The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 137

I Appreciate All of You

I really do! Some of you have been here for every single one of these 137, and I find that not only remarkable but humbling. We should all be so lucky as to have such devoted friends and followers.

So thank you!

Let’s do this! We have a full bag of mail and we need to tackle it.

Welcome to the Mail Room!
Welcome to the Mail Room! | Source

Are We Born with It?

From Mary: “Do you think people are born with a talent to be writers or is it something we can all do with enough perseverance? Is it like singing or drawing, you either got it or you don't.”

This is a tough question for me to answer, Mary, especially since I’m a former teacher who always told his students they could do anything they set their mind on. I have a friend who is a voice teacher, and she says that anyone can sing with the proper training. I’m not going to argue with that assessment. She has the expertise and she is quite successful, but I’m not sure I’m willing to say the same thing about writing.

Here’s the thing: you give me enough time to train someone, and I can teach them to write consistently with proper English….but that doesn’t mean they are then a writer. I can even teach someone how to control the rhythm of a piece, but I can’t teach them how to develop that nebulous thing called “voice.” Some writers have a distinctive voice and some, I think, never will have one, and that part I think we are born with. The truly good writers instinctively know how to construct a sentence, or paragraph, or story, in such a way that will elicit emotions from the readers, and that is a gift and cannot be taught.

Just my opinion, of course!


From Audrey: “Writing goals - ah yes! Working on this. Finding time to devote to HP hubs, commenting on hubs, writing for Niume, being an active participant, editing - when do I find time to concentrate on my book? I teach everyday, perform piano, practice, work on my website, go to the Y, errands, and on and on. Help!”

Audrey, you don’t need help; you need a kick in the pants. LOL You need to determine which of those things are most important and then schedule around that list of importance. If that book is a priority then HP and commenting and NIUME all need to be pushed to the back burner for awhile. I get that you teach voice every day, and perform, and practice your art . . . and those things should always come first . . . but with regards to writing, all that other stuff, the HP and blog and NIUME, needs to be relegated to the second tier with the book at the top.

I don’t know how to say that with more emphasis! If the book is the priority, after earning a living and taking care of you, of course, then make it the priority.


This is writing weather for this writer
This is writing weather for this writer | Source

The Weather and Writing

From Ruby: “I have a desire to write SOMETHING, but I'm as dry as an old bone. That happens to me when it's cold and gloomy. I'm wondering if the weather affects others? Thanks Bill.”

Ruby, I’m sure it does. I know there have been studies on this, but I don’t remember the results of those studies. LOL I know for me, sunny, warm weather shuts me down immediately. Wet, dreary weather is my cup of tea for writing.

But I read one study that said dreary weather kills creativity, so maybe I’m just weird.


From Karen: “I have a question for you regarding CreateSpace. I have read some very negative reviews about CreateSpace in terms of their print books being unprofessional in terms of folded pages in the finished products, crooked printing, etc. Have you ever had those issues with the print versions of your books?”

Karen, I’ve published five novels, one non-fiction, and five novellas with CreateSpace and never once encountered the problems you are talking about. The thing I’ve come to realize with reviews like that is there will always be someone, somewhere, who has had a problem with a perfectly good product. It’s bound to happen, right, if that product has mucho sales. I love Ford Ranger pickup trucks but I know someone who had one break down, so there you go. I still love them and think they are great trucks.

There are a ton of books published by CreateSpace. I’d be amazed if 100% of them turned out perfect. Personally, I think you can trust that company to deliver 99 times out of 100.

Color Pictures and Cookbooks

From Mike: “Lots of interesting questions again this week. The color pictures in a cookbook question is a tough one. There are people that can print 100 copies of a book. That still would be a financial risk for the author.”

Mike is referring to a question last week from Linda about whether to have color pictures in a self-published book. I advised that color pictures drastically increase the price of self-publishing, and it might be best to skip them in the cookbook. Mike mentions another route to take, the indie presses that you can find in most major cities. I published my first book at a printing company twenty miles from where I live, and it cost me $600 for 100 books. I don’t know about the rest of you, but $600 is a huge investment for this boy.

