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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #331

An Inspiration Overload

It happens occasionally. My muse must awaken from a prolonged state of lethargy, rub her hands together, and announce “okay, nice rest, but it’s time to get to work.” And then she bombards me with projects she wants me to work on, whispering in my ear ideas and directions and, at times, ultimatums, like “get your act together, Bill, you have words which must be written!”

That’s my long-winded way of saying I have not one, not two, not three, but in fact seven projects in various stages of completion as I write this Mailbag.

And I love the heck out of it!

It’s nice to know that my seventy-two year old mind is still producing, you know? I mean, I expect to type slower. I even expect to make more mistakes with my typing. But I’m in no way ready for my mind to turn to mush. I’ve got way too much to write and share with the online world.

So let’s get this Mailbag done so I can get back to my muse, before she calls the Word Police on me, and they jail me for Unacceptable Inactivity.

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

Writing an Anthology

From Ann: “I have decided not to write fiction for a while, until LetterPile has a reasonable format and gives us back our comments. I can't live without feedback! Is that pathetic? I'm not looking for praise, I just like talking to everyone who's kind enough to say anything!

“So I'm going to concentrate more on getting my already-published fiction together to put into an anthology. It'll be an interesting and hopefully educational experience. Any really good tips for me, bill?!”

First, Ann, it doesn’t sound pathetic at all. Judging from the flood of comments about the inability to comment in niche sites, I would say you keep very good company. I don’t know what the thinking was behind that HP move, but it was flawed thinking from the start, in my humble opinion. Please remember, though, that what I think doesn’t count for much with HP management.

As for the anthology, I actually have some experience with this. I compiled a couple of them maybe seven, eight years ago, so I at least have some knowledge to fall back on.

Writing an anthology of your work, and your work only, is a bit easier than compiling one with several contributing authors. In compiling your own work, you are saved the trouble of looking for a theme, contacting other writers, asking for publishing permission, etc. You only have you to worry about, and a theme is really not needed.

What I will suggest, however, is organization. This is simply my approach to a personal anthology, but I like to include a Table of Contents, and I like to separate the writings according to different genres. For example, you could have one theme be fiction, and another theme be poetry, and another flash fiction.

I would also suggest a section, at the beginning, called “The Author’s Thoughts,” or “A Word From The Author,” and in that you can talk about your writing experience, and the personal reason why you published the anthology and what writing means to you. There is something powerful in hearing the personal testimony of a writer, and I think that testimony is crucial in making a connection with your followers.

I hope that gives you something to think about. Good luck!

Bottom left is my anthology

Bottom left is my anthology

Losing Our Creative Rights

From Rodric: “The new format for the niche articles hurts my feelings. I went to edit one of my niche articles and I had to jump through some hoops I did not think existed. It is doable, but I hate change. I know I'm not supposed to think that way, but I like the old things. I like not having to click more times than one to edit my writings. Bill, should we be backing up all of our hubs? Do you think these niche sites will take over creative rights to our writings?”

And here we have another dissatisfied writer!

You are not alone, Rodric. There is a rapidly-increasing number of HP writers who are not happy with the niche sites, so at least you have company in your state of sadness.

In answer to your question, you retain your creative rights to your writing. If you should ever want to publish one of your articles somewhere else, do so, and then delete it from the HP site. Honestly, I’ve done this in the past, and forgotten to delete it from HP, and I never heard a word from HP about it, but I would still do that if I were you.

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And yes, please, make sure you always back up your hubs. They are your property. You are simply allowing HP to publish them for the time you are with HP. I have files on my desktop, each labeled with a different category/heading, so I can find them quickly should I need them. Or you can save them in The Cloud if you prefer, but I know nothing about The Cloud. I just wanted to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

I have a backup of every article, short story, and novel I’ve ever written, numbering in the thousands.

Anyway, I’m sure Heidi will have more to say about this in her comment below, so check her out. She’s the “publishing rights” expert, and I am quite confident she will have the final say on this topic.

How to attract readers is one of our goals as writers.

How to attract readers is one of our goals as writers.

