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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 282

Updated on November 11, 2019

A Random, Bizarre Memory

I was ten, maybe eleven years old. I remember seeing a new toy in the Sears catalog that I just had to have. I don’t even remember what the toy was, but I do remember my happiness depended upon having it. I even went so far as to point it out to my dad, the same dad who had been about that age when the Great Depression began, the same dad who understood deprivation quite well.

He asked me why I wanted that toy so much, and I told him because it would make me happy.

His response?

“You can’t squeeze toothpaste out of a pimple, Bill!”

I’ll let you ponder those words of wisdom while I sort through this week’s mail.

The Mail Room!
The Mail Room!

The Switch

From Amos: “What do you think about switching genres? Do you think it helps a writer to grow, or should a writer just stick to one genre for ‘brand recognition’”?

You would think, Amos, that after five years of doing the Mailbag weekly, all possible questions about writing would have been asked, but here you proved that supposition incorrect. Interesting question, my friend, a first for the Mail Room.

I think a writer should do whatever the hell a writer wants to do.

How’s that for succinct?

If you have a hankering to dip your toes into the Romance genre after doing Mystery for years, I say go for it. You may not be any good at it, or you may be brilliant at it, but there is only one way to find out.

On the other hand, there is much to be said about brand recognition. A writer can become recognized for a particular style/brand of writing, and I think there are some advantages to continuing in one genre. There are also some rather famous cases of famous writers absolutely bombing when they switched genres, so be ready for whatever results come your way.

By the way, I’ve done this very thing, but I’m not famous, so it didn’t affect my meager sales at all.

Thanks for the question, Amos!

I've dabbled in several different genres over the years.
I've dabbled in several different genres over the years.

Guilt by Association

From Cheryl: “When you freelance, have you ever turned down a job because you didn’t want to be associated with a particular product?”

Yes I have, and it is a valid concern among freelancers, Cheryl. Many freelancers face this dilemma at some point in their career, and it can be tough starting out when you really need the money and you are trying to build a portfolio. I’m afraid this is a personal decision. I said no only once, and that was for a company which made automatic weapons. I just didn’t need the money that badly to tie onto that particular wagon.

It’s your call! How badly do you need the money? Are you willing to write about something you do not agree with to make a buck? Let’s say it is a Pro-Life website, and you are a Pro-Choice person . . . how badly do you need the money in that case? No one is going to know you are writing the content for that website. It is completely anonymous. Can you do it?

Fishy or Not Fishy?

From MizB: “Hi, Bill, I have a question for a future edition of your mailbag:

“Recently my articles have been attracting attention with some invitations from other writers and companies. There's one invitation that I intend to accept because it pays well and may be an opening for future opportunities. But that's not what I'm writing about.

“I've been solicited to do a book review on a book published by MT Publishing. They say the publisher can send me a hard copy or give me a link to the ebook. I looked up the book and it is quite pricy around ($40), so the author must have put some work or money, or both, into it. I'm sure you get these solicitations. What do you think of them? Is there any benefit to the reviewer at all except for getting a free copy of the book? Or is it a total waste of time to give a freebie like this? FYI, I've done a couple of book reviews on HubPages on books I've enjoyed reading, but none were solicited.

“The paying opportunity I mentioned was because the company read my sock hop hub and believes that I have something to offer them. This book-review solicitation also mentions they found me through my sock hop hub. That's two solicitations from that one hub. What gives? Is someone selling a list of HP writers or something? I guess I'm just suspicious of two solicitations on one (several-years old) hub.

“So, I guess I have two questions. Thanks,”

Well shoot, MizB, now you’ve got me curious. I looked up MT Publishing. They have been around since 1986 and they mostly publish historical volumes, heavy on police and firefighter exploits. I don’t have much in the way of sleuthing skills. The company seems to be legit, and there is certainly nothing strange about them offering a book to you for a review. That stuff is done all the time. My hesitancy lies in the paying invitation. I’m always skeptical about offers like that and, unfortunately, the only way to know if they are legit is to write an article for them and then find out if they actually pay you for it. In other words, that is a crapshoot. You may roll a winner; you may roll snake eyes.

I can think of no benefit to you at all for doing the review. In my humble opinion your time can be spent in a more fruitful way, but that’s just my opinion. As for HP selling a list of writers, it wouldn’t shock me if they did, but most likely companies like MT just check out other writing sites and “discover” writers from those sites. I can snuggle up to a conspiracy theory with the best of them (no way Lee Harvey Oswald pulled off that assassination by himself), but in this case I just don’t think it is terribly sinister.

And yes, I get those offers all the time, and I quickly hit delete upon receiving them.

Thanks for the questions, MizB!

How Much Will I Make?

From Robert: “I’m thinking of giving freelancing a try. How much can I expect to make from freelance writing gigs?”

Tough question, Robert! It shouldn’t be, right? It should be pretty straightforward, and it was, once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, but no longer. There are freelance writers coming out of the woodwork, I’m afraid, and in a world of Supply & Demand, that kind of supply is going to affect the price structure.

You can get paid $20 for a 500 word article. You can also get paid $100 for the same article. You can grab up ten content gigs in a week, or one. There are just too many factors which play into it these days, making your question impossible to answer.

Being realistic, if you do everything correctly and market your butt off, plan on making $100 or less in a week; I’m trying to be negatively realistic here; you might make more, but I don’t want you planning on it.

Good luck! It’s a tough market out there for freelancers these days.

Don't quit your day job for freelancing!
Don't quit your day job for freelancing!

Difficult Accents

From Lori: “Hi Bill, I am writing a novel as you know. One of the main characters is a Chinese doctor. I have been writing his accent except for the r issue because it's just too difficult and people don't need the distraction. I was talking to a friend today and told her I wanted the accent to be authentic and consistent and then we got to talking about if it would be offensive to chinese people or others. In this stupid world now everything is offensive and racist. But the character is intelligent . Do you think I can pull it off without the accent? I find it part of his endearing charm but I'm thinking of only referring to his accent once in a while. I would be interested in hearing from your readers also. Thanks so much.”

Honestly, Lori, and this is just me, but I would skip the accent simply because it would be such a difficult thing to do…but that’s just me. I’ll be interested to see if anyone else has an opinion. I would tend to mention early on that he was Chinese with a thick accent and leave it at that…again, that’s just the way I would handle it . . . in no way am I saying that’s what you should do.

Toothpaste and Pimples

Did you figure it out? My family had a non-stop supply of old sayings like that one. No wonder I have a rather bizarre sense of humor.

That’s all for this week! Thanks a bunch for joining us in the Mail Room, and hopefully we’ll see you again next Monday. Until then, have a stupendous week of creativity, and remember to always act from a deep pool of love.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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