Advice from a Published Children’s Author: Sue Fliess

I’m very excited to introduce Hubber Sue Fliess, also known as AroundTownSue on HubPages.  Sue is a very successful published children’s author having published over 120 articles, with 6 published children’s books and another 8 under contract to come out in the next two years!  Her Tons of Trucks book has sold roughly 40,000 copies since its release in 2012 and her Robots, Robots Everywhere! book, released in August 2013, had a run of 50,000 copies and has already gone back to press!  She does school visits and speaking engagements at conferences as well as book signings at book stores.  Check out her Amazon page or your local book store for her available books! Without further ado, let’s dive into the treasure trove of information that Sue has to offer!

Briefly tell us about yourself.  

I’m a children’s book author of over a dozen books, Senior Copywriter for eBay and whenever I can be, a freelance writer. I live in the Bay Area of Northern California with my husband and two boys and our rescued English Lab, Teddy. My background is in public relations, marketing, and art. Oh, and I love to travel!

Becoming a published author is a goal for many of our Hubbers.  How did you get your start?

First, I’d like to emphasize that getting published should be among many goals, but not the only goal. I just read an excellent book on writing that, if you read only one book on writing this year, let it be this one: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Writing should give you joy whether you get published or not. I was fortunate enough to get published, but I will say that once I sold a book, an author friend pulled me aside and said, “Congratulations! Now remember, you’re only as good as your last book.” So hitting that publishing goal delivers new pressures. Be happy to create work you’re proud of, keep writing and improving your craft, and then if publication happens, you’ll likely be more satisfied with your accomplishment.

When I started out in 2005, I realized my only credential relevant to children’s book editors was that my first job as a publicist for a big publishing house. In an effort to gain more writing credentials for my manuscript submissions, I ventured into other types of writing. So I got a gig writing articles (my first published pieces) for an educational website while working on my children’s stories. I talked with librarians, joined SCBWI, started attending conferences, and formed a writing critique group. And as soon as I submitted one manuscript to publishing houses, I started working on the next one. I had roughly 6 stories out on submission at any given time. Then I finally got an offer from an editor for my first book, Shoes for Me!, illustrated by Mike Laughead. That story had been rejected 24 times. It only takes 1 yes.

Can you briefly describe your process when writing a book? What were your greatest challenges when you first started?  Are they the same today?

I usually get an idea for a book and think about it for a few days before writing anything down. Then if I’m still excited about it, sometimes I will look on Amazon to see if something very similar is already out there. If not, or my idea is different enough from what exists, I’ll start writing the story. Since I mostly write picture books, I just jump right in, no outline or anything. I try to give it a title, but not always. I work in spurts, so I may work on something madly for 3-4 days, then let it simmer, come back to it to polish it enough for my critique group to see, then work on it with their feedback in mind until it’s ready to show my agent. She may have editorial feedback too, and once I’m finished, she starts submitting it to editors.

It’s a challenge to manage all submissions, rejections, follow-ups on my own. I did it for a few years, and then was able to land an agent. I think agents are more open to taking on picture book authors than when I was starting out, so that’s good news. But many more houses are closed to un-agented, or unsolicited manuscripts, so if you can invest the time trying get an agent, I recommend it. Now that I have an agent, my biggest challenge is carving out time to write! But meeting with my crit group once a month is a big motivator. I don’t want to be the one who isn’t bringing anything to the group!

Publishing Information:  How did you find and attract your publisher? Do you recommend authors getting started with ebooks?  Did you go that route at first?  I know you have written a Hub on this; is there anything you would like to add/update?

I am still a firm believer in trying to get your work recognized by traditional publishers before self-publishing. All of my books, with the exception of my touch-and-move novelty trucks book, has an electronic version and the publisher takes care of making that happen. There is less of a stigma associated with self-publishing today, but it’s harder to stand out in that market, as anyone—quality writer or not—can self-publish. You have to fight more for credibility than you do if a publisher pays you to make a book. I am traditionally published and of course, now there is no reason for me to publish my stories on my own.

In re-reading my Hub on my publishing tips, the only thing I would change is that many more editors are accepting email submissions now – likely if you’ve met them at a conference. So the waiting time to hear back is often shorter, and you may not have to wait 3 months to ping them. Still respect their time, but following up is getting easier. Also, the editor I mention in my “Bonus tip” just bought a fairy manuscript from me last year – so I’m finally getting to work with her!

If you could give three pieces of advice for our authors that want to publish a book, what would they be?

  • Do your homework. Starting out in publishing is like starting out in any industry. Learn who the players are (editors, agents, other authors), attend conferences, take workshops, hone your craft. Don’t expect to meet an author and get an introduction to their editor or agent. It’s tacky.

  • Read as many books in the genre you are trying to break into as possible. Use your library! Check out a hundred books to see what they do right, why they got published.

  • Be patient. It took me about 3 years to get an offer, and that was actually surprisingly fast for this industry, so I feel very fortunate. Timing is everything, so don’t rush it. If you are meant to be published, it will happen at the exact time it’s meant to happen. If you are not meant to be published, there is a world of good that can still come from your writing – share it with others. Talk to kids about writing. Teach. Keep writing.

Thanks Sue, for giving us your time and expertise.  I hope our Hubbers have learned from it; I know that I have!

