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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 210

Updated on July 9, 2018

The Artistic Gene

My mind spends a great amount of time contemplating random topics.

Do you think there is an artistic gene, and is it passed down from parent to child?

Most likely there is, right? Unfortunately there is no way for me to say from personal experience. I never knew my biological family. I don’t have a clue if they were artistic, or great athletes, or whatever. I can tell you for a fact I never saw evidence of an artistic leaning from my adopted parents. No inkling at all. Stepping into an art museum would be a foreign concept for them. Reading a serious novel was not going to happen for Dale and Evelyn. About as artistic as they got was singing; they both had good voices and would sing around the house quite often, but that’s not really an artistic leaning, so nuture vs nature is an unknown for me.

Me? I was a creative kid. Loved spending hours by myself writing short stories, reading, or just making stuff out of scrap lumber.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Thanks for putting up with me. Let’s get to the mail.

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

Distinctive Voices

From Mary: “Bill, you mentioned about having a distinctive voice and we do have this, well developed in some but not in others like me as I still grow in my writing. But compartmentalizing is a bit difficult. I am sure you have some techniques you use to do this which you can share with us.”

Don’t be so sure of that, Mary! LOL

The thing is, most of us do this daily and don’t even realize it. Say you get a text from your best friend, asking if you want to go out for a drink, and a couple minutes later you get a text from a customer asking about a new product line. You would most likely answer each of those two texts in a different voice, one ultra-friendly and one in a business tone. We don’t even think of it when we do that in everyday life, but it is a bit harder to do when jumping between creative writing and, oh say, writing an ad for a customer or even for your own business.

There are some tricks you can employ.

Once you finish the first set of writing, stop what you are doing and go read something completely different like a newspaper article. The goal here is to switch gears and allow your brain to shift back into neutral.

Same trick, different approach: you finish one type of writing and then call a friend for a short conversation, or take a five-minute television break.

Another trick you can use is to go read some of your previous work in the voice you want to employ. In the example I gave earlier, if you are switching from creative writing to ad copy, once you finish with the creative stuff, take five minutes to read previous ads you have written. This will help your brain to make the leap from Mountain A to Mountain B.

I hope that helps!

Switching voices can be daunting
Switching voices can be daunting | Source

Dynamite Titles

From Alyssa: “Here is my question: Do you have any tips on creating a killer title? One that perfectly sums up an article or writing piece, but also ignites a curiosity and will make people want to read your piece?”

Alyssa, good to hear from you. If I understand your question correctly, your main goal is to drive your views up using topnotch titles. This is all SEO stuff, and it is right up my alley since I do this for a living as a freelance writer. It’s nice to be talking about something I have a little knowledge in. lol

Remember two things about titles of articles: they should be no more than 60 characters long, and the keywords should be close to the beginning of the title. It’s all about keywords with Google searches, so your first job is to compose a list of keywords which attract the most views on Google and are related to your topic. In your case, if the main topic is hair care, then you need a list of keywords associated with hair care. You can obtain that list by doing a quick Google search on keywords. There are apps available which will give you keywords for any topic.

Once you have that list of keywords, you should write a title which includes one of those keywords, which ties into the main topic of the article, and which is 60 character or less. An example: if your article is about hair-coloring techniques, you will go find keywords for hair coloring. Let’s say one is simply hair color….then make a title like “Hair Color Application Techniques.” That title is 33 characters long, and the keyword phrase is at the beginning of the title…a win-win all the way.

Clear?

Of course, it is never quite so simple, but those are the basics.

Remember, also, that you want to attract readers, and you do that by providing a service for them. They are reading your article on hair care because they seek a particular set of facts. At the same time, your title must give them a reason to read your article before reading the other two million on that topic. Adjectives can be cheesy but they are also noticed. In the example I gave earlier, adding one word, “Best,” might make the difference . . . “Best Hair Color Application Techniques,” Or answer a question . . . “How To Best Apply Hair Color,” but in that example the keyword has been pushed to the end, and I’m not fond of doing that . . . so maybe “Hair Coloring Techniques How To’s”

Anyway, go find your list of keywords, and then play around a bit with it.

