Get Lit: 13 LGBTQ+ Authors Spill Their Wisest Writing Tea

“Read twice as much as you write.”

Do you think you have a book inside you waiting to come out like Niecy Nash just did? You are the only one who can tell your story or tell stories from your perspective. The world needs more queer women’s stories, so we want to help you get that first book out there whether it’s a poetry collection, romance, mystery, memoir, nonfiction resource, or something completely out of the box.

We asked thirteen LGBTQ+ authors for their very best advice for aspiring authors. You’ll find a treasure trove of wisdom below, so hurry up, read on, and get published!

On their number one piece of advice to any aspiring author:

“Learn to perfect your craft. Read twice as much as you write, and never, ever, submit a manuscript that hasn’t been vetted by a respected writer friend or colleague.”

Dr. Stephanie Andrea Allen (“A Failure to Communicate,” BLF Press)

“Network, network, network!! Other authors, editors, readers, reviewers! Talk to them all and ask questions.”

Claire Highton-Stevenson (“OUT: A Cam Thomas Story,” Self-published), (“The Promise, Self-published), (“Escape and Freedom,” Self-published), (“The Doll Maker, Self-published), (“Forget It,” Self-published), (“Leaving Bree,” Self-published) (“In Dyer Need,” Self-published), (“Grave Decisions,” Self-published), (“Model Behavior,” Self-published), (“What Happened in Vegas,” Self-published), and more

“Get all the way to ‘The End’ before you edit.”

Katharine Manning (“The Empathetic Workplace: 5 Steps to a Compassionate, Calm, and Confident Response to Trauma on the Job,” HarperCollins Leadership)

“Write what you want to write, not what you think you should be writing. There can be a lot of pressure out there, and people telling you to write a certain thing or write in a certain way, but I’m a firm believer that you need to write in the way that your heart tells you to.”

Elin Annalise (“In My Dreams,” Self-published)

“Don’t fall in love with your words, be willing to see them in fresh light and cut them. Feedback is important, but it’s your story. Trust your instincts.”

McGee Mathews (“Keeping Secrets,” Sapphire Books Publishing), (“The Lesbian Campfire Anthology, Self-published), (“Exceeding Expectations, Self-published), (“Moving Violations,” Self-published)

“Read, read, read. A surgeon doesn’t operate before watching someone else work and neither should you. You’ll save yourself a lot of time later if you take the time now to learn how others have gone about it before you.”

Kate Milliken (“If I’d Known You Were Coming,” University of Iowa Press), (“Kept Animals,” Scribner Books)

“Trust yourself and the stories you want to tell. Especially if you are a queer writer there might be editors or publishers that will want to shift your work to decenter queerness or make it more ‘palatable’ to cis/straight readers. Don’t let them.”

Sassafras Lowrey (“Lost Boi,” Arsenal Pulp Press), (“A Little Queermas Carol,” PoMoFreakshow Press), (“Leather Ever After: Anthology of Kinky Fairytales,” Circlet Press), (“Roving Pack,” PoMoFreakshow Press), (“Kicked Out Anthology,” Homofactus Press), and more

“Only do what is fun… everything. Really. Farm, pay, or barter the rest out to avoid burnout, bitterness, and being that one no one wants to sit next to at a dinner party.”

tammy lynne stoner (“Sugar Land,” Red Hen Press)

“Just write. Worry about publishing later. Develop grit as a writer.”

Allison Moon (“Getting It,” Ten Speed Press), (“Girl Sex 101,” Self-published), (“Bad Dyke,” Self-published), (“Hungry Ghost,” Self-published), (“Lunatic Fringe,” Self-published)

“Become part of a community of writers and creative peers. By this I don’t mean a Facebook community (though there are some great ones), but a real live writing group, class, community group, open mic, creative organization, coaching community — or some combination of these — that meets regularly and keeps you in touch with people who are able to assist each other. Finding or forming your own writing community, and/or hiring someone to help you, are really the best ways to get advice at the level you need it.”

Minal Hajratwala (“Moon Fiji,” Avalon Travel), (“Bountiful Instructions for Enlightenment”), (“Leaving India,” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), (“Out! Stories from the New Queer India), and more

“Make writing a priority and don’t deprive the world of your stories. The world needs your writing now more than ever. Write them. Publish them. Do not hide.”