For more information on Sue:

Official Webpage

Facebook Author Page

twitter: @suefliess

And if that’s not enough, Sue also sings.  She has written and performed two writing parodies for buzz marketing! Check them out:

This Hub was Pinned by Jessica Alba

5693530_f520Happy Tuesday, friends! Today it is my pleasure congratulate Hubber Peggy W on receiving the first HubPages celebrity Pin on Pinterest. Last night her Hub, Crape-Myrtles in Southern Landscaping,  was Pinned by Jessica Alba on the Dream House board of her official Pinterest page! The image on the left is the one the famous actress chose to Pin.

While Peggy couldn’t have predicted Jessica’s fascination with beautiful southern Crape-Myrtles, we think her Hub is highly Pinnable thanks to her stunning original photos and the short descriptive text on her first image. This gem is certainly deserving of the star-studded interest it has received.

Here’s to many more celebrity Pins to come!

Mysterious & Miraculous: A Collaborative eBook Project by Hubbers

The most amazing Hubber-created collaborative project has recently come to my attention, and it is my great pleasure to share the details. So, what is the project, exactly? It’s called the Legacy Archives Foundation, and its members are dedicated to protecting and preserving accounts of real-life supernatural and unexplainable experiences. The main way the Foundation conserves such personal accounts of miraculous occurrences is by compiling and publishing a series of ebooks, the Mysterious & Miraculous series. The members of the Legacy Archives Foundation have kindly agreed to answer a few questions about their publishing experience and collaborative publishing process:

How did the project get started? Was it one person’s idea to start with, or did many people come up with it together?

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Hubber Angelia Phillips (femmeflashpoint) had a dream that she turned into a reality by gathering a handful of wordsmiths (mostly Hubbers) to write stories, including their own and those of others. This group is dedicated to the preservation and archiving of non-fiction stories related to personal experiences of phenomenal proportions. The goal is to preserve these stories so they would not be lost for the generations to come. In Autumn, 2013, the first collection was gathered and compiled by Angelia and Alastar Packer. Angelia soon discovered that a web full of editors would make the task more manageable, and those editors included Gail Sobotkin (Happyboomernurse), Vicki Warner (Vickiw), Maria Jordan (marcoujor) and Mike Friedman (mckbirdbks).

The group established the headline banner of Legacy Archives Foundation and those associated with the project became known as Legacy Scribes. A Legacy Seal was designed and a web site sprang to life to showcase the contributors and to offer a place to promote the book series. There is a strong affiliation of writers, both past and present, that wandered the halls of HubPages for many years. The core worker bees of the Legacy Archives Foundation currently contribute to HubPages, and Angelia Phillips spearheaded the entire project as founder of Legacy Archives Foundation.

Can you tell us a bit about your ebook publishing process?

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These stories were gathered far and wide. In some instances an interview was conducted and the story was pieced together from that collaboration. The stories were drawn from both experienced writers and from oral history. The process of an editing baton-passing procedure formed, and each story was ultimately reviewed by four editors. Both Mysterious & Miraculous Book I and Book II are formatted for Amazon Kindle. The Kindle format appears to be the front runner in the race to convert the written word to digital.

Angelia set the deadlines for story submission. We met our goal for minimum page length on both publications, encouraging writers to contribute to our next book, if timing was difficult this time around.  After much collaboration, patience and good humor, both publications were available in time for holiday gift giving.

Is it true that some of the proceeds of the book sales were donated to help homeless veterans?

Yes. It was voted to contribute 70% of the proceeds of Mysterious & Miraculous Book I to the K9s for Wounded Warriors Program/Rescue. This organization rescues dogs and partners them with Veterans suffering from PTSD.  In essence, the program aids both soldier and animal. We are all proud of supporting this group.  The remaining 30% of the proceeds go toward book printing and out-of-pocket costs to the Legacy Archives Foundation.

Proceeds from Mysterious & Miraculous Book II, are designated to go to the Support Homeless Veterans Organization.

I understand that Book III in the series is soon to be published. Will more be written after that?

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There are many more stories still to be gathered and prepared for Book III. Producing two books back to back has taken much time and energy, thus a rest is in order for all involved. That said, all will agree that there are numerous good causes to support. There is no limit to the number of upcoming books in the Mysterious & Miraculous series. Our only limitation is the enthusiastic willingness of many authors to contribute their stories, as balanced with the available hours in a day!

Core Members of the Legacy Archives Project:

Leader: Angelia Phillips (femmeflashpoint)

Producer: Mike Friedman (mckbirdbks)

Compiler: Alastar Packer

Editor: Gail Sobotkin (Happyboomernurse)

Editor: Maria Jordan (marcoujor)

Editor: Vicki Warner (Vickiw)

HubPages Contributing Authors to Book I:

  1. Gail Sobotkin (Happyboomernurse)
  2. Angelia Phillips (femmeflashpoint)
  3. Maria Jordan (marcoujor)
  4. Theresa Davis (Faith Reaper)
  5. Vicki Warner (Vickiw)
  6. Vincent Moore
  7. Alastar Packer
  8. Pamela Oglesby (Pamela99)

 

HubPages Contributing Authors to Book II:

  1. Martie Coetser (MartieCoetser)
  2. Pamela Oglesby (Pamela99)
  3. Genna East
  4. Mike Friedman (mckbirdbks)
  5. Shauna L. Bowling (bravewarrior)
  6. Linda Rogers (Minnetonka Twin)
  7. Laura Rogers (Healing Touch)
  8. Angelia Phillips (femmeflashpoint)
  9. Alastar Packer
  10. Denise Handlon
  11. Bill Holland (billybuc)

 

Mysterious & Miraculous Book I and Book II are both currently available for purchase.

