The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Twenty-Seven
Here We Are Again
Like death and taxes, you can count on the Mailbag arriving at your doorstep. We even made it despite a big snowstorm in the Midwest and horrendous weather down south, so nothing, and I mean nothing, can derail the mail.
Hey, that rhymed! I’m poet . . . derail the mail! Get it? Now if I could only do that through an entire three stanzas I’d have an actual poem.
Oh why bother? I’m a storyteller, not a poet, and yes, I know, poets can also be storytellers, but this storyteller cannot be a poet.
I’m babbling. Let’s get on with it.
Stop Words Continued
From Angela: “I’m still confused about stop words. I looked up the list you referred us to, and it appears to me to be very difficult to write a title that doesn’t have stop words in it and still have that title make sense. Do you understand what I’m saying? If I wanted to write an article about the top five vacation destinations in Italy, how would I write that article title without using stop words?”
Without a doubt there will be some titles, Angela, which are impossible to write without a stop word. Still, it is something to watch out for. Take the title “The Top Five Destinations in Italy.” What can we do with that to eliminate stop words? Try “Top Five Italian Destinations.” Same thing, no stop words.
In those situations where you feel the stop word is essential, try running two Google searches on it. Do a Google search using the stop words, and do a Google search not using the stop words. Do those Google searches take you to where you want to go? If they both go to the same search sites then the stop words don’t make any difference in that case and you can go ahead and use them.
Clear as mud?
Fame Has Not Appeared
From Pete: “I’ve written three novels and self-published all three, and to date I’ve sold a total of twenty books. I’m beginning to think I’m wasting my time. What should I do to increase sales, or should I just stop writing?”
Really, Pete? How much time do you have for my response to this?
If you are writing because you love to write, then sales have nothing to do with the conversation.
But I get it, you need the money, so what should you do?
I’ve never read one of your books, so I can’t comment on your writing chops. My first advice is to always concentrate on producing the best product possible. After that it’s a matter of marketing like a mad man, and showing some patience. Hell, Pete, I have ten books out now and please believe me, I’m nowhere near famous or successful. I give you the same advice I follow, from a book of the same name: Write, Publish, Repeat.
And I would add one more piece of advice: learn marketing!
And after you do all that, understand that you still might not sell more than a handful of books. The default position of the self-publishing world is failure. I hate to be blunt but that’s reality. Many more self-published books fail than those that make it.
So good luck!
From Gwyneth: “I want to submit some travel articles to magazines, but I don’t know which ones to start with. Suggestions? Which magazines are most receptive to a struggling articles writer?”
My suggestion, Gwyneth, is to dream big and start small, and by starting small I’m talking about local. Begin researching the local online newspapers and magazines, and query them with an article idea. You have to build a reputation, and you do that one baby step at a time. Don’t bother querying regional and national publications if you don’t have any credibility, and you build up credibility in the magazine business by getting published, one small magazine at a time.
Pick an interesting place in your area, possibly one that hasn’t been written about too often. Go visit that place, take your notes, come back and think of a new approach for a travel article, and pitch the idea. Keep doing that until you get someone to take a chance on you. Then, eventually, once you have a reputation of sorts, work your way up from local to state to regional to national.
That’s how it’s done. Good luck!
WHERE IS THE ENDING?
From Anna: “Help! I’m three-fourths of the way through my novel and I’m stuck. I don’t know what the ending will be. What should I do to find that elusive conclusion?”
Anna, some may be laughing right now, but if one understands the quirky way the creative process works, one would not be laughing. I’ve actually had this happen to me. I’ve also started a novel with no idea where it was going, and didn’t discover direction until one-third of the novel was written. I’ve also thrown out ten-thousand words because the novel wasn’t working for me.
So, to put it succinctly, I wouldn’t worry about it.
Walk away from your novel, and I mean walk far away from it. Take a week off. Do other things. I’m willing to bet, if you do that, the ending will come to you, but you have to let your muse speak to you during a quiet moment when you are doing something else. That’s how it works for me. I’m hoping it will work for you, as well.
If all that sounds a bit too New Age for you, have a trusted friend read your manuscript and make suggestions for an ending.
More about writing on my writing blog
- Artistry With Words | Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
Besides Bookstores, What Else?
From Alan: “Bill, I’ve heard you say before that we should take our self-published books to independent bookstores, as long as the books have ISBN numbers. I’ve done that. Where else would you suggest?
Alan, this is an easy one to answer. Any local store, any independent, is fair game when looking for a distribution place. Our local grocery store, Ralphs, always has a small display of books by local authors in their store. Concentrate on being local when approaching any store owner, and worry very little about what they sell in their store. Local businesses like to support local businesses. Everyone wins in those situations, so raise your head proudly, march into your local independent stores, and work out an arrangement. For God’s sake don’t be shy.
Yes, you will be splitting the profits with the store owner, because almost always these are consignment deals, but there is more to marketing than sales. Every book that you sell is an advertisement in its own right, and every new reader is a potential fan for life.
Remember these words of wisdom: 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing!
I can only answer what I’m given, and that’s all the questions that arrived this week, so this is a short one.
Thanks to those who asked questions. If you’ve got a question bugging you, include it in the comment section below, or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, on a personal note, my new novel, “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” is due out through the Amazon network later this week. If you’re looking for a good Christmas present for that reader in your family, I have no problem suggesting my new book for that present.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”