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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 284

Updated on November 25, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have to remind myself, each year, that this Thanksgiving thing is a U.S. thing. We Americans love to think that what we do is universally celebrated because, after all, civilization rotates around our axis. LOL

But seriously, this is one holiday which really has a universal message, no matter where you live . . . a day of thanks for all we have in life. I see no reason for Americans to “hog” this day all for ourselves, and so my message this week is a simple one: Wishing for you all gratitude and bountiful life going forward.

I, for one, am very grateful for this HubPages community. For quite a few years now you have allowed this former nerd to sit at the “cool kids’ table,” and I thank you for that honor.

Let’s do this Mailbag thing, shall we? Then I need to go round up a turkey sandwich.

The Mail Room!
The Mail Room!

More on ISBN Numbers

From Kari: “I never realized you had a choice for ISBN. Is it possible to get an Amazon one first and later change to the paid one? If you do I assume you would have to change the number with Amazon.”

Kari, the legalities of this ISBN issue are pretty intense. The free ISBN from Amazon comes with this caveat: Amazon is then the “publisher” of your book.

Yes, you can purchase a new number and have it published by another company, or printed by another company. If it is published by another company, that company is the “publisher.” If you purchase the number and have it printed by a printing company, you are the publisher. At that time I would just cancel the Amazon situation altogether.

I publish through Amazon because it is convenient. I tried having my first novel printed and listing my own fictional publishing company (Mutare), but that’s an expensive route to take. I do not necessarily “trust” Amazon. I think they are becoming much too large and much too influential in the corporate world, and I have a natural distrust of monopolies. J But they do make it easy to use their products, and that makes their products tempting, and that means most people are willing to ignore the thousand pound gorilla in the room.


From Ann: “Others' questions were interesting. Proof-reading is a bug-bear with me; why do so many writers obviously not do it?! It doesn't take long and it makes such a difference.”

Oh, Ann, you opened up a rat’s nest with that question. I wonder if you devilishly intended to do that.

Before I say what I’m about to say, please note that it is not meant as a slam against the HP writers I know and follow. I hang with some very talented people on HP, writers who have the talent to be published by some of the major publishers in the world. They simply have not been in the right place at the right time, and so they toil in relative obscurity on HP.

Having said that, the flood of self-publishing we now deal with has meant a flood of mediocrity available to the public. Everyone and their mothers think they are writers. After all, Amazon published their book, so they must be writers, correct?

Self-publishing has become the fast food franchise of the literary world. Put another way, Amazon is the McDonalds of book publishing. I have purchased some books on Amazon which would be better suited as toilet paper. The grammar was atrocious. The writing style elementary at best . . . I was so embarrassed about one book that I literally tossed it in the garbage.

So do I really expect these “overnight authors” to do the right thing and edit their books?

No, I do not!

See what you started, Ann! Editing means you care enough to only publish the best you have, and I’m afraid there are many out there who simply do not care.

And if that makes me sound like a snob, so be it!

The ultimate edit!
The ultimate edit!

More on ISBN

From MizB: “Good questions and answers today, Bill. I bought an ISBN number years ago for a computer program my husband wrote. As a postscript, I don't think I saw this in your answer, but if you are publishing both an ebook and a hard copy, they will need separate ISBN numbers, won't they? I suppose one could use the KDP freebie on an ebook through Amazon and buy a separate number for the hard copies that would allow it to be marketed through bookstores, etc.?”

No, MizB, it is my understanding that the same ISBN is used on the ebook and the Amazon hard copies. At least that has been my assumption with the ten or twelve I have published so far.

If you had an ebook published on Amazon, but hard copies printed by someone else, you would need two separate ISBN’s, but not if they are both done by Amazon.

And if I’m incorrect on this, one of our readers will correct me soon, so check the comments in a day or two.

By the way, we have the British to thank (or blame) for the ISBN becoming a literary thing starting, I believe, in 1967. Just a little random trivia for you all; no need to thank me!

A Mailbag Book?

From Paula: “Installment 282! You are a man of dedication and consistency!! I actually thought of a question for #283 !!.....Have you any plans in that busy head of yours to reach, say....maybe #300.....and then put them altogether into a wonderful "Free-lance Writer's Teaching" book?...or Beginner;s Guide to Aspiring Writers? Has someone already asked this question?”

For those of you who don’t know, I have two dear friends on HP who I call sisters. Paula here is the sibling pretty close to my age, just a few years younger than me, and Cynthia is my Lil Sis.

Paula has always been the trouble-maker in our family. She is constantly trying to get me, her loving brother, in trouble. She is constantly making suggestions, like the one above, which she knows will drive her loving brother nutso!!!!!

So thank you, Sis, for your wonderful suggestion, which would take me months to coordinate, sort, and finally construct. Mom always did love you best, but then Mom always had a warped sense of humor, so there you go. LOL

No, Sis, I have never considered it. Perhaps, if I was currently fifty instead of seventy-one, and had the energy of a fifty-year old, I would take on that challenge, but I’m not and I won’t, no matter how much I love my sister.

Clunky Dialogue

From Lawrence: “I'm not too sure about the seperate paragraphs within one speech (dialogue). Technically it might be correct, but wouldn't it be 'clunky'? Best to break it up and add some conflict or argument, just to make it read better, what do you think?”

I’m in complete agreement with you, Lawrence. Although the rule about multiple dialogue paragraphs is correct, it is a clunky way to write, and I think it ruins the flow of the chapter. Best to break it up in some way. Thanks for sharing the solution with the question.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving used to be a pretty big occasion in my life, as a kid, back in the 60’s, but then Dad died, and my sister moved her family to North Dakota, and Mom remarried, and I went my own way, and alcohol entered the picture, and the decades flew by and Thanksgiving took a backseat, packed up with other memories of better times.

Thankfully I met Bev, and slowly I have come to once again appreciate Thanksgiving and really all of the holidays I had discarded during, what I like to call, my Dark Period.

And so I wish, for all of you, a week ahead filled with love. Thank you for your friendship and the support you have always given me.


2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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