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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #340

Winter Blues

I wrote this recently on my blog, “Artistry With Words.” I thought I would share it with you this week. Please keep in mind, as you read this, that I am a creative writer.

It’s called “Winter Blues:”

The evergreens, sixty feet in the distance, are gray in color, embraced by the low clouds. Their limbs constantly weep. No breaks in the clouds can be seen, a smooth carpet of pewter overhead. It is nearly impossible to say where they end and the landscape begins - disconcerting, depth-perception malfunction, messing with my feng shui.

The gray seeps into my writing studio, layers upon my head, seeps inside, cloaks me with melancholy, a blanket of somberness, making it difficult to summon uplifting thoughts.

I’m drowning in the drabness of a Northwest winter.

A high of forty-five, low of thirty-five, set the selector for repeat, and repeat, Shannon on the local news telling us a series of systems await offshore, all aimed towards us, ten days into the future, a future of soaked clothes, soaked shoes, soaked psyches and soaked dogs.

And winter ain’t even upon us yet! Heaven help us all!

Turn on the news, COVID twenty-four seven, another blanket of gray upon the mood, trying to remember what shaking hands feels like, what hugging feels like, what discussing anything without the filtered masks of protection feels like. Twenty-twenty, you are no longer welcome, thanks for the visit, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Neighbor across the street, Joel, house-husband and new father, wheels his son, Fritz, I swear to God the kid’s name is Fritz, outside in the stroller, both bundled against Nature’s wrath, and off they go down the street. Anna, eighty-something and frail, pushes her recycling bin out to the curb, raingear clutched, her walk so much slower than when I first met her. Alana, from down the block, walks her poodle by, sees me in the window, waves, shakes her head, throws up her hands to the sky, in supplication, a statement without words.

Life goes on, through the storms, through the pandemics, day-to-day stuff, terribly unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but crucial to our grasp of sanity, one foot in front of the other, always moving forward, doing what we need to do to simply survive one more day, waiting for Shannon to greet us one night, nightly news, and tell us brighter days are ahead, the storms have ceased, the sun will shine.

My wish, for all of you, is a day of sunshine! Blessings to you all this holiday season!

More about that blog post at the end of this article, but now it’s time for the Mailbag.

The Mail Room!

The Mail Room!

Best Ways to Market a New Book

From Franz: “I am blown away by the number of ways one can market a self-published book. In fact, I’m overloaded by them all. Where do I start? How do I start? It seems like promoting the book will take longer than actually writing it. Advice would be welcomed!”

Franz, I’m not trying to be difficult when I say I don’t know where to begin in giving you advice. You are absolutely correct, it’s all very overwhelming and time-consuming, and it seems like each week brings another social media site which we simply must join to be one of the “In Crowd.”

I’m going to start with a little negativity: if your goal is to make money from your self-published book, you are in for a seriously-tough battle. It might be easier to catch lightning in a bottle. It’s not impossible, but you really have to be standing in the right place at the precise time a bolt of lightning comes down from the heavens.

With that in mind, my advice is to do what you can do. Schedule a certain amount of time each day for marketing, and stick with that schedule. Choose the social media platforms you are most comfortable with, and design a marketing campaign for those sites. Consider, also, other guerilla marketing approaches, ones which will not be uber-costly and may still deliver a little bang for your buck.

And then pray! A lot! Because after you do all of that, you still may not make decent money from the sales of your book.

What is the best way to market a self-published book?

What is the best way to market a self-published book?

Social Media Approach

From Peter: “I’m considering promoting myself, as a writer, through social media. Which is the best platform to do so, in your opinion?”

Scroll to Continue

Peter, the best social media platform is the one which works for you.

I spend quite a bit of time checking out highly-successful social media sites. It’s curiosity more than anything else, at least for me. I’m curious why some sites are wildly popular/viral, and others languish in obscurity. And I’m not sure I’ve come to any conclusions. There are a couple YouTube channels I watch a lot of, and they constantly get tens-of-thousands of hits to their videos, one about small farming in Vermont, one about face-lifting a 1900 farmhouse in South Carolina, and I think their popularity stems, mostly, from the personalities of the people doing the videos. I mean, the subject matter is okay, but there can’t be tens-of-thousands of people fascinated with refurbishing a farmhouse, can there? Or farming in Vermont?