Attracting Readers/Followers

From Sy: “I get a headache reading all of the advice articles about attracting readers and followers. I’m sure they are all valid in the advice they give, but I’m on overload right now, and I want someone to just break it down to the basics. I’m a fiction writer, and I know there are tons of fiction writers out there, and literally millions of short stories and flash fictions and novels online, vying for attention, so how does a writer get his work noticed? Make it simple, please!”

Sy, I get it! I do a lot of Google searches when I’m writing content articles for customers, and I break out in a sweat at the sheer weight of information out there, and the sheer weight of advice tossed at me during one of those searches. Where do you start, and what is valid/invalid, right?

I’m going to give you two things I think are crucial in attracting readers/followers. Please note, I could easily write a couple articles on this, because there are quite a few things which are probably equally important, but these two keep coming to my mind.

First, make that first page, or the online synopsis, a serious attention-grabber. It is the first thing readers see, and it is often the deciding factor on whether they will read the rest of the story or not.

In content writing, this is called the meta description, and you have sixty-characters to attract a reader. Depending upon what you say with those sixty characters, you will either score well on Google or fall flat. Keep that in mind when writing online. You only have about ten seconds to attract any reader, so make those ten seconds count.

Second, learn as much as you can about social media and online marketing. A solid social media plan, and a consistent one, will garner you quite a few “first-looks.”

Please note I said nothing about writing talent in answering your question. That’s sad, isn’t it, but it’s also the truth as I see it. If you can attract a reader in those first ten or twenty seconds, and I’ve seen this happen with sales on Amazon, it really doesn’t make much difference if you are a good writer. It will make a difference in attracting repeat sales, but for that first sale, it’s all about the Laws of Attraction. I don’t say that to be cynical. I say it because I believe it to be true.

Let’s see what others have to say in the comments below.

My Muse Is Calling

I’ve got a lot of writing to do, and you have lives to live, so let’s call it a day with the Mailbag and get busy living and doing and working and playing.

I hope this finds you well. There are days it’s almost possible to convince ourselves that the pandemic isn’t happening, you know? And that speaks volumes about our ability to cope and adjust in this strange new time.

Best wishes to you all. I hope your health is fine and that it remains so.

If you have a question, include it down below in the comments, or drop me an email at

Thanks so much!

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 23, 2020:

I think it will, Dora! Change takes time, whether it be in society or on HP. We just have to be patient.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 23, 2020:

Bill, I expect that HP will give us the comment option on the niche sites; it's just strange that they have not mentioned it. However, we can still work on attracting readers like you outlined in your last answer. Hoping that our patience and commitment bring good results.

Ann Carr from SW England on October 21, 2020:

And thanks for your kind encouragement.


Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 21, 2020:

He was homeschooled, Bill, but he should have learned better in American history classes in at the University of Texas. That's why I wondered what they are teaching nowadays.

Ann Carr on October 21, 2020:

Oh ok, thanks!


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

Thanks a bunch, Brenda. Helping others is a no-brainer. I'm sure you do as well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

Same for me, Denise. I can't change this so why bother losing sleep over it. HP will do what they want, with our without my affirmation, so be it.

Blessings always, my friend


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

I appreciate that, Devika! Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

Google has your back, Sha! lol Always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

Better safe than sorry with regards to writing, Lawrence. It takes so very little time to backup. I hope I never again learn that lesson the hard way.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

College age, you say? Oh my God! Say it ain't so!!!! I will gnaw on that all day long, MizB, and it won't be pleasant gnawing.

What's the world coming to, my friend?

Be well!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

Thanks Bill! Yes, it certainly seems to have touched a nerve. Makes me wonder why I don't care that much about it. lol

Good luck with those projects. Hopefully you can get back to writing soon.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

Thanks John! I didn't even care enough to take the survey. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

Thanks for that, Mr. Happy! Same pop-up appeared on my feed. I didn't care enough to respond to it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

Mr. Happy, as always, thank you for such a fine comment. I'm with you, by the way. I hate marketing and "selling myself," which is what it feels like. I don't like thinking that my work can be rejected in ten seconds. It bothers me on so many levels.

Okay, must go. Work to do, but it's work that feeds my soul, so it's all good.