So, there are risks involved no matter which route Linda takes with that cookbook.


From Eric: “In your time have you seen writers crippled by the resistance and fear who when they overcame were just fantastic writers?”

Eric, I don’t know any personally, but I’ve read about quite a few best-selling authors and yes, there are a few who fit what you are describing. The thing that really jumps out at me when reading their biographies is how shy many of them are, or were, and how much they hate, or hated, promoting their books.

Sound familiar? I’ll bet most people who read this are going to nod their heads in agreement.

Printed books vs eBooks
Printed books vs eBooks | Source

Hard Copy?

From Brian: “In your reply to Linda, you said that Create Space has hard cover or e-book options, yet your books shown in a photo are paperbacks, not hard cover books. Is there a term that refers to all forms of printed on paper books—hard cover or hardbound, trade paperback, mass-market paperback, bound in boards, leather bound, spiral-bound, self-wrappers, and so on—as distinct from e-books? 'Hard copy' refers to any printout of data, even on a single sheet of paper, so it is too broad a term for specifically books. Printed with ink book? Dead tree book?”

I think Mike gave the perfect answer to this, Brian . . . they are called “printed books.” I can’t do better than that description.


From Bill: “Great mailbag this week. I have yet to venture over to Niume but I was wondering if you have any idea how travel articles do there? I'm not really looking to leave HPs, just curious.”

Bill, prior to yesterday, I would have said NIUME is the best site for travel articles. Mine have done quite well there, better than at HP for sure.

But yesterday NIUME started monkeying around with their site. They now monitor how long a reader spends reading an article, and they don’t count it as a “read” if that reader only glances and then leaves the site. In other words, they are only rewarding writers for views if the view is of a certain length of time.

So now I’m going to say “wait and see” regarding the recent NIUME changes. It may not be as good as it once was, but only time will tell.

Great Questions from Great Followers

One reason I love this series is because half my work is done for me. You guys, and gals, have the tough work, dreaming up these questions. Me? I just toss out my thoughts, sprinkle in a little b.s., and call it an article.

Thanks to you all! See you next week.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly”

More by this Author

Comments 66 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 10 days ago from New York, New York

Aw, love that I have been here for all 137 of your Writer's Mailbag and hope to be here for 137 more now! Happy Monday, Bill and keep up the great work here :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Happy Monday, Janine! Stay safe and warm during the latest winter blast. You are so appreciated here. I always have your coffee waiting for you when I post on Monday. :)

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 10 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Just a great mailbag. Bill I just Googled "Writer's Mailbag. Very interesting. Certainly you have a huge readership, but the results seemed to reflect more than that. Are you doing something imperceptible that is helping to get to the top for pages and pages?

This mailbag made me think of a serious novel with coloring book pages.

Happy happy Lincoln's Birthday. (yes actually yesterday but holiday here today)

Jodah profile image

Jodah 10 days ago from Queensland Australia

Well done with mailbag 137. That is quite an impressive number and would probably win an accolade of longest running series on HubPages. Good work as always, Bill. Loved the questions.

mpropp profile image

mpropp 10 days ago from Minnesota

Happy Monday Bill! Whew, that was a full one this week...So, dreary and cold weather inspires you? Glad I'm not the only one! LOL

On a personal note, thank you so much for answering my son's interview questions. That was beyond nice of you!

Have a wonderful rest of the week!

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 10 days ago from Northeast Ohio

Bill, great mailbag hub as always. Someday I'll ask you a question if I can think of one that doesn't leave my mind. LOL Very insightful and intuitive, my friend.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 10 days ago from Oklahoma

Great read!

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 10 days ago from Washington State, USA

Great mailbag Bill. You were a bit harsh with poor sweet Audrey. Some of us (I won't make any reference to gender) end up doing more than 50 percent of what it takes to run a household. When that happens, it really IS difficult to squeeze in the time we need and want to make a book happen. Add daily shopping-cooking-cleaning-laundry-child care to your day and I'll bet your productivity would slip a tad.