Blogs Vs Hp

From Shaloo: “Another informative mailbag...Since you mentioned your blog here, let me ask.. Haven't you ever thought of focusing on your blog rather than HP? It could become more profitable in the long run.”

Without a doubt I have thought about it and yes, it could, and probably would be, more profitable.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t much care about the monetary side of this writing. I never went into writing to make money. I do it because it pleases me. I do it because it challenges me. I do it because it is my way of connecting with people and leaving some sort of legacy.

So yes, you are correct. I would most likely make more money by monetizing my blog (Artistry with Words) and putting some serious effort into that, but I just don’t want to.

Another point before I end: I love HP. I have my issues with them, but this is the site which gave me my start. This is where I found like-minded people who gave me the support and encouragement to continue, people who told me I have talent and I should nurture that talent. There is no way I’m leaving a place I consider home, and HP is my home away from home where all my cool friends hang out.

So there you have it. You are correct, Shaloo, but I want no part of it.

A Barrage of Self-Publishing Questions

From Lori: “Hi Bill, I'm going to pepper you with. I know you self-publish through CreateSpace. I know you've sold on Amazon. How do you set your book price? How do the royalties work when using CreateSpace and selling on Amazon? Do you find after they take their percentage it is worth it? Is Selling through Amazon the best way in terms of royalties? What are other options if you know of any.”

Pepper away,Lori! I love pepper!

I literally could write an entire article on this group of questions you sent. Unfortunately, I have limited space here. Setting your book price is a personal judgment and nothing more. Amazon will give you a minimum that you can charge so that you get royalties, but any price above the minimum is up to you. Your royalties rise as the price rises, obviously. Is it worth it? It is to me, but again this is a person decision. Amazon reaches a huge,huge, huge market, a market I would never be able to reach, so I expect them to take quite a bit from the book price. In real life, with the big publishing houses, a large percentage is also taken,so I don’t think there is much difference. The writer will always receive a small percentage of the profits no matter which way you go.

What other options? There are quite a few…Lulu comes to mind…Book Baby….I’ve used Lulu once….I don’t know, Lori, for my needs, as much as I dislike Amazon’s dominance in today’s economic world, they (CreateSpace + Amazon) are the best for my needs.

All of these using CreateSpace/Amazon
All of these using CreateSpace/Amazon | Source

Dog Days of Summer

I wonder where that phrase came from. I’ll be right back.

So cool! You can learn some really neat stuff if you allow your curiosity to lead you.

“Dog days” refers back to the Ancient Greeks who noted that the summer months meant the return of the bright star Sirius to the sky. Sirius means “dog star,” and its return meant, to those Greeks, that hot, unpleasant temperatures were about to return.

I’m really happy I looked that up.

Have a great week of writing, my friends!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Comments

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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Rodric, from an SEO viewpoint, changing the title isn't as crucial as changing the URL...if HP does that for us, when we change a title, then fantastic. If not then we are wasting our time changing the title.

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony 

      15 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Another great read! I have some problems with deciding on titles for my articles. I have gone back and changed my titles on occasion to get them featured. What do you think about changing old titles? I hear a small voice reminding me that somewhere you have written on this before.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sha! My mind just heads off in different tangents on a regular basis. It can be a bit dizzying, but it is never boring.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad to hear that, Suhail! Thank you so much.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      15 months ago from Central Florida

      Bill your titles information and your curiosity regarding the origin of Dog Days, tie into each other so well! I don't think there's a one of us who doesn't consult Uncle Google when our curiosity is piqued. Segue: effective titles that draw the inquiring mind(s) to your page.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      15 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Bill,

      I read this mailbag and learned a few more things, especially about the titles :-)

      Regards,

      Suhail

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks as always, Manatita! Peace be with you!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      15 months ago from london

      Thanks Bill

      Seems to me someone else was talking about 'dog days' recently. Maybe Ioannis Arvanitis.

