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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 214

Updated on July 30, 2018

Greetings From the Heat

It’s all relative, you know.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are not accustomed to heat. This current stretch of days with temps in the 90’s is tough on us. Yes, my friends in Texas are laughing at that statement, but then they whine when it rains too much, or the temps dip into the 50’s, while we here in Olympia consider those to be the blessed norm, so there you have it.

So it’s a Friday morning, and the expected high temp today is ninety, our fifth in a row at ninety, and I’m scrambling to get my writing done before this garage turns into an oven. Then off to the farm I will go, to feed and water the birds, and of course sweat copious amounts of bodily fluids, all the while dreaming of a break in the heat wave and blessed September, when the Pacific Northwest will once again become the Climate Heaven we have grown to love.

Let’s get this show on the road and then go sweat!

Greetings from the Mail Room!
Greetings from the Mail Room! | Source

Work Ethic

From Eric: “Could you boil down your work/writing ethic. I know your father's and get it but I have trouble capturing yours.”

Gosh, Eric, I didn’t think you cared! Lol

I don’t know if any of my work ethic is attributable to biology. My biological parents and siblings all died young, and I know so little about them that I can’t attribute anything to them other than a fondness for alcohol which can be and was harmful to their health.

I learned from watching my father. I know that’s not fair to my mother, who worked hard for a couple decades, but my father was the hardest-working man I’ve ever seen. I would actually feel guilty watching him work, like I wasn’t doing enough to help out, you know?

Two other points: oftentimes I have been lucky enough to work jobs I absolutely loved. Teaching for sure was a labor of love, as is writing. I don’t mind working long hours if it is something I adore doing. The other thing is a strong sense of responsibility. When I had a young son it was my responsibility to do anything possible to support him and provide for him. Same thing in a marriage . . . if that means hard work then so be it. There is nothing wrong with hard work. I happen to think hard, honest work is good for my health. It keeps me active, it keeps me feeling accomplished, and it continues to feed my self-worth. I can’t imagine not working, to be honest with you, as long as it is work I enjoy.

One other thing: I am driven, and always have been, to prove myself to others. If I were to delve into the psychological aspects of that, it would be because of an inferiority complex, mine for as long as I remember, and hard work is one way of proving to myself, and to others, that I have value. Seems a little silly when I write it, after all of these years and all I’ve accomplished, but there you have it.

Anyway, Eric, that’s what comes to mind regarding your question.

My work ethic begins from this man, my father.
My work ethic begins from this man, my father. | Source

Changing Book Covers

From Mary: “I have a question for a future mailbag. Do you think that changing a book cover will generate more sales?”

Hmmm . . . interesting question, Mary, and a first!

Yes, people do judge books by their covers so yes, cover art is important. Without a doubt, if your book is in a bookstore or some other retail outlet, what that book looks like is very, very important. I suppose, to a lesser extent, it is also important for online sales since the cover is the first thing online book purchasers see and first impressions are always crucial.

The only question I have is this: how do you know you need a new cover? That’s the question that needs to be answered before you set out to change the cover. I suppose you can answer that question by taking some sort of informal poll. I don’t know how else you would accomplish it.

You might also do a little personal research. Take some successful books by successful authors in your genre, and lay those books on the floor so you can see them all at the same time. What do their covers have in common? What types of colors are dominant? How about the lettering? Are there similarities? Book covers from established publishers are designed using the latest market survey statistics, so you can bet their covers are the way they are for a reason. And since copying is great flattery, you might want to pattern your book covers after their book covers.

Just some random thoughts. Bottom line is this: don’t change your book covers simply because you are bored and have nothing better to do. If you are going to change a cover, you need a specific reason to do so; otherwise you are just tinkering for the sake of tinkering, and that falls under the category “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

None of these book covers have been changed. Perhaps it is something I should do.
None of these book covers have been changed. Perhaps it is something I should do. | Source

More on Changing Titles

From Geoff: “Do I understand correctly: if the URL is not changed, then changing the title of your article really doesn’t serve any purpose?”

Yes, Geoff, you understand me correctly. In the Google World, the URL is King! Changing your title might get you a few extra views on HubPages, but it will do nothing for you on Google unless that URL is also changed, and to do that you have to know your way around programming much better than I do. There are some YouTube videos which explain how to change URLs and I suggest you take a look at them.

Avoiding Know-It-All-It-Is

From Linda: “Some of your readers might be trying to write a self-help book, DIY, a Q&A column, or perhaps become the next "Dear Abby." How does one provide reliable information, instructions, or advice without coming across as preachy, opinionated, or know-it-all?”

For those of you who do not know Linda, she writes a weekly column on HP about cooking, a question an answer series somewhat similar to this series of mine. She also has a blog called The Creative Corner. The woman knows how to cook and she is quite knowledgeable about gardening, and I highly recommend both to all of you.

As for your question, Linda, I started this Mailbag series four years ago, and early on I stressed that it was, and is, a community site for writers to learn from each other. I made it known early on that I do not know everything there is to know about writing, and that I would be learning from readers’ comments just as they would learn from my responses. In that way I was hoping to negate any possibility of me coming off as a know-it-all, which was and still is a mild concern of mine.

The other thing I rely on is my followers knowing me as a person. I think I have established a certain amount of credibility over the years on HP. I also think I have allowed people to know enough about me so they will not feel I am a know-it-all. Credibility comes from experience but it also comes from personal trust, and both of those things come from time, hard work, and sincerity. People tend to trust me because they feel like they know me as a human being. The same will happen for you. I trust you and believe you because I have met you in person. You are very easy to trust and very easy to like, and my hope, for you, is that will translate into a bigger following over the years.

The Temperature Is Rising

It is time to shut this computer down for the day and head out into the heat for my alternative life of an urban farmer. I hope your day is cool and filled with spectacular, enriching events.

Thanks for spending part of your Monday with me.

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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