Have you had an experience of your own? The Legacy Archives Foundation is currently soliciting non-fictional work about mysterious/inexplicable or inspirational/incomprehensible personal or family incidents. Please visit the Legacy Archives website if you would like to submit a story for consideration.

All photos courtesy of the Legacy Archives Foundation, used here with permission.

Here’s How howlermunkey Turned Diet Coke into a Jameis Winston Jersey

…With his earnings from a viral Hub on Diet Coke at McDonald’s!

I’m very excited to congratulate Hubber Jeffrey Boettner (howlermunkey) for creating the first viral Facebook hit of 2014! Starting on January 2nd, his Hub, Why does fountain Diet Coke taste better at McDonald’s?, has received over 800,000 views (and still climbing) from Facebook, as well as several thousand search views. So far, he’s earned over $2,000 and counting from just this Hub! Here are a few words from Jeff, who is still in shock after discovering his Hub’s explosion in popularity:

Where did you get the idea to write about Diet Coke at McDonald’s, and why do you think this particular Hub has become so popular?

I’ve always noticed a huge difference between the sodas at McDonalds and elsewhere, and apparently, so have my readers, which is the reason I believe this hub went viral. I touched upon a question that has been asked for years but not answered…. people suspected sodas at McDonalds were superior (and trust me if you drink soda like I do you notice the difference), but most people have no idea why. Many people think there is a secret contract between McDonalds and the Coca-Cola company.

What do you plan to do with your viral earnings?

First I’m buying a Jameis Winston jersey on eBay (!!Go Noles!!). Second, I plan to give a percentage of my earnings to my favorite cause, Coach Luma Mufleh and The Fugees Family. Most importantly I just want to give a very sincere thanks to HubPages for everything you do. You Rock in so many ways, and I’m very proud to say that I write for HubPages. Thank you so much.

For more on viral content, check out our previous Blog post.

You Won’t Believe how Brownie83 Is Paying for the Birth of Her First Child

…She earned $5,000 from one Hub in just 7 days!

Kelly’s Story:

Just a few days ago, Hubber Kelly Brown (Brownie83) took Facebook by storm with her viral Hub, 10 Things Nurses Don’t Want You to Know, breaking the HubPages record for the most viral Facebook Hub ever! Starting on December 12th, her Hub began to pick up steam, ultimately receiving  over 2 million views in the last 7 days. Though her Hub achieved most of its success through Facebook shares, she additionally received over 2,000 Pinterest views this week. From her week-long whirlwind of popularity, Kelly has earned over $5,000 and counting from just this one Hub! Here are her thoughts:

How does it feel to have one of your Hubs go viral?

I’m still in a state of shock in finding out that one of my hubs went viral. I started my amateur Hub writing last fall after completing graduate school, when I found myself with extensive free time due to my unwanted unemployment. I simply started Hub writing as an emotional outlet and a way to productively spend my time while searching for career opportunities. I never shared my Hubs on social media or even with my husband as I really didn’t think of it as a “big deal.” However, I have to say I’m kind of impressed at how much of a stir I’ve made so far with my viral Hub. I may have to consider refocusing my interests back to paper (HubPages) once again!

Were you aiming to go viral when you wrote this Hub, or did it take you by surprise?

Absolutely surprised! I wrote this Hub over a year ago and didn’t think much of it until I got your email that mentioned my Hub has become “quite a success.” Shortly after starting HubPages last year, I began my career as a Nurse Practitioner and have been so busy I haven’t had the free time to write further Hubs or even take notice when they’ve become popular.

What aspects of your Hub do you think had the most influence on its popularity?

I think everyone has been affected by the Healthcare industry in one way or another and that in itself stirs a lot of emotions. Life, death and life-changing events happen on a daily basis in the hospital and each person can tell you a different story, a different experience and a different opinion based on their point-of-view. I myself have been the patient, a nurse’s aid, a floor nurse, and now a Nurse Practitioner over the years. I understand the hierarchy that works within the hospital and I’ve seen when “the system” fails the patient. I feel strongly about patient advocacy and it was a large reason why I wrote the article in the first place; to give a quick look into nursing behind the white walls and piles of papers (or now electronic medical records).

I feel that my topic about pain control was also a big stir as I feel many people believe nursing care is black and white with defined rules and universal care from one nurse to the next. When in fact, it’s quite personalized and varies from one nurse to another and is a part of what makes nursing unique and even controversial at times.

Reading back on my Hub from last year, I notice things that I could add or maybe a different way of wording my thoughts to make it a better article. But overall, it’s the context that stirs the emotions, opinions, praises and criticism. It’s almost as if the reader’s comments alone have made their own Hub below mine, which I find the most interesting.

What do you plan to do with your viral earnings? Do you have anything special in mind?

