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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Twenty-Three

Updated on November 7, 2016

The Seasons Change but Good Writing Never Does

How’s that for profound?

How’s that for true?

If you are here then we can assume you are interested in writing as a craft, so spend a couple seconds contemplating that statement: good writing never changes!

Fads come and fads go. The hot topic hits the scene, burns up the internet for two days, and is replaced by the latest greatest.

But good writing never changes! “To Kill A Mockingbird,” or “Of Mice and Men” are as relevant and brilliant today as they were fifty years ago, and someone will be saying the same thing fifty years from now.

The year is 2016, and any Tom, Dick, or Harry can write a novel and self-publish it. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can start a blog and declare themselves experts on a particular topic.

But good writing never changes!

Shall we begin?

Welcome to the Mail Room
Welcome to the Mail Room | Source

Mentoring Family

From Ann: “Question: Do any of your family ask for advice from you about writing? You are such a good mentor here that I wondered if you were ever required to do the same for your own. My daughter, who writes just as well as I do if not better, seems to feel she has to check her pieces with me as she lacks confidence. Does that happen to you?”

Rarely, Ann! Rarely!

My step-daughter asks me to write important letters for her. That’s the extent of that. LOL About the only member of my immediate family who has spent any noticeable time writing is Bev, and she will definitely ask my advice from time to time, but between Bev and I, we have five kids, and not one of them has asked for any mentoring. I’m not convinced they even care that I write….okay, maybe they care, but they care in a very quiet way.

On the other hand, I’ve had numerous online friends ask for mentoring, and I have several customers who are paying me as we speak for my mentoring, but family…..NO!

SELF-DOUBTS

From Rodric: “My question is, I know I have good stories in my head, but how do I know I am a good writer?

“I have published, self-published three books. I have not done well on any of them. I wonder if that is because my books suck, my writing sucks, or I should be writing histories and reference books.”

Rodric, you just hit the nail on the head for most writers and believe me, many times I’ve asked myself the same question.

I’ll comment on your last question first: you should be writing what you feel passion for, whether it be histories or reference books or novels. What really revs your engine? Answer that and then follow that path.

Are you any good? You might have to pay a neutral observer to answer that question. It’s real hard to get an objective opinion on HubPages, or from family and friends. Paying a professional to give an opinion is your best bet. Or join a writers’ onine chat group. I promise you’ll get some very honest opinions on such a site.

And lastly, the fact that you have not done well with your self-published books has nothing to do with whether you are a good writer or not. There are a lot of great indie writers who will never see fame and fortune. They are still, and always will be, good writers.

Don’t give up! Find out what you have to do to improve and then get busy!

Even this guy has self-doubts
Even this guy has self-doubts | Source

SYNDICATION

From Marcy: “What’s the best way to go about getting a syndicated column in a newspaper?”

We’ve had this question before, but I don’t mind at all answering it again.

The first two things you do, and continue to do, is work your craft and build your platform. On more than one occasion I’ve had this question asked by someone who doesn’t even have a blog, website, or backlog of articles to their credit. In other words, in the literary world, they were a nobody! They were living in some LaLa Land I’m not aware of, thinking they could just take an idea cold, approach a newspaper editor with it, and presto change, get a syndication contract.

Life doesn’t work that way.

Do you want a syndicated column? Then start writing! Find your niche and start practicing your craft. Learn as much as possible about your niche. Write articles and get them published. Build a blog/website following. Do the social media thing and build a following. Then, after about a year or two of all that, you just might be ready to approach a newspaper editor without the worry of embarrassing yourself.

Was that too harsh?

Learn your craft and then we’ll talk again.

ADVICE FOR MY DAUGHTER

From Samuel: “My daughter has expressed an interest in being a writer. She writes short stories all the time, loves to write, and her mother and I want to encourage her as much as possible. What can we do to encourage her and give her the best chance of succeeding?”

