Interview with CCA Agent and Miami Alumna, Alex Rice

On March 3rd, 2023, Creative Artist Agency Agent Alex Rice (and Miami alumna) joined the creative writing program’s Annual Publishing Symposium for a panel discussion on the publishing environment, and tips for students looking to get published or find a career in publishing. It was a fantastic event with many students turning out. I was lucky enough to be able to ask her questions on the panel, and she was generous in her answers and also in her willingness to do an interview.

–Brian Ascalon Roley

Q: Can you tell us what you’ve been up to since graduating from Miami?
A: Since graduating from Miami in 2015, I’ve worked my way from assistant to a literary agent, to an agent myself. My first job in publishing was as a contracts and royalties assistant for a small literary agency, a far cry from what I set out to do. But, it allowed me the opportunity to learn every detail of the backend of the business, the ins and outs of deal makings on a contract level, and a base knowledge of foreign rights – all skills I still lean on today. I finally moved over to agent assistant after a year and a half before moving over to CAA in 2018, where I was promoted to agent in 2020. Eight years and counting in publishing; it’s been a journey!

Q: You’re an agent now. What kind of work and writers do you like and represent, and what sort of books do you like? Do you have any favorites? Have your tastes changed since your time at college?
A: I like to say I’m a generalist, as I read and represent books across all genres, but of course every agent has their go-to genres. Generally, I lean towards works that land in the upmarket/ commercial territory, often referred to as “book club fiction,” for example THE FRAUD SQUAD by Kyla Zhao or A PORTRAIT OF A THIEF by Grace D Li. I also love working with children’s fiction, and work across all genres of Young Adult and Middle Grade. While this is my general niche, I always leave room for exceptions and wouldn’t shy away from a more literary leaning novel.

As for how my tastes have changed since college, I’m much more open. The world truly opens up as you move through more of it, and the people I’ve met and been able to work with along the way have greatly impacted my taste. For example, I’m not a parent myself, but was drawn to and lucky enough to play a small part in THE FEMINIST’S GUIDE TO RAISING A LITTLE PRINCESS – the author’s writing and humor immediately drew me in, making a topic not at all relatable to my current life feel fun and engaging.

Q: When you were at Miami, were there any activities, classes, etc. you were involved in which you found particularly worthwhile?
A: I loved my time at Miami – from working in the English Department copy center to joining the staff of different literary magazines to the classes, I took something away from every experience. For classes, The Literary Marketplace is probably the most memorable, but I also enjoyed taking more specialized classes. I’ve always been drawn to children’s literature, so of course I took a class that was named for and focused on that. On the other hand, I struggled with poetry, so I sought out a class that would focus on short form poetry for the entire semester. I found it helpful to take classes that reinforced my interests, but also challenged what I believed about myself.

Outside of class, joining Inklings, the literary magazine on campus, was easily one of my most formative groups. I remember being a bit intimidated by the group when I first joined, but I soon learned that sharing my opinion wasn’t actually valuable if I wasn’t being 100% honest and genuine with my peers.  

Q: Do you have any suggestions for current Miami creative writing students / English majors about making the most of their time at Miami?
A: I looked at college as a time to push myself. Ultimately, it’s such a small portion of life, but it’s four years where you learn a lot about who you are. I’m glad I continually pushed myself out of my comfort zone, constantly expanding on what exactly that zone was. But near the end of my four years, I started leaning into what I already loved as well. So, I encourage students to find a balance – push yourself, but don’t abandon what you know you love. Find time to invest in your interests while you explore what else is out there as well.

Q: As a follow up, do you have any advice for students looking towards graduation (or recent graduates)? It can be a really anxious time for many of them, as you know. Many are looking to be a writer, or interested in finding a career in the publishing world, and others are thinking about what else they can do with an English major.
A: Graduation weekend was a rush – so much fun, with a tinge of anxiety. You work for four years with a goal in mind, and now it’s on you alone to take those next steps. I remember feeling as if my entire career hinged on what I did next, but I wish I knew that I wasn’t making a forever decision in that moment. Your first job won’t be your only job, and your job isn’t your entire life. Let go of that pressure of feeling as if your forever is in your next decision. Each day is a new step, a new opportunity to seek out something new.