Welcome to Ask Me Editing, the publishing advice column that acknowledges that while everyone has a book inside them, there’s also other stuff in there too, like lungs and a condom full of heroin. Let’s shatter some dreams!

Q: Show me the money

I’m a freelance writer. I do fiction and poetry in my spare time, but I’m trying to make a little money in commercial writing: including advertising copy for websites and brochures and stuff like that. It’s all good, most of the time, but every so often I get a client who I’ll do a job for and then never hear from again. They ignore my invoice and then dodge my phone calls, or make dodgy excuses. We’re not talking about a lot of money, a few hundred dollars at most, but it just makes me feel terrible that people think they can do this to me. What are my options, short of flying across the country and turning up on their doorstep?



Oh boy, this sucks! And please never say it’s only a few hundred – not only is it the principle of the thing, but they’re probably not paying other people too. This people must be found and punished. OK, so as a fairly new freelancer, this question was very good, and I had no idea what the answer was. Cry? Beg? Ask my big dad to go to their house? Luckily, I was able to throw this question over to Twitter, and here’s the answers I got. I can’t vouch for any of them, having not done them myself, but they are a good place to start, and most require further research anyway. (and a big thank you to everyone on Twitter who took the time to help us out):

• Bug them: After a decent period has elapsed, don’t be polite. Make your problem THEIR problem, and make it easier for them to pay you than to ignore you. Let’s call this the ‘crying baby’ method.

• Write a threatening letter: In this method, you threaten them with taking them to the Fair Work Ombudsman, and other Scary Legal Things. Usually the threat of it all should shake the cash loose. Let’s call this the ‘angry mum’ method.

• Get legal advice and issue debt recovery proceedings in the magistrates court: I don’t know what this means, but it was pointed out that you can get free advice from Legal Centres. Let’s call this the ‘business-baby’ method.

• Call the Department of Fair Trading: they might be able to help. Or you can threaten them with it, as part of the ‘angry mum’ method

• A lot of people recommended the Small Claims Tribunal.

• Someone also recommended a debt collector: let’s call this one the ‘scary dad’ method.


Q: A secret agent?

I signed with an agent after I’d been offered a deal for my latest book (my first). They are very nice, but I’m not sure what it is they actually do. They negotiated the contract for me, and secured me an advance, but it was not as large as they hinted it might be, and not very much larger than the publisher originally offered. This agent has promised that next time they will score a much bigger advance along with international releases, but right now it feels like I’m being taken for a ride. Is that normal? I can’t tell if I’m being a diva or getting ripped off.



Agents are a mysterious beast, and to be completely honest, I’ve never worked very closely with them, as they don’t tend to have a bunch to do with humble marketers. BUT, I threw this question over to Haylee Nash from The Nash Agency, and she’s been kind enough to answer.

Yes, your experience is common and not necessarily the agent’s fault. Before engaging an agent, you need to consider why it is you want one. Here are some good reasons to find yourself an agent:

•  You want someone in your corner who will champion you and your work and (if you’re lucky) work with you to develop your manuscript and step in if things get messy with your publisher.

•  You want to get your manuscript in front of more publishers, and actually read by said publishers

•  You hate the business side of writing and want someone who can be the bad guy for you, e.g. someone who can be a hard ass contract negotiator (and actually reads the contract), makes sure your publisher supports your book, etc.

•  You want to sell outside of the Australian and New Zealand territory, in multiple languages and formats (e.g. translation rights, audio, film etc).


Here are some crappy reasons to get an agent:


•  Prestige – Plenty of amazingly talented bestselling authors are self-represented.

•  You want your next advance to buy you a boat, a Spanish summer home and pay for private school for your kids - Usually your agent can negotiate a better deal for you (better advance, higher royalty or a royalty riser, better contract terms) but a publisher will only give what they are willing to, and no amount of bargaining/bullying will make them do otherwise. Most debut or near-debut fiction authors receive low advances because most fiction doesn’t sell all that well. An advance is a sign of how well a publisher thinks a book will sell, and gone are the days when publishers were happy to write off a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of unearned advances.

•  You want a cheap counsellor (considering agents get paid on commission, and there are plenty more lucrative markets than publishing, agents really don’t make much money, but perhaps save the pennies for someone who is actually qualified).

It pays to keep your expectations reasonable, and a slight increase in advance is within this scope. However, now that the initial deal has been made, your agent should be actively trying to sell your subsidiary rights and, closer to publication time, giving your publisher gentle reminders re: publicity and marketing support.



Q: The thin edge of the promo wedge


How much should I be sharing my work on social media? Whenever I get an article published I post it on Twitter and Facebook, but the line between personal and professional is getting blurry. Should I try and make the two things more separate?



Not meaning to sound like a feel-good grandfather mentor figure, but really, it’s ultimately up to you. Only you can really tell if you’re pissing people off with too much promotion, or if people are genuinely interested in what you write. But, because this is an advice column, and I’m being paid to dole out opinions like one of those people who stands on boxes and shouts at pedestrians, here’s what I do, and therefore what I think you should do.

When I started writing more this year, I made the decision to post it ALL on my Facebook Author Page, and to only rarely share it on my profile. That way, if people decide that they’re annoyed by all of my amazing writing (probably out of jealousy?) they can then unlike my author page, but not have to go through the social trauma of actually unfriending me on Facebook. I keep my profile for more jokey friend stuff, and author page for work.

BUT – disclaimer – don’t let your author page look like a resume, like a blank list of achievements. People still need to engage with you, and hear your voice and feel the warmth of your personality. Nobody will engage if every day it’s just ‘Another article for your consumption’. As for Twitter, I’m not too concerned with over-promoting my work because it’s all so fast, and it just gets washed away in the deluge. However, I feel like asking for people to BUY shit on Twitter gets old really fast, and I rarely do it.

Do you have a question for our agony uncle? Write to us: editor@thewritersbloc.net and Patrick will fix all that ails you!

Also, Patrick is a Social Media ace. If you've ever wanted to get started with Twitter or want advice on how to best use social media as a writer, then Mr Lenton can help.

Patrick Lenton's picture

Patrick Lenton

Patrick Lenton is an author, works for Momentum books and runs Town Crier, a social media and digital marketing consultancy for authors.