author interview, indie publishing, publishing, Rayne Hall, Storm Dancer, The Word-loss Diet, Twitter for Writers, Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes, Writing about Villains, Writing Fight Scenes
You may have met Rayne Hall on Twitter, her preferred medium. She has literally written the book on the best ways to use Twitter – it’s called “Twitter for Writers” and is part of her celebrated Writer’s Craft series.
I met her almost a year ago, when I first started using Twitter. After tweeting with her for a couple of months and pestering her for advice and help – which she was always happy to provide – I began to grasp the most basic tenant of her philosophy, and what’s possibly a one-line summary of her book: “just be real.” Readers of this blog have read many of my posts urging you to stop promoting and start engaging, so it is only fitting that you now find out where this advice originally came from.
But Rayne has done much more for me. Her book “The Word-loss Diet,” the result of a number of editing courses she has taught, has become my writing Bible, helping me improve my writing in more ways than I can count. And her “Writing Fight Scenes” has shaped the descriptions of fights in my epic fantasy series, Pearseus. When a reviewer said that my battles left her breathless and were the best part of my books, I knew whom to thank.
What prompted this interview, however, is her latest book in the Writer’s Craft series, “Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes”. I have been self-publishing for a year now, and wish I had read this book when I first started. It’s crammed with no-nonsense, practical advice distilled into a few pages. I thought I’d learnt a thing or two in the trade, but I kept slapping my forehead every other chapter going, “of course! Why didn’t I think of that??”
From how to design a cover for maximum effect to how to promote on social media, blogs and websites, Rayne has the answer to pretty much every question Indie authors ask. In that sense, this is not so much a book as the best FAQ I’ve read on the subject. Well worth every penny, whether you are a new author looking to self-publish, or an old hack trying to make sense of an ever-shifting landscape.
After reading it, I had to share with you. However, I thought I’d also contact Rayne so I could introduce her to you, and she has kindly agreed to answer my questions.
Hi Rayne, it’s great to have you here. Let’s start with the usual question. What inspired you to write this book?
Many authors who loved my Writer’s Craft books asked my advice on marketing. Their question often was “Why does my book not sell? How can I get more exposure? I’m doing everything to promote it – where am I going wrong? ”
With my background – I’m a trained publishing manager with thirty years in the publishing industry and more than fifty books published (both traditionally and indie) – I could see where many authors were going wrong. To my surprise, it was always the same mistakes that stopped a good book from getting the success it deserved, and I decided to help.
So, that’s your latest work. How about the first one? What was the first thing you ever wrote?
The first piece I remember writing was a story about a letter’s adventures from writing to delivery. This came about when I was about six and bored by the stories we had to read in school.
I told the teacher that the stories in the school book were stupid and I could write better ones. She challenged me to write a story, and gave me the topic. When I handed it in, she was startled that a six-year-old could write so well. Of course, she didn’t know I’d had the help of my older sister.
From then on, when the other kids had to read the dull pieces for their homework, she often assigned me to write stories, and I soon learnt to do it without my sister’s help.
I wish I could thank Fräulein Rieger for launching my writing career – but I can’t find her anywhere on the Internet. She probably changed her name when she married and is long retired.
Thank God for the Riegers in our life! My Fräulein Rieger was a highschool teacher – and I ended up marrying his niece! Talk about a small world… What are you working on at the moment? Tell us a little about your current projects.
I’m always working on several projects at once. At the moment, I’m writing another epic fantasy novel, several short stories (horror and steampunk, mostly) and the next book in the Writer’s Craft series, Writing Vivid Settings.
As someone who occasionally struggles with my settings, I’m so buying that… Which are your favorite authors and what do you love about them?
I like Edgar Allan Poe (psychological horror), Jane Austen (superb characterisation), Amelia Edwards (a Victorian writer who penned atmospheric ghost stories), Tanith Lee (dark, with fluid boundaries between good and evil), Dave Duncan (exciting epic fantasy), Gene Wolfe (intelligent fantasy novels which can be enjoyed at different levels), Charlotte Bronte (intense passion created through understatement), Marion Zimmer Bradley (the reader experiences different cultures through individuals who live there), Lisa Gardner (nail-biting suspense), Stephen King (horror escalating from ordinary situations), and many more. I’m a rapid reader and devour several hundred books every year.
