, both as a published and unpublished writer. I’ve sat on both sides of the pitch table and, perhaps most importantly, I’ve spent a lot of time observing and listening to the people around me. I’ve listened to agents and writers praise and bitch about what did and did not work. You want the inside scoop on how to land your dream deal? This might help.
Agents and editors don’t make money by simply existing. Their entire job is to find talented writers and sell that work and hopefully make a lot of moolah by doing so. I’m not saying you should be full of yourself when approaching them (see the next point), but remember that they are there because they’re looking for amazing work. They need you as much as you need them. So don’t be all I’m-not-worthy. You’re a writer: making shit up is your business. If you don’t feel confident enough to sit among the gods of Olympus, write yourself a new character with a little more courage.
You can be quirky. You can wear a silly hat. You can be shy.Conferences are like speed dating. You’re not just searching for someone to rep your work: you’re looking for someone you’ll build a life-long relationship with. Personality is almost as important as talent in this industry (and all others)–if you’re an ass, no one will want to work with you, no matter how awesome your writing or credentials are.
You can query all these people online. What you want to do at a conference is test out your personalities, see if this is long-term potential. Make an impression (hopefully a good one) and treat this like you’re trying to find your new BFF. You want an agent you can talk to honestly, someone you trust as much as you admire.
Humility is good, self-deprecation not so much. Make a good first-impression. Find a friend.
Everyone’s heard the funny story about an agent getting a manuscript slipped under the bathroom stall door. Except it’s not really that funny because it happens all the damn time. And you know what happens to that manuscript? It’s immediately thrown out (or used as TP) and all other agents are probably warned off from the author–this is a tight-knit community, after all. DO NOT BE THAT PERSON.
Yes, industry people are there to find new clients, but they’re also catching up with old clients/friends and trying to have a good time. Read social cues. If an agent is very clearly trying to break away from a crowd of querents, don’t stand on the sidelines and pounce once they break away. Pitch when they seem open to pitches, not when their guard is down. Don’t force pages or business cards into their hands unless they request. Don’t stalk them. Don’t admit you’ve stalked them online (it can be kind of creepy and no one wants that).
Again: think dating, not bounty hunting.
It should be a given, but a little social lubrication goes a long way. Have fun, but remember–you’re always on display.
Research agents. Research genres. Do all the footwork you can before you sit down in front of an agent. You want to show that you’ve done your homework–even if you don’t know every nuance of the industry, showing that you’ve tried shows dedication. It gives you an air of confidence. Remember that these people want your work, but they want you to prove that you know (or are on the path to knowing) what you’re doing. You can find all you need to know about industry-standard word count and genre placement online, as well as what constitutes ‘good sales numbers’ for self-pubbed work. Don’t waste valuable face-time getting a schooling in a subject you should already be versed in.
Whether it’s online or in person, nothing will make an agent go from interested to annoyed faster than this statement. You don’t have the next bestseller. You have a manuscript. Period. You can be proud of it, but no one can guarantee a bestseller. No agent, no editor. Saying this shows that you have no idea how the world works.
Remember in kindergarten when you learned not to punch someone who made you mad? Apply this. If you’re rejected by an agent, be polite and know that they face rejections all the time, too. No agent likes saying no (seriously–I’ve seen agents get emotional when they had to reject a manuscript). They want to love what you’ve done. They want you to succeed (remember point one? They need you to succeed to pay their bills). Saying no is their least favorite part of the job. Don’t burn a bridge by throwing a fit or flinging “You’re an idiot for not recognizing my brilliance” in their face. Sometimes an agent will love your style but not your book–be in this for the long haul. I know many agents who passed on one author’s manuscript but offered on their next.
Also, remember that agents don’t control trends, they can only try to fit into them. If you’re told your manuscript would be hard or impossible to sell because the industry is inundated in that genre, don’t take it personally. This happens to established and debut authors all the time. Agents hate it as much as you (again–I’ve seen agents torn apart because they just loved a manuscript but knew they couldn’t sell it at this time). Hold on to that manuscript–trends change. But don’t wait for that to happen. Write another book with a different premise. Play with your strengths and stretch your comfort zone.
Not what you want to hear, I know. But I’ve sat in on pitch sessions, and you would be amazed at the number of people who are told “sounds great–send me your full” from an agent, only to walk away with their tails between their legs because the agent didn’t sign them on the spot. You are not at a conference to get an offer of representation: you are there to get an agent to read your work later. The golden ticket is a request to read your manuscript. That’s it. No agent in their right mind will say “I LOVE THAT IDEA, PERSON I’VE NEVER MET BEFORE! LET ME SIGN BINDING LEGAL DOCUMENTS AT THE POOLSIDE BAR!”
Apply the dating metaphor: would you propose to someone you just met simply because their dream house is a cabin in the woods? No. You want a second date, and a third. They need to read your words, to fall in love with your manuscript–and they probably need to get others in their office to fall in love with it, too. So don’t be disappointed if an agent ‘just’ asks for a partial or full–that’s them saying they want a second date, not giving you a fake number.
You’re coming to the conference because you want to be published. You’ve spent ages writing the book and perfecting a pitch. You spent a lot of money to come here. More than anything, you want an agent or editor to fall in love with your work. You want the hard work to be over. (Don’t we all….)
That may happen at this conference. It may not. But please remember: this is only a tiny handful of agents/editors in the industry. Again, the dating metaphor: you may not meet the Mate Of Your Dreams in a room of ten strangers, but you also wouldn’t beat yourself up if that were the case. There are many more out there. So, although this could (and hopefully will) launch your career, please don’t give up if it doesn’t happen. There are many conferences and many ways to get word of your book out there.
That said, if you come to the conference and are generally a nuisance to all the Important People, you may ruin your chances with them. Being polite will win you a lot of points in this industry, trust me.
Conferences are generally regional. Conferences generally only last a weekend. And, unless you live in New York or LA, all the Big Guys will probably be thousands of miles away after the conference is over. These events can be loads of fun and inspiring as hell, but Monday will come and you’re going to go back to work (even if you do get an offer soon). So use these conferences to meet local writers, people you can depend on and drink with, people who will help you improve your craft. No matter what, conferences won’t change your daily life. Neither will being published. You’ll still do your work in your home or office, you’ll still need to sit in front of a computer for hours a day. So connect with the people in your region. Make lots of friends. Exchange cards and numbers and embarrassing stories. Create a network.
Because although conferences are great, it’s the people you meet who will help carry you through the days in between. Writers–solitary creatures though we are–need support and love and friendship. Conferences are the perfect time to find an even bigger family.