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

You are very welcome, Ann! I look forward to the finished product, knowing what a fine writer you are. Having it all in one volume, to thumb through at my leisure, would be wonderful.

I hope this finds you well. The crispness of Fall has arrived, and it feels marvelous.

Happy Hump Day, my friend!


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2020:

Thank you Ann! Evidently there is a way to request not being on niche sites. I haven't tried that, but it might be worth doing some research on.

Be well and safe, my friend.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 21, 2020:

Bill your mailbags are informative and most interesting to read. New information as always

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 20, 2020:


Thanks for another informative article. I thinknit is great that you are willing to help other writer's find their wings to fly.

Lots of great ideas for creating anthology. Organization seems to be the key for alot of things when it comes to writing.

Thanks for the read.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 20, 2020:

I'm pretty unhappy about the new niche sites too but I'm trying to have patience. There are going to be lots of things I cannot change in my life and complaining never helps me. It only makes me focus on my misery. What's the point? Life is too short to be focused on the bad things all the time. I'm still grateful they let me write about the things I'm passionate about. How can I be mad about that? Great mailbag. Thanks for taking the time out of your productive day to check in with us. You are the best.



Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 20, 2020:

Hmmm. I'm most always logged on. Guess I'll have to wait for HP to prompt me to do so.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

I had one too, Sha. It just showed up when I logged on.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

Alyssa, it is unfathomable that you don't have many followers, and I say that with admiration. I think you just need to tweak what you are doing just a bit. If asked, I could come up with some suggestions. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

Thanks a bunch, Linda! I hope you are doing well up north.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

Thank you Pamela. Keeping me busy is important, otherwise I turn into a very dull boy. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

Let's get to work, Mary! I owe you some time.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

Thanks for weighing in, Sha! I appreciate the help.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

I think you are very wise, Becky! There is nothing worse, for a writer, than to lose all of their files. Been there, done that, learned the lesson.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

Indeed it could, Linda, and indeed you should.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

Oh, I agree with you completely, Sha; I just want people to understand the importance of grabbing the writer by the throat right out of the chute.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2020:

Thank you Mary! I hope your week is filled with satisfaction!

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on October 19, 2020:


So glad I'm not the only one finding the changes frustrating!

I also know what you mean about having multiple projects on the go, but we just get on with the writing.

Regarding backing up, I learned that the hard way when putting the finishing touches to Sting of the Scorpion. My laptop crashed and I almost lost the whole novel.

Now I write them straight into Google docs.

Great article here.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 19, 2020:

Once again, the questions and answers are interesting. I'm glad your muse is being cooperative!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 19, 2020:

Glad you are staying busy, Bill. When you get our age, it helps to pass the time. I just wish I weren't so busy and maybe time wouldn't fly by so fast. All my articles are backed up because, well, just because I'm anal. I write everything in Word, so I have an automatic backup of my articles. However, the photos aren't in files with the articles, they are chaotic all over my computer. When I got my Mac five years ago, everything automatically went to the cloud. All pre-Mac were backed up on a backup drive from my old HP.

I don't know what they are teaching young people nowadays, but my college age grandson told me that daylight savings time became obsolete with the invention of the light bulb (insert laughing emoji). Ain't that a hoot!

Eighty degrees today and sunshine. I'm really enjoying this weather. Hope the light bulbs don't affect it. Have a good rest of the week, my friend.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 19, 2020:

Shauna - I too have received a pop-up survey when I was on the page that displays all of my articles (the dashboard that I can see that is not visible to anyone else).

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on October 19, 2020:

No, Shauna. It was when I logged into HubPages.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 19, 2020:

Nice mailbag, Bill. The lack of comments on the niche sites has caused quite a stir. I’m sure they will figure out a way to fix this seeing as there was such an overwhelming negative reaction.

Having seven writing projects in the works is impressive. I have about 12 projects that I haven’t started yet and none of them Involve writing. Ugh! Have a great week.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 19, 2020:

John, were you on another website outside of HP?

