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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Seven

Updated on August 11, 2014

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 holland1145@yahoo.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.

It all begins here
It all begins here | Source

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.

A book about my entire life is an autobiography
A book about my entire life is an autobiography | Source

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.

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.

Dear William,

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.

Sincerely,

Kristy Hunter

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.

Write well and there will always be an audience
Write well and there will always be an audience | Source

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.

Nonsense!

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!

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?

See results

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.”

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Ann, and it's good to have you back among us. :)

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

      I've been out for awhile - computer problems. I had to rent one. Anyway, thanks for answering my question on the autobiography and memoir. I really had no idea.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Deb, and thank you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks again for bringing up more interesting topics!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, thank you. I believe you have added a question at the end. I'll attempt to answer next week. Until then, blessings to you this fine week.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 3 years ago

      Hi Bill. Always full of wisdom and great tips. Even if I might never again publish a book, I would like to learn of the system's interacting as many comments are elevating the cause of the Writer's Mailbag.

      Voted up and useful.

      Good night my friend.

      PS. One day there would be more information of kind , completing in of my need toward "how" and "what" one have to have before sending out an article.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm enjoying the series, Dianna, so thank you. It's nice to know others are enjoying it as well.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      The mailbag series is a great way to keep fresh on the basic elements of good writing. Thank you for the tips and advice today.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm very glad to hear that, Alicia. Thank you so much, and have a wonderful weekend.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing some more helpful advice, Bill. Your writer's mailbag hubs are useful.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you vkwok. I know you've always got mine.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for always having us writers' backs, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      travmaj, you said it perfectly...it is quite daunting. Oh, for the old days, 'eh? Thank you for stopping by and best wishes to you.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      This is all so relevant and puts the reality of writing into perspective.Clearly, it's not enough to be 'just a writer' anymore. As you point out there's much more to consider, marketing, PR, various aspects of technology. It's quite daunting. Thumbs up to your rejection letter, next time eh! Thanks once again.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, John. I'll pass on your message to Debbie. As for that publisher who rejected you....it's his loss. :)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Keep them coming Bill. This particular hub was very relevant to me as I recently received a rejection. Mine only came via email however because that was how submissions had to be sent. It was much shorter and not very subtle. I won't be submitting any writing to that publisher again. I found your other answers helpful too. In regard to Debbie's question. I love reading historical fiction, so does my wife. I enjoy Bernard Cornwall's novels, particularly "Stonehenge". My wife likes The "Outlander" series by Diana Gabbleton or Gavelton. So yes there is an audience. Thanks for answering more questions. I look forward to the next installment.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Suzie, keep calling me Yoda because I laugh every time. Thank you dear friend and enjoy the hell out of your Tuesday.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sally and that's a great question. I'll have the answer for you next Monday. Have a great Tuesday.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, that was perfectly stated my friend. Just perfect. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Faith. You are too kind but I'll take it gladly.

    • profile image

      SuzieHQ 3 years ago

      Absolutely keep them comin' Bill . . . . . what a terrific series as I am sure you are not short of Q's from fellow writers. Always interesting and learn something new. I loved the rejection letter you received and could see how it would be a positive response. Thanks Yoda for continuing the mailbox!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      Just another couple of question please Bill.

      What importance do you place on the Artistry with Words blog which you write? Do you feel it has contributed to the success of your online writing? Would you recommend that others do the same?

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I love a well written rejection letter. It's easy to break someone's heart with unkind words, but the gift of a writer is to tell someone "no" and have them love you for saying so.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Thank you very much, kind sir! You are quite handsome yourself, for you are one of God's masterpieces : )

      Hugs and blessings

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Manatita....just giving back as others did for me early on. I appreciate your kind words, and blessings to you always.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      I see that you are pretty up-to-date and also quite active in the writer's world, Bill. Excellent! Using one's talent to serve others in a selfless way is such a beautiful thing! I cannot commend you enough here. Higher blessings, Bro.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I will, Dora, and thank you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      We keep learning from your answers; please keep teaching. Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting, Sheila, and thanks for sharing that. I love the Civil War....I really need to read one of your novels soon.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Bill. Carry on my friend and have a great week.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ruby. When you speak I listen. :)

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      Thanks for clarifying the difference between a biography and a memoir. I know some people write about their whole life and others only about part of it, but I thought the words were used interchangeably.

      I'd like to answer Debbie's question on a personal level. I enjoy reading historical fiction; however, it depends on the period of history in which it's set. For the most part, I stick to novels set during the Civil War. If it happens to be a crime novel, I enjoy reading those set in any period or historical event.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      More good answers, of course. I especially liked the positive rejection letter sample. I had a couple like that several years ago, when I was sending similar queries. They encourage you to keep going, keep trying. Of course that is positive! Certainly voted to continue the mail bag! ;-)

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      My vote is to continue with the mailbag questions, any and all advice is helpful to a writer...

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, DDE!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I believe that as well, Kaili...by the way, I don't think I've said this before, but I have always loved the name Kaili. :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A wonderful thought would be carry on you have such great talent.

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 3 years ago from Canada

      So great. And thank you for encouraging the writer who was wondering if there is an audience... not everyone wants to read about past wars, but many, many people do. That applies to any topic you could choose...there will always be an audience of some kind.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Faith and I love your new profile picture. What a beauty you are, inside and out.

      blessings my friend

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Frank. Believe, me, I've seen my share of bad rejection letters, so I can spot a good one a mile away. :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Why of course you should continue on with this series, so long as you are still receiving inquires with great questions. You are providing a great service in sharing your knowledge! Interesting as always, dear Bill. Enjoying my lunch while reading. It is a rainy day here; so staying in is nice. Blessing always

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      another good trip through the mail bag hub.. a good rejection letter really intrigued my Billy.. found all the information helpful yet again bravo my friend :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Eric. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Tons of good advice here thank you much.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, I am in total agreement with you. That is a great rejection. Make sure you follow up in a few weeks with a generic email to her...don't lose that one.