Samuel, the world needs fewer lawyers and a hell of a lot more writers, so don’t blow this! LOL

Most major cities have writing clubs, and creative writing classes. Ask your daughter if she’d be interested in attending such a class, but don’t force her to do it. Writing should come from a love of the craft, and it has to come in its own time. Never force your daughter into writing. Instead, give her opportunities she can choose from when she wants to choose from them. This is her passion, not yours, and she needs to go at it in her way and in her time.

You could find her a writing tutor, but do your homework and find her a reputable one. You could have her work with someone online…like me….but again, make sure you’re hiring someone who actually has skills. There are too many charlatans out there willing to take your money, so be careful.

Encourage her to read. Don’t force her. I truly believe great writers are great readers, so any reading she can do will help her eventually.

And finally, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this….love her!

Build a body of work as part of your platform
Build a body of work as part of your platform | Source

A Short One Today, so We’ll See You Next Week

Hey, it’s not my fault. I can only answer what I can answer, so this Mailbag will be what it is, and that’s short today. You can all go do something else now because we are done.

One more thing to think about: Christmas is coming, and if you are thinking of buying a book for someone as a present, how about buying a book from an indie author. There are a number of good books from good writers I can suggest for you. I don’t really think James Patterson needs more sales, so let’s help out the little guy this Christmas season!

Until next week, thank you! If you have questions, include them in the comment section below, or email me at holland1145@yahoo.com. And if you need an editor or tutor, I’m always available . . . for a price! The friendship is free!

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      So cool I got to this right out of the chute. Very interesting questions. Perhaps answering them with all your knowledge is the easy part. Have a great week and don't forget our holiday.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 6 months ago from USA

      It's funny how family members never quite see the value of the talents you posses. They just see you in the role of parent or whatever.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Eric, you are first!!!! That doesn't happen much. Janine must be sick! LOL Thanks, buddy!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It's true, Flourish, and I've heard a lot of writers say the same thing. Thanks so much for always being here.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 6 months ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Congrats Bill on this weeks selection I remember your words before about passion in writing and it is so important. Lovely read as always have a wonderful week I'm sure you and the rest of America will be glad to see the big vote tomorrow "done & dusted" but what a choice, glad not me think I would be abstaining!!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 6 months ago from New York, New York

      As always such great advice. I am running on a later schedule as I was trying to get my writing work done earlier today as my kids have a half day today (as well as Thursday) and are off from school tomorrow and Friday. So, only one full day this week. Definitely need to get work done whenever I can right now. But still had to stop in to get my weekly sage writing advice from you. Have a wonderful Monday now, Bill!!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Irish, thanks, and this election can't end soon enough for most of us taxpayers. LOL An impossible choice for most of us.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well Janine, any old time you appear here is a good time, so thank you! Enjoy your time with your kids and good luck getting that work done.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 months ago from England

      You always give great advice Bill and yes I think I definitely need the advice! or as my mum would have said ' a quick swift kick up the backside'! lol!

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 6 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! I don't know if you mentioned this in your mailbag last week, but I know you mentioned it in your newsletter...Just for fun, I signed up under Flipboard and created a magazine with my most "popular" hub, the only one that had been assigned to a niche site, dengardens...anyway, I put it up on Nov. 1st, and I went from 10 views to 1500. I couldn't believe it! Sadly, it only lasted for about 3 days, but instead of making 10 cents a day, I went to 1.50 a day. That was pretty exciting! I don't know how the whole thing works, and I don't know if I did it correctly...but boy was it fun! Thanks for the suggestion!

      Have a good rest of the week!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Nell, I think my mother wanted to deliver such a kick many times while I grew up and "smarted up." LOL Thanks for being here and Happy Monday, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Very cool to hear, Melissa! I had as similar thing happen with one of the articles I posted there and yes, it is really cool when it happens. Can you imagine going viral? I can't. :) Happy Monday my friend.

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      Linda Lum 6 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, isn't it funny that the people closest to us rarely see (or look at) what we spend so much of our God-given time doing. My husband always asks me to look at his writing (he loves the run-on sentence) and I lovingly edit each time (and he's the scientist so obviously the one in the family with brains).