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on October 19, 2020:

I had the pop-up survey out of the blue about a months back. Only one question ”would you recommend HubPages to others?” or something to that effect. At least they had a box for comments now, I can’t remember that being there previously. I mentioned disappointment over not being able to comment on the niche sites now also.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2020:

I enjoyed this mailbag as usual and the topics are ones I totally relate to as it is frustrating to not have comments for all of us. I sure understand the frustration many of us are feeling right now. I'm glad you have multiple projects to keep you busy as I think that will keep you young. Have a great week, Bill.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 19, 2020:

Mr. Happy, I haven't received an HP pop-up survey or any other request for same. What site were you in when it showed up?


Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on October 19, 2020:

P.S. I just had a pop-up with a Hub-pages "survey", asking me from 1 to 10 how likely am I to tell other people about Hub-pages. Underneath that there was a space for "comments". I wrote that "people are pissed about the new niche sites not allowing comments" and told them that "I have been on Hub-pages long enough to recognize that once again people are ready to bail".

Not me so much because I just don't care enough. I am not attached to Hub-pages in any significant way. I live each day, day by day and give thanks for it. I expect nothing but I wrote what I wrote with all You guys in mind. I see many of You in the comments section upset so, I tried for what it's worth to pass that message on, or to "reinforce " that message.

All the very best!

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on October 19, 2020:

"I have a backup of every article, short story, and novel I’ve ever written, numbering in the thousands" - I used to until I got a new computer this Spring and then, I decided to move on. I have nothing saved and am not saving anything. Just drop everything from my past and start anew. This is also a practice in "letting go". I do not want any specific things in this three dimensional perspective to chain me down, to feel dependent on, or have attachments for, if that makes any sense at all lol

"make that first page, or the online synopsis, a serious attention-grabber" - I totally agree. I only read fantasy aside from non-fiction and I always look for that synopsis because my fantasy books have to have either Dragons, or Sorcerers/Wizards in them (preferably both). If those are not present, I'm out.

"You only have about ten seconds to attract any reader, so make those ten seconds count." - We are so ADD nowadays! Haha!!

"A solid social media plan, and a consistent one, will garner you quite a few “first-looks.” - Ya, I do not like this. I have had a few times happen that someone approached me, spent time talking to me, getting to know me somewhat then after mentioning their book and me buying it, they vanish. Meh ... don't act like You want to be friends. Just tell me You have a book to sell, what it is about and I will make a judgement. Spending weeks talking to me in order for me to buy your book is ... sigh. ^%#$ it.

Thanks for the "anthology" explanation. I had to do a web search for the word. I didn't know that a collection of writings is called "anthology". Live and learn.

Cheers! Be well, You and la familia.

Ann Carr from SW England on October 19, 2020:

Thanks for the answer. I have the organisation sorted almost to my satisfaction but I'm grateful for the suggestion to add my own thoughts and reasons behind my writing; that had not occurred to me though I don't know why! It seems an obvious thing to do now that you mention it! So thank you very much, bill.

I always keep copies of my hubs, exactly as they are published, sometimes with notes. I have a constant fear of losing work! I'm the same with my photos, probably more so.

Thank you for continuing to offer all your advice and helping your fellow writers. I appreciate your kindness, as I know many here do.

I'd like to thank Liz for her kind words too. I won't stop writing but the fiction is on hold as far as publication is concerned. Non-fiction will still be published. This kind of suits how my writing is progressing anyway.

Have a wonderful week and stay safe.


Liz Westwood from UK on October 19, 2020:

I will miss reading Ann's articles. Let's hope the comments get reinstated soon for all our sakes. It makes me wonder about not asking for articles to move onto niche sites until this is sorted.

You give interesting tips on anthologies. I have backed my articles up all along because there is always the fear that one day HP might fall and take my work with it, especially in the uncertain times that we live in.

You make interesting points about attracting readers.

Stay well, Bill.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 19, 2020:

Thanks for the reminder about having a back-up to articles on HP. I haven't been consistent in this. Anyway, I wish I have your discipline. I get embroiled in many interests that I stay on ideas most of the time, and fail to put these into words.

