The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 171
Sharing Who I Am
A friend of mine recently commented that she liked it when I introduced the Mailbag with a personal anecdote. I’m glad she likes it because I’m going to do more of it. I’m a storyteller! That’s what I am and that’s what you’re going to get from now on, here and on my blog.
Stories! Stories from my lifetime, or passed down to me from relatives, stories which are infinitely human in nature, easily relatable, and easily understood by any of the two-legged species called Man!
Las Vegas! “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!” Well not this time. This time it spilled into our living rooms and made us angry, sick to our stomachs, and distressed. And Facebook exploded with political statements calling for gun control and impeachment and better security measures and on and on and on until I wanted to vomit . . .
But then there were stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help their fellow man, like the fifty-three year old man throwing himself on top of two twenty-somethings to shield them from the bullets, telling them he had lived a good life and they needed to have a chance to live theirs.
You can’t make that shit up, man! That’s about as human as it gets and yes, we are a violent species, and yes, we have a long way to go before we reach “civilized,” but we are also, when listening to our kinder angels, a species capable of incredible acts of humanness.
Let’s talk about writing!
From Shaloo: “I am not sure if this has already been asked but here are my questions: Which is the platform that you use for selling ebooks and what marketing techniques do you use?”
Shaloo, thanks for the questions. Your first is a bit confusing. If you mean which self-publishing site do I use to sell ebooks, the answer would be Amazon. If, however, you’re asking for the marketing strategy/platform, the answer is the platform I began building over six years ago, and that leads into your second question as well.
There is no quick fix to marketing and selling. I first learned this in my marketing classes in college, but at that time I was an impressionable twenty-year old and I was certain that ancient marketing principles did not apply to me.
I was wrong!
Building any platform for any product takes time. A lot of time. The foundation of my platform is my body of work, and I cannot overstate the importance of a good body of quality work. Then comes the website, and the blog, and the social media work . . . and that’s all from the cozy confines of my writing studio. We then could talk about going outside in the real world, the book signings, the book readings, the placement of books in bookstores, the one-on-one conversations with book buyers, and on and on we go.
Actually it’s been seven years, now that I think about it, seven years this month. I am just now seeing returns worth noting; not worth bragging about, mind you, but certainly worth noting.
Are Storytellers a Dying Breed?
From Linda: “I love your memories of your grandpa being a storyteller. And, that got me to thinking--might the new generation lose the ability to tell a story? Years ago we relied on family elders passing on oral history to young folk. Now, those "memories" are documented on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I know I'm oversimplifying the issue. As long as people like you and Eric and Jodah exist there will be wonderful records of stories, but your numbers are dwindling--just like the numbers of people who can still read and write cursive.”
Linda, my answer is going to seem overly-simplistic, but it’s not meant to be. Storytellers, and their value, will remain as long as we foster them and support them.
I would personally love to see every writer who has a child impress on that child the importance of sharing stories. I would love to see writers volunteer to speak to elementary school children and impress upon them the importance of storytelling. The art, and gift, of storytelling will only die if we, the writers, allow it to.
And I sure don’t want to see that happen!
As a species we’ve been telling stories seemingly forever. That is the medium we have always used to communicate in. I can’t imagine that ending. I hope I’m correct.
When Is Violence in a Story Gratuitous?
From Patti: “I know many of your novels are quite violent, but the one I read, it didn’t feel like the violence was gratuitous; rather it felt like it was necessary. How does a writer determine how much is too much with regards to violence?”
It’s really a great question, Patti. I guess my answer would be along the same lines as dialogue or any other aspect of a story: if it is necessary to the proper telling of the story, then include it; if it is superfluous and has no intrinsic value or importance, leave it out.
Yes, my Shadow series has violence, but it is because my main characters are violent people who are battling the personification of Evil. Without violence my main characters would have died four books ago and there would be no series. Having said that, I also try to make them as human as possible; they laugh, they cry, they mourn, and they show acts of kindness. In other words, I’m always trying to find a balance between the violence and the telling of the story.
The Death of Niume
From Violet: “I read recently that NIUME finally died its inevitable death. I think we all saw it coming, but what I’m wondering is why it happens? Are sites like NIUME and HubPages all likely to suffer a similar fate?”
I really don’t know, Violet, whether HP is going to follow the path of NIUME. It’s certainly possible. Trying to stay one step ahead of the Google gods must be a recipe for madness, and to build your entire business upon the fickle nature of those gods must be a good reason to drink heavily.
I personally hope HP makes it. I love the community. If I had to predict I would say eventually HP will simply stop paying writers and just offer a site where writers can post their stuff for free but with zero hope of making money from it.
Again, I hope I’m wrong. This is my home away from home, and it just wouldn’t feel right if someone locked the door and didn’t let me into my home.
Not Meant to Be Self-Serving
From Eric: “Now I have a question you may want to avoid. What was the toughest thing to overcome to go from being a sot to being the hottest hubber ever? You have my desire of success, love energized over and over again. What must we overcome to reach that next level?”
Eric, thank you for the very kind words! No reason for me to avoid this one; I think it’s a good question worth pondering.
I actually gave this some serious thought. Leaving teaching and becoming a writer, literally overnight in my case, was not that difficult for me to do . . . but then I was really ready for the change. Once I started in on the new career, it was a struggle, or course, but I have a business background, and I knew that starting a business from scratch requires long hours and an unshakable commitment.
Having said all that, the hardest thing for me to overcome, and continue to overcome, is the constant rejection and lack of quantifiable proof that I am succeeding.
I know of many writers who don’t even get the support of their immediate family. At least I have Bev to support me, but as most writers will tell you, most days of most weeks of most months are filled with silent doubts. I write six hours each day, five days per week, and not one of those days goes by without me wondering what the hell am I doing? Have I lost my mind? Why do I continue when sales are still meager? Am I wasting what time I have left on this planet?
Those types of thoughts, and just the overall self-doubt, can be a killer to someone not strong enough to handle it.
So far I have!
I’m no stranger to violence. I wish I was. I wish I had not experienced it, and I wish I had not caused it, but wishing does little to solve our ills. I wish Las Vegas hadn’t happened, but that wish, plus two bucks, will only get me a cup of coffee.
And so we learn, if we are willing, and we keep moving forward along the path of evolutionism, and hopefully, when it is all said and done, the plus side of our ledger will have more entries than the negative side has.
“There’s something happening here,
What it is ain’t exactly clear!” (The Buffalo Springfield)
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”