      Your advice on syndication was spot on--as you know I've begun the journey; I still have a long way to go, but you gave me the necessary advice (and kick in the keister) to get things going. Thank you for that.

      I hope there's another mailbag on Monday. I'm reading this before I even took time to grab my first cup of coffee. Have a great week my friend and try to stay dry.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 6 months ago from Chicago Area

      G'morning!

      Re: Good Enough. Some "good enough" issues today with the girl who keeps asking her mom to review her work and the writer who is concerned his work isn't good enough because it doesn't sell.

      The daughter may be looking for approval or permission from someone in an authority position, even if the child is an adult! Like the advice you gave to the other parent this week, these daughters should be encouraged to explore writing opportunities--outside the family--to develop their craft and confidence. Working with family and friends brings its own challenges (as I've discussed elsewhere).

      The writer who doesn't feel his work is good enough because it isn't selling has another issue. His work may be good. But his marketing and expectations are not. The publishing universe is more competitive and crowded than it's ever been. So selling anything these days is a huge challenge. Also, while, like you, I'd encourage this writer to seek editorial review, I'd also encourage him to seek out a review of his website, Amazon presence, social media, etc. This sounds like it might be an author platform problem, not a writing problem.

      Thanks for all the encouragement you give us! Happy Monday!

    • louise-barraco profile image

      Louise Barraco 6 months ago from Ontario

      Great post your right the seasons change but good writing never does it just gets better as the season come and go:)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, I'm so excited that you are on that journey. If you make it big I'll have bragging rights, like a proud papa. LOL Thanks so much for reading before your coffee. I'm flattered. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Anyone out there reading this....PAY ATTENTION TO HEIDI!

      Enough said!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Very true, Louise, and I thank you for supporting that belief.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 months ago

      Billy, why do you think family can be so unsupportive when it comes to writing?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It's an interesting question, Pop. Let me give it some thought and get back to you next Monday. Thanks!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 6 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Short or not, the mailbag served its purpose for another week - and yes, that was a very profound statement!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bill! Greatly appreciated, in a profound sort of way. :)

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 6 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Lots of great questions and advice, especially about having a professional take a look at your work. I did that one time and it was worth it. The truth can be so hurtful, but we need to hear the truth or we will never get better. I come from a technical writing arena - writing for engineers. Engineers like things short, sweet, and to the point. But that's not good for all types of writing. I learned from a professional that I don't go deep enough with characters and scenes so now I am studying how to do that.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 6 months ago

      Lots to file away on this one. I would be very surprised if one of my family members asked for for mentoring. Better to leave that alone.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for sharing that, Marlene! I think we can all relate to your experience.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      For whatever reason, Dee, family members do not see us in the same light as our writing peers. I may never understand that.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 6 months ago from london

      Shorther like you said but almost as good as the last one ... almost.

      Samuel could also take his dauighter to a Writers Literary Festival, if she is keen. Here in England, we have three major ones and some smaller ones. America has many! Practically all those I know of, have a section for children and a couple of children story- writing celebrities too.

      Her genre may be different, of course, but they will cater for that too. She can also enter children competitions. The last one here that I know of, was a national school competition and a girl I know made it to the last 50 of 40, 000 entries. Let her ask her teacher about these competitions.

      My best wishes with you for tomorrow. God's Will be done!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 6 months ago

      Very good mailbag with good advice, Bill. My late son used to bring his papers for his English class to me to look over before he submitted them. He had great ideas, but he needed help developing them, and he had problems writing full sentences because he'd get so caught up in his thoughts. I missed it when he stopped writing. Syndication is a big responsibility, even more so than writing one's own blog. There are deadlines to keep, so I would advise a person to be sure he or she wants to make that type of commitment.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 6 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Short but sweet, Bill. Isn't it funny how family seem to give so much less attention to our writing than others? Unless we are a "James Patterson" or the like and it brings fame and fortune. I always helped my kids with ideas improve their assignments at school, but since they have grown up and I started writing seriously it barely gets acknowledged. Two sons do sometimes share a link to a hub I have posted on Facebook but that's about it..they never go out of their way to read anything I have written or ask for advice on writing. Guess what, they'll all be getting a copy of the Creative Exiles poetry book this Christmas. That will fix them.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 6 months ago from Massachusetts

      Another great week for the mailbag Bill. Definitely the question that struck a cord with me was the one regarding family support. Other than my wife I don't think I've ever had a family member comment on one of my articles. No one ever mentions them, comments or probably even bothers to read them? Go figure. I get a few likes on FB, and I really mean just a few, and I'm sure they're just being nice and not reading. I don't understand this at all?