I am currently 7 1/2 months pregnant with my first child, so my husband and I will be saving that money for our future hospital bill. Hopefully, we have some left over to put towards a trust fund for our daughter.

A Bit About Viral Content:

Creating a viral hit is incredibly challenging, and there’s a huge amount of luck involved, but Kelly’s story shows us that it’s possible. There’s no set formula that will guarantee a Hub to go viral. However, there are a few characteristics shared by most viral content, including Kelly’s. Here are a few reasons we think her Hub was such a huge success:

  • Kelly’s title intrigues you. It piques your curiosity. Admit it. You want to know what nurses are hiding from you. I sure did, so I read her Hub!

  • Kelly’s image is clickable. Her Hub’s first image (the one that shows up on Facebook Shares) is interesting and attention-grabbing. It makes you look twice and entices you to learn about the context.

  • Kelly’s Hub offers exclusive, insider knowledge. Most of us have depended on a nurse for care during some point in our lives, but Kelly offers us an insider’s look at the world of being a nurse, from her own experience. She gives us information most people would not have access to without reading her Hub.

  • Kelly’s Hub is positive and empowering. While giving us an insider look at nursing, Kelly stays positive. She doesn’t vilify or put down either patients or nurses. She makes it clear that quality of care is very important to most nurses while providing useful information to help patients get the most out of their health care experience.

  • Kelly’s Hub is sharable. Kelly does more than just make you curious enough to read her Hub with a clever title and interesting photo. She delivers with her content too. Her Hub provides new and interesting information that people want to be the first to share with their friends.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Controversial HubPages Issues but Were Afraid to Ask

When I was in Austin attending SXSW Interactive, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Marcy Goodfleisch for some coffee at Whole Foods flagship store, which I find to be one of the world’s closest equivalents to heaven.

Over some tasty tea and coffee Marcy asked a lot of really good questions on behalf of herself and Hubbers with whom she is acquainted. After we both acknowledged that it would be best if someone beyond just Marcy got our open, honest answers, we decided it would be best to compose a Q&A blog post featuring all the burning questions y’all have that we have yet to answer in a prominent manner.

We’re hoping this will be the first in a series and can help clear up your major questions and concerns. Enjoy!

Does Google penalize us for Hubs that aren’t Featured?

No. Hubs that are not Featured, though perhaps still known to Google, do not count against your online reputation with regard to Panda. It is as though they do not exist (though your friends and followers can still access them).

Many Hubs that are not Featured would be a liability to their owners should they continue to be Featured, simply because they may not be particularly high quality or because (even if they are of high quality) Google’s search algorithms, for some reason, decided they were not particularly important or useful and did not give them high rankings in search results (hence these Hubs saw very little traffic).

Do un-Featured Hubs lower our rankings within HubPages?

Featured status does not affect rankings, but both rankings and Featured status are a product of the quality of one’s Hubs.

‘Rankings’ on HubPages (whether or not your Hub is featured prominently on a Topic page or on others’ Hubs) are influenced by Hubber Score and HubScore.

Your Hubber Score is a product of:

  • The collective quality of your Hubs (as shown through HubScore, which factors in human and algorithmic ratings received through the Quality Assessment Process)
  • Your activity within the HubPages community (i.e. whether you regularly publish, provide high quality Questions and Answers, leave insightful comments on Hubs, and help other Hubbers in the Forums)

Should you have many Hubs that are not Featured because they get particularly low quality ratings, your Hubber Score and HubScores might be lower, and in this case, it does mean that your rankings will be a bit lackluster.

That said, if you write high quality Hubs that get high quality scores, and many of them happen to not be Featured, your rankings on HubPages should not be negatively affected.

What does it take to get Hubs automatically approved without going through QAP? Why are some Hubbers given this benefit?

All Hubs by all Hubbers go through the QAP. Sometimes the process is faster than other times. It depends on the time of day and our present load of Hubs to process.

How important is the HubScore (the number related to each Hub), and what, if anything, is it used for?

HubScore is a general reflection of a Hub’s success and quality (this includes human quality ratings as collected during the Quality Assessment Process). We do not recommend paying that much attention to it. Think of HubScore and Hubber Score as a rough reference point and a means of gauging the experience of other Hubbers.

How significant is Hubber Score? Can you share the factors that go into it?

Hubber Score is basically an average of your collective HubScore with a few additional behaviors (like your activity on the site) factored in.

Things factored into a Hub’s HubScore include:

  • Human ratings collected as part of the Quality Assessment Process
  • The amount of traffic your Hub receives, including traffic from HubPages as well as other outside sources
  • The length of your Hub
  • The uniqueness of the content within your Hub (copied content typically scores lower than more unique content)
  • The number of comments
  • Your overall Hubber Score

Things factored into Hubber Score include:

  • Your collective HubScores
  • Whether or not you have signed in recently
  • Whether or not you are active in the community (by regularly publishing Hubs, commenting on others’ Hubs, asking and answering good Questions, and posting to the Forums)

Does Google care about HubScores or Hubber Scores?

Google does not care about Hubber Scores or HubScores, but it does care about quality, and HubScores and Hubber Scores are a reflection of that.

What’s more, HubScores and Hubber Scores affect a Hub’s placement within our internal link structure in ways that Google is liable to notice, so while these scores are not something Google explicitly ‘reads’, they are tied to factors that matter to Google’s search algorithms.