      Thanks for another great mailbag

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Frank. Thanks always my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      God, Mike, I wish I could carve out the time to write the next in the series. It sits inside my brain just waiting for release.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Zulma!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I love it, Brian...catch a skunk...great example of creativity. And thank you for the suggestion about Bill Moyers. I will seek it out.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sahil!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate you commenting, Rinita! Thank you very much and best wishes to you always.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And I thank you, Rajan!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      15 months ago from Shelton

      I think this mailbag had more bite Bill.. the self -pub reply was useful.. well.. everything here was useful, but I got more out of the self pub.. section... thank you for sharing my friend..:)

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      15 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Bill - Time to update your book cover photos to include the three latest in the Shadow Series?

      Another excellent mailbag.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      15 months ago from India

      Thanks for answering my question! HP indeed has a great community.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! I wish the same for you as well.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      15 months ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you, Mr. Bill. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You did good, Zulma!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome,Agusfanani! Thank you so much.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bill! I'm glad you found that information helpful. Happy Tuesday my friend.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      15 months ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      In 1982 Bill Moyers did a whole PBS-TV series on Creativity. Use WordCat to find DVDs of episodes of the series in a library near you or available by interlibrary loan. One tidbit I remember is that a person does not need to be exceptionally intelligent to be exceptionally creative.

      I speculate that everyone is creative by nature. A culture gets lots better when at school and at work creativity is encouraged. There are innumerable ways to be creative. Michael Jordan was known for his creativity during a basketball game. My dad wrote poetry and also as an organizer created organizations. My maternal grandfather invented, for his own use, a way to catch a skunk without getting sprayed.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      15 months ago

      I am a little late in starting to follow this series, but now that I have read one, I know it will be immensely helpful to read the others, too. The self-publishing bit was interesting. I had tried self-publishing years ago when Amazon first came up with it, but had no luck selling. I learned later that in order to succeed using self-publishing methods, you need to be a good marketer of your work on social media, and any other platforms you can think of. That wasn't quite my cup of tea so didn't venture further. Now that you mention fresh options, maybe I'll try my luck again. Thank you, Bill, for this informative piece.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      15 months ago from United Kingdom

      I managed to find something that sort of relates. Here goes nothing.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      15 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Interesting and helpful read as ever, Bill. Thank you.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      15 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I'm always interested in learning about self publishing. Thanks for sharing the information, Bill. I hope you have a great week.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, I'm cooler than you, evidently. We don't need AC so that's a plus. As for SEO, I make my living from it but it drives me crazy playing those keyword games.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      We will wait, John! I've received that message several times but like most things related to HP, I ignored them. lol Thank you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mary! I appreciate your questions as I'm sure others do, and your comments are always of high quality. Happy Tuesday to you!

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 

      15 months ago from Indonesia

      Hi Bill.

      Yes, keywords always plays significant role in online business. I sell photos and relevant keywords determine their sales. Thank you for enriching information we can get in every installment you've written.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      15 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Active week for the mailbag. I was particularly interested in the titles and keyword question. There have been times when I have fretted over a title for weeks. I like your suggestion, no more than 60 characters and place keywords toward the beginning. Great advice. Have a wonderful week

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL..Zulma, I honestly don't know. I'v been tempted to post any old picture and see if HP cared or not.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      15 months ago from Beautiful South

      Good afternoon, Bill. My how times have changed! When I was writing broadcast copy, I had to change voices with the personality of the advertiser. Some liked it somber and serious, some liked humor and some just wanted to advertise their sale prices. Some wanted a combination (fabulous figure flattering flex knit girdles, $5.99) That wasn't too difficult. But today we are plagued with SEOs along with the personalities and wants of the advertiser. I think that's one of the reasons I don't get back into copywriting.

      Anyway, good questions today along with good answers. I feel like I'm boiling. Hope to get that central unit replaced next year. A couple of window units just ain't hackin' it. Hope you're cool, my friend.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      15 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Well, I did leave a comment Bill, but it hasn't appeared. I received the message, something like, "Your comment has be submitted but it may not appear until it has been approved by the author." I don't think I have ever got that on one of your hubs before. Let's wait and see shall we?

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      15 months ago from United Kingdom

      But I don't wanna!