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 6 months ago from San Diego California

      Here's a question for your mailbag from a mailman. Is there any writer in the history of writing who didn't start off as a reader first? Real writers are reading addicts first. They will scrounge around like crackheads for any printed material they can get their hands on, from the Reader's Digest to the Captain Crunch cereal box, if all else fails. I appreciate that you are encouraging the little ones to be readers first.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 6 months ago from Oklahoma

      Great read!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 6 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Nice mailbag with some good questions and befitting answers. It is really somewhat disappointing to realise that our family members do not take interest in our writings. I had to tell my sons hundred times if I want them to read any of my articles. Even then, they may read only a few lines or phrases and then tell it is good. I think same is the case with all writers.

      Will be waiting for next mailbag. Have a nice week.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      All great suggestions, Manatita! Thank you for sharing them, my friend, and may your week be blessed.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      All valid points, MizB, especially about syndication. It's a tough road to hoe. Possible, but tough.

      Thank you always!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't understand it, John, but I love your final solution. Here's your gift, now read the damned thing! LOL

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't understand it either, Bill. It is what it is, and it seems to be consistent for almost all of us.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mel, I would be dumbfounded if the answer to your question was yes, but I'll add to that answer on Monday. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Larry!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I agree with you, Venkatachari M, it is disappointing and yes, it seems to be the same case for most of us.

      Thank you as always!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I have a question. I have noticed lately that few hub articles seem to start out just assuming that we know the topic as well as they do. I read the beginning and go away because I cannot follow. Although on a couple I have gone to research and come back, which is tedious.

      I fear I do that so I want to know how to prevent doing that.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 6 months ago from Brazil

      Regarding family asking for help with writing, I have been asked by both of my kids . Likewise, I have asked my sisters and cousin for help proofreading something.

      I guess it just depends on the family. An extra pair of eyes always helps.

      A question for a future mailbag, what are your thoughts on NaNoWriMo? Do you think it is over hyped nonsense or a good kick in the pants for lazy people?

      Are you aware of any figures of how many people go on to publish after that initial push? An editor, whose emails I subscribe to, says she is inundated with work in Dec & Jan when people have a lot of writing from participating in NaNoWriMo but not sure how to put it all together.

      Have a great week.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting question, Eric. I'll give that some thought and get back to you in six days. Thanks, buddy!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh, Mary, I have very strong feelings about NaNoWriMo...thanks for asking. Stay tuned, and have a great week!

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 6 months ago from New Jersey

      Bill,

      How amazing that your daughter is getting into writing! I started out writing short stories, as well, and wrote constantly. I know that reading is helpful, but I think writing in itself is the most important part -- experimenting with words and styles.

      Take care!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I would have a hard time arguing with you on that, Kailey! Happy Tuesday to you, my friend, and thank you!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, my children do not read me either, and they do not ask for advice, but I give it any way (not in writing). Encouraged that I'm not alone. Encouraged also by your continual bits of advice to us on HP.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 6 months ago from United Kingdom

      Hi, Bill. I was playing the new Civilization VI when I came across this quote I thought you might appreciate.

      “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

      ― Ernest Hemingway, The Wild Years

      I don't find this discouraging, just honest. So we all must keep crafting away, enjoy the process and forget about becoming a master. Just write because it's fun.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, it seems to be a writer situation, not common in other trades or jobs. I don't know why but it is.

      Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      A part of me knows you are correct, Zulma, but I'm a slave to the pursuit of perfection and I suspect I always will be. :) It's my cross to bear.