What is the best recommendation for dealing with Hubs that have are no longer Featured?

It depends.

Seasonal Hubs that have not had traffic in the off season often just need to be updated (though if you have a particularly high Hubber Score, your seasonal Hubs may remain Featured for up to a year, meaning that even if they get very little traffic during the off season, they may still not lose their Featured status- more about that in another blog post).

Poor quality Hubs that otherwise offer great resources need to be fixed up (improve grammar, formatting, substance, organization, and media).

Hubs that are of high quality that do not get any traffic may need a different title or spin so that they address an aspect of their particular subject that is not already flooded with competition. With proper competitive research and adjustment, these Hubs can definitely be redeemed.

Hubs made ‘just for fun’ that were never really meant to act as useful or particularly detailed and informative online resources might just be left alone. If you want them to enjoy more prominence, they might find a more appropriate home on a personal blog or a platform more oriented toward that type of content.

If keywords are no longer reliable, what do you recommend we do to make a Hub competitive in search engines?

The Google AdWords Keyword Tool no longer shows accurate figures, so what we recommend is using it only to get a rough idea of the terminology people use when conducting queries on specific subjects.

We created a Learning Center entry detailing the new title creation process we recommend, which involves:

  1. Creating short, descriptive titles that mirror a likely search term
  2. Running competitive research on that likely search term to make sure you can beat the competition (check to make sure there are not a bunch of product or place results and that the top results are not flooded with results from popular, trusted brands or already-very-good pages and articles)
  3. Making sure you are genuinely passionate and knowledgeable about the subject at hand. If you are just creating a Hub because you think it will drive traffic, but do not know much about the subject or have much interest in it, stop.

What has HubPages learned from the Panda and Penguin experiences?

Quality matters. Passion matters. Thin articles designed to drive traffic and clicks don’t cut it anymore.

To make it now, you have to be even more patient, passionate, and knowledgeable than before. Ultimately, this is a good thing. True experts and enthusiasts win!

What does HubPages have in mind for the future?

Our journey to provide the best platform for creating content online continues. Our plans and projects revolve around making it easier for Hubbers to earn more, get larger audiences, build a stronger online brand, and become even more savvy as online content creators.

What is being done to rid the site of very old, very bad content?

The first thing we did with the Quality Assessment Process was address new Hubs that are being published, to ensure that, going forward, we are on the right track. All we did with already-published Hubs was remove Hubs from Google’s index that got next to no traffic, as it was quite clear that Google did not see them as worthy of getting much traffic (hence it was a quick way for us to hide Hubs that might be acting as a liability to their authors).

We are presently working through our backlog of older content with the Quality Assessment Process. This takes time and money, so the going is slow. We are being careful to ensure that what we see as high quality reflects what Google apparently sees as high quality. We are also making an effort to target and remove from Google’s index our lowest quality, old content first.

Why would HubPages or Hubbers want high-quality Hubs that aren’t getting much traffic to not be Featured?

We actually do want very high quality Hubs to be featured more or less indefinitely, even if they have low traffic. In fact, Hubs that get top ratings are permanently Featured (it is just very rare for a Hub to get a perfect ten on our rating scale).

The problem is that it is difficult for us to be confident that a Hub is superb, because for cost reasons we stop collecting rating on Hubs as soon as we’ve decided that they are “good enough”. To mitigate this problem, we are looking into ways in which we can permanently feature more high quality Hubs.

Nevertheless, even though we clearly see those Hubs as being of high quality, Google’s search algorithms, for some reason or another, have decided they do not deserve much prominence in search results (therefore they get little search traffic). Perhaps it is because they cover a topic that has already been exhausted online (e.g. getting rid of belly fat, making apple pie, etc.), or perhaps there is something else about the Hub that Google determines to be of low quality that we currently do not factor into our Quality Assessment Process.

If a Hub is not particularly exceptional, and if it is not getting a lot of search traffic, we therefore figure it would be safer to not have it count towards a Hubber’s reputation as determined by Google’s search algorithms.

The current topics on HubPages seem a bit out-of-date; is there any plan to update them?

Christy Kirwan is updating and expanding the HubPages Topic Pages right now (and has been for several weeks). We welcome new suggestions!

Does it help drive traffic in any way to have Topics associated with Hubs? What use are they?

Organizing a Hub within a leaf-level Topic Page increases its odds of being Featured on that Topic Page’s front page, so we recommend publishing Hubs within very specific leaf-level pages and on new Topic Pages (many of which are featured in the Weekly Topic Inspiration Program).

How can I be a better Hubber? How can I help the site?

Keep publishing high-quality Hubs on subjects about which you are particularly passionate and knowledgeable.
Focus on quality, not quantity
Hop and rate Hubs through the Hub Hopper
Point people toward official HubPages resources (the FAQ and Learning Center) when they have questions

This Isn’t Over!

We hope to publish more posts like this in which we set the record straight about anything you might be wondering about as we further refine and develop the new-and-improved HubPages. Should you have any particular questions that ought to be answered in a blog post like this, please send me an email.

Big thanks to Marcy Goodfleisch for sharing these questions with me and inspiring this post!