      Thanks for sharing that.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sally, that's one of the nicest things you could say to me. I have developed a voice over time...not consciously, but it has happened, and it is nice to hear you say that. I'll include your question in next week's mailbag. Thank you.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, I do took, and I have certainly encouraged her to keep writing. Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you lifegate. I'm really enjoying this series and it will continue.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      I love this series, Bill.

      I received my first positive rejection last week. Linda Formichelli emailed everyone on her list that she's looking for a part-time assistant to help her with emails, research, occasional writing etc. She offered a very attractive salary in addition to helping the chosen writer with their business. Applications were to be emailed to her, including any articles that are applicable to the art of writing. She sent a follow-up email that she'd received over 70 applications (I sent one to her) and would only reply to those she's interested in speaking with further.

      Much to my surprise, I received an email from her Thursday. This was what she had to say:

      Hi, Shauna,

      I want to thank you for your application. I love your style! You exude an amazing sense of confidence.

      I actually received a lot of really strong applications (including yours), and if I could have hired them all, I would have. I can only hire one person right now, though, and I've chosen a different candidate...but with your permission, I'd like to keep your information, and if I need someone new, I'd really like to consider you for the position. Would that be okay?

      Best,

      Linda

      If that's not a good rejection, I don't know what is!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      Billy

      What I love about your writing is that you have such a personal identity.

      How important is this to you? Many people for various reasons find the need to write under a pseudonym. Do you think this has any bearing on their success or lack of it?

      Sally

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 3 years ago from Iowa

      Tell Debbie to keep writing. I love historical fiction. I'd like to write one myself some day.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 3 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Well Bill, I see the mailbag's full again. Great stuff, as usual! As as your poll question, of course I voted to continue. For every question, there is an answer, and people turn to you for that answer. Just a thought.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you breakfastpop....I'm enjoying it and I will as long as I do. LOL If you can make sense of that last sentence then you are a wise person.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 3 years ago

      You must continue this series! The info you present is so important. Voted up, useful, interesting and awesome!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That's the Lizzy I know and love. :) Thanks hon.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Nell, I'm glad you found something new here. That encourages me. Thank you dear friend.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Ann. I do believe there might be a bit of Toby in me, and a bit of me in Toby. :) I appreciate you buying the book...thank you so much.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Awww, Sis, you know I get embarrassed easily. Why do you do that to me? :)

      I'll keep writing it..I love HP, but only because of people like you.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      DJ, it really is my pleasure. I don't know about the energy of a 10 year old, but it's a nice image to contemplate as I limp through my day.

      Have a great week my friend, and thank you.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Right now, Ann, your cool sounds very cool indeed. :)

      bill

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

      The difference between a memoir and an autobiography: if you're famous, people will be interested in your autobiography. If you're not, stick to memoir. There's a reason for the cliché, "I don't want to hear your life story." Hahah!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hiya Billy, great advice as always, and no I didn't realise the difference between a memoir and an autobiography, so I definitely learned something new there too, voted up and shared, nell

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      I hope you never give up writing these informative hubs. There will always be questions to answer and you certainly have the experience to answer them, let alone the expertise to answer them well.

      By the way, Toby King sounds just like you when he's doing his 'readings'! Haven't finished it yet but it's a great read and I love the characters.

      Ann

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Of course you should continue this series, bro. I can think of numerous ways in which your solid information and sharing of experiences, can and do benefit writers. Encouragement is always a positive. It is evident to me your series is well-accepted and much appreciated.

      Your presence and work here at HP has become a gift to our fellow-writers. It is a "Bonus," to all that HP has to offer and a boost to those with personal goals in mind.....Up+++

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 3 years ago

      Good information, as always, Bill.

      I don't know how you find the time to do all that you do.

      A Frugal Farmer and a best selling book like "Resurrecting Tobias" --

      those projects don't get done by couch potatoes. You must have the energy of a 10 year old, on the first day of summer vacation!

      I must say, you do have some great questions from some astute

      writers. This series of 'Mailbag Monday' is a real treat.

      Thank you for taking the time to answer these and many other questions.

      DJ.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      That's warm!

      It is around 16 degrees here today, With weather and flood warnings for wind and rain due to the remains of Hurricane Bertha.

      Stay cool. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine. You are a wonder. I greatly appreciate you, and I want you to have a stupendous day.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Ann and welcome to the Mailbag. Thanks for your kind words, and I'll have your answer for you next week....I promise. :)

      Have a splendid day my friend. I am much busier than I want to be, and it is going to be an ungodly 100 degrees today.

      bill

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Always such great and solid advice. I truly do love this series and gain so much invaluable advice for all my writing needs and yes thank you a ton always Bill. Monday here again and just wanted to stop by and wish you a great week ahead now!! :)

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Bill

      This really is an excellent idea for Hubpages. There is nothing like interaction and people feeling they have a voice for positive results.

      I would like to know if you have unpublished certain articles from here before forwarding to a publisher? Or do you have separate articles for Hubpages and the wider world?

      Thank you. :)

      Anna

      P.S. I think this is the first time, I have managed to comment first on one of your hubs, there is always a queue!