The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Seventeen
Here We Go Again
Installment Seventeen is about to begin. Buckle up and prepare for a ride through the House of Questions and Answers.
You ask, I answer, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll cry Uncle and wait for one of my followers to spurt out the correct answer. Teamwork, baby, ya gotta love it!
If you have a question then leave it in the comment section below, or you can also leave it on my website at www.williamdhollandauthor.com.
Shall we begin?
From Ann: I have a question for you. What do you think about illustrations within adult fiction, either drawings or photos?
Great question from my friend from across the pond. What do I think of illustrations in fiction? I think they are distracting and I don’t like them. Considering the fact that I have probably read a thousand novels or more, and might have seen illustrations five times, it would appear a great many writers agree with me.
Having said that, I can see using them if they are part of the plot. Say a detective finds a drawing that is a vital clue to the case; in that situation, I can see illustrating that drawing…but….I still think it is lazy writing to do so.
Notice that Ann said adult fiction when asking her question. I don’t know at what age we put aside our need for pictures and illustrations, but I suspect it is in the 16-18 year range. After that, we really shouldn’t need illustrations in our fiction….but….I have read fantasies where illustrations were, not only used, but needed.
How’s that for a wishy-washy answer?
Making It All Work in Publishing
From manatita: Here is my question: Can you make this Publishing business work? What can of genre are you trying to attract and can you deal well with the marketing aspects?
There is so much contained in this question that I don’t know where to start.
There are far too many successful writers for me to say anything other than of course you can make this publishing business work. Heck, there are thousands of writers who are making a great income writing ebooks, let alone the thousands who make great money through traditional publishing. Of course one can make it work…but….
And there is always a but…you have to work at it. Manatita mentioned marketing, and there is the bugaboo that stumps so many writers. You could self-publish the greatest book ever written, but if you aren’t prepared to do the marketing side of this business, that book will die in obscurity.
As for what genre, I’m all over the place. My first novel was a fantasy. The second novel was mainstream fiction. The one I’m working on currently is a psychological thriller. Your guess is as good as mine where I go from here.
From Bill: I'm still "in the dark" about what constitutes a "good cover" - everyone, including me, says you "have to have one!" I only know one when I see one… I can't describe what it is. Are you willing to try?
This is a great question. Truly! Can you describe what makes a great book cover?
Ask one-hundred people and you’ll most likely these two answers will be near the top of the polling list:
- The cover must be visually appealing to attract buyers
- The cover must portray, in some way, the general theme of the book.
Both are valid responses and I have no argument against either of them….but…
I just love tossing in that “but.”
I have seen book covers that were genius and really didn’t do either of those two things. I recently saw the book cover for “Crime and Punishment,” a classic if there ever was one, and it was in black and white with no artwork at all….and yet it captured my attention immediately because of its stark quality.
Having said all that, if I were designing a cover for my books, I would lean toward the second suggestion, that they portray the general theme of the book. Interestingly, the cover of my last novel, Resurrecting Tobias, did not turn out as I had originally planned. I went in one direction, then changed my mind when a friend of mine, Alexandra Lucas, designed a different cover for it. She was right, I was wrong, and I’m quite happy with the end result.
From Elise: What are your thoughts about writing for content mills? I had one place offer me five dollars for a 500 word article with research. I just don’t think it is worth my time.
Well, Elise, I don’t think it is, either, but I don’t know how badly you need that five bucks, and that’s what it all boils down to when discussing content mills. What is your time worth, and how badly do you need the money?
I don’t like content mills if all they are paying is five bucks per article. Some, however, pay much better for experienced writers, and in that case, I say go for it.
My biggest problem with content mills is that, in many instances, they drive down the pay scale for all writers, and I’ll always be against that. We are craftsmen, and as such our talents are worth good pay, especially if we have skills…but we will never see the pay we deserve if there are writers out there satisfied with five bucks. A content mill that is paying a writer five dollars for an article is charging the customer at least thirty dollars for the same article. I’d rather go get my own customers and make the thirty rather than a percentage of the thirty.
From Bob: How do you find a new angle for a topic that has been written about by thousands? How can you be unique writing about something that has been beaten to death online?
This is really what it all boils down to with online writing, isn’t it? Finding a new, unique angle to an old topic….and it is not easy. Let me teach by example, but the final answer to this question is that you have to expand your imagination a bit.
Let’s say I’m a travel writer, and I want to write a series of articles about exotic places around the world. Been there, done that, and written the ebook….how many travel writers are there out there? I would venture to guess the number is in the hundreds of thousands. So how do you spin it so it is uniquely yours?
Just off the top of my head, I would think of something that is a popular online search, like how to save money. I would then combine that search with my travel articles, so I would write “How to Save Money Travelling in France,” and “How to Save Money Travelling in Wales.” Now I’ve combined two search engine favorites into one series of articles, thus increasing my search engine visibility AND giving myself a unique niche to work in….and unique is what makes money in the writing game. Magazine editors love fresh approaches, so go fresh or go home.
Join me on my writing blog for more tips
More Next Week
I’ll keep writing if you keep asking. That’s how it works, and it’s working quite well so far.
Thanks to all who asked questions this week. I’ll see all of you next Monday with another installment of this series. Until then, enjoy the hell out of writing, and be proud of what you do.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”