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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 160

Updated on July 24, 2017

PROBLEM-FREE

I really am . . . problem-free, I mean. I’ve really got no reason to complain at all. I have great health, I have love, and I’m doing something for a living that I’m passionate about. Oh, sure, there are everyday bumps in the road, a flat tire, dead animal, never enough time or money, but those really aren’t problems unless I elevate them in status.

And today I don’t choose to do that. I’ve lived through real problems, so the daily stuff of living just is not worth mentioning or giving importance to.

Instead, today, I choose to publish The Mailbag, and interact with all you fine folks. So thanks for stopping by. Get comfortable and let’s find out what our fellow writers are thinking about.

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

Children's Books

From John: “Do you know if the process is much different publishing a children's picture book to the others? My wife has been in my ear to stop ghostwriting kid's books for other people and to publish my own. I have a ton of rhyming kids stories I could use and seem to write them easily for others. I also know an artist who I could possibly hire to illustrate them. Maybe I just have to stop procrastinating, but I'm good at that :)”

John, I’m not sure what you mean by “the process.” If you are talking about the nuts and bolts of downloading the book onto CreateSpace, or some other self-publishing site, then my quick answer is no, the process is pretty much the same as downloading a novel. CreateSpace has a template which allows for pictures as well as text, and it’s really as simple as clicking “download.”

The illustrations would seem to me to be the biggest problem….getting someone to do them for a decent price, because that can be a pricey adventure.

Anyway, John, I think your wife is very smart, and I agree with her totally. It’s time to stop straddling the fence and start listening to your wife. You have far too much talent to spend it ghostwriting for others.

Books for children are no more difficult to publish than those for adults.
Books for children are no more difficult to publish than those for adults. | Source

Expanding Short Stories

.From Chris: “Do you have any thoughts about expanding short stories? I don't necessarily mean expanding them into a novel, but that, of course, is always an option. I suppose not every story needs to be longer. There is something exhilarating about a flash fiction story that races along but doesn't show signs of being stuffed into a space too small. My goal is to try to sell my stories to online magazines. There is a wide range of story lengths which the publishers are looking for. I've seen requests for stories as short as 100 words and others as long as 20k. That leads to another question. Is this a better way to go than publishing my own book of stories? Any book I put together, if it's going to have any length at all, will be a mishmash of genres. So online magazines or a self-published book, which is the better course in my situation?”

Congratulations, Chris! This is a first. We’ve been doing the Mailbag for over three years now, and this question has never been asked. I wish I had a door prize for you.

Tricky questions, Chris! All you are going to get is purely subjective answers. I personally don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this.

The first question I would ask is this: what is the purpose of expanding your short stories? If a short story is complete then no, I see no purpose in it. Never add fluff just for the sake of increasing word count. You’ll do more harm than good by doing so.

If you are serious about magazine submissions, and I know you are, then don’t expand a story unless the magazine submission guidelines call for a longer story. So many different magazines have different length requirements for submitted work. I sure wouldn’t go through the work of expanding to 20,000 words when the next magazine is asking for 15,000 words max, and then the next magazine wants 10,000. That seems like a whole lot of work chasing your own tail. Tailor stories to a certain length when you are required to do so by a magazine, and for God’s sake, keep a copy of the shorter version as well as the longer version of the story. You never know when you will want to submit that shorter version to another magazine. You might as well have it waiting in the bullpen if needed.

The second question is a tough one, Chris, and the final call is yours. I think, and remember, this is just my opinion, you stand to make more money in the long-run by submitting to online magazines. If you are a good writer, and you are, once you get accepted by a magazine or two, you’ll find it easier to get accepted in the future, and that will mean a semi-steady income. All bets are off on self-published books. Once you give that book away to friends and family, and once your twenty close friends buy it, the chances of continued sales are very, very small, especially for a collection of short stories.

