The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 215
On Being Good Enough
I published an article last week about being good enough. I wrote it as much for me as anyone because, honestly, I’m harder on myself than anyone else ever will be. I am never quite satisfied with my work, always that little voice whispering to me that I could have done better, and quite frankly it is annoying as hell.
I’m actually reading one of my own novels right now, “Resurrecting Tobias,” as sort of an exercise to compare my writing five years ago to my writing today. I don’t know what I expect to accomplish from this exercise, but at the very least it’s interesting. The thing is, there are portions of that book which are pretty damned good. There are times where I actually read a paragraph or even a page and feel good about what I have written, and that is called progress for this writer. I have given myself permission to appreciate past works, and that is pretty cool.
Enough about the past; let’s tackle the present with today’s questions. The bag is pretty light this week, so it won’t take long to go through the mail.
Our Own Personalities Shining Through
From Ann: “Question for the mailbag: How much do you think our personality comes over in our writing? I'm thinking mainly of fiction here, as non-fiction probably shows our colours more easily. Are the best writers able to hide their own thoughts and character, especially when writing something truly dark?
“I'm not sure that's possible but I'd like to know what you think, or have experienced.”
Ann, that is a fascinating question.
I don’t know if it is possible, but I’m fairly certain that I am incapable of it. I think anyone who reads any of my books, short stories, or social commentaries, will have no trouble seeing my personality in any of them. Heck, I don’t even try to hide it. Even my antagonists, very dark human beings, communicate my philosophies and beliefs in one way or another. My belief that there is darkness in all of us plays out in every single one of my “dark novels and stories.” Really, metaphorically speaking, my novels are always about the internal struggle of good vs evil which is in each of us.
I actually think one of the reasons I started writing in the first place is because writing gave this very shy man an outlet in which I could communicate to others what I am feeling about life.
Anyway, just my thoughts on a great question; I’ll be interested in what others have to say about it.
Farmers Markets and Book Sales
From Paul: “Hey, Bill, I know you have tried selling your novels at farmers markets. How did that work out for you? Is it a worthwhile method of marketing books?”
Paul, it all depends on what you consider success to be, or to use your word, what worthwhile means to you.
Have I sold many novels at the markets? Hardly any, so viewed that way it has been an abject failure.
Have I increased my exposure to the buying public, and thus increased the chances of selling books at some other time? Most definitely! I view it as free advertising, quite frankly. I’m at the market to sell other products, so anything good that comes out of that experience is free and worthwhile. Meeting the reading public and giving them a chance to actually meet a writer is a good thing in my mind.
It also forces me to go out and meet people. For an introvert, this can be a painful process, but I consider it worthwhile.
So no, I am not getting financially rich at the markets, but I am finding value in them as a marketing tool. If selling your books is your primary goal, I think a book signing and/or a book reading is much more profitable.
Ghost Writers for Famous Authors
From Sheila: “I just purchased a Tom Clancy book, got home, was eager to read it, and then noticed it was written by someone named David Michaels. I was furious and I felt cheated. Does this kind of ghost writing/duping the public go on very often?”
Sheila, you would be amazed how often it happens. I have another name for you: James Patterson. I don’t think Mr. Patterson has actually written a complete novel in a number of years, but each year we see, on average, two new Patterson thrillers published.
The book you referred to, written by David Michaels, was actually written by Raymond Benson. Mr. Benson is best known for having written several James Bond thrillers, and David Michaels is just a name he uses on certain ghost writing gigs of his. So forget about Clancy, and forget about Michaels…the real writer of that book was Raymond Benson. How’s that for sneaky?
This stuff goes on all the time. Big publishers make big money from big literary names. The more books they can churn out the better, so we are seeing more and more ghost writing. Now, to be fair, the featured author (Clancy, Patterson) is most definitely involved in the process. They will usually write an outline of the book, establish parameters, and make sure the ghost writer is being true to the plot . . . so it could be argued that the big name author is doing some of the writing. But as a general rule, if an author is publishing more than one novel per year, you can be pretty sure they are not doing all of the writing.
I’m sorry you were cheated and to me this is cheating. It is a brilliant marketing strategy, and millions of buyers fall for it each year, but it is still duping the public and I consider it underhanded.
Just my opinion!
Of course, it could be argued that the publisher has fulfilled his obligation by announcing, right there on the cover, who the real author is, but seriously, when Clancy’s name is in large, bold print, and the real author’s name is in much smaller print, is that or is that not underhanded? The publisher is counting on the buying public noticing the popular author’s name and nothing else.
In other words, read the fine print before shelling out $15.
That’s It This Week
It’s just as well; we all have things to do, so let’s just shut it down now and get busy. I’m not too concerned with hitting HP’s suggested 1250 words.
By the way, HP’s insistence on 1250 words is an interesting topic all by itself. For the articles I write for customers, the guideline established, and recommended, by Google is 500 words minimum…no more than 750…so why 1250 for HP?
And just this last week Google announced that Meta Descriptions cannot be over 160 characters long…the meta description is the short synopsis which usually appears on the search engine, a short summary of what the article is about. Suddenly Google has changed the game rules once again. I’m sure this rule change is based on solid research and data-crunching, but how is the average writer supposed to keep up with all that? And is HP keeping up with all the rule changes?
Have a great week and thank you for stopping by for a visit.
2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”