Wayseeker’s Words of Wisdom on Images

While most Hubbers who create custom images for their Hubs find one style and format and stick with it, one can find an incredible variety of imagery in Hubs by wayseeker. From specially-edited photos and hand-drawn illustrations to purely digital graphics, a very wide assortment of carefully created eye candy appears on this Hubber’s work.

Because wayseeker puts to much thought into the images he creates and uses, we asked him to share some of his reasoning and advice with the community at large. Read on, and be inspired.

For how long have you been sketching and creating art? Is this a regular activity of yours?

I have always loved to make thoughtful visual creations through drawing, painting, sculpting, and all manner of crafts since I was very young. I have some minor training (art classes in high school), but it’s mostly just a history of dabbling in creative crafts. While I do a little of it here and there every year, I simply don’t have time to do it on a regular basis.

When did you first create an image for a Hub (or include an existing sketch in a new Hub you made), and why did you do it?

While I have been including personal photos since the beginning, my first real “art” work would have been the images I included in the first Hub of the Day I wrote, “The Art of Constructive Criticism.” While still technically digital photographs, these images were heavily edited and digitally manipulated with a specific focus on the content of the Hub.

Mostly I added them because the content was too abstract for traditional pictures to add any real value to the piece. As I thought through what I was writing, I decided it would be fun to “play” with some of the ideas and create silly images–images that resembled, to some extent, the way I carry myself when I actually teach these concepts to my students. It took some time, but it was great fun and they were well received.

My first actual art piece came with the cross I drew to include with my piece on Christianity, which also involved a lot of digital manipulation though it did start with a basic pencil drawing. From there, I’ve done a large number of different things.

What tools do you use to create and then convert your art into digital images?

While I use all kinds of things to create art, for the most part the work I have done on HubPages has been done with either a simple ink pen or water color pencils (colored pencils that move and blend like water color paints when water is applied to them). The ink pen drawings are primarily simple cartoons with stick people. The colored pencil drawings are often taken from real life by first taking a photograph, then transferring the figures in the photograph by placing the picture up on a window and hand tracing the images onto a fresh piece of paper, and finally using those figures as a base for the drawing and painting process.

Once it’s finished, I simply take a digital picture of it in high light, use iPhoto to touch them up a bit, and then load them up. It takes more time (sometimes a lot more time) to develop original images that way, but the result is much more personal.

In addition to putting physically drawn sketches into Hubs, I’ve seen you use images that have been digitally created. What do you use to create those images?

The primary tool I use in creating digital images is a fancy, though free, paint program for Mac called “GIMP,” available at gimp.org. This, combined with a simple digital camera, iPhoto, and the occasional use of the effects found on Mac’s Photo Booth, is where my digital image creation takes place. Once you start to let your imagination wander through the possibilities, it’s amazing how easy—though sometimes time consuming—it can be to realize what you see in your head with the flexibility of modern digital image tools.

As an afterthought, I forgot that I also make pretty heavy use of Microsoft Word 2011. They have some very fun shape tools that allow you to create a wide variety of shapes and then manipulate their shadows, coloration, and 3D effects. I use this mostly for what I call “banner” artwork to create artistic titles to introduce various segments of of my Hubs. These can be cut and pasted into Gimp and used to great effect.

How do you decide between including photos, sketches, or digitally created images in Hubs?

This question is a bit tricky simply because it depends so heavily on the topic of the Hub itself. Generally, I come ups with the images for my Hubs after they have been written. I’m thinking about it all along, but the final ideas don’t solidify until the writing is locked in. I then have to think about what kind of images would be of value to the reader.

Now that you have me thinking about it, I could say that they fall into three categories: informational, thought provoking, and entertaining. In many cases, the images I use cross over from one category to another, but they generally flow out of one of these uses.

Informational images are those like the ones found in most recipe Hubs, mine included, where the image demonstrates how something is done. Another example might be from my Hub on Theme in Literature where I used a pic to show the reader the a basic plot map.

Thought provoking images are like those I often use in my more creative works like my Hub “Five Love Poems About Family,” though I also use them in more informational work like my Hub on parenting by building relationship. In each case, the image is designed to somehow reflect something that is discussed or mentioned in the writing, either making it more visually concrete and experiential for the reader or somehow extending it into another area the reader may not have initially thought about. I like the challenge of making this kind of image.

Entertaining images are like those I have used on my piano Hub about Robert Schumann’s “Carnavale” or the relatively “silly” drawings I’ve used in my essay Hubs and Socratic Seminar Hubs. These are used in places where pictures are not really necessary to what the words are trying to communicate, but they add a fun edge to the experience, hopefully helping the reader to stay engaged by giving them a few more things to do than simply reading text.

Do you think that the images that you create by hand have an edge over photos in any cases?

I don’t think this is necessarily always the case, depending on the topic of the Hub, but I don’t think it’s at all unusual for original photos and artwork to be an advantage. The core of modern writing is still the written word, but effective images are absolutely essential in the world of the internet. By creating your own images, you are able to customize them to reflect specific elements of your writing in ways that stock images simply can’t manage.

I think they also create a sense of warmth and unique personality that is hard to capture in an online experience through writing alone. It has been an honor for me to have four of my Hubs selected as Hub of the Day Hubs over the past year and a half, and I am absolutely certain that part of the reason for that in each of those cases was the original images—some drawn and some digital—that were a part of each of them. I think the artwork contributed to a unique experience within each Hub, so that certainly counts as an advantage.