I'm a bit frustrated with Niume right now, so won't be moving any more of my content there. (Stay tuned).

As for the colorf-filled cookbooks...sigh! I'm setting up colored photos as we speak, but I can turn them to black and white if need be. (Actually some B&W photography is better than color--sharper detail, etc.).

Happy Monday!

Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 10 days ago from Hyderabad, India

Very interesting and great mailbag. It is true that writing or any kind of art is a born gift. We can develop and shine in those skills only if we are innately having that instinct and quality from the beginning.

Regarding Audrey's problem, it is a genuine situation that is very difficult to manage. I can understand it as I myself am busy with my daily cooking, shopping, other errands. It is very tough to manage time performing all these things.

Thanks, Bill, for this yet another wonderful Monday mailbag.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Nah, nothing special, Eric. I just think it's the only combination of the words "writer's" and "mailbag." Instant success! LOL Now all I need is thousands of people actually doing that exact search. :) Thanks, buddy, and Happy Lincoln's birthday to you.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks a lot, John! I'm just amazed by the number of people who have been here for all 137...I'm a lucky man.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

It was my pleasure, Melissa! I'm glad I could help him out . . . and thank you for always being here.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Kristen, I'm just appreciative of you being here. No sweat on that question. Thank you!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks a ton, Larry! Have a great week!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

No, Linda, not harsh at all...I said the important stuff needed to be done, but if it's a choice between writing for HP and a blog, or writing the book, then the book needs to be the priority. Simple as that...I think I was pretty clear about that. :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Yessir, Venkatachari M, life has a way of getting in our way when we have other plans.....we just have to keep walking towards the goal, and one day we will make it. Thank you, sir!

always exploring profile image

always exploring 10 days ago from Southern Illinois

Thanks for answering my weather question. In spite of my muse I kind-of outwitted her by writing about a stormy day I was having. Another good mailbag.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 10 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Good job outwitting the muse, Ruby! I like your style.

Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 10 days ago from Brazil

Hi Bill,

It's wonderful to see a full mailbag again. Thanks for your answer to my question. Although not all of us are going to write the next great American novel, there are other writing avenues open.

This makes a perfect segue for my next question. This week I received an email from an online writing group where I write occasionally. This was for a job to write a short book review. The author wanted people to buy the book, write a review and then she would give a refund of the price paid for the book. This was in my opinion, a better way of getting a review than just asking for a false one, which many people do these days. Plus I also feel the added sales would help her with the Amazon algorithms . I didn't take her up on the offer but would like your feedback on this way to get sales (although in essence the book is being given away) and a way to achieve more reviews.

One last thing, regarding Niume, I saw a similar thing happen with Bubblews a few years ago. People didn't spend more than a few seconds on a page and as such the figures became skewed. This led to the authors becoming unhappy thinking they should be earning more and eventually it just collapsed. Although the idea of social blogging is a good one, people abuse it and just do as little as possible to get their name seen and hope someone will return the favor and click on one of their pages.

Have a wonderful week.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 10 days ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

One idea for color photos for a self-published cook book is to put the photos on Flikr or a similar site and in the Introduction say how to download, print, and tip-in, mount, or lay-in the photos in the printed book.

sallybea profile image

sallybea 10 days ago from Norfolk

I am always grateful to have people ask about CreateSpace, especially when the subject of images in the books comes up. A felting book without pictures would not be worth the paper is written on unless it was a digital one:) Actually, I would like to see someone write a series or hub on writing a book with CreateSpace Perhaps you might like to do one Billy! Happy Monday.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Great question, Mary, about reviews, and great observation about NIUME. I'm going to include them both in next week's Mailbag. Thanks a ton, my friend, and Happy Monday to you.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

That's certainly an option, Brian, one I hadn't thought of. Thanks for sharing with us.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

I tend to agree with you, Sally, about the's a tough place to be in regarding cost, and I don't have a good solution.

