Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Author: An Interview with Rayne Hall

Today I have an excerpt of a recent interview with award-winning Author Rayne Hall. She is a Fantasy and Horror Fiction author, editor of the Ten Tales series of themed short stories and the teacher in the 'Writing Workshops with Rayne Hall' classes.

Author Genre: Fantasy and Horror Fiction

Author Description: Rayne Hall writes fantasy and horror fiction. She is the author of thirty books in different genres and under different pen names, published by twelve publishers in six countries, translated into several languages. Her short stories have been published in magazines, e-zines and anthologies.

After living in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has settled in a small Victorian seaside town in southern England. Rayne holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing.

Over three decades, she has worked in the publishing industry as a trainee, investigative journalist, feature writer, magazine editor, production editor, page designer, concept editor for non-fiction book series, anthology editor, editorial consultant and more.

Outside publishing, she worked as a museum guide, apple picker, tarot reader, adult education teacher, trade fair hostess, translator and belly dancer.

Currently, Rayne Hall writes subtle horror and outrageous fantasy fiction and tries to regain the rights to her out-of-print books so she can republish them as e-books.

Rayne teaches short online classes for writers. Topics include Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing Short Stories, Creating Great Villains, Tightening your Writing Style, and more. Caution: not suitable for beginners or the faint of heart!

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Tell us what is next on your drawing board? Do you have more than one writing project going on and do you use any type of software to keep track of where you’re at?

I always have several writing projects bubbling on the burner. Right now, I'm preparing Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies for publication, and several other anthologies for the Ten Tales series are already under way. Two of my works-in-progress are set in the Middle Eastern fantasy world of my dark epic novel Storm Dancer. Flame Bearer is a novel and The Colour of Dishonour is a collection of short stories. I'm also working on new projects for my series of books for writers to add to Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes. At any given time, I have about three hundred short stories in progress, mostly horror.

How big of a role does social media ( over 22K twitter followers) play in your marketing? Do you do any traditional marketing like book signings and personal appearances?

In the past, I've done physical book signings, personal appearances and such, but these days I focus on ebooks, so I meet my readers online.

My social network of choice is Twitter @raynehall which I use not just as a marketing tool but for engaging with my peers (other writers) and my readers. I share #writetip tweets, thought-provoking quotes, interesting websites and writing inspiration. Of course, I also announce news about my books, e.g. when a book is available free or hits a bestseller list.

I don't do Facebook; I'm too busy writing. I don't keep a blog either, but I do a lot of guest blogging. Many bloggers invite me, because my guest blogs are quality articles which give value to the readers, not promo dumps.

We have had several authors from the UK in the Author’s Spotlight. Does living there present any special or unique problems in marketing and publishing? What percentages of your readers are in the US vs. the UK?

Ebook publishing is international, and many readers who have previously been only exposed to their country's form of English are startled to see different words and spellings. Some American readers think that British English is wrong; they write reviews complaining that my books are “filled with errors” (referring to words like colour, travelling, enquiry, jewellery, and to grammatical differences such as which vs that), and some who are aware of the difference demand that I “should learn American before publishing a book”.

I don't think that I - or other international authors - should change the way we write just to please this ignorant (or arrogant) minority.

If someone seriously dislikes British English, they don't need to read my books. I put “British English” in the book description, masthead and introduction.

Another challenge is that Amazon discriminates against international authors on several levels, but the details would exceed the scope of this interview.

I find it exciting that ebooks allow readers and writers from all over the world to connect. This creates a constant flow of international ideas, exchanges of perspectives and glimpses into different cultures.

Regarding the percentage of readers in the UK vs the US: I don't know, because not all distributors provide this information. Based on information from Kobo and Amazon, I estimate that just over 5% of my readers are in the UK, but it fluctuates from month to month. My books also sell in Canada, Germany, and other countries.

An interesting phenomenon is that certain books are more popular in some countries than in others. For example, Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires is more popular in the US and Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts in the UK.

Following along the same lines, explain to us the process you go through to launch one of your books.

Let's look at one of the Ten Tales books. These are anthologies (books containing stories by several authors) in the fantasy and horror genres.

First I create the concept. For example, the series includes Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts and Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, so an anthology of zombie stories was a natural complement. When developing my vision for the project, I explore what the topic means to me (i.e. what fascinates me about zombies), what readers want (why do people buy and read zombie stories), what books are already in the market and how will mine differ. I set the parameters for the topic. In this case, I decided to interpret “zombie” in the wider sense, including not just bite-infected flesh-eaters but reanimated corpses and people who chose the undead state for reasons of their own.