I have seen many Hubbers do this through great “traditional” artwork as well as really effective original photography. Either way, I think it creates a more welcoming place for readers to spend time, which is what everyone is looking for as a writer.

What advice would you give to those who have yet tried creating their own images for Hubs?

First, I would encourage them to be adventurous in they way they think about images in their Hubs. Instead of just tacking on a pic related to what you happen to be talking about, think about how something could be added visually that extends, deepens, or somehow entertains the reader. Just like we have to move into the reader’s frame of mind as writers when we are composing words, it is equally important to think about the reader’s overall experience of the page including all of the visuals.

As for artistic skill, even if you are not an artist or great photographer, there’s a great deal you can do with today’s computers and manipulating images. On top of that, with digital cameras, you can easily take 100s of photos to get just 1 that’s good at no real cost—this has been a life saver for me.

Many of my original drawings are, literally, stick people. You can look up cartoon expressions online and get a host of easy to draw “smiley face” expressions that are simple to re-create. These simple drawings have received more positive feedback from readers than anything else I’ve created. People appreciate the thought that goes into them as much as the artistic “quality” itself.

Just try it, and soon you’ll find your own unique way of creating, which is exactly the point.

Mark Ewbie & The Surprising Effectiveness of Stick Figures

If I were to ask a random Hubber to name another Hubber who is known for original illustrations, chances are Mark Ewbie‘s name would pop up. This prolific Hubber is famous for his signature stick figure style (and entertaining humor), hence it is only a matter of course that we would ask for his advice on the creating custom graphics for Hubs.

Amidst his insights and advice, you might be surprised to find that this award-winning Hubber didn’t actually start doodling until he joined HubPages two years ago. Once again, we are reminded that you can embark on new artistic endeavors at any time.

Have you always doodled and sketched things?

I certainly drew stuff as a child but never had that ability of real artists to make something come alive on a page. So I gave up, thinking that if I couldn’t draw a realistic human face or a cat there was no point.

I started doodling again when I joined HubPages. Now I feel that I have missed out if a day goes by without drawing something. It is something I enjoy which I had never previously felt a need to do.

Am I an artist with years of experience? Absolutely not. Ask me again in twenty years.

Have you always created illustrations for your work?

If by ‘work’ you mean the variable quality nonsense I have produced for HubPages then the answer is yes. I realised early on that everyone said “You must have pictures” and so it began.

At first I did simple pictures to occupy some space between the text and give my pages a less wordy feel. They were a very minor element because I thought my writing was far more important and hey, I can’t draw!

Now my ‘illustrations’ are a key aspect of what I do and often the main purpose for the article. Frequently the words are breaking up the pictures – rather than the other way around.

How did your practice of creating custom images for articles come about?

When I first joined HubPages, I realised with horror that I needed a profile pic. No way! I’m not saying I am not attractive, in some lights and wearing a floppy hat I’m quite passable. The occasional lady has… well anyway.

So I drew a rough face with stick legs and used that.

What surprised me was that not a single soul on HP said how rubbish it was. In fact, one or two, two actually… or maybe one now I think about it… said they liked it. “Cute” was the compliment.

This came as some surprise.

I tentatively tried a few more and the feedback was favourable. Now, there is no stopping me!

How did you develop your signature style?

Having decided on the name Mark Ewbie I regularly practiced a signature to go with it. Oh I see. I love this question because it makes me sound proper arty.

This artistic ability stretches as far as stick figures which I pass off as minimalist representations. The truth is they are my limit – although as I practice and learn they get slightly better.

My aim is to represent an idea well enough for others to see it. It is surprising how a few lines, especially with a helpful caption such as “this is a cat”, can illustrate just about anything.

As for ‘style’. If you asked ten people to draw a stickman you would probably get ten different results. I’m fairly content with the way mine look, black lines, and yeah, maybe they have some style.

Why is it that you have decided to create images for your work rather than use photos? Do you think it gives it an edge?

My original reasoning was that it was easier than looking for a picture that fitted and then making sure it was correctly used in copyright terms.

Now I am happy with what I do and reasonably confident I can create whatever I want – within my limits of course. I find it relaxing, enjoyable and fun – and I am building a collection of pictures for every occasion!

As for edge. I believe that a unique hand drawn stick figure stands out among the hundreds of perfect photograph pictures when a potential visitor scrolling through pages on the net.

What do you use to create your images and convert them into a digital format?

I use felt tip pens on good quality A4 printer paper and scan them into my computer. Open the file with Paint, add captions and my name, tidy up any obvious smudges. More technical people might use an iPad or some tablet drawing device but I like the immediacy and ‘realness’ of pen on paper. In my opinion any imperfections say this is a personal drawing, not just a generic computer graphic.

One thing I notice sometimes with other people’s rather good doodles is that they don’t bother much with the ink or the paper quality. They do a neat picture, but it is in biro on lined paper or similar. I take this seriously. Although my art isn’t wonderful, I put care and attention into the ink and paper I use.

These images appear in Google images alongside thousands of others. A casual viewer might just click through to the source. It’s worth putting a little effort in.
I also sign everything. If a picture ends up somewhere else on the net – my name gives a possible search route to my work.

