The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 154
You know, for a professional writer, there are times I’m woefully inadequate at getting my point across. Sorry about that! I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I had a goal of writing the Mailbag for three years, and that goal would be met soon. I in no way meant to imply that I would end the Mailbag at that point, but that’s what many surmised from my statement.
Rest assured the Mailbag will continue as long as there are questions and interest in it.
With that out of the way, we have two more installments and then my three-year goal will be met. Then I’ll have four years as my next goal.
From Linda: “Writing historical fiction - Bill, you often write stories for us that take place in another time; right now you are leading us on a journey along the Oregon Trail. How much research do you do to ensure that they are historically accurate? Place names, distances, patterns of speech--all of these come into play in a story that occurs in another time and/or place. I want to write a story (it's buried in there deep, but wants to come out), but it would occur in a time I can barely imagine in a place I have never been. Am I nuts to even consider such a thing?”
I’ll speak for myself first, Linda, and then speak about your particular situation.
I’m basically a lazy writer with regards to research. I only write about topics I know extremely well and locations I’ve actually visited. As a teacher I taught a unit each year on the Oregon Trail, so I really needed no research for this current series of short stories. The locations are places I have seen, so no research needed there as well. The only location I have written about that I have not seen is the location in the novel I am currently working on . . . “Shadows Fall on Rosarito” . . . I have never been to Rosarito, Mexico, so I’ve had to do a bit of research on that.
For you, my answer is this: authenticity is very important. You will have your hands full with research, but I think without it your book will suffer. I have a friend who spent two years writing a sprawling novel about World War 2. A good portion of that two years was research, and it shows in the detail of her book.
Are you nuts to consider such a thing? Not at all, but you’ll need to be willing to put in the study time.
SUBSCRIPTIONS TO YOUR OWN WEBSITE
From Rasma: “Suddenly a light bulb went on. Here's something to ponder. Is it possible to create my own website to which people must subscribe in order to read anything and why would they want to subscribe? I find this an interesting thought.”
Rasma, I’m going to let my good friend Heidi answer this one, since her comment is exactly what I think about this:
“Some bloggers have taken a stab at "pay to read" subscription monetization models. But I don't see that as viable for the long term since people can find so much information for free on the web. Plus, it's often cheaper for readers to buy books, online courses, etc. than to pay a never-ending subscription fee of say $10 to $20 a month.”
I totally agree with Heidi on this one, Rasma. I just don’t see many people paying to subscribe to your blog. The same can be said for my blog. Why should they, unless they love you dearly and that isn’t even a guarantee. I don’t think any of my family members would pay to read my blog . . . maybe my wife would, but she would feel obligated to do so. LOL
What About Book Signings?
From Lyssa: “Do you think book signings and readings are worth the time and effort to set them up? I have my doubts!”
So do I, Lyssa! Now I’m going to upset the apple cart with this next statement, and I fully expect people to disagree with me. So be it! I just don’t think book signings are as valuable as they once were. The romanticized vision of a crowd of people standing in line to buy your books is a thing of the past. The reality is maybe two or three people stopping by your table, picking up your book, asking a question, and then moving on. Sure there are sales occasionally, but the norm is the opposite of the romanticized vision. And of course there are writers who sell a fair amount of books at book signings, but I firmly believe that is not the norm.
Are book signings totally invaluable? I don’t believe so. I believe any time a writer can get out in public and talk about writing it serves a purpose. It may lead to a sale later on. It may just help an introverted writer to actually come out of his/her shell. It’s all marketing, whether you are selling anything or not, so from that vantage point I think it is valuable.
Just don’t expect mammoth sales to come from it.
I know fairly successful writers who make decent money on their books and never do public appearances, and I actually think that is more the norm than those who find success from book signings.
My suggestion: do one and see if you like it. I think it’s good experience even if you sell nothing. Just don’t put all of your horses in that one corral and no, I’m not talking about ranching with that last statement.
From Elvin: “I know you’ve said that you sell your books at the farmers markets that you do. How are those sales doing?”
Same answer as the one for book signings, Elvin. I just don’t sell many books that way. Does that mean I’m wasting my time? I don’t think so. I like meeting people, and the ones I meet talk about books and writing with me. Hey, I have to be there anyway, selling other items, so I might as well display the books and see what happens. Again, it’s all marketing, and one conversation may lead to sales down the road. At least I’m getting out there and meeting with the public and introducing them to the name William D. Holland. Plus, I just like the markets, and I enjoy spending time at them, so for me it’s a winning proposition whether I sell anything or not.
I wrote on Facebook last week after my Tuesday market that I had given one coloring book away and sold none that day. Some people felt the need to console me, and that was sweet of them to do so, but actually I felt it was a winning day from a marketing standpoint. I talked to twelve people about writing, and I made one twelve-year old girl very happy with the free gift, so that is a very good day.
From Pat: “I was on the forum a couple weeks ago, and I posed a political question, and it was amazing to me how many mean comments there were. I mean nasty, personal comments ranging from just calling me names to being almost obscene. I’m fairly new here and I’m wondering if that is common behavior for writers on HP?
Pat, I can tell you with certainty, I don’t hang out in the forums and I don’t take part in them, for exactly that reason. A part of me understands it. People are afraid and unsettled about the political and economic reality we all face, and I think that fear translates into anger. I get it, but in no way do I condone it, and I won’t put up with it. A part of me is like “why do they care what I believe? Why are they so intent on telling me, in an angry manner, that they are right and I’m wrong? I don’t give a damn what they think, and their views don’t affect my life at all, so why do they get so worked up over my beliefs?
In the end, Pat, I decided that people who leave snarky or mean comments are just very unhappy people who have not matured much beyond middle school.
Hope that helps!
More Next Week
Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you learned something, or found something interesting. The Mailbag is only as good as the questions, so leave those questions in the comment section below, or you can email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week of writing and living!
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”