The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Forty-One
March Madness is almost over. If you’re a college basketball fan you know what I’m talking about. If not, this reference makes no sense and I apologize.
I’m replacing March Madness with Mailbag Madness. The questions keep pouring in and that means the mail must be delivered. The bag is heavy and I’m getting older, but I’ll plow forward and get ‘er done.
Here we go with a question from Tireless.
From Tirelesstraveler: “I have some people who would love to be beta readers, how does that work?”
Thanks for the question, Tirelesstraveler. How does beta reading work?
I’ll share my experience with you and maybe that will explain it. After I have finished my rough draft manuscript (first draft and then second draft) I go online and ask my writing friends if any of them would be interested in being a beta reader for me. I usually give a deadline of two weeks because I need to move forward with my project and I can’t afford to wait months while my beta readers trudge through the book.
Giving it a two-week deadline narrows down the applicants real fast and leaves me, usually, with three or four serious people who will take on the task. There is no payment for this. If they do it for me then I will do it for them at a later date.
I give my beta readers guidelines and explain to them what I need from them. I do not want them to waste their time on grammar. I am more interested in their general impressions of the book. I need to know if it flows well, if my voice is strong, if it held their interest and if there are any holes in the storyline.
Once they send back their impressions then I go back into re-write mode and incorporate their suggestions into my story….if I agree with them. J
And that’s what it’s all about.
From Robert: “Bill, in your opinion, is HubPages worth writing for?”
Sheez, Robert, why don’t you ask a polarizing question while you’re at it? LOL
Okay, my honest opinion……if your goal is to make money then no, I don’t think HP is worth writing for. They are a content mill and what they pay is a joke. Yes, there are still writers who make decent money on HP, but for the amount of time invested, there are better returns out there worth looking at.
However, if money isn’t your thing, and you are looking for a supportive writing community where you can practice your craft and build your platform, then without hesitation I would recommend HP.
It all depends on what you are looking for and that’s my honest opinion.
From Roberta: “Can you talk a little bit about the tax deductions that a writer can take?”
Yes I can, but just a little bit because I already wrote an article (hub) about this topic.
If you are a freelance writer, and writing is your business, then you can take legitimate business deductions. You can deduct part of your house as an office, and that means part of your mortgage and utilities. You can deduct office supplies and any traveling associated with your writing. If you join writing organizations and pay dues, those are deductible. If you buy writing magazines and books like the “Writer’s Market,” those expenses are deductible. And the list continues. Just make sure you set up a bookkeeping system and keep receipts religiously. The IRS is pretty accommodating when it comes to freelance writers, as long as you don’t push your luck and as long as you can document everything.
From LeAnne: “How important do you think social media is for a writer? It seems to me that a person could spend hours on Facebook alone, but I’m wondering if there is any reward for it that can be measured in book sales.”
That’s an interesting question, LeAnne, and a valid one for all writers. I’ll give you my opinion. Just remember, this is just an opinion with very little backing it.
I think social media is one piece of the puzzle. If a writer is only using social media for self-promotion, I think they are not only missing the proverbial boat but they are in danger of alienating the audience they hoped to gain.
Although I do post my articles on social media, I use that medium as a personal space as well. To me, the value of social media is that it gives us a chance to become real people to prospective readers. I like to use social media as a way to let people get to know me as a human being. I think they are much more likely to follow me and read my books if they know me as a real live person. For me, and this is just me now, writing is a form of communication. It is a way to bridge the gap between us. It is a way for me to make a connection with you, and that connection is much easier to make if I allow you to know more about me. I’m betting that my personality will win over future readers.
If all I do is promote myself, then I’m just a name promoting a book, and that doesn’t make me too special now does it?
So, bottom line, us social media judiciously and wisely and make it work for you and not work against you.
Word of Advice
From Cassie: “What is the one piece of advice you think every new writer should follow?”
Oh sure, Cassie. No pressure there! LOL
Immediately about ten different pieces of advice blew through my brain. How do I narrow it down to one?
Okay, here it is: treat writing not only like it is a job, but also like it is a craft. Treat it with respect. Always try to remember that writers have a precious gift, and that gift must be treated with respect. Nurture it. Help it to grow. Make it become the greatest gift it can be. Don’t squander whatever talent you have. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to the reading public.
Now I’ll jump off my high horse.
Publishers and Agents
From Maria: “How do I find a list of publishers and agents? I’m about to send out query letters, but I’m not sure how to find addresses and profiles for all the agents and publishers out there.”
Well you’re in luck, Maria. There are two publications in the United States that will give you all the information you need. One is the “Writer’s Market,” a great publication if you are looking for publishers. The other is the “Guide to Literary Agents.” They may not be totally comprehensive but they are close to it.
There is also a publication in the UK that is similar, but I always forget the name of it, so I’m counting on my UK friends to mention it in the comment section below.
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Happy Late Easter to You
I’m putting the finishing touches on this article on Easter morning, so I think it’s time to shut it down for the day and go enjoy the morning with Bev.
Thanks to all who asked questions this week. I continue to learn from all of you. I hope you feel the same.
Have a great week of writing. Write like your tail feathers are on fire; just remember to have a hose nearby.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”