Elizabeth Andre (“The Curse of the Old Woods,” Self-published), (“Love’s Perfect Vintage,” Self-published), (“The Time Slip Girl,” Self-published)

“Don’t let yourself be dissuaded by impostor syndrome. Only you can write this book the way it needs to be written.”

Kirsten Ott Palladino (“Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding,” Seal Press)

“Do everything you can to quiet the part of you that thinks you don’t have the right to say anything, or that you are not smart or interesting enough. It took me seven years to get my book picked up. You need endurance for that, and that voice is not going to help you.”

Megan Alpert (“The Animal at Your Side,” Airlie Press)

On their advice specific to queer women looking to become authors:

“Connect with other queer writers. Fall in love with your community. Celebrate the success of others. We can’t do this alone, so every connection you make is so important.”

Megan Alpert 

“Self-publishing rocks and is the most feminist thing ever. Feminism is all about controlling your destiny. Self-publishing is all about controlling your work. Own your power.”

Elizabeth Andre 

“Your voice matters, even if you think it doesn’t. Find what is unique about your take and your story, and work hard to develop your voice.”

Allison Moon 

“Write what is true for yourself – don’t worry about how it will ‘look’ or be taken. Avoid all the politics that can muddy up the art.”

tammy lynne stoner 

“There are a lot of really supportive online communities for queer women writers, and joining those is really invaluable.”

Elin Annalise 

“Know that there is a very rich and diverse literary history/legacy of queer women & queer writers. You are not alone in this work. Read books by queer women, look at the (surviving) feminist bookstores, support small queer presses. Follow queer women, nonbinary, trans, writers on Twitter and Instagram — it’s a supportive community out here!”

Sassafras Lowrey 

“There will probably be a lot of opinions, a lot of voices about the market, about what sells, about what kind of stories you should tell, but what makes great work–and by great I mean soul satisfying–is that same voice that made you you: the one that insisted on being heard. Listen closely to that voice only. Tell the story she needs told.”

Kate Milliken 

“Your story is important and the world needs to hear your perspective. There are reasons to go indie, and reasons to use a publisher, but neither will mentor you. Consider joining Golden Crown Literary Society to both learn your craft and find support from other authors.”

McGee Mathews 

“Learn your genre! Know the tropes and the rules of that come with it.” 

Claire Highton-Stevenson 

On the very first step an aspiring author should take:

“Read a lot in your genre. You’re entering a conversation that has been going on for decades. Understand what’s been said and how you can contribute to it.”

Katharine Manning

“It sounds silly, but the most important step an aspiring author should take is to write. Don’t worry about the end product – will a publisher buy it? Will people read it? All of that will come later, but only if you actually get those words onto the page.”

Sassafras Lowrey 

“Write. You can’t edit a blank page. Literally, of course, but also the concept that your story starts as a rough draft, and that many edits may be needed to polish it up. And you do need an editor, whether a trusted friend with editing talent or one you hire.”

McGee Mathews

“Connect to other authors at the same level as you. A lot of people want mentors, but the connections you make with people at your own level are extremely important. You need that support and you need to learn from watching each other.”

Megan Alpert 

“Just start writing. Try to write a little bit every single day. Develop your muscles. Being an author is a marathon, so start training.”

Allison Moon 

“Write a paragraph, then write another, then write another. After a few months, you should have a book.”

Elizabeth Andre 

“Take notes in the margins of books you love. Consider why you are drawn to these particular stories. Find teachers or mentors whose work you love and find a way to work with them or be inspired by them. Imitate them until your voice rises up through, changes it, makes the work new, wholly yours.”

Kate Milliken 

On writing: 

“I poo-poohed this in my misspent youth, but (taking a breath here), try to start with an outline to control the beast.”

tammy lynne stoner 

“Open your senses to the world, and let the inspiration in. Make writing a habit and practice it every day. It’s a skill like any other.”

Elizabeth Andre 

“Writing as a career is like training as an athlete. Some days your body doesn’t want to cooperate. Some days you just aren’t in the mood. What separates the pros from the amateurs is how you develop your skills. It’s perfectly fine to only want to play your sport on the weekends sometimes, and only when you’re excited to. But if you want writing to be your job, it’s going to feel like a job sometimes. You’re going to need to do it even when you don’t feel like it, and even when it sucks.”

