The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Fifty-Six
You’ve Got Mail!
And happy I am because of it!
We complain when it’s too hot in the summer. We complain when it’s too cold in the winter. One thing we hopefully do not complain about is writing. Hopefully our passion outweighs any minor problems we have while we continue to hone our craft.
Let’s see if we can’t answer a few questions and help a few people continue to hone their craft.
A comprehensive list of publishers
From Carol: “Hi BIll: I have been away for a few weeks and little internet. Back in time to read your great mailbag.. What are the chances today of going with a traditional publisher?”
Carol, I’m glad you’re back and thanks for the depressing question. J What are the chances? Can you say “infinitesimal?”
The figure I often see is less than one percent. How much less really isn’t important, is it? Less than one percent of the hundreds of thousands of books queried to traditional publishers are actually picked up and promoted by those publishers.
And to throw more water on the fire, there are fewer big advances being paid even if the book is picked up by a traditional publisher, and then authors are now expected to do the majority of the marketing for their book.
Makes you wonder why we do it, doesn’t it?
From Jo: “Bill, another interesting and informative mailbag, keep 'em coming. I like the idea of collaborating with another writer, but I agree, there is the potential that it could go spectacularly wrong. Promoting my own book, scares me witless. :) Are there any good reasonably priced PR Services out there?”
Jo, great question, but unfortunately I don’t have a satisfactory answer for you. The tripping-up point of your question is in the words “reasonably priced.” For struggling writers, the cost of a PR firm does not have to be too terribly high to be “unreasonably priced.” Heck, Kindle does promotion, for a price, but I’ve found that price to be a bit high, and quite frankly, and this brings us to the second point I want to make….who do you trust in this business? I don’t know the Kindle people at all. I don’t know any of the online firms that advertise in the literary industry. Who do I trust to actually represent my book and really do a good job with it?
I think this business is ripe for scams and that’s what really worries me about PR firms we find online. Best word of advice I can give: if you really want to go this route then find someone who has used one of these firms and get recommendations. Ask around. Check in forums online. Ask questions of agents like Janet Reid. As questions of people like Hope Clark on her blog. Do not spend money on a PR firm until you’ve done diligent research.
One of my favorite TedTalks
The Muse Again
From Ann: “Another question: Do you ever find that an idea for a hub (or novel even) that comes into your head during the day (let's say whilst you're mucking out the goats!) files itself in your subconscious and is mulled over throughout the day, to emerge as a working draft? I believe the brain works on ideas in our sleep and in our subconscious. Is the result all the better for that subconscious time? Or is that your muse?!”
Ann, I love questions like this one because the whole creative process thing just fascinates me.
I know exactly what you are talking about. At first, when it happened to me, I was floored. I was stuck on an article and couldn’t go any further with it. So I walked away. I believe I cut some wood and then did a few other chores around the yard. Bev came out and talked to me a good four hours after I had finished my writing endeavors, and in the middle of a conversation with her about animals the entire article came to me, out of the blue. It was the weirdest thing.
My first novel, the “12/59 Shuttle from Yesterday to Today,” which you will be receiving in the mail in about a week, was the product of this process. That novel started out as a writing exercise. I simply wanted to write an introduction that was as weird as anything Tom Robbins has ever written. I did that and then walked away from the writing exercise. Two days later I was driving home from Portland, Oregon, and the entire story line of the novel came to me during a one hour trip.
I have no clue how that happens. I think we use about 10% of our brain’s capabilities. If we ever learn how to harness and use the other 90%, we really might live up to our billing as the most superior species on this planet.
To answer your question, and this is just my opinion, I think “the muse” is more involved in the inspirational part of the process, but what you are talking about is part of our brain’s subconscious and how that whole process somehow works.
One of my literary influences
From Dream On: “Do you ever feel the more you read the more chance you will unknowingly write the same way some of your favorite writers write ?Using their style because it feels so natural. I am afraid that I will copy someone else's ideas. I pride myself on being creative and thinking outside the box. My ideas just come to me out of the blue and my fingers just tap away.”
Dream On, I not only feel that it could happen but I know it can happen, and to a certain extent I think it happens every single time we sit down to the computer to write.
How can we not, in some small way, be heavily influenced by our favorite writers? I know my story-telling abilities are greatly influenced by Harper Lee. I know two of my novels are influenced by James Lee Burke. Does that mean I am copying them? I certainly hope not, but I can easily see their influence in some of my phrasing or the way I set a scene.
And you know what? I’ll bet if you polled the great writers of our time, they would say the same thing. My voice is distinctly my own, but if we were to analyze my writing, the phrases I use, the way I describe characters and scenes, there are definite similarities with some of my favorite writers.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If I were a famous author I would be honored that others learned their craft from my books.
The End Is Nigh
That’s the first time I’ve ever used the word “nigh,” and I’m quite pleased about that.
I’ve got more answers than questions this week, so now is a good time to wish you a great week of writing. Always remember that what you do is meaningful. I hate to think of a society that is not heavily influenced by the Arts. Keep up the great work.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”