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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #362

More Song Lyrics

A writer is a writer is a writer. It makes no difference what genre we are talking about. Quality can be found in all genres of writing by all ages and genders. Today I want to share another song lyric with you, and in so doing point out the genius of the writing.

From Simon & Garfunkel, their song “My Little Town,” a 1975 hit. Here are the lyrics which have always touched my heart:

“In my little town, I never meant nothin',

I was just my father's son. mmm.

Savin' my money, dreamin' of glory,

Twitchin' like a finger on the trigger of a gun.”

Absolutely beautiful lyrics! In thirty words, Paul Simon perfectly captured what it feels like to be a teenager, eager to be an adult, eager to step out on your own, the energy bubbling up inside of you. There is frustration in that last line, anticipation, excitement, impatience, and perhaps a little bit of fear as the future rapidly approaches.

“Twitchin like a finger on the trigger of a gun” . . . that’s what writing is all about, for me, attempting to capture the absolutely perfect words at the absolutely perfect time.

Let’s get to the mail, shall we?

The Mail Room!

The Mail Room!

Book Pricing

From Pamela: “I wondered if you ever had a question as to how to price your books. I recently started reading a historical series of book because the first one was .99 cents. I liked the book so the next one was $6.99 and the 3rd is $8.99 and so forth. I thought this might be a helpful topic for your mailbag.”

I don’t think we’ve ever had that question before. We should have, Pamela, so thank you.

This from the NY Times Editors:

“This is why book pricing is both an art and a science. Don’t you hate when people say that? But in this case, it’s not just a cliche. There’s no set formula for pricing your book. In the end, it boils down to positioning, but also other contributing factors include your experience as an author, your ability to tap into the emotions of your prospective readers, and market demand for your subject matter.”

The bottom line, Pamela, is this: pricing is a personal and a business decision. The average sale of a self-published book, over a self-published author’s lifetime, is approximately 250 copies. In other words, most of us will never get rich in the self-publishing game. I try to price low, not because I think I’m a terrible writer, but because I want to say thank you to those who are spending their money on my works. That is a personal decision, and for me a good one, but it’s a horrible business decision. Six months worth of work, over three-hundred pages, for $5.99 is not a good pricing strategy, but it works for me.

And all of you will have to decide what works for you! The pricing strategy you mentioned is a good one, Pamela, and it works for that author. Me, I’m a bit more unconventional.


From Mary: “Have you considered doing a writing course on Udemy?”

For those of you who are not familiar with Udemy, this brief description from their website:

“By connecting students all over the world to the best instructors, Udemy is helping individuals reach their goals and pursue their dreams.”

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As for Mary’s question, no! I have not considered taking a course on Udemy, and I have not considered teaching a course on Udemy. I have nothing against the site. I’ve actually heard good things about it. But I have too many other interests, and a rapidly-declining number of years to accomplish some goals, so taking on another challenge just isn’t going to happen for this old man.

Last week's photo prompt

Last week's photo prompt

The Picture Prompt

A couple weeks ago I issued a picture prompt challenge. Here are more of the results I received.

From John: I rested my head on my mother’s shoulder to try to offer some comfort. She didn’t smile anymore. It seemed so long since she had. My baby brother slept a least when he wasn’t crying.

I am grateful for the canvas shelter that protects us from the sun and rain, but I’m hungry. Mom says we have to stretch what little we have and make it last.

At least father will be back soon. He left three or four weeks back to look for work on the railroad. He said not to fret, when he returns he’ll have money, food and presents for us all. He will be back soon.. tomorrow I think..or the next day.

From Kari: Hard Times

She sighed as she sat down next to the hanging wash. Rocking slightly to sooth little Sheila, she thought about her bed. She was tired of the never-ending chores, tired of feeding and caring for the little ones, and most of all tired of wondering when George would return.

Her son leaned against her, holding the rough-hewn wash pole in the crook of his other arm. Little George was tired too, she thought. Tired of being the man in the family at the tender age of 6.

"When would George get home," she wondered again. The thought had been eating a hole in her nerves for the past week. And all her fear kept falling through that hole, paralyzing her.

She decided she would go to town tomorrow. Go into town and see if there was any word of George there. Her fear became a waterfalling through that hole. He had to be alright! He had to be!