That’s a lot of classic names. Are you an Indie author, or a hybrid one?
You can call me a hybrid author, since my first twenty or so books were traditionally published, but I’ve gone full indie.
What are the things in your life that you’re most grateful for?
I enjoy having a garden where I can sit in the sun, enjoy flowers, grow my own fruit and vegetables, and share outdoor breakfast with friends.
I’m also grateful for my little black cat, Sulu, whom I adopted from the cat shelter a few months ago. He’s the sweetest cat you can imagine – affectionate, independent, clever, gentle. He’s grateful to have found a home and to be loved for the first time in his life, and he shows it. He radiates happiness, and this warms my heart.
When I write, Sulu joins me on the desk, snuggling into my arms with his front paws around my right wrist, his hind paws around my left, and his head in the crook of my elbow, and he purrs contentedly. That’s so sweet!
I, too, write with a cat on my lap. Sure it’s sweet, but he keeps nudging me for cuddles. That’s why I have to proofread everything a dozen times! Back to you, you have also ran a number of courses. Any upcoming ones?
I’m still teaching online courses, although not as many as before, because I want more time for writing. Actually, one of my classes is about to start – Writing Scary Scenes, a one-month online class. In 2015, I’ll teach several one-month courses.
Believe me, I’ll be registering for all of them. In fact, I just registered for the Scary Scenes one ($10/$20, depending on whether you’re a member of HHRW or not). Aaanyway, you have created one of the most memorable villains in Storm Dancer – and, indeed, have written the book on “Writing about Villains”. What do you think of the post-modern preference for a more grey morality, namely villains with a soft side, or ones that are victims of circumstances themselves?
All-evil, invulnerable villains are predictable. Villains with vulnerabilities, good qualities and grey morality are far more interesting, believable and dangerous. The best villains don’t see themselves as evil; rather, they see themselves as misunderstood heroes.
I couldn’t agree more. You are a particularly vocal supporter of Indie authors. My personal feeling is that everyone will gradually follow a hybrid model. What are your thoughts on the future of publishing?
I’ll try some predictions.
- Indie publishing will be the norm. Most authors will go indie, and most books will be indie published.
- The ‘traditional’ publishing system, the way it was in the 20th century, will continue to exist, but will focus on celebrity authors – a handful of bestsellers and a lot of books by television personalities, sports stars and such.
- More and more ‘traditional’ publishers will turn to ‘vanity’ publishing, earning money not by selling books but by exploiting gullible writers who crave validation. This is already happening on a large scale, and I expect it to become worse.
- Some small presses will continue to publish quality books, each specialising in a particular genre. They will be greatly respected but not make much money.
- Book subscription models – of the kind we see with KindleUnlimited and Scribd – will cover an increasing share of the market.
- The market will be deluged by a mass of indie-published books. Most of them will not be as good as their authors think.
- In the absence of gatekeepers (agents, editors, booksellers) who decide what’s good, readers will have the freedom to pick the books they like. This increased freedom also gives them increased responsibility. Readers will learn to see quickly what is a good book and what isn’t. For this, they will rely mostly on the ‘look inside’ and ‘download sample’ features offered by online retailers. Regular readers will become adept at scanning blurbs and opening paragraphs and discard quickly what doesn’t please them.
- Many readers will feel overwhelmed by the vast choice of books on offer, and will look for guidance. Quality book review blogs – impartial, unbiased, genuine, genre-specific will provide this service. Readers will find a reviewer who shares their tastes, and buy the books this reviewer recommends. The best reviewers will become hugely influential.
- Many people who currently work in the traditional publishing system will go freelance and offer their skills, market knowledge and services to indie authors. This means editors will seek to be hired by authors, instead of authors by editors. Former agents will offer consultancy services.
- Without middlemen, readers and authors will interact more, and the relationship will be productive, personal and rewarding.
Those are fascinating, I’ll share them in a separate post in the future. Thank you!
Who is Rayne Hall?
Rayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. She is the author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft series and editor of the Ten Tales anthologies.
Having lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England where she enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore. She shares her home with a black cat adopted from the cat shelter. His name is Sulu and he’s the perfect cat for a writer – except when he claims ownership of her keyboard.