But if you do choose to go the self-publishing route, be prepared to market your butt off, because that’s what it will take with a collection of short stories. In the book marketing field, a collection of short stories by an unknown author is the closest you can come to Mission Impossible . . . not impossible, but sure as hell not easy. Even for a good writer like you!

Good luck!

The victory dance happens when I stamp approval on a book
The victory dance happens when I stamp approval on a book | Source

Favorite Victory Dance?

From Eric: “But combining all those brings me to a question of no real import just interest. Which is your favorite Victory dance? When the idea gels? When you feel satisfied it is written just right? Or are sales the biggest charge? (I leave out the positive feedback that we give each other around here - which surely ranks)”

Another first-time question, Eric! You get the same prize as Chris received. Enjoy!

If sales were my favorite victories I’d be in big trouble. LOL

No, seriously, I get high from a well-crafted story. When I finally finish a book, and all of the rewrites, and I can pick it up and be satisfied with it, that’s when my chest swells and I feel damned good about it. I love the process of writing a novel, and positive feedback is nice, but it is my inner “book critic” who will let me know when I can celebrate.

More on Book Organization

From Rasma: “Another interesting mailbag with lots to think over. As you know I am getting closer and closer to finally getting my book of poems together. Is it a good idea to first get the book in form on Word so that I have an idea of what it will eventually look like and should I have someone take a look at what I have put together before I actually begin the process of getting the e-book of poems published?”

Rasma, here are my thoughts. I’m no expert on poetry, although I have read several compilations of poems over the years, so at least I have that background. This is about the organizing of the book, though, right? If it were me, I would organize all the poems on a separate Word Doc, and have several people look it over for continuity. Just a simple list of the poem titles and maybe a one sentence summary of each; once you and your friends can agree on an order, then start transferring the poems to Word in preparation for self-publishing.

I only suggest this approach because I’m basically lazy and like to find the easiest solution. I don’t like to copy and paste any more than I have to, so figuring out the order of the poems ahead of time will save you some work.

But perhaps that is a stupid suggestion, and one of our readers will have a better one.

Great Questions This Week

Really, this was a fun one. Several new questions pushed this old man to his limits, and that’s a good thing.

Thanks to you all for the questions and for stopping by to read. I hope you have a terrific week of breathing in and breathing out. For those of you with “real” problems, best wishes.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad to hear that, Peg. Thank you!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas

      This mailbag had some really surprising questions and incredible answers that I really didn't expect. The thing about short stories was eye opening and the preparation for publishing with photos was important information.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Lawrence! Have a great week!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 3 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      Really enjoyed this mailbag. Some really sound advice here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      For sure, Gilbert! I'm glad you have that option. :) Thanks for your input.

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 3 months ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Nice session Bill, I particularly found your advice to Chris, about short-story writing interesting, and I agree with you self-publishing is a difficult route to follow. I'd rather get paid by publishers myself.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Excellent, Catherine! I love the suggestion about flow,and you are so very right. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bravo, Brian! Excellent points, my friend, and oh so true. Someone recently asked a question about this in the Mailbag....expanding a story for the sake of expanding is like mining for fool's gold, in my opinion.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      A vital skill for writers of fiction, drama, or dramatic films is discerning--word by word, paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene-- what is and what is not the story. Even the best writers err. I recently read James A. Michener's WRITER'S HANDBOOK: EXPLORATIONS IN WRITING AND PUBLISHING. The draft of his novel ALASKA that he submitted to his publisher included a chapter set in Canada. His editor convinced him to omit it. He adapted the chapter into a stand alone work, the novel JOURNEY. "In their present condition these pages could not possibly stand by themselves. Too brief. Not enough fleshing out of the five main characters. No women. And the physical setting ... has been scanted." When a writer makes a work in progress significantly longer or shorter than the previous draft, aiming to please a publisher might be a factor, but the dominant factor is ever what the story needs to include or to exclude to be most satisfying.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 3 months ago from Orlando Florida

      Another great mailbag. Talk about being lazy. I'm too lazy to try to submit my work to journals or magazines. I really should give that a try. And if I may weigh in on the question about how to organize a poetry book, when I did mine, I tried to create "flow." Each poem somehow relating to the one before it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And God bless you, Sparrow, and thank you!