From Sha: Funny how your perceptions change.

In looking at this old photo of Ma, my baby brother, and me, I see pain and worry furrowing her brow.

Yet, my memories of our life back then are warm with love. Ma always made everything okay. We were loved, never really went hungry, and always felt safe.

Ma was our rock.

But looking in those eyes now, I see she was so much more.

Another Photo Prompt

Just for the fun of it, yes? Here’s another photo for you to play with. Give me your best creative paragraph with this photo as the inspiration. Try to do it in one paragraph!

Find inspiration in the photo

Find inspiration in the photo

Song Lyrics

I was working on a short story yesterday. I wrote one sentence, moved on to the next, and the next, and ten minutes later returned to that first sentence. I knew I could do a better job on it, so I spent the next half-hour just working on that one sentence. It felt important to do so, for two reasons: it is beneath me to be satisfied with sub-par writing, and it is an insult, to my way of thinking, to offer second-best to my friends who follow me regularly.

I’m not talking about anyone else when I say that; I’m simply telling you all how important the written word is to me. Writing is a sacred undertaking for me. It has been extremely important during my lifetime. I have had a fascination with the written word for as long as I can remember. Today, I am a writer. I may not be a Hawthorne or a Michener or a Hemingway, but I will never stop trying to be the absolute best Bill Holland I can be.

I will publish that short story on HP this week. I hope you like it.

If you have a question for the Mailbag, include it in the comment section below, or email it to me at

Thanks so much for joining me each Monday. I hope your week is filled with happiness and love. I truly believe that if we give love, love will return.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2021:

Mr. Happy, I can always count on you for an honest opinion. Thanks for your thoughts on the trigger issue. It has been overused, for sure. And yes, searching for the missing piece is the perfect analogy for a writer when stuck in the mud. Perfect indeed!

Have a brilliant day, my friend.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on May 26, 2021:

"I wrote one sentence, moved on to the next, and the next, and ten minutes later returned to that first sentence." - I do know how that feels, haha!! That's the fun in writing though. It's like when You build a puzzle and You are searching for that one little piece for like an hour. It happens: sometimes You're cruzin' through, sometimes You're stuck in the mud.

Not to be a party pooper but that: "Twitchin' like a finger on the trigger of a gun" doesn't do a whole lot for me. I understand You like the "trigger on the gun thing" but I have never shot a gun, never even thought about shooting someone (I am more of a knife person lol) and on top of which, I have seen too many movies with a character holding a gun, hand shaking and blablabla ... it's over-used in my opinion.

How about give what You can for a book price? I have seen a restaurant work like that and it stuck in my mind.

Alrighty, off to read your short story. Cheers!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

That's my goal, Devika! Carry on, my friend, and thank you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 26, 2021:

Mary, I hope you will email me. I don't want you discouraged. You love writing and you need to write.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 25, 2021:

billybuc I enjoyed reading this post and a great start to another week. You find a way to let us know about what matters most. Great hub!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 25, 2021:

Thanks for the message, Bill. To be the best of what one can be. I have abandoned writing for weeks now as i get easily discouraged but Your message in this hub is just what I need. Just keep working on it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 25, 2021:

That is amazing! I don't think I've ever read a book that quickly. She puts me to shame. :)

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 25, 2021:

Thank you Bill.

Her birthday is July 15th. She will be 81.

But I might give them to her early.

She amazes me though...she will read a book from beginning to end in one day.

I'll get the link next week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 25, 2021:

Thank you Linda! Any fan of Simon & Garfunkel is a friend of mine. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 25, 2021:

Me too, Bill! Never listened to an entire audio book. Bev loves them, and occasionally I'll hear bits and pieces of some book she is listening to, but no way can I "read" a book with my ears. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 25, 2021:

Thank you Peggy! We have a lending library in our neighborhood as well. It's a pretty cool idea, really, and I love it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 25, 2021:

Thank you Alyssa! I remember where I was when The Boxer came out on the radio. Incredible song!

Happy last week of May to you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 25, 2021:

Brenda, thank you! I am a very grateful man. In many ways, I think I have lived a blessed life, despite some struggles.