Lots of people making lots of money on TikTok. Lots of people making lots of money on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, but marketing hasn’t changed that much over the years. You need to offer a product which people may or may not need, and you must do it in such a way which convinces them that they want it.

That’s the best I can do for you. My friend Heidi will weigh in later in the comment section, and her advice is gold. Listen to her and take my advice with a grain of salt. Time constraints demand that you pick a couple social media sites, concentrate on them, hit them hard with unique content, and pray for the best.

Tips for Jump-Starting Your Creativity

From Angela: “Yes, I have writer’s block. Any tips? I seem to be stuck in the mud of bland thoughts.”

Perhaps, Angela, it’s just a sign of the times in 2020. I have quite a few bland days this year.

One tip to try, among the many you will read about if you do any research: play word-association! You know the game. Someone says a word, and you say the first word, associated/related to that original word, that pops into your mind.

Call up a friend and play a rousing game of word association. I love this game and it is the basis for a lot of free-form writing I do. Try it! It really does work.

A writing prompt, nothing more, a story waiting to be told.

A writing prompt, nothing more, a story waiting to be told.

A Note About the Blog Post

I’m a creative writer. Oftentimes I will write about sadness, or a piece oozing with melancholy like the blog post I shared with you, but that does not mean I am sad. I’m just working on my craft.

I’m actually not a person who spends much time being sad or depressed . . . been there, done that, and damned near drank myself to death. Today I use those sad chapters of my life as inspiration for my writing, just a small part of a greater life, a life which, today, is happy and content. If I write about sad things, it’s just me practicing my craft. Don’t read much into it.

Have a great week, Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays to you all!

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 01, 2021:

Mary, you are never late to the Mailbag. Thanks for making it here, and good luck with that writing schedule. Happy New Year, my friend.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 31, 2020:

I am late coming here, but I'm glad I to be here and read this. I have the same problem with writing, but more and more, I realize that when you do a schedule, you give the things you want to do time, and you do it. Your suggestion here before of sticking to a schedule, Bill, is beneficial. I do it with things I need to do. Now, I have to do it with my writing.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 27, 2020:

That is very kind of you, Devika! Thank you! May 2021 be filled with your best writing to date. Happy New Year!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 27, 2020:

Hi Bill you are a great writer and sharing your experiences here has shown me your talent and kindness you share from the heart.

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

It is the reality today, Bill, and I find that sad. Even if you could find a publisher, they would still have you marketing your own book. How's that for sucky?

Merry Christmas, my friend!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on December 22, 2020:

Excelłent mailbag, Bill. You definitely have a way with words, hopefully in 2021 the world will discover Bill Holland, ace novelist. As far as writing and marketing it seems they now go hand in hand. One of the comments mentioned spending more time marketing than actually writing and that seems to be the reality today.

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 22, 2020:

Yes indeed, Flourish. I think we have definitely learned things about ourselves and each other this year. Hopefully the lessons we learned will be put to good use in 2021.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 22, 2020:

I'm a writer, Manatita, and a fiction writer at that. Very little of my creative writing is a reflection of how I feel. I think most writers understand that, but yet many read a piece and think the writer is in distress. lol

Merry Christmas, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 22, 2020:

Brenda, thank you for the kind words about my writing. I really appreciate the positive feedback.

As for 2020, I think we are all ready to say goodbye to it. 2021 has to be an improvement, right????

Merry Christmas, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 22, 2020:

Thank you Denise! It's common for a creative writer to have followers think a story is personal. My God, I would be a real mess if my stories were about me. lol

Blessings and Happy Holidays to you, friend!


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 22, 2020:

I won't delete it, Becky! It's your truth and I'm very sorry you are living it. I hope the coming weeks and months bring you comfort and a quick recovery. Happy Holidays, Becky, and Merry Christmas!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 22, 2020:

Thank you very much, Chitrangada Sharan! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you, my friend.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 22, 2020:

Angela might consider some writing prompts to get her jumpstarted.