As for that hub you are suggesting, maybe one day it will happen, but man alive, my docket is full right now. :)

sallybea profile image

sallybea 9 days ago from Norfolk

I am sure it is Billy. I just need to visit some of the forums on CreateSpace and see if I can find some tutorials.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 9 days ago from Iowa

Hmm. I've never even heard of NIUME. I do like writing travel articles, so I may check it out. But I see Blond Logic compares it to Bubblews, which I thought was an awful site.

Coffeequeeen profile image

Coffeequeeen 9 days ago from Great Yarmouth

Bill, your writing mailbags are always useful and informative to read. I learn so much. Thank you. =)

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 9 days ago from Nashville Tn.

Just what I needed my friend! "A kick in the pants" feels great! (No, I'm not weird ). lol Casting everything else aside and getting down to the business of writing my book(s). My pants are on fire! Big thanks.



billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Do that, Sally! I'm sure you'll find some answers on YouTube.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Hey Deb....NIUME was a really good site, and I still like it, but I suspect it is about to change for the worse. We shall see.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Queen. I appreciate you visiting.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Audrey my dear, someone thought I was being too rough on you. I knew that you knew it was coming from a base of love and always will be.

Let the fire burn, baby!!!!



breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 9 days ago

I really do love your passion and talent for writing.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Hey, thanks, Pop! LOL

letstalkabouteduc profile image

letstalkabouteduc 9 days ago from Bend, OR

My interest gets piqued, Bill, when you write about voice. When I read your words, I can hear your voice and feel like I know you. I suspect many other readers feel the same and that's why you have a large following. How did you develop your voice or did you always have it? Thanks for another great Mailbag and keep them coming!

PAINTDRIPS profile image

PAINTDRIPS 9 days ago from Fresno CA

Another great mailbag full of great questions, although I wouldn't say you sprinkled b.s. exactly! Any way you look at it, it's always a fun and often funny read as well as informative. Keep up the good work.



MsDora profile image

MsDora 9 days ago from The Caribbean

Congratulations on all your publications. You continue to motivate us in your mailbags. Your answer to the CreateSpace negativity is head on. I started reviewing books and for every author I read there is someone who discourages others from reading that writer. Wise answer you gave!

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 9 days ago from USA

Congratulations on such a lengthy series. Glad you switched to numbers rather than writing out the number.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 9 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

There's always something that I find useful in your mailbag hubs, Bill. It's a great series.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Letstalk, thanks for the question. Stay tuned for the answer, coming Monday!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Maybe just a pinch of b.s., Denise. LOL Thanks so much.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Dora! Negativity is just something writers have to get used will always be there.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

LOL...Flourish, so am I! I was wondering what took me so long to do that.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 9 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

I appreciate that very much, Linda! Thanks for always being here.

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 9 days ago from Chicago Area

Happy Valentine's Day!

Re: Nature vs. Nurture. Agreed, people can be taught to write proper English (or whatever language). But to write something creatively, that comes from a much deeper place. I knew how to write as I was growing up, but didn't start really writing creatively until I was an adult. So I think it is something innate... it just may take time.

Re: Createspace and Color. Like you, I have never had an issue with Createspace's printing... ever. But printing errors are common, regardless of who's doing the job. As for color (such as for the cookbook photo question), I still think Createspace is a viable option since you can print one copy at a time.

Re: Hard Copy. Createspace does not yet offer hard cover editions. I think only places like Lulu currently do. But who wants that expense? Okay, I'm editorializing.

Anyway, I hope you have something lovely planned for you and Bev this Valentine's Day. Enjoy!

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 8 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Bill - If you found a way to charge admission, this Mailbag exercise would do well. Thanks for the shout out again this week.

It occurs to me that another thing that will disappear from the book world (where I lived for thirty years) is First editions. These have been a staple for collectors throughout history. With on-demand printing that is gone, much to the loss of the romance of words.

Oh, crap, that was sentimental.

annart profile image

annart 8 days ago from SW England

Regarding Brian's question, here in Britain we refer to the alternative to paper-backs as 'hard-backs' rather than hard copy or hard cover - maybe that answers part of the question?! Just rambling really but thought I'd mention it.