I included my link to my books in the upcoming Mailbag. Thanks for asking for it. I hope your mother enjoys one of my books. I would recommend "Resurrecting Tobias" for general audience appeal.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 25, 2021:

Denise, Bravo to you! That is fantastic news about winning the art show. Congratulations! I know how proud you must be, but I also understand about not being totally satisfied with your work. I'm there every single time I write something.

I'll answer your question on Monday. Thanks a bunch, and blessings to you always.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 24, 2021:

Your writing and the writing by the contributors to the article was interesting and enjoyable to read. I’m glad you started with a quote from Simon & Garfunkel. I enjoy their music.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on May 24, 2021:

I was always a big fan of Simon and Garfunkel, amazing lyrics. Can you believe that I have never listened to an audio book? I just have always preferred to have a book in my hands. Loved the responses to the picture prompt. Have a great week, Bill.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 24, 2021:

One thing we can count on every Monday is a post from you. I enjoy reading all of them. The pricing of books is an interesting topic. I love reading new books but also love picking second-hand ones up from library sales. We even have a free lending library in our subdivision.

Alyssa from Ohio on May 24, 2021:

Simon and Garfunkel, amazing artists and story-tellers. My favorite is The Boxer.

Another fascinating edition of the mailbag!

I hope you have a wonderful week!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 24, 2021:


I love your introduction today with the Simon & Garfunkel song.

You are so right about writing.

One can say so much in just a few words.

I like the answer you give to Pamela regarding how to price a book.

You seem to be a grateful man who passes on the value of life.

Please send me a link for your books.

My mother loves to read & I'd like to purchase a couple to see if she enjoys them.

Sadly, I only read on my phone.

I might try your photo challenge after bit, but right now I have a few flowers to plant outside.

It's heating up, so I can't doddle.

Thanks for reminding us to give our best. I admit that I sometimes rush and my words are not their best.

Yet other venues like submitting a piece...I make certain it is polished.

Have a great day.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on May 24, 2021:

As always, you find just the right words to paint pictures in my mind that both connect and share emotion. I love your writing, even when it is just a mailbag full of questions you answer. If only I could write like that. I know what you mean by pouring over one sentence. I do that with art. I will look at it and work it and go over one spot until it is really glowing. Less than that would just be a travesty. It is hard to stop. There is such a thing as overworking art (or writing) but I somehow feel where the right effect has been reached. Do you have that same trouble with writing? Where to stop? When is it edited enough? I recently entered an art show and got 1st place with one of my collages. I'm so honored that three judges chose my work over so many others that were equally good. Even so, I saw things I thought I would have worked a little better but it was a good place to stop.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Of course you can, EK! There are no rules here in the Mail Room. I look forward to your offering. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thank you again, Misbah!

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 24, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I hope you are doing well. I liked the responces to the picture prompt. I wanted to write something about the picture, but unfortunately, I couldn't.

The picture prompt of today is a bit challenging for me. Can I write something about the old man in the picture?

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on May 24, 2021:

Glad to be a reason behind your smile, Sir. Keep Smiling

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Heidi, I bow in your direction. You are extremely early this week, but I always appreciate your visits no matter when they happen.

Of course you teach on Udemy. Why wouldn't you? You are the guru of writing and marketing and publishing. It is expected of you.

Happy last week of May, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Mary yes, as a matter of fact, several ended up writing. I don't know what level of success they have had, but I do know a couple have followed that path. It makes me smile thinking about that.

Nayanjyoti Mirdha on May 24, 2021:

Welcome Sir.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thank you Nayanjyoti! Blessings to you always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thank you Misbah! You make me smile, and that is a gift, so thank you for today's gift.

Blessings always, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thanks for your thoughts, John! I just don't worry too much about sales volume. I want my followers to be able to afford my books; thus the low pricing.

Happy May to you, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thank you, Amara, and God bless you as well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thank you, Pamela. I don't see anything wrong with charging $.99 for a book. I don't see anything wrong with charging $9.99. The bottom line: it's the author's choice and decision, and the author has to be happy with the results.

