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An Interview with Diane Hall of The Writing Hall

11th December 2018
(Blog Posting)

Hi Indisciples,

Today our journey around the world of independent literature reaches Diane Hall, founder the The Writing Hall independent press. When it comes to literature, Diane wears many hats. Along with being an indie book publisher, she is an editor, a coach and mentor for new writers. She also hosts writing and publishing workshops, and delivers talks at literature events.

Hi Diane, publisher, editor, writing coach and mentor; where do you find the time to fit everything in?

Diane Hall, The Writing HallGod only knows! And I work part-time too, in marketing! In all seriousness, I’m lucky that I have a number of indie authors who queue to work with me time and time again, and who understand that it may take me longer to complete their project because of everything I juggle. I don’t do as many workshops nowadays as I’d like to, just because of time, which is a shame as I love doing them. I also outsource some self-publishing services to a handful of trusted freelancers, who help me keep on top of deadlines.

Any book I take on under contract has to be something that fires me up inside, simply because my time is so precious. The book is only half the issue, however; I’ve also got to believe that the author is someone I can work with long-term who sees our collaboration as a partnership with its fair share of compromise.

You are clearly someone with a great passion for literature. At what age did you first become interested in books?

Around six or seven years of age, when I found books by the goddess who was Enid Blyton. I’ve devoured almost every book of hers and have even revisited a number of them as an adult. My own children’s trilogy is based on one of her books – I guess you could say I’m a fan!

I also enjoyed Judy Blume’s books as a teenager. My favourite genres have shifted many times through adulthood; when I do have downtime, the two genres I currently veer towards are true crime and chick-lit (I have to have some escapism!).

What prompted you to found The Writing Hall?

When I first started working with authors, self-publishing wasn’t mainstream, and I realised that the authors I met had no idea how to go about bringing their books to market. By then, I’d gone through the process of writing books under contract and also publishing my own, so I felt I could advise others on which method was best for them. (For the record, I don’t believe traditional publishing is better or worse than self-publishing, it’s just a different route to market that’s more suited to some authors than others.)

New authors have no shortage of information available to them, but what they can lack is a proper understanding of what they want from their book, how they can boost their objectivity of their work, and how they apply constructive feedback to improve their stories. I began to critique authors’ work, as I was told I had a knack of explaining things in ways they could understand and apply. There are so many providers of self-publishing services out there who will just take a manuscript from a paying client, regardless of whether it could be improved or not, and turn it into a book. That, to me, is simply a production process. What new authors need is someone who will sit down with them and explain why something needs refining (otherwise, how will they improve?), and few companies offer this as a service.

As both a reader and someone who is involved in the process of creating literature, how do you think the books written by indie authors compare to the mass market output of the big publishing houses?

Generally, I think indie publishers take more risks. They’re more likely to find a hidden jewel than the big publishing houses (who find a formula that works, then rinse and repeat as many times as they can whilst demand is high). It’s sad that indie publishers can’t match their much-bigger rivals on things like marketing spend, distribution channels, exposure and output; however, they can nurture an author’s talent and find other ways to build readerships. They tend to be harder working and more agile than the big guys and enjoy closer relationships with their authors as a result.

Have you ever aspired to be writer yourself?

I am one. I’ve written books in a few genres under my own name, and I’ve also ghost-written books for others, alongside my editing and publishing work. Every book I work on carries a piece of me with it, some more than others!

What advice would you give indie authors just starting out on their writing careers?

Try and see your book through your readers’ eyes. Yes, it’s your baby, and something you’ll have thought about non-stop for months – maybe even years – but the more you can detach from it, the better it will be.

Also, manage your expectations. Whilst E.L. James hit the jackpot on her first attempt, for example, stories like hers are rare. Most authors sell only a few hundred copies of their first few books (if they’re lucky); it’s a long, hard road that takes time and commitment. If you enjoy writing for writing’s sake, and just hope to get your book under readers’ noses, you won’t be disappointed. And I’m not saying this to be pessimistic, I’m just realistic. Everyone has to start somewhere, and building a readership takes time - but it can be done!

What do you feel are the greatest challenges faced by independent writers?

Visibility. When there are 180 million books in publication already, it’s very difficult to make yours stand out. I advise authors to aim towards being a large fish in a small pond and to niche down in their genre, then grow from there.

The sheer amount of books available means no reader will ever be stuck for something to enjoy. You have to understand who would pick your book up over a competing title, and why, to be able to target them.

And finally, in three words, describe what it’s like to be a publisher of indie books.

Exhilarating, fulfilling…and stressful!

 

Thank you, Diane.

If you are passionate about indie literature and would like to give us your view on the wonderful world of independently-written books contact Indipenned now.


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