The weather question was really interesting. I tend to prefer to work on writing when the weather doesn't beckon me outside. So dull, grey, wet days are best for me! Each to his own, I guess.

Superb as always, bill!

I desperately want to ask a question that no one else has asked before, but so far I can't think of one - give me time....... !

Ann :)

ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 8 days ago from New Delhi, India

Excellent hub with very helpful questions and answers!

I was just wondering--This series of questions and answers, that is ''The writers mail bag " can be compiled into a print book and what a hot seller it would be! Just a thought!

Thanks for sharing this wonderful series!

lifegate profile image

lifegate 8 days ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

I have to say, Bill, that I'd rather write in the rain - reason unknown. I'd also recommend Createspace to anyone. I've neve had anything go wrong that wasn't my own fault. They're fast, efficient, and produce a quality product - just my opinion, of course.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 8 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

I appreciate that opinion, Bill! It seems to be in the majority! Thank you!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 8 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank yo ChitrangadaSharan! I don't know about the "hot seller" part, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 8 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Time, is on my side, yes it is....take all the time you want, Ann. I know when you do think of one, it will be a doozy!

Have a brilliant Wednesday!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 8 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

What a great point, Mike! I certainly hope we never reach that point. I don't think we will, if recent trends hold.

Crossing my fingers!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 8 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Great points as always, Heidi! I actually didn't know if CreateSpace did hard copies. It's not something I've ever looked into, so thanks for that.

Happy Wednesday, my friend!

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 7 days ago from Riga, Latvia

Finally I have had a chance to hop on over. Most interesting as always. Some thoughts are that it is important to have a schedule you can basically stick to. Like when you read your emails, do blogging and post on sites. I have discovered that I must change and rearrange my schedule often until I can find a comfortable schedule so to say I can work with. At this moment it seems that once I can catch up at the same time I cannot. I agree that I don't like what NIUME has done but I will see what happens over there as time goes on. Hope this has been a great week for you. Imagine the week just began or so I thought and here it is Thursday.

jo miller profile image

jo miller 7 days ago from Tennessee

137. That's impressive. I haven't been around for all of them, but just wondering, have you ever missed one? How about when you're traveling? I can't even get around to reading this until Thursday or so each week.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 7 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks, Jo, and no, I haven't missed one. It's been a good streak so far.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 7 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Rasma, thank you! It's been a good week so far, very productive. I hope the same for you. I agree, a schedule that is comfortable is very important...but hard to find.

MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 6 days ago

Very interesting mailbag this week, friend Bill. I can say that living in an underground house, the weather never affects my creativity either way. LOL. Personally on the creative writer question, I think some people are great story tellers whether or not they can write a lick. My late son was a good example of that. He came up with some great stuff, but it had to be edited for sentence structure, grammar and the like. Conversely, some of the most boring stuff I ever read came from one of my magazine writing professors. The guy could take the tragedy of 9/ll and make it as exciting as a technical manual because he wouldn't break any writing rules. Have a good rest of the week, Bill

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Great point you make, MizB....storytellers are among us, whether they can write or not...and I do love good storytellers.

Buildreps profile image

Buildreps 5 days ago from Europe

Interesting Q&A this week, Bill. I was always amazed about my ability to write and study during nice weather. I'm sure you could learn anyone to write, but things like inspiration, intuition and imagination are a gift that cannot be learned I think. Wish you a great weekend!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Buildreps, I envy your ability to write in nice weather. My mind drifts too much on sunny today. :) Thanks for dropping by. I hope your weekend is superb.

Vellur profile image

Vellur 5 days ago from Dubai

I learn something new everytime I read this series, interesting and informative. Thank you.

aesta1 profile image

aesta1 5 days ago from Ontario, Canada

I have looked into Createspace but was hesitant so I'm glad about your recommendation. Right, somehow any of these are only help. You have to make it work for you.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Very true, Aesta. All I can tell you is I've never had any problems with CreateSpace, and they are easy to work with.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Vellur! You are always welcomed and appreciated here.

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