Accordingly, I opted for the title “Undead” and kept the word “Zombie” in the subtitle: Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies.

Then I invite authors to submit new work, consider previously published pieces, select the first stories, commission an artist to paint the illustration for the cover. This is the most exciting phase when the idea seed germinates and grows into a plant.

Next, I write the introduction, correspond with the authors, clarify the rights to previously published pieces, work with writers to improve their yarns. At this stage, the challenge is to balance the content. The hallmark of the Ten Tales books is variety. I want ten stories with different plots, concepts, tone and writing style, and characters of different ages, ethnicities and physical abilities. Selecting the first stories is easy; the difficulty lies in filling the final slots with stories which are of the same high quality, but different from the ones I've already chosen.

I design the cover digitally using the commissioned illustration, send out the contracts, decide on the order of the stories, compile the About the Contributors section and the novel excerpts in the endmatter, write the masthead and table of contents, and assemble the manuscript.

The non-creative nitty-gritty comes next: formatting, proofreading, getting outside proofreaders, correcting errors, formatting. With anthologies, where ten authors using ten different ways to indicate scene breaks and separate paragraphs, standardising the formats can be a tedious task. During this time, I also plan the marketing strategy and set up promotional events, such as the Cover Reveal and Author Interviews.

I work on several projects simultaneously. While I'm formatting Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies, I'm already working with authors and illustrators on several other Ten Tales books.

Read About Rayne Hall

You wear a lot of hats: author, editor, teacher and publisher. Which one do you enjoy the most? Does moving from one activity to the other give you some breathing room?

I enjoy them all. Combining them gives me variety and at the same time, it keeps me focused because they overlap. I feel that all the qualifications, skills and experiences I've gathered throughout my life are coming together. It does create time management challenges, though. Sometimes I'm itching to design a new book cover when I ought to format an ebook, or to select horror stories for the next anthology when I ought to compile the author bios for the current one.

How rewarding is it working with multiple authors in your short story projects?

Working with multiple authors is exciting. For each Ten Tales anthology, I choose writers with different styles and different approaches to story-telling to give every book ten distinct flavours. It's thrilling to see how differently the authors interpret the theme. There's an exciting buzz when several authors are involved, each of them keen not only to make their own story as good as they can, but linking up with one another and striving to make the whole book a success.

The Ten Tales books contain stories by established writers as well as fresh voices, and I mix previously published and new work. I'm picky: I take only the best. Some authors are a pleasure to work with - skilled, helpful, reliable, fast-working, creative, good at following instructions - and I'm publishing them again and again. I also recommend them to other editors.

Of course, the more contributors a project involves, the more things can go wrong - but that's part of any venture.

Does each author get a bump in their own book sales?

Many authors do. We can't measure it reliably, but there are indicators. Sometimes readers email an author “I loved your story in Ten Tales of XYZ so much that I've now bought your novel.”

Amazon's “Customers who bought this book also bought” feature is useful. When you look at Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, you see that readers have purchased books by contributors Liv Rancourt and Jim Bernheimer. Customers who bought Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft also bought books by contributors Pamela Turner, Debra Dunbar and Karen Heard.

By buying a Ten Tales book, readers get ten quality stories about their favourite subject - vampires, zombies, pirates, ghosts etc - and all ten are different, so the reader knows that at least some of these will suit their taste. This makes a multi-author anthology more appealing than a single-author work.

When reading an anthology, readers always pick a favourite story or two. They're keen to read more by those authors, and ready to buy a book.

For the authors, this kind of exposure is invaluable, and it's why well-known authors like Jeff Strand, David D. Levine, William Meikle or Deborah J. Ross w/w Deborah Wheeler are happy to lend me their stories. It's not for the money, because I'm only paying a token. To have a story included in a Ten Tales is useful for reaching readers, and also is a mark of the author's success, because the series has become known for the quality of its stories.

Moving on to ebooks. How are your Short Stories being received in the ebook form?

Single stories don't do so well, but the anthologies (books with stories by several authors) and the single-author sixpack collections are popular.

Of the sixpacks, the Six Scary Tales series is doing especially well. Many readers buy one of the books in the series, like it, and buy another one.

With the Ten Tales, there's brand recognition. People start to recognize it as a brand for quality and variety in the fantasy and horror genres, and get the other books in the series.

Are you a part of the Amazon Select program? If so, how is that working out?