Many Hubbers don’t create their own images for Hubs (or other online articles, books, cards… you name it) simply because they don’t know where to start. What first step would you recommend to get people off to a good start?

A stiff drink. It takes nerve to publish your writing or self-created images. I’m not sure which one – writing or drawing – is a more daunting step. To put yourself out there and say “Hey world – what do you think of this?”

More seriously, I think anyone should try it. As adults, we forget so many things that used to give us pleasure. The first step is to get a pen, paper and see if you enjoy the process. Without enjoyment, and not everyone wants to draw, there is no point.

If the act of creating the drawing gives you satisfaction then that, in my opinion, is reason enough to carry on.

Oh, and good luck to you!

There’s a little more I have to say. Early praise and encouragement from fellow Hubbers gave me the belief to continue with my scribbles. I really am grateful.

THANK YOU!

I want to mention one person.

Shadesbreath showed me the way with his beautiful illustrations and writing. When I first read his pages I realised the possibilities. He has since moved on to book writing, and I’m still drawing stickmen – but I’m on his tail….

Hubbing with Pets

NettlemereAlthough we wound down our Hubbing space series earlier this week, we couldn’t help but post this latest photo sent in by Nettlemere. It reveals so much of what we love about Hubbers and their approaches to the Hubbing process!

Explains Nettlemere:

It is the product of an untidy mind, poor housekeeping skills, and an indication that I could be the laziest Hubber ever since – yes – that is my bed I Hub from. I moved my bed downstairs so that my elderly dog Nettle didn’t have to sleep alone once he couldn’t manage stairs anymore (that was five years ago! Nettle is still going strong). Some days I have to squish in between 3 dogs to write a Hub – it just depends where they have decided to crash out. But I wouldn’t be without their company when I write or without their gentle reminders that there is a world out there which wants to be walked in. The piles of slide boxes shout at one of my other enthusiasms – photography – which is an essential feature of my Hubs too. I’m in the process of scanning then all into my computer, but incapable of tackling the task logically or linearly.

The things Nettlemere shares in her Hubbing space photo represent several approaches shared across the HubPages community:

  1. A love of pets: Though her explanation, we discover the Nettlemere gets her HubPages username from her dog’s name. We’ve seen that many Hubbers are inspired by their canine companions and like to write Hubs in the company of their beloved pets. We love it!
  2. A habit of Hubbing in bed: Nettlemere isn’t alone in enjoying Hubbing from bed- I do the same thing, and bet many of us do. Hubbing makes for a great leisure activity, and we love that many Hubbers turn to our platform and community to wind down and explore a fresh, creative corner of their lives.
  3. A pinch of great creativity: That Nettlemere is slowly scanning her photos into digital formats into Hubs is excellent. It also reminds me that nearly every Hubber incorporates some sort of creative element into his or her Hubs, be it in the form of original sketches, great photos taken throughout one’s life, cool camera phone pictures, or beautiful graphs and diagrams.

Isn’t it fun to see how the things we share in common show up in the lives of others? Thanks for sharing your Hubbing space with us, Nettlemere. 🙂

The World is Your Hubbing Space

Jill KostowI used to think that most people wrote Hubs in formal home offices, sitting in normal chairs in front of normal tables and surrounded by normal notes and books. I was wrong. If the Hubbing space series has taught me anything, it is that Hubbing takes place in all kinds of interesting places- from boats to bike paths to… kitchens! This is the case with JillKostow, who shared her cool Hubbing space with me last night. Here’s her description:

My Hubbing space is located in my busy kitchen right next to the refrigerator. I write most of my first drafts on notebook paper and then type it into the computer later when I am cooking or keeping one of my children company while they have a snack. This location also works best for me because I am able to hear my children while they are playing in the parlor or upstairs in their bedrooms. Hubbin’ Ain’t Easy most of the time with four children and our hectic schedules, but somehow I manage to find time for my writing and with luck it all falls into place!

It’s true that we don’t always have the luxury to sit down in a traditional office / writing spot, and I think it’s brilliant that so many Hubbers have found ways to write great Hubs despite very busy and active lifestyles.

SkeetyD

As we bring the Hubbing Space series to a close, I’d like to share an image from one more Hubber: SkeetyD. This new mother and writer has the following to say about what might at first seem like a surprising Hubbing space:

This is my primary hubbing space. I usually start my Hubs on my blackberry. Typing out things that inspire me or random thoughts since I spend a lot of time of the road commuting.

SkeetyD is not alone in Hubbing on the go, as we’ve seen from many other Hubbers who have shared their awesome photos with us over the past two weeks.

What I love about SkeetyD’s photo is that it reminds us all that Hubbing is less about a physical space and more about a state of mind. We’ve found that true Hubbers are always Hubbing, whether they’re researching furniture, taking photos on vacation, riding a bike, or writing up drafts on one’s phone while commuting, as SkeetyD does (and as I do as well).

So long as you have a phone, camera, notepad, or even a good memory to record your thoughts and ideas, the world is your Hubbing space- and with the ability to share and earn from your passions and expertise online, we say the world is your oyster, too!

Big thanks to everyone who shared their awesome Hubbing spaces with us. You can find an album of all of the Hubbing Spaces sent directly to HubPages in the Hubbing Spaces Facebook album and on Google+.