Alyssa from Ohio on October 19, 2020:

Good points, Bill! I need to add "back up articles" to my ever-increasing to-do list. I've published several articles on Hubpages and elsewhere, but ending up deleting the elsewhere because of copyright flags. Copyright flags are a story for another time. haha! I've never been good at marketing and sales. I once worked in sales with commission based pay... I didn't make any money in that job. As to attracting readers and followers.. I've researched and tried so many different things. I'm always trying to learn and grow. I'm happy that your muse has returned. I'm still waiting for my creative writing muse to make an appearance. I think she's on an extended holiday somewhere tropical. haha! Well, I hope you have a wonderful Monday. Happy writing!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 19, 2020:

Bill, with regard to Eric's "solution" to the niche sites by not requesting your new article go to one, that isn't foolproof. HP sends "worthy" articles to the relevant niche sites without the author asking for them to be moved. It's supposed to be an honor but it has quickly turned into a curse.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on October 19, 2020:

I have saved all of my writing on a flash drive, as well as my computer. I have had the heartache of my computer going out and losing my writing, photos, and everything else. Now I save it in a place that goes from one computer to another. I save it twice and don't need to worry about losing it now. It is also totally private and I don't need to worry about someone hacking into it and exposing risque photos to the world.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 19, 2020:

Bill I'm glad your Muse is calling to you. Ask her to give her cousin in Steilacoom a gentle nudge. An anthology? Hmmm, could that work with food?

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 19, 2020:

Another great mailbag, Bill. I think your advice to Ann, Rodric and Sy were spot on. But I do think you need to be a good writer in order to keep the reader's attention. I've attempted to read several novels in the past that initially captured my interest, but by the time I got to Chapter Two or Three, put them down and never picked them up again.

Glad you're staying busy, my friend. But then, that's just the way you roll. Have a great week!

Mary Wickison from USA on October 19, 2020:

Hi Bill,

Glad to hear you are staying busy. Solid advice as always. I'm glad you answered Sy's question as you did. You have to get the person to stop on a page before you can dazzle them with writing skills.

Have a productive week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 19, 2020:

Eric, it's an interesting question, and I think I have a rather devious answer for it. Stay tuned and I'll tell you about it next Monday.

And you should do an anthology of your sermons...just sayin'

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 19, 2020:

I appreciate that very much, Jo! I hope you have a fantastic week in Tennessee!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 19, 2020:

I don't like you Teach. I really just wanted to play this morning. But there is the mailbag. Monday morning would not be the same without it. I learned a whole lot today. Time to put some in practice.

I was wondering and I am sure folks know. Can you just not hit that niche site button. Or like wait a week?

I had to look up anthology. Just never thought of it.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on October 19, 2020:

What a great way to start my Monday morning! Your writing is always so inspiring and uplifting. Keep up the good work.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 19, 2020:

It is a strange time we live in, Peggy, where facts and truths are ridiculed. I believe it is all fear-driven. People are just afraid for their futures, and they are striking out in fear and hatred.

Be well, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 19, 2020:

No there isn't, John! We cannot hurt the world by writing; we can only help it. Take care, buddy, and let's hope Maven gets their act together soon.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 19, 2020:

Thank you Rosina! It's always a pleasure having you stop by.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

The advice you give freely to writers is always appreciated. As to the pandemic, however, it is hard to ignore. Sadly, we declined an invitation to celebrate a good friend's birthday party later this week. Listening to experts like Dr. Fauci, it is simply a risk to do things like that. Isn't it sad that people like Dr. Fauci and others are experiencing death threats! It speaks volumes about the discordant times of today where violence is being stoked by people who should know better. Take care, Bill, and stay safe!

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on October 19, 2020:

What is becoming more evident by the day is the number of authors here concerned about the move of the niche sites to the Maven platform and the inability to comment. I guess time will tell if voicing our concerns makes any difference now that we are part of Maven and they don’t have comments on their other sites, but We were told they would find a way to reinstate them, so fingers crossed.

I’m glad your muse and mine are both working overtime, Bill. Keep it up. There’s no such thing as writing too much.

Rosina S Khan on October 19, 2020:

Today's mailbag was interesting and informative, as always. I learned something. And there is always something to learn. Thank you for the share. Keep the mailbags flowing. A Happy Monday to You, Bill

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