I have mixed feelings about this. The KDP Select is Amazon's push towards a monopoly, using a mix of rewards and penalties to get authors to grant exclusivity. I'm not putting all my books into KDP Select because I don't like monopolies and I value my independence.

I have experimented with KDP Select, enrolling one book or another for three months, to see what would happen. Sales didn't increase significantly, although there were a few loans. The option to make a book free for five days offers an interesting promotional strategy, although it worries me that Amazon allows this only for books that support the monopoly.

The five days free-books promo sometimes resulted in a lot of free downloads (11,000 in the case of Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts), but this doesn't mean all 11,000 read the book. Many people download anything that's free and have hundreds of books on their Kindle which they never get round to reading.

The best results with the five days free-book promo was when I made one of the Six Scary Tales books free. For a month afterwards, the other Six Scary Tales books showed increased sales. Whether or not that was worth removing the book from Kobo, Barnes&Noble, iTunes and Smashwords, is another question.

Tell us how authors can get involved in your workshops?

My workshops are for writers who have mastered the basics and want to learn new skills and take their writing craft to the next level. Most students are intermediate, advanced and professional writers. These classes are not for the faint-of-heart: I make my students work hard, and often their writing improves so much in just one month that they look back at their previous writing and cringe. Not everyone is ready for that.

Typically, the classes are one month long and presented in the form of a Yahoo Group, with twelve lessons, twelve assignments and individual feedback. I'm scaling back my teaching in the coming year to have more time for writing. However, I'll teach a Creating Great Villains class in February.

Here's the list of the workshops I teach: Rayne Hall’s Workshops

I see one of your classes next year is WRITING SHORT STORIES TO PROMOTE YOUR NOVELS. That is one I would like to join. A lot of new and indie authors should be interested in that class too.

This class is for authors who have at least one novel published, either indie or traditional. We'll look at strategies for how to use short stories to promote novels - for example making the short free and charging for the novel, or getting a story published many times in ezines and anthologies - as well as what kind of story works best to boost a novel's sales, identifying the target audience, finding markets, and much more. The assignments guide each student to write a complete story which is perfect for promoting the novel.

Author's Book List
Spells: Ten Tales of Magic
Amazon Buy Page -- Barnes and Noble Buy Page -- Smashwords Buy Page
Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft
Amazon Buy Page -- Smashwords Buy Page
Storm Dancer
Amazon Buy Page
The Devil Eats Here
Amazon Buy Page -- Barnes and Noble Buy Page -- Smashwords Buy Page
Six Historical Tales Vol 1
Amazon Buy Page -- Barnes and Noble Buy Page
Writing Scary Scenes
Are your frightening scenes scary enough? Learn practical tricks to turn up the suspense. Make your readers' hearts hammer with suspense, their breaths quicken with excitement, and their skins tingle with goosebumps of delicious fright.

This book contains practical suggestions how to structure a scary scene, increase the suspense, make the climax more terrifying, make the reader feel the character's fear. It includes techniques for manipulating the readers' subconscious and creating powerful emotional effects.

Use this book to write a new scene, or to add tension and excitement to a draft.

You will learn tricks of the trade for "black moment" and "climax" scenes, describing monsters and villains, writing harrowing captivity sections and breathtaking escapes, as well as how to make sure that your hero doesn't come across as a wimp... and much more.

This book is recommended for writers of all genres, especially thriller, horror, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. It is aimed at advanced-level and professional authors and may not be suitable for beginners.

British English.
Amazon Buy Page -- Barnes and Noble Buy Page
Scared: Ten Tales of Horror
Amazon Buy Page -- Barnes and Noble Buy Page
Six Scary Tales Vol 3
Amazon Buy Page -- Barnes and Noble Buy Page
Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts
Ten Tales Fantasy & Horror Stories
Amazon Buy Page
Six Scary Tales Vol 2
Amazon Buy Page
Six Scary Tales Vol 1
Amazon Buy Page -- Barnes and Noble Buy Page
Rayne's Contact Information
Website: Rayne Hall

Blog: Google+
Twitter: @RayneHall
E-Mail: rayne[underscore]hall[underscore]author[at]yahoo[dot]com
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
LinkedIn: Check Out LinkedIn
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

What do you Think? 
How much does building relationships and social media play into your marketing plans?
Does the British English change the way you judge the quality of a book?
Do you help other authors my offering advice and support?
Do you think short stories are a good way to get your writing in front of readers?
How important are writer’s groups to your success?

HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the HBS Author's Spotlight plus the blog: eBook Author's Corner. From the blog - Rayne Hall – HBS Author’s Spotlight.
Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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