      Ugh, fine. I'll see what I can dig up. Does it have to relate directly to the story or can I post anything and people will think it's avant-garde? :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I hope it helped, Alyssa! Thanks for the question.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Pop! Thanks for hanging out in the Mail Room for awhile.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad you are here, Elf...many more great years ahead of us.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Melissa! It really does work,and it only takes a few minutes to switch gears like that.

      Happy Monday to you...may the warm weather stay long this year, well into the fall months.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Zulma, it's not mandatory at all, but if you want that article featured you will need photos. It is also recommended by Google to improve your views so no, not mandatory, but definitely worthwhile if views are important to you.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      15 months ago from Brazil

      I was pleased you discussed keywords and titles. I know many of your writers are writing books and so many of their questions are related to that.

      For me, it is mostly articles online so keywords are crucial to being found.

      Your example of changing voice was very helpful. When I have written articles targetted at a younger age group I struggled to find that connection.

      Have a wonderful week up there.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 

      15 months ago from Ohio

      Thank you, Bill! Your advice about titles was very helpful! Also, I loved the fun fact at the end. Excellent mailbag, as always. Have a wonderful week!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      15 months ago

      I like your sage advice about titles. Thanks, billy.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 

      15 months ago from Canada

      Awesome and informative as always, Bill. Thanks for a great start to another Monday. I feel the same way about Hub Pages. Without them and the hubbers who first encouraged me, I would never have seriously considered writing.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      15 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Really informative mailbag today, with lots of questions...Those are good tips, for changing your voice to reflect your audience. I remember when I was in college and writing so many papers (plus writing for the newspaper) I felt like it was impossible to switch back to creative or fiction writing...Of course, instead of reading a newspaper article, I would have to pick up a good book to clear my mind--something I also felt I had "no time" to do back in school...but no excuses now! :)

      Have a great and productive week!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      15 months ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Bill. Hot, unpleasant temps is right. We're currently baking here in the UK and our back garden is turning brown.

      I know you're really busy so I don't expect an answer straight away. Is it mandatory to have photos in your hubs? I have a story ready to post, but it doesn't contain photos. Do I have to? I notice you tend to use the same ones over and over again, so that's why I'm wondering?

      Thanks.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      William, your opinion is valuable, and one reason why this particular series is so well-liked...we all learn from each other,so thank you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, property titling is an SEO skill which takes years to master, so never fear. All you have to do is live long enough to master it. :)

      Happy Monday my friend!

      bill

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, you and your family should own stock in Disney! Seriously, you are keeping them afloat financially. lol Thank you friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well Verlie, anything I can do to brighten up your Monday. My pleasure, and thank you for sharing part of your Monday with me.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Eric! To answer your question briefly, the keyword should come early on, whether it is in the series title or the subject matter...keywords are gods in the SEO game.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      15 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I'll be able to sleep tonight knowing the history of Dog Days - lol. Seriously another great mailbag. I checked into Book Baby once, but it seemed to me to be a little pricey compared to CreateSpace. I've never used anything but CreateSpace. It meets my needs and is easy to use - just my opinion. Thanks for another great week of information, Bill!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      15 months ago from SW England

      Interesting and useful answer on titles. I often get stuck with long titles and, though it's easy enough to cut them, I'm never sure whether or not I've ended up with the best version.

      Great stuff, bill!

      Ann

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      15 months ago from New York, New York

      Happy Monday Bill. First Monday off for my husband. So a bit on the delayed side here. And hoping to get out to enjoy this day off. Plus, last Monday before we are off to Disney this weekend. So excitement building for that, as well. But, of course, had to stop in to say hi and wish you a wonderful week ahead now :)

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      15 months ago from Canada

      Morning Bill, hope your Dog days are just doggy. Thank you for Monday insights. I don't usually like Mondays, so this really helps. ;)

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      15 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Excellent Bill, makes me want to Blog and evaluate my writing voice. Really cool stuff on keywords which begs the question about series of articles like yours and mine. Should we really put the subject matter first and then the series title? Getting hits is really not my thing as we have a congregation of 100 or so.

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