      Happy Thursday my friend.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 6 months ago from United Kingdom

      I can relate to that. I also strive for perfection in all I do, even though I know that's impossible. But that's no reason not to try.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Yes indeedy, Zulma, and I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Johnson 6 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Billy, thank you for taking the time to answer the questions have. I really appreciate you help. I feel like I am running a race here and I don't have time to read everything I need to get myself situated, which is why I love the Hubpages community.

      I participated in a webinar with Jeff Goins yesterday that talks about how to become a good blogger and make money. He made 150 grand and published a book in 18 months. Because he did so by offering writing services, I do not see myself doing what he did unless I offer the services too.

      I think that he had some good advice for general writing purposes and doing blogs. I intend on writing about it.

      What is your opinion about writers who build their careers off of writing about writing and marketing it as a way for other writers who actually write about THINGS other than writing?

      I got six forms of the root write in that sentence!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bravo, Rodric! Six forms of the root is not easy to do and do intelligently. LOL Thank you for being here again. Be patient with yourself. Goins has some good stuff, well-worth listening to. And I'll answer your question in Monday's Mailbag.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 6 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill - You are compiling a great many questions and answers. So many arrive here regularly. As for the question of syndication, I might have responded, 'what newspapers?'

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 months ago from South Africa

      A prophet is not without honor save in his own country - but yes, in a silent way our families are proud of us for having the guts and the talent to express ourselves and our dreams via writing.

      Book sales depend on marketing and not on a writer's talent. This is a fact I have seen over and over again.

      Thanks for the 123rd installment of The Writer's Mailbag :) Hope to read many more!

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Johnson 6 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I am looking forward to the next mailbag. Sorry for fanboying like this. Oh, who am I kidding, no I'm not. I have another question that may work its way into your next mailbag.

      I have been getting unfeatured for putting links into my hubs even when the site relates to what the hub is about if the site is my personal site. How do you prove the site is related? I joined Hubpages years ago to help drive traffic to my sites and it worked. Now just need to guest blog and have guest bloggers. When is it appropriate to guest blog or request guest bloggers.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      True, Mike. I guess online newspapers. It's a tough world out there for writers, true?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You speak the truth, Martie. Book sales depend on marketing. I suspect that's why so many fail.

      Thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great question, Rodric, and I thank you. I'll have an answer for you next week.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 6 months ago from Central Florida

      Another great edition, Bill.

      I seem to have everyone but my family ask for help editing or for advice with regard to writing, but that's because no one in my family is a writer! The marketing director at work has asked me a couple of times to edit or offer my opinion on press releases and blog posts, but it was always after they'd gone live (and embarrassed themselves with the poor quality). I told them my writing skills are not part of my job description, but I'd be willing to do it for a fee. The response was that the marketing director (who has admitted she's not a writer) needs to learn on her own. So.... our press releases and blog posts are poorly written. Not my problem, right?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Not your problem at all, Sha, and good for you for demanding a fee to do it. The time is long gone when writers offer their services for free or for recognition. A good writer deserves payment...period!

    • profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 5 months ago

      Bill

      A couple of days ago I was in a bookshop looking for Christmas presents (our family tradition is 'Dad always buys books') and in the top ten sellers for the year were

      1. Lord of the Rings

      2. To kill a Mockingbird

      3. The grapes of wrath

      4. The Hobbit

      They were in that order, great writing never fades!

      I've been a 'bit slack' recently, so it was good to read this and get back to getting number two finished

      Thanks

      Lawrence

    • profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 5 months ago

      Bill

      A question for you, it kind of relates to what 'bravewarrior' says.

      My wife has suggested a few times I offer to write stuff for the company I work for.

      A couple of my colleagues have read the articles I did relating to buses and really enjoyed them (they told me, I didn't ask!)

      I've thought about it a couple of times, but what do you think?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I love that bit of news and the message, Lawrence...good writing never fades! Excellent!

      Thank you!

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Lawrence, there is only one way to find out, right? Ask them! I don't see a downside on this.

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