Have a great week, Pamela. I'm very old school too, and proud of it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thank you Mel! I don't know that I've always like Simon as a person, but he's a genius when it comes to lyrics. I could have chosen any of 100 such songs to use as an illustration. And Diamond? One of my favorites as well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

I hope I don't disappoint you, Gyanendra! I haven't written a short story in awhile. I might be a bit rusty.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thank you Chitrangada Sharan. I'll settle for "refreshing" any old day. I appreciate it. Have a wonderful last week of May.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thank you Rosina! Sometimes short is best. :) Happy Monday to you as well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Bobbi, I am honored. Thank you for your kind words. Have fun in Hicksville. While you are away, I'm going to work on enjoying the seconds on earth. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thank you, Linda! You are far from blundering, but I love your humility.

Stay dry and have a great last full week of May.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on May 24, 2021:

Happy Mailbag Monday! It's Monday. I'm in the Mailbag before noon on the date it published. Woohoo!

Re: Book Pricing. Yes, it's art, but a lot of science. If anyone's interested, I dig into all the formulas and such in my HP post "Self Publishing Tips: How to Price Your Book or eBook."

Re: Udemy. I teach 4 courses on Udemy on self publishing and public speaking. My most popular is How to Self Publish an Audio Book. Love the platform. So if you ever do decide to do an online course, I can highly recommend Udemy. Just don't expect to become a millionaire off of it.

Well, I'm feelin' pretty proud of myself for getting this done on time this week. Hope you're doing okay. Have a great week!

Nayanjyoti Mirdha on May 24, 2021:

Informative content.Keep writing

Mary Wickison from USA on May 24, 2021:

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your answer to my question.

I now better appreciate lyrics than I did when I was singing along to the car radio years ago. It amazes me that young people can express themselves on such a deep emotional level.

Did any of your students pursue a career in writing?

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on May 24, 2021:

Hi, Mr. Bill

Short but nice mailbag. I enjoyed reading it as always. Yes, so true, if we give love, love will return. loved the song lyrics from the 1970s. Happy Whit Monday, Sir. Take care. Stay safe and happy

Blessings and Peace

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on May 24, 2021:

Nice Mailbag as always, Bill. I have always loved Paul Simon’s song writing. Yes, book pricing is certainly a difficult one and yours are more than reasonable. For me postage generally costs more than the books if from the US. I loved the other responses to your picture prompt. Have a good week.

Amara from Pakistan on May 24, 2021:

Hi Bill

It was a nice read..

God bless you..

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 24, 2021:

The way you feel about writing is reflected in all your produce. I love the song lyrics from the 1970s too. I am very old school on my music choices.

I appreciate the answer to my question.I was really thinking about someone who never wrote before by only asking $.99 for their first book. It got my hooked on a series that may have never occurred otherwise. I think you should probably charge more for your books at this point in time, but I am only one voice.

I liked the new responses to your picture prompt. I never know ahead what I am going to accomplish as it depends on time. Take care, Bill, and have a great week, my friend.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on May 24, 2021:

Nothing but the dead and dying down in my little town. Yep, Paul Simon is a brilliant poet, like a lot of the other Jewish songwriting kids raised on the mean streets of Brooklyn, such as his contemporary Neil Diamond. I have loved Simon's words since I saw him play "Something So Right" on Saturday Night Live, back in the late 70s.

You're kind of like the Paul Simon of HP, you've carved your niche here with your cadre of loyal fans of the mailbag. Another fun one.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on May 24, 2021:


I'm eagerly waiting to read, learn and enjoy your short story.

Thank you very.much.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 24, 2021:

Happy Monday Bill!

A refreshing mailbag with beautiful thoughts, suggestions, song lyrics, photo prompts paragraphs by fellow writers, and of course questions-answers.

Thank you for sharing and wish you happy week.

Rosina S Khan on May 24, 2021:

Useful and informative article, as always although it is short. Loved the questions and answers as well. Wish you a Happy Monday and a good start to the week, Bill.

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on May 24, 2021:


I enjoyed this mailbag today. Don't worry about the years ticking away, it is the seconds on earth to enjoy with happiness of the love you share with your love ones.

Sorry, if I sounded preaching--you are my favorite male writer on HubPages. You have a mailbag full of fans.

I have to go now to check on my sister and her husband in another town, The town that I call--'Hicksville, Florida.


Bobbi Purvis

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 24, 2021:

A short Mailbag today Bill, but as always you managed to fill in the empty spaces with things to ponder. Every Monday I find encouragement from you to blunder on and create something worthwhile. Thank you my friend and I hope you have a wonderful week.

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