Your blog post probably registered with a lot of people on some level, although I'm glad you were stretching your imagination in writing it. I'm thankful for the sunshine and warmer temperatures here, but 2020 has still made me depressed. This pandemic has revealed so much about human vulnerabilities-- poor behavioral choices, how people differentially process their news and define suffering, and the relative value placed on the individual vs. the collective.

manatita44 from london on December 22, 2020:


I love that addition at the end. Humans do think we're down when writing sad stuff. I tell them I'm only expressing the varying moods of the soul --the human condition, that's all.

It may or may not apply to me at all. It may be designed to reflect current life in general, or to cloak wisdom in a subtle way. Thanks for the mail and Pax Vorbiscum

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on December 21, 2020:


I pray the next 10 days is not a soaker. I would like the new year to start out on a bright note.

Thanks for sharing your blog. Your craft of writing is beautiful.

I like how you say that if you are trying to get rich from self publishing...guess that won't happen.

We all have dreams...maybe one of us will be under that bolt of lightening.

Take care & have a very Merry Christmas!

Let's bid farewell to 2020...I'm so ready.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 21, 2020:

I always find that when I stop thinking about myself and start thinking about how I can bless others, even in a small way, that my mood is lifted, my outlook more cheery, and somehow my problems seem smaller. When we concentrate on our own problems they start to look like mountains we will never climb. In reality, they are small next to someone else's trials. I don't find your blog overly sad, Bill. I think everyone longs for light.



Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on December 21, 2020:

I didn't find your blog so sad. I don't write about my problems any more. I find they are so depressing that it makes people cry. I had surgery last Fri. to remove a tumor. It turns out it is the aggressive type and they had to take a muscle out too. My vehicles are both broke, and just sit in my driveway. I bought parts, but no one seems to find time to put them on. I got stranded, 100 miles away from home, at the hospital yesterday, and when I finally got home at 8pm, had to put up with someone complaining that he never got a day off, for 3 hours. And then he told me it was all my fault. I am broke because I have been helping him so much. I have decided that I just won't have anything to do with anyone any more. Let them all sink on their own. Only one person has asked me about how I am doing.

The rest are so self centered that I can't stand it any more. I really miss my husband. He would have protected me from them. I look at our political situation and see the same thing. I look at the covid situation and see people whining because they have to stay home. I'm sorry, I should just delete this, so it doesn't depress everyone more. Go ahead and do that. I do not mind.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 21, 2020:

Hello Bill!

Beautiful piece of writing in your blog post.

All useful information in the questions and answers as well.

Wishing you and your family Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Thank you for sharing another wonderful mailbag.

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

I've found the same to be true, DW! I usually promote a book once on Facebook and then give up. lol I'm not much of a promoter, I'm afraid, so I don't like giving advice about marketing. I don't follow my own advice.

Merry Christmas to you and yours in NC.

DW Davis from Eastern NC on December 21, 2020:


Great Hub. I very much understand the feelings expressed in the creative piece you opened with.

I've found that most FB groups, Twitter, and other social media efforts seem to wind up being authors promoting their work to other authors who are trying to sell their work. I'm not certain I've gained any great amount of sales through these venues.

I keep trying though.

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

I'm glad to hear that, Mary! It's a fun way to learn the language, or just to have some fun.

I hope this finds you well in sunny Brazil. Merry Christmas to you!

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

Ruby, good morning! Feng Shui refers to harmony between individuals and their environment. Thank of it as inner peace no matter what you are.

No snow here; none on the horizon, either, but tons of rain. Welcome to Olympia!

Merry Christmas, my friend. It's always good to hear from you.

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

Heidi, thanks so much for adding to the discussion about self-publishing. I knew you would fill in the blanks for me. I shouldn't even bother to answer those questions; I'll just refer the people to you for a much better answer than I can give. lol

Merry Christmas, my friend. I hope the weather is tropical and your health is wonderful.

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

Sha, you just reminded me, and I apologize, but thank you for the lovely Christmas card. That was so sweet of you. You really are a wonderful friend and I cherish you.

Merry Christmas, dear lady. Maggie and Toby say howdy from Olympia.

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

Thanks so much, Pamela, and Happy Shortest Day of the Year to you. I love this day, knowing that sunlight will increase from now on. Just a little bit of hope is all it takes for me.