Allison Moon 

“Find what you love to read, that you can’t put down, that makes you want to write. Write work that challenges you, that wakes you up at night, that nags at you to be told. Personally, I have ideas and images that occur to me and I let them lead me. I trust that there’s a reason–which I’m happy to be ignorant of for awhile–for why I have to tell or describe a certain scene. I try to write every day, but usually it’s no more than every other day. I aim for 1,000 words and feel okay if I get to 300. I keep a notebook on every surface.”

Kate Milliken 

“Don’t worry about the writing being perfect, worry about getting it on the page. Take whatever small bits of time you can find in your day and make writing a priority.”

Sassafras Lowrey 

“The biggest barrier to writing is impostor syndrome. Read a lot, and figure out exactly why you love the books that you love. Then see where you’re doing that in your own writing. Find the places where there’s fire and dive in there. Even when you’re revising, do it with an eye toward what you love about your work, and not what you don’t like about it.”

Megan Alpert 

“I start with a detailed outline that includes the components of each section as well as stories and research I’ll use to illustrate my points. Then I set myself daily word count goals and keep track as I go. Scrivener makes this easy (and also helps with managing research).”

Katharine Manning 

On getting published:

“Don’t count yourself out. I didn’t think my book would sell because I didn’t have a million Twitter followers, but I found the right agent and editor who understood and supported my message.”

Katharine Manning 

“I personally self-publish. I like the control it gives me to publish as often as I want, when I want. I also choose my own editor, cover designer, etc. It’s a lot more hard work; I have to market myself, format and upload books, run my own website and social media, but I also keep more of my earnings. Every decision that is made, is mine to make.”

Claire Highton-Stevenson 

“I actually write under two names (Elin Annalise is my name for self-publishing). My agent’s been very supportive of this, and she’s extremely enthusiastic about my ace-romance writing, and I do love the flexibility and freedom that self-publishing offers. Writing in different genres does keep me from getting writer’s block, but sometimes it can be difficult to juggle all the work (and social media accounts). Therefore, if you’re thinking of having multiple pen names, I definitely advise trying to get well organised from the start.”

Elin Annalise 

“Do what feels right. If you want top houses, you need an agent. If you want to get close to your publisher and get your hands plenty dirty, do indie. If you love to network and social media feels social, you might make a go at self-publishing (the margins are way higher!). Do whatever feels like fun.”

tammy lynne stoner 

“Go where you are loved. Black LGBTQ folx are often told that our work is ‘too Black or too queer,’ or ‘not Black enough or not queer enough,’ and I started BLF Press to ensure that our stories were centered, not marginalized or erased. Make sure that the agent’s, editor’s, or publisher’s values actually align with yours, and that they aren’t just looking for a token *fill in the blank* writer. This is especially important for Black queer writers, given that queer publishing is overwhelmingly white.”

Dr. Stephanie Andrea Allen 

“Decide what’s the right path for your book. Authors now have far more freedom to get our work into the world than we once did. Self-publishing is a viable and sometimes profitable route, but it’s a lot of work. Traditional publishing can feel like winning the lottery, but it often has far more pitfalls than a newbie expects. Research your options to make an informed choice.”

Allison Moon 

“If you work full-time, having a publisher format and find editors and cover artists might leave you more time to actually write. However, not all contracts are good. Get past the excitement of their offer and consider what works. Self-publishing allows you complete control; however, unless you have some mad art skills, you’ll need an artist for the cover in addition to editing. Both cost money. A publisher pays those costs up front, so if budget is an issue, that may be better for you. That said, you’ll keep much more profit as an indie. Believe in yourself. No matter which route you take, you are the marketing staff. Yes, you need a webpage, a newsletter email list, and a social media presence on at least one platform. Yes, it’s a pain in the rear. Do it anyway.”

