The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Seventy-Four
We Are Back
And we are stronger than ever. We have another full Mailbag, and no time to waste, so let’s get to it. We’ll start with a question about coffee table books, then move on to ebooks, ghostwriting and romance novels. Get comfortable and let’s do it. And I’m sending some extra hugs to my friends in France. I know I speak for all of my followers when I say we stand by you during this difficult time. Our strength is yours, and yours, ours. And wherever else atrocities are being committed, I send my love and strength.
Coffee Table Books
From Eric: “Are coffee table books still being published and sold by the millions. I am thinking I like the HP formatting. It reminds me of those hard bound photo journal type books that people used to have on their coffee table. Not to be confused with the weird family photo album, that if they started on would take hours.
Do you think a bunch of short essays like we do here would work in that format?”
Hi, Eric! Actually coffee table books are still being published. I would guess in a much-smaller quantity, but I still see them at Barnes & Noble, so someone is buying them.
Would a bunch of short essays work in that format? Not in the coffee table book format, or at least I don’t think it would, but books of essays do sell. Would you be successful doing so? The publishing world is a crapshoot on the best of days. Roll the dice, find out and let us all know. :) My personal opinion is that cream rises to the top, and good writing will eventually be recognized…or maybe that’s more a dream rather than a reality. :)
From Lawrence: “One question I have is what about non-fiction in ebooks? What would the market be like?”
My first reaction, Lawrence, is that the market would be the same as in fiction, but let me do some research and I’ll be right back.
Okay, I’m back. Well, the New York Times has a non-fiction bestseller list, so obviously someone is buying them. Book sales figures are surprisingly hard to find. I did find sales figures from 2009 and in that year there were 4.9 billion non-fiction ebooks sold.
So yes, there is a market and it appears to be quite healthy.
Change of Direction
From Emese: “My "style" seems to be to just go with the flow. I start writing, and things just fall into place, into some place, not necessarily where I intended them to be. I'm not a planner in any sense, but I did have a general idea of the plot, subplot, and the main characters. When I started writing, however, it all went in a different direction. For example, I introduced a new character, who was supposed to be very minor, just there to help my heroine in something, but as soon as he started talking, he was someone else, and now he's one of the major characters; I started another one as a villain, but after a few chapters, suddenly he's lovable. It just happens, it's like they come alive and don't like the idea I had of them in the first place. It's all good, I enjoy the changes, it makes me feel that they sort of come alive and take me in a different direction. It's an adventure, I enjoy it. But they messed up my plot, and now I feel a bit stuck. I need to go back and redo a bunch of it since the whole idea changed. It seems daunting since I already wrote a lot and I thought I had something. Now I have a few characters that keep talking to me, but I don't see where I'm going with it all. Does this ever happen to you? If it does, how do you deal with it? In the past, this is where I ended up abandoning the whole novel. I am on a mission to finish this time, just not sure how.”
Actually, Emese, I know exactly what you are talking about. It’s called “giving your muse too much freedom” or something like that. LOL
My novel “Shadows Kill” did not start out as a book about a serial killer. I was ten-thousand words into it and realized the main character was taking me on a journey I had not planned. What did I do about it? I saved the ten-thousand words for another time, another day, and I began writing the book the way my muse and my characters wanted me to write it. I believe strongly in the creative process, so I went with the flow. The ten-thousand words I originally did are not wasted. They are sitting in a file waiting for me to do something with them, and “Shadows Kill” was created in the meantime.
It’s all good!
Trust your characters and trust your muse.
From Faith: “I have never understood using a pen name. Even more confusing to me is ghostwriting. Why would anyone be okay with giving credit to one’s writing to another writer? Is it solely for monetary gain? Maybe you can expound on ghostwriting a bit to help me understand the concept a bit more.”
Faith, first of all, I’m sorry I missed this question two weeks ago. Better late than never, I guess.
Actually, that’s the nature of ghostwriting. Most ghostwriters do it anonymously and never get credit. I’m doing one such non-fiction book right now for a real estate professional in Los Angeles. He will pay me for the finished product and put his name on it. We signed an agreement to that effect and it is a legally-binding contract. I’m fine with it, he’s fine with it, we both come out winners.
Most writers who do blog writing for businesses are practicing ghostwriting. Their names never appear on the blog posting. As far as anyone knows, it is written by the owner of the business and that’s that. Most content writing for content mills is ghostwriting.
It’s just the nature of the business, my friend.
HP and Ebooks
From Colin: “In your previous mailbag, there was a question about using Hub Pages work in other areas. I'm interested in whether you use collections of your stories or articles just as they are, or do you think they need something 'extra' to make them work as ebooks (or whatever)? I'm also wondering if you think it's okay to charge for such books?”
Howdy Colin! I have used a collection of my hubs in ebook form, but I have updated them and added a bit of new information to them….not to make them work as ebooks but to simply freshen them before publication in ebook form. Do I think it’s okay to charge for such books? Most definitely! I look at it this way: HP has barely paid me for my hard work over the past four years, so I figure I should get monies from ebooks to make up for the lack of financial support by HP. I have no problem being paid to write.
Back to Romance Novels
From Brad: “I wonder how many of your male reader actually read romance novels? This would be answered in the comments field, but it is just a bonus question, too cumbersome to fit into the already overflowing billybuc mailbag. :)”
Brad, I was so curious I had to look it up. According to the Romance Writers of America, 9% of romance novel readers are men, so there you go. I don’t know any of them but there are millions of them out there.
How to Gauge Improvement
From Lawrence: “One thought I had and it kind of has to do with goal setting, if you've got the goal of improving your writing how would you keep track of whether the quality was improving? I'll leave the question there as I'm sure it's a pretty broad question and any feedback will be good.”
It’s an interesting question, Lawrence, one I’ve touched on in the past. What’s the old saying, “a doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient?” or something like that. I think that applies to writers as well. I do believe we can, to a certain extent, tell if our writing is improving, but for a purely objective critique, I think we need to belong to a writers’ group of some sort. There are plenty of them online as well as online writing courses and courses at community colleges. I do think we need objective feedback to truly tell whether we are improving or just spinning our wheels.
And That’s It for This Week
We are still going strong and I love it. I’m beginning to think we just might hit that 100 goal.
Thanks to all who asked questions. If your question isn’t in this installment I promise it will be next week.
Have a great week of writing, my friends.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”