    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      rdsparrowriter 3 months ago

      Interesting way of seeing things :) Your hubs always teach me something new. Thank you :) God bless you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Now that is funny, Mary! Perfect gift for grads....LOL Well that clears things up, doesn't it?

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 months ago from Brazil

      Not only do you get interesting questions for you to tackle, you get interesting responses as well.

      I was particularly interested in Heidi Thorne's comment about the reading levels associated with writing a children's book.

      A book which an adult is going to read to a child would be more flexible regarding vocabulary. I wondered if there were standards for those as well.

      I've just had a look at the best selling children's books on Amazon, and one of them says, "the perfect gift for grads". Go figure. LOL

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aww, Mona, that is sweet of you. I know you can do it, and when you do you will have great pride in the accomplishment. I have faith in you.

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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 months ago from Philippines

      I love reading your mailbag. It's therapy. I'm hoping to put my children's stories together as a book, but I'm a long term hopeless case. Still, you got me writing them eventually. I think if I keep reading your mailbag, I will find the guts to publish all my children's stories as a book. You will definitely be on the dedication page:)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Fantastic, Bill! I hope it works out. It would be lovely to meet you in person. Safe travels!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Chris! I'm glad you found it helpful. Like you said, keep writing, keep sending them in. Lightning is bound to strike soon, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I do too, Linda! I'm growing weary of burying my babies. :) Thank you!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is another interesting and useful mailbag, Bill. Thank you as always for sharing your advice. I hope you don't experience any more animal deaths in the near future.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 3 months ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Bill, thanks for fielding my questions. You've given some valuable advice. I'll use caution when it comes to expanding flash or short stories. There are a couple I've written that were screaming for expansion while I wrote the originals. Those were easy choices. Expanding some of my shorter stories is the main reason I've been scarce around these parts lately. It really does take time. I'll continue pursuing the online magazines. I have one submitted and another almost finished. I'll just keep sending them out until something happens. I appreciate the help very much.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 3 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Another great week for the mailbag with some new questions to boot. We are heading your way Friday evening and hope to be able to cross paths with you sometime next week. The weather looks great.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Larry, thank you for sharing that. Best wishes to you, too, my friend. I wish I could teach people that the small stuff is not worth losing serenity over.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

      I especially enjoyed your Mailbag intro today. I, too, have lived through a few "real" problems, yet I still have a problem elevating the junk that doesn't matter. Some folks just never learn. Thanks for the reminder.

      Good health and happy living my friend:-)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad, Rasma! I really do think that is the best approach to take. Best wishes on your very personal project.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 3 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Thank you very much Bill. I would certainly feel much better about having it all organized before I proceeded. Therefore I will take the time to start gathering together the poems I will be publishing. Hope you have a great new week.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great question, Zulma! Stay tuned and I'll have an answer for you. In the meantime, be well, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aww, thanks, Dora! Wisdom? I don't know about that, but I will give an honest answer.

      Blessings to you always!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Venkatachari M. I appreciate your loyal following.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I totally understand that reason, John, as I mentioned. It can be prohibitive for sure. Best wishes to you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, I don't think you see it until you begin to download, and then you are given the option to use the CreateSpace template.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you ChitrangadaSharan! You are appreciated!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Great questions this time as you said and very satisfying answers or guidance from you.

      Thanks for sharing another useful installment!

      Have a good day!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 3 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Well Bill, another great week of Q's and A's. You mentioned to John that CreateSpace has a template which allows for pictures as well as text. Where do I find that. I've never seen that before, but I'd be interested in checking it out.