McGee Mathews 

“I wrote short stories and sent them to magazines. I have a 4-inch binder full of rejection slips and then some more. Eventually I compiled the best of the stories I’d written into a collection and I submitted that book to contests. An author I admire immensely, Julie Orringer, was judging the Iowa Award in 2013 and she chose my book and it was subsequently published by the University of Iowa Press later that year. Six years later I had an agent and a novel and when we went to sell that book (Kept Animals) and several publishers wanted to buy it, I went with the publisher and editor who published books that I admire deeply and with whom I had the most rewarding and insightful conversation.”

Kate Milliken 

“Don’t be afraid to send work out. No one (with very rare exceptions) is going to come to you and say they want to publish your work, you have to be sending work out. Submit short stories to be considered for anthologies, finish that book you have been tinkering with and start sending out query letters. There are huge pros and cons to both self-publishing and traditional publishing so I like to do both depending on the book. Look at who is publishing books that you like, follow them on social media and research what their submissions process is like. Building relationships with readers is key, same with indie booksellers/bookstores especially as a LGBTQ author. Self-promotion is part of the job of being an author regardless of if you self publish or traditionally publish – even when my publisher has hired a publicist to assist with promotion of one of my books a lot of the promotion still falls on the author.”

Sassafras Lowrey 

“I’m not interested in an agent because I don’t want to give 15% of my money to anyone. I self-publish and love it. I get full control of my work and get to take good care of my babies (books). I self-promote and network on Facebook and Twitter and at conventions.”

Elizabeth Andre 

“There are so many poets trying to get published now that it is, by necessity, a long game. Send your book everywhere you can think of. Query editors. Read a lot of poetry and get an idea of what presses are looking for. Prepare to stick it out, and don’t give up on your work. Every time you send your work out, even if you get rejected, it’s one more person who has read your work and will probably be rooting for you in the future.”

Megan Alpert 

“My advice is to definitely go the traditional route like I did. As Roxane Gay said once, ‘The money should always be flowing to the writer.’ When it’s time to find an agent, look in books that are similar to yours to see who the author’s agent is. Almost every author thanks their agent in their acknowledgements. Study how to write a good query letter. Perfect and workshop your query letter. You only have one shot to get in front of your dream agent. Make sure your query letter is impeccable and ready for them to see.”

Kirsten Ott Palladino 

On a top mistake to avoid:

“Querying before you’re ready. It’s not a race. Let it rest, read it again, get feedback from others. Put out there the best work that you can.”

Katharine Manning 

“If you’re self-publishing, learn to format your book properly.”

Claire Highton-Stevenson 

“Not understanding that when agents or editors give you notes on a book they are NOT taking, they believe in it. It just wasn’t right for them. They aren’t obligated to even SAY no, much less write you a nice email (especially with notes, even if you disagree with them). Always, always be grateful and kind.”

Allison Moon 

“Giving your detractors/critics your energy. Save your energy for getting back to work.”

Kate Milliken 

“Isolating yourself, not sending out work, being incredibly wounded by rejections.”

Megan Alpert 

“Thinking that you’re above the process or that your first draft is ready to pitch. You must put in the hard work to sell a book. You need a good plot and good writing. You can’t just have an interesting idea without writing that captures the reader. And if you create gorgeous prose but nothing is happening in the book to move the story forward, revise.”

Kirsten Ott Palladino 

“Self-publishing before it’s ready. Don’t be that author that has to take it down and re-edit the book.”

McGee Mathews 

“If you’re going the self-publishing route, don’t publish your book too soon. When I decided to self-publish my first ace romance, it was tempting to publish it as soon as possible so I could get my book out in the world, especially as I was completely in charge of timelines. But I knew this book would need the same amount of editing as my trad-published titles, and so I really had to plan ahead, allocating this time for editing (and booking other editors, as it’s really hard to objectively edit your own work).”

Elin Annalise 

“Anyone who tells you that self-publishing is expensive is a liar. Real publishers give you money. They don’t cost you money. Never give a publisher money. Remember, your work is valuable, and people should pay you for it. Money should flow TO the writer.”

Elizabeth Andre

“Don’t take rejection seriously. If you want to be an author you are going to face a lot of rejection both while you are sending work out, and then once your books are in print in the form of negative reviews. One of the biggest mistakes I think authors make is letting those negative reviews get to them, or influence their work.”

Sassafras Lowrey 


What Do You Think?