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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.


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.”


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