The Story of the Little Red-Haired Writer

Do you know the story The Little Red Hen? It’s possible that you heard it as a child, or even read it yourself. Perhaps you’ve read it to your (grand)children. If you’re not familiar with the story, there’s a version of it right here.

I got to thinking about how that story could be adapted to show you a little of the writing world, because several parts of it are similar to parts of the story. So, if you’ll be kind enough to ask your disbelief to enjoy a coffee and a piece of cake, here, with apologies to the originator of this folk tale, is…


The Little Red-Haired Writer


One day, the little red-haired writer decided to create a book. She had a good idea for a story, too. She spent quite a long time writing her book, but at last it was done.

‘Who will help me revise my book, so it’s ready to be published?’ asked the little red-haired writer.
‘Not I,’ said the famous literary agent.
‘Not I,’ said the much-in-demand editor.
‘Very well, then,’ said the little red-haired writer. ‘I’ll do it myself.’ And so she did. It took a lot of work to revise the story, and help from some friends. Finally, though, it was ready to be published.

‘Who will help me publish my book?’ asked the little red-haired writer.
‘Not I,’ said the large, international traditional publisher.
‘Not I,’ said the small, independent publisher.
‘Not I,’ said the breakout, ebooks-only publisher.
‘Very well, then,’ said the little red-haired writer. ‘I’ll do it myself.’ And so she did. She looked and looked for the right place to publish her work. She found a talented artist for the cover design. She designed her own imprint logo, and she formatted her book so that it was ready to go.

Finally, the book was published! The little red-haired writer was very excited, but now she needed to get the word out about her book.
‘Who will help me market my book?’ asked the little red-haired writer.
‘Not I,’ said the professional book critic.
‘Not I,’ said the large chain bookstore.
‘Not I,’ said the popular independent bookstore.
‘Very well, then,’ said the little red-haired writer. ‘I’ll do it myself.’ And so she did. She made a book trailer, she used social media, and she got her blog friends to post reviews. She gave her business cards out to anyone who would take one, and she did readings wherever anyone would let her.

Then, an amazing thing happened (erm – your disbelief’s still out, right? 😉  ). People started to buy her book. Then more people did. And even more people. Soon, the little red-haired writer started to make a name for herself. She started to earn money, too. In fact, she became quite popular as a writer.

‘I wonder if anyone would be interested in sharing my profits with me,’ the little red-haired writer said.
‘I will,’ said the famous literary agent.
‘I will,’ said the much-in-demand editor.
‘I will,’ said the large traditional publisher.
‘I will,’ said the small, independent publisher.
‘I will,’ said the breakout, ebooks-only publisher.
‘I will,’ said the large chain bookstore.
‘I will,’ said the popular independent bookstore.
The little red-haired writer thought about it for a while. ‘No, thank you,’ she said. ‘I’ll share my profits with the friends who helped me.’ And so she did. Trust me, folks (you know who you are), if this part of the story ever does come true, I will.


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32 responses to “The Story of the Little Red-Haired Writer

  1. Haha! Excellent! I must admit I always raise a cynical eyebrow or two when someone who has become a self-published sensation suddenly gets snapped up by one of the big publishing houses who no doubt rejected him/her in the first place…

    Hen, of course, is a term of endearment in Glasgow, so the little red-haired writer could easily be referred to as “hen”, hen! 😉

    • 😆 I love it, FictionFan! I knew that about Glasgow, but I’d forgotten. Thanks for the reminder. And you know, I get a bit cynical about that sort of sudden interest, too. Trust me, it’s not out of a desire to support less well-known talent…

    • I think those big publishers jam the writer in a corner. Think of the guy who wrote The Martian. He was a hit on his own. But once the book is “for-realsies” published, you can HOLD it. You can make MOVIE deals. You can get yourself a MATT DAMON. I doubt the author feels bad he’s raking in Matt Damon money, but I’ll bet he rolled his eyes at the late-comers who claimed books with lots of science, math, engineering, and technology wouldn’t sell.

  2. Col

    Here’s hoping it happens for you!

  3. Hahahaha. Love it, Margot!

    I hope you know you’re welcome on my blog anytime you need a little help in spreading the word.

  4. Congratulations! I want to read your book!

  5. Oh, Margot – fellow-feeling isn’t in it! Sometimes the publishing world reminds me of what Woody Allen said about Hollywood: ‘it’s worse than dog eat dog, it’s dog doesn’t return other dog’s phone calls.’

    • I love that quote, Christine! It’s perfect! And you’re right about fellow-feeling. It’s why I am so grateful for author friends like you. It does make wonder sometimes, since really, the book business isn’t a ‘zero-sum game.’

  6. Sounds like a true story to me…except for that ending…sigh… 😉

  7. tracybham

    I do love this story, Margot, and I look forward to the ending becoming reality.

  8. Margot: And the little red-haired writer counted her money and had a dream. She had been so successful maybe she could found her own publishing house and it would seek out and publish quality new crime fiction from authors unable to find publishers. And she contacted her friends with whom she had shared her profits and they were interested in her dream and willing to invest with her and so Little Red-Haired Publishing was born and became a great success.

    • I really like that ending, Bill, very much. And you know, I’ve actually thought it would be such a great idea to have a publisher just like that. If I ever really do have that sort of success, maybe I’ll do just that.

  9. Brilliant Margot and I’m sure you’ll have a happy ending!

  10. Love the story, Margot. Wishing you the best happy ending ever!

  11. I remember that story very well. So many of the most important lessons are taught in childhood. I just found your blog. I’m really enjoying it! 🙂

  12. kathy d

    Fabulous story. Actually, slice of life in reality. This little vignette should be published far and wide. How many writers would relate to it? Many.
    I think I’ll send it to a friend of mine, actually two who self-published their books. One of them included many themes and issues and was told by publishers that it combined too many genres in one book! It had to be one or the other or the other.
    Your conclusion is the best one possible.

  13. So true. And it makes me cross the way ‘established’ publishers are quite snooty about self-publishing, and claim eg that their editing is better. Not in my experience of reading both kinds of books. anyway, let’s hope very much for the happy ending – and I like Bill’s idea above.

    • I do, too, Moira – very much. And thank you very much for the good wishes; I hope you’re right. You make an interesting point, too, about ‘established’ publishers. They do tout their editing as superior, and in some cases, the publisher really does have fantastic editing. But I’ve seen very good editing in self-published books, too, and small, indie-published books. And I’ve seen some sloppy editing from large, traditional publishers, too. I don’t think that the avenue of publication is necessarily linked to editing.

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