Thursday, September 29, 2011

5 Things New Writers Ask

by Malena Lott

I get asked out for coffee often, yet it’s not for my sparkling wit, but rather because I’m a paid writer and the acquaintance wants to be. I LOVE to support other writers, and would definitely put myself in the corner of cheerleader, but just in case our schedules don't match up, here's our Online Coffee Chat with an Author. Bottoms up!

1. How did you find an agent? (We know this translates to “how do I find one” so we’ll go there.)

A. Research agents who rep writers like yourself, be sure and carefully read their web site for what they rep and what they are and aren't seeking and follow their submission guidelines to a T. Typically, they will tell you their follow-up timeline. Expect weeks to months, not days. Be patient. See what they've sold. Normally agents put covers on their website and it's easy to look those titles up on Amazon and B&N. It's fine to solicit an agent of a writer friend, but don't expect that to get you signed. Your friend may love your work, but the agent may not. All very subjective.

2. Do I need an agent now that e-books are growing and I can self-publish?

A. Most big publishers will not look at your work if you don’t have an agent, so if you want to “trad” publish, query agents. If you want to skip ahead and self-pub (see question 4), you can still do both and if your sales and reviews are stellar, that would help in your pitch letter to mention that.

3. I’ve written a book. Will you read it?

A. (in my sweetest voice) No. You may be nice as pie and write like a bad ass, but just because a paid writer writes does not mean they are a free reader (or even a paid one.) There are writers who offer consulting, which can also be found by shaking the Tree of Knowledge. You know I mean Google it, right? Other ways to get critiques: critique groups, a crit partner (you swap your stories and give each other feedback) or even online groups that allow members to upload your stories and receive feedback. You’ll get a mix of people who are too nice and won’t tell you what they really think to those who have spoken their opinion and it hurts your feelings, so just have a thick skin and keep searching until you find the right fit. If more than one person is saying any part of your story isn’t working, listen to that.

4. I’ve written a book. Should I self-publish it?

A. Only you can answer that. Here’s what you need to launch a great self-pubbed work: story editor, line editor/proof reader, marketing know-how, e-book formatting know-how, budget to pay aforementioned pros if you can’t do those things yourself, great cover art that doesn’t scream “self-pubbed” and, lastly, a following/platform/network to tap in to for decent sales. You can get the last by building up a social media presence, but I’d take the advice of hybrid and indie authors who are making good money from ebooks and say wait until you’ve written three books and put them up rather close in time frame so they can help sell each other. I found that people who read my summer e-book novella Life’s a Beach, ended up going back and buying Fixer Upper. I don’t have a trilogy, but I can see how that would bring customers back to the register if that works for your story. No matter which path you take, writing and publishing is a lot of work.

5. Should I quit my day job?

A. The one thing you hear over and over from the industry is DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB. In fact, even if you have a contract, that doesn’t meant you’ll be spinning gold yarn ‘til retirement. Writing and finishing a full-length novel is hard enough without the pressure of trying to find enough change to buy some ramen noodles for dinner. Keep your job, eat steak and prove to yourself that you are a committed writer – start a daily routine, hit your word count, finish the book and start shopping it.

6. BONUS QUESTION: Do you make good money as a writer?

A. Can you make a living writing? Yes. For me, that’s because I write everything: blogs, advertising copy, freelance articles and fiction. I also get paid for ideas and strategy, so I’ve wrung out every bit of creativity juice to make a good career. My fiction writing pays for some nice extras, but I don’t pay the mortgage with it. (Yet!) So if writing is your passion, branch out, build up your portfolio, and keep at it.

Good luck to you, writers! We’ll have real coffee soon. Scout’s honor! Any other burning questions? Ask them in comments and the other Girlfriends and I will be happy to answer. Girlfriends, what questions do you get asked? J

Next up: Malena Lott has a short story, “Snowflakes and Stones” in the winter anthology, Sleigh Ride, in November. See her available titles here and visit for fun extras.


  1. Thank you. I've just started writing and have no clue what I'm doing, but I am going to try.

  2. April, thanks for reading and good luck to you! Another thing you might consider is joining a local writers organization. Some are city-based for general writers and others are more genre-based. I've made some great writer friends that way and learned a lot. They also have online writer groups.

  3. Wow. Great post, Malena. These are the questions I always get asked, too! Now I can just refer people to your blog post. :)