The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Seven
Welcome Back My Friends
Yes, it’s that time again. It’s time for you to ask questions and for me to answer them, to the best of my ability of course. I’ve been corrected on several occasions but hey, I have never claimed to be perfect or all-knowing. I’m just a simple guy in Olympia, Washington, doing his thing and hoping to bat over .300 this season.
You know how this works, right? You send me questions. You can either ask a new question in the comment section below, or you can email a question to me at email@example.com, or you can leave a question at my website at www.williamdhollandauthor.com.
Remember to just ask questions about writing. I’d love to give you marriage advice like your mother-in-law, but I’m afraid you’d hate me then, and I’m all about the love, baby, the love.
Enough silliness. Let’s get started.
The Mysteries of Marketing
“Now marketing? That is more difficult than publishing. Any tips on marketing?”
Well my goodness, how much time do you have for the answer? Seriously, I can’t answer this question here and do it any justice. Marketing is like this huge machine that feeds itself and at times eats its young, and you want me to give a one minute sound bite on it.
Of course we can talk about social media marketing, and we can talk about press releases, and business cards, and websites, public book signings, library readings, billboards, newspapers, and on and on we go…but….
The one form of marketing that is free and vital to a writer’s success is…..word-of-mouth.
I don’t remember who said it….it might have been writer Hope Clark….but she said give her one-hundred followers who will follow her into hell, and she finds that much more valuable than any other form of marketing. Why? Because those one-hundred true-blue followers will each tell ten more people, and now you have a serious following of dedicated, loyal readers.
And how do you find those one-hundred followers who will follow you into hell?
Work on your craft and become an excellent writer!
I have said this before but I’ll say it again many more times: you are your business and your writing is your product. If you want tons of positive word-of-mouth advertising, then sell a good product.
Memoir Vs Autobiography
“What's the difference between a memoir and an autobiography?”
This is a great question about a topic that confuses quite a few people. In fact, it is so confusing that we often see those two words used interchangeably.
However, there is one very clear difference between a memoir and an autobiography, and it has to do with the timeline covered in the writing.
An autobiography focuses on the chronology of a person’s entire life, from birth to present time, whereas a memoir only covers one specific aspect of that person’s life.
It’s all about the focus my friends.
If you don't own this, buy it
Is There Good in Rejection?
“What is an example of a “good” rejection letter?”
Well let me share one that I recently received, and then we’ll discuss why I think it is a good rejection letter.
Thank you so much for allowing our agency to consider your material. Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time. As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends. As a result, our own agents’ needs shift and change, as well; therefore, we would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate.
Again, thank you very much for allowing us this chance to consider your material, and we wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors.
Agency and Submissions Assistant
Yes, they rejected me, but I give kudos to Kristy for doing it so politely and gently. However, there is a nugget in that rejection. The last sentence of the first paragraph invites me to query them again with future projects. Believe me, folks, that is a positive. Agents do not extend that offer to everyone who queries them. They are very busy people and they rarely encourage writers to query since they already get thousands of queries each month without encouragement. So for them to extend that offer is a big plus.
The other encouraging aspect of this letter is that it was personally written rather than being a form letter. I’ve seen enough form letter rejections to know the difference. This agent took the time to write a personal note, and that means we established a connection of sorts.
So yes, there are positive rejection letters.
Is There an Audience?
From Debbie: “Are there people who enjoy reading historical fictional novels?”
I actually know why Deb is asking this question. She is currently working on a World War 2 novel that is kicking her butt. The research is overwhelming at times, and I applaud her for doing it. She wrote me and said that her husband, I believe, made a comment about the possibility that there are few people out there who will be interested in a war that happened so long ago….and she’s worried she is wasting her time and there will be no audience for her book.
Good writing is good writing is good writing. You can quote me on that.
Bruce Catton won a Pulitzer Prize for his Civil War book written, I believe, in the 1960s. If I’m not mistaken, he wrote those books 100 years after the Civil War ended. Still, there was an audience. Deb is writing about a war that is only seventy years old. She has a much better chance if you ask me.
Good writing is good writing is good writing.
And don’t you forget it!
Join me on my blog
- William Holland | Helping Writers to Spread Their Wings and Fly
Tips, discussions, and recommendations about writing
Fiction Based on Real Life People
“Bill. As far as basing a character on someone you know, don't you have to get permission from them first? And preferably in writing?Should their name be changed "to protect the innocent?”
This is a tough one, and we have seen several court cases of late, about this topic, and there have been differing outcomes in court.
Does the book defame the real person? That’s the first question courts will ask in a lawsuit about this topic. If there is defamation, chances are excellent that the writer will find the court ruling against them.
But wait? Scarlet Johannson recently won a lawsuit against an author who based a book character on her, so holy moly, what is a writer to do?
Forest Gump managed to meet real people without getting sued. I managed it in my book Resurrecting Tobias. I can only say this: do not defame, and when in doubt, don’t use the real name. If it seems like you are pushing the envelope then you probably are….and if it’s a person you know then I really suggest you get permission first.
Should I continue this series?
More Next Week so Keep Those Questions Coming
I’m enjoying this series, and many of you have said that you are enjoying it as well, so let’s keep it going. All I need from you is more questions, so get busy please.
Until then, I’ll be out back feeding the quail and collecting their eggs.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”