Merry Christmas, Pamela! Stay safe!

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

Alyssa, how lucky are you, to have a clever and quick-witted boy. Kudos to you as his mother. You did something right along the path of parenthood.

Funny, but sad and depressing is much easier for me, too. You wouldn't know that to be true talking to me, but it certainly is.

Merry Christmas young lady!

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

That is fantastic news, John! Any name exposure is good name exposure. Congratulations! Let's hope it materializes into more writing and more money for you.

Merry Christmas, John, and thank you!

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

I miss the hugs, Peg! I know exactly what you are talking about. I would rather hug someone than shake hands, neither of which are possible now. Sigh!

Merry Christmas, my friend!

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

Thanks for stopping by, Rosina! I hope you have Happy Holidays. Stay safe!

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

Always promise and hope, Linda. I can't imagine living life without hope.

My goodness it's wet out there today. I am not looking forward to our noon walk.

Merry Christmas dear friend!

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

Thank you for the kind words, Peggy! It helps that I have experienced depression before; it give me tools to draw upon when writing. And thankfully I don't worry about depression any longer.

May you have a brilliantly-happy and Merry Christmas, my friend.

Mary Wickison from USA on December 21, 2020:

Hi Bill,

Looks like I made it in time to comment this week.

I love the video about word association. I am helping a woman with her English and this will be useful.

Have a great week. Merry Christmas to you and Bev.

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

Thanks so much, Ann! Unsettling times, these, especially when the government can't seem to settle on a decisive path. We know very well what that is like here in the States. Thankfully, for us, our individual state governors can dictate policy as well, and we live in a very good state for that.

This second strain of the virus is scary. Let's hope the vaccines are effective against it.

Be well my friend, and Merry Christmas to you. Love to you and yours.


Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 21, 2020:

Bill, I laughed out loud at the way you described the neighbors baby's name" Fritz " I love it when you write your feelings about the neighbors. I must ask what does feng shui mean? I agree wholeheartedly about the evening news. I find myself saying, " Come on, tell me something good. " The sun is shinning brightly here, but snow is in the forecast. Who cares? Our town is practically shut down. Oh woe is me! Have a wonderful and happy Christmas.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on December 21, 2020:

G'morning! I consider it a gift I'm in the Mailbag on Monday morning, and before HP moves it to the network site. (But looks like they're going to work on the comments issue in 2021. Yay!)

Re: Best Ways to Market a New Book. I could go on for hours on this one. Way too much to discuss in the confines of the Mailbag. But I'll give the overview.

You're absolutely correct in that it takes time and tenacity to build an audience on social media or an email list. That is really the only way to build sales unless you are willing to spend gobs of cash to make that happen. As I mentioned in my recent "Are You an Author or Authorpreneur?" post, authorpreneurs--those that are in it to make money--can spend tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sales. In that post, I featured one who spent $39K to make $86K. But that was just his ad spend. We don't know what his overhead business expenses were. But we'll take him at his return on ad spend which was $47K. That's a decent gross income from his multiple (I estimated about a dozen) books. But he'll have to continue that ad spend for as long as he wants to create that income because he appeared to not be doing a lot on social. It's not a one and done affair, regardless of whether you choose the social media or advertising route. That's what really bothers most self published authors. And Franz correctly noted, "promoting the book will take longer than actually writing it."

As you note, I also don't think people give enough credence to the element of luck, or "right place at the right time." That's also something that self published authors don't wish to hear. They'll have to get good at identifying opportunities in addition to writing.

Re: Social Media Approach. I kind of answered this in the previous segment. But I'll sum it up by agreeing with your assessment that you need to pick a few social sites where you can build a following, and then build it! I would suggest doing 2 or 3 simply because these sites can have disruptive changes, or could completely become irrelevant in a short period of time. This is the "don't put all your eggs in one basket" advice.

But the bigger question is promote yourself as a writer for what? The reading public? So businesses can hire you for blogging or copywriting? A specific niche audience? That will determine what social channels should be used, or if social media would work for you at all. In some cases, it may just waste your time.

Well, like I said, I could go on for hours on this. But in the interest of it being a holiday week, I'll stop there.