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      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      A wonderful Mailbag this week, Bill, and thanks for answering my question. I found Heidi's comment very helpful as well. The reason I haven't published a children's book before was covered by her. The cost of the artwork could actually persuade me to to the illustrations myself.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 3 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Really great questions this week. All the four are rich information to the writers. You answered them very well providing great advice. Thanks for the great mailbag.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 months ago from The Caribbean

      Love your intro, and thanks for sharing that positive outlook. Interesting first questions and answers. If it's Monday, it's more writer's wisdom from Billybuc! Thank you.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 3 months ago from United Kingdom

      Good questions and answers, Bill, as per usual. I'd like to get your opinion on something, if I may.

      What are your thoughts on MFA in Creative Writing? Do you think a structured programme like this could interfere with the creative flow? I'd be interested in your take on this as a teacher and a writer.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Denise. We writers face enough obstacles. I think we can all use a positive message.

      Blessings always

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm afraid that's true, Martie. I can motivate but I can't do magic. :) I have faith in you, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, we haven't had rain in 37 straight days, heading for our record of 51. I'm afraid I have none to send your way.

      Retired, maybe, but old? Never, my friend.

      Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I will for sure, Pop! Thanks a bunch!

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      breakfastpop 3 months ago

      I never tire of this series. Please keep it going.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 months ago

      Bill, I agree with Denise. I love reading the mailbag even when the questions aren't my cup of tea. I write and arrange everything in Word because it is easy to save and it saves me from having to rearrange it later, or if I do, it makes it easier to cut and paste. That may change, though, because I don't like Word for Mac. Maybe once I use it every day and get used to it, I'll like it. It's been hotter than the Bad Place this week, and we're praying for rain. Send some our way, would you, my friend?

      Five more days and I'm home free. By the time I read your next mailbag, I'll be an ole retired woman and can write at my leisure.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 3 months ago from South Africa

      Another interesting installment of The Writers Mailbag.

      I don't think any questions about writing can push the old man to his limits :)))

      Thanks, Billy.

      Sadly, knowing what to do is one thing, doing it is another thing.

      You can do it, and teach us how, but many of us still have to do it... !

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 months ago from Fresno CA

      As always, you give me some cheery and thoughtful messages to think about all week. I love these mailbags even when the actual questions aren't really my cup of tea. Still you are to be applauded for tackling such deep and interesting quandaries. Have a great week, my friend.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      All great points, Linda! As for podcasts, I never got beyond the dabbling stage. Just too many other things taking up too much time....oh well, who really needs to see my face or hear my voice? LOL

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aww, thanks Melissa! I spent a number of years wallowing in negativity. Now I'm just trying to balance it out if possible.

      Happy Monday to you, Melissa!

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      Melissa Propp 4 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Love the positive vibe you give off every single week...and some fun new questions to boot.

      We all need to remind ourselves sometimes that we are often "problem-free" when we start getting down about the little things. Have a great week!

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      Linda Lum 4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Bill. A great day, more sunshine, and a little 6-year old coming over to visit today and explore our nature trails. (We set a few gnome houses out there in the woods hoping that he will discover them.)

      I'm glad that Heidi addressed the topic of writing for children. I don't think I would ever want to attempt that--the audience is so diverse. Three-5 year olds are a different group than 12-15 year olds. And I think the older the group you are writing for, the less need for illustrations. Color pages double the cost of the book (if you are self-publishing).

      Are you still dabbling in podcasts? Would love to see you do a happy-dance

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Yes they do, Flourish, but there is only so much any urban farmer can do. :) Thanks for being here.

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh, Sally, the quick answer is this: no way do I have the time to play HP's games...but I'll give the answer more depth next Monday. Thanks for the question; have a superb week.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 months ago from USA

      Wonderful questions this week! I am a little stuck on that dead animal thing though. Little lives count, feathered and furry alike. Oh.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It does for sure, Ann!

      bill

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Love your comment, Eric, about having much to do today. As for your question, it is recorded and will be answered in exactly one week. Thanks my friend...happy fishing!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mike! I aim to please at least once in each mailbag. :)

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      mckbirdbks 4 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Good morning Bill - The questions and answers were fine today, but the introduction was the best part.

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      Eric Dierker 4 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Your opening remarks remind me of the lack of misery I see around me. During these wonderful summer days my young son and I go to the library and our local (16 and under only) fishing pond. At both these places 17 and under are provided free lunch and dinner, no proof of nothin just line up. And of course the books and fishing are free.

      I have a lot to do today - thank God for that.

      Rasma's question and your response was much like mine about organizing.

      If you do not like a "who done it" you are nuts. Which brings me to my question. How much of your work is just like the cops? "a gut instinct". In my area of writing here it is more gut than brains. But my "ghost" legal writing is way more brains. Do you have an on and off switch?

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      Ann Carr 4 months ago from SW England

      I like that one; sounds just like me!

      Ann :)

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      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 months ago from Norfolk

      One of your earlier hubs popped into my mailbox earlier today and read it with enjoyment and then this new mailbag arrived a little while later. It made me curious so I went looking to see whether all of your mailbox hubs and or writing have been moved to the niche sites! You have written 1,238 articles here to date! That sure is some accomplishment especially since I have not even reached my first 100 and I know how much effort I have had to put in to do only that. My excuse is of course that I have to do all the work and take all the photos before I can put pen to paper:) This leads me to a question. Do you or have you visited all your past hubs to make them comply with all the changes which HubPages have asked for over the years or have you not bothered? I don't think I could cope with having to write new stuff and keep on going back to my work if I had so many hubs. Happy Monday Billy.

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great points, Heidi, especially the marketing point that you are really marketing to the parents. Thanks for mentioning that, and for the subtle warning.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It can be, and probably will be, both, Ann. :) Thank you my friend. Have a splendid time with those visitors.

      Wishing you a Maniacally-Marvelous Monday!

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      Ann Carr 4 months ago from SW England

      The questions are always interesting but this week's were akin to my type of thing and, as always, you've answered them with style! I keep thinking of putting my stuff together as I have a few which would fit into series format.

      Beautiful weather today and visitors too so I'm happy.

      Have a mindful and aMusing Monday, bill! (or should that be musing?)

      Ann

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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      G'morning! Always nice to see new issues pop up in the Mailbag.

      Re: Children's Books. Because I network in a lot of women's groups, I bump into a lot of moms who want to do the kids' book thing. While the technical process of it is the same as for any other book, the editing and development is not. What surprises many people is that is is way, WAY more complicated to do a children's book than an adult book. There are issues with reading level (Fleisch-Kincaid!), content (Is it too mature or too primary for the intended reader?), and marketing (You're really marketing to the parents.).

      And a "children's" book does not automatically mean "picture" book. If it is going to be a picture book, you're right, the illustration issue is a big, expensive hassle.

      I wrote (ranted?) about this subject in a hub here on HP because I kept running into authors who were all jacked up about doing a book for kids thinking it's a slam dunk. Due to the foregoing and more, I don't do children's books (except for maybe proofreading).

      I have no complaints either. So let's both have a great week. Cheers!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      So do we all, Shyron! So do we all. LOL Blessings and thanks always!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Debangee...it's always a pleasure having you stop by.

    • Debangee Mandal profile image

      DEBANGEE MANDAL 4 months ago from India

      Another impressive mailbag with enormous amount of information and advice. It is a pleasure reading it.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 4 months ago from Texas

      Fantastic mailbag this week Bill, I will bookmark this and use it always as reference. I need all the help I can get.

      Blessings to you and Bev and all your furry/feathered friends.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, gone are the days when I would make a typhoon out of a glass of water. Life is good, my friend.

      Thank you and Happy Monday!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Nell! I hope that brain of yours is well, my friend. Happy Monday to you!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 months ago from England

      Great advice as always Bill! and yes knew questions! they all go into my brain, filter and help! lol! have a good day!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 months ago from New York, New York

      Love your outlook for this Monday morning, as well as your helpful writing advice always! Happy Monday now and here is to a great week ahead, too!! ;)