Sunday, February 4, 2018

Added Value Techniques to Augment Your Readers' Experience with USA Today Bestselling Author Julie Hall

USA Today best selling and award winning author Julie Hall is visiting ThrillWriting to talk about ways she engages her reading community in the stories she writes. 

Julie, please give our readers a snapshot of the background you bring to your work.

Julie -

I have a business degree, but when I graduated I didn't go the traditional business route like most of my classmates. Instead my first job out of school was working at a national news show. 

I went on to work in television production at The National Geographic Channel, and shifted over to working in their marketing and publicity department. After that, I became a film publicist and worked for some of the biggest studios in Hollywood helping to market and promote their new releases. 

So I spent a lot of time in the entertainment business thinking of what would enhance the viewers experience.

Fiona - 
Give us a glimpse at the kind of books you like to write are you in one genre or several?

Julie - 
I'm about to wrap up my first series, which is a young adult fantasy series about a girl who gets assigned to fight demons in the afterlife.

I love to write books with a fantasy and supernatural element to them. It is so much fun to be able to dive into worlds of your own creation. With fantasy novels you can break all the rules . . . as long as you explain to the reader what the new rules are. I love that! It allows me to escape to new places and take the reader with me. 

I've traveled quite a bit and lived overseas a couple of times, so I like to bring my real life experiences in to my stories as well.

As far as genre goes, I do technically write in a couple. My first series, LIFE AFTER, are young adult fantasy/paranormal novels. I'm currently co-writing a series that is an adult dystopian/urban fantasy series. So I'm sticking with the "fantastical" elements I love so much, but branching out a little. I'm really excited about this new project with Audrey Grey because with Urban Fantasy we have so many different directions we can go.

Fiona -
While you're bringing your stories to life, you've done more than words on a page. Can you give us some examples of ways that you make your world a broader experience for readers?

Julie -
I really believe that the experience for my readers should be more than just the handful of hours that they spend reading my stories. 

I'm always trying to think of ways to expand the world and the reading experience for them in general. One of the ways I do this is by giving them more access to me, as a writer. I have several platforms that I interact with my readers on to varying degrees. I always make quality trailers to help visually pull the readers into the story as well. And recently I shot a series of author commentary videos to accompany the release of a novella in my series.

Fiona - 
What do you think the most important aspects are to keep in mind as you're putting together a trailer?

Julie - 

I actually have a strong opinion about book trailers. At first I didn’t want to do them because I had seen a lot of trailers that turned me off to the book they were promoting. I think that if a trailer isn’t executed well, it can make your book look unprofessional . . . which may not be the case at all. It was my husband who changed my mind with his crazy trailer making skills. He is amazing at putting them together. The way my trailers are created is by spending a ridiculous amount of hours browsing through and looking for video templates that match the feeling that I’m trying to achieve with each book. When I find the right one, my husband uses Adobe After Effects to edit the template and turn it into our own.

The most important aspect of a trailer is that it holds the viewer's attention. Right after that, it's super important to have a clear call to action, meaning telling the viewer what I want them to do. In my case, it's to go and buy the book.

Here's an example:

Fiona - 
And where do you use your trailers?

Julie - 

Fiona - 
Where do you get your images for your trailers? They're stunning.

Julie - 
Most of my images are from deposit photo sites. My husband and I spend a lot of time looking through them to find the best ones. It's time consuming for sure.

Fiona - 

And now you've done some audio. Can you tell me what you include, how you produce them/what platform hosts them, and what you do with these?

Julie - 
I actually did a series of author commentary videos to go along with every chapter in my novella, LOGAN. 

I wrote that book because of my readers questions about the character. So the book is really dedicated to them and their interest in knowing more. As an added benefit, I shot fourteen short videos of me talking about each chapter. I talk about everything from:

  • Character development
  • Why I included certain things in the chapter
  • How the story ties in with events from the full length novels in the series
  • And some hidden Easter eggs. 
I wanted my readers to have something extra to pull them into the LIFE AFTER world, and what better than hearing from the author herself? 

But rather than having them read my commentary, I wanted them to experience a little of who I was too. So that's why I decided to go with a video commentary. Those videos can only be accessed through the book. There is a link at the end of each chapter so readers can follow along with the commentary or watch them all at the end. 

There is also a scannable QR code. I wanted to make it as reader friendly as possible. 

The easiest and most reliable way to create a QR code is to use Googles URL shorter, here: Then, each short URL that is created gets a QR code, which you can save as an image, and upload into your book.

All modern iPhones can read QR codes simply by using the camera app. All Android phones have a QR reader built into Chrome.

In my books, I really like what some authors are doing with augmented reality these days and considered doing something like that, but I wanted the commentary to be as user friendly as possible. I shot all the videos in one day here at my home. I even have a blooper reel we created at the end with all my mistakes. I get a good laugh out of that.

QR question: Do you put these QR codes on your bookmarks? And if yes, where do they lead?

I don't yet, but i will now! I'd send them to my website or my Amazon FB page so they can easily buy the book. It's all about giving the reader an easy way to find my books.

Fiona - 
This chapter by chapter interaction is such an interesting idea. I'm excited to go a read your book and check out your ideas. 

Here on ThrillWriting it's a tradtion to share your favorite scar story. Would you indulge us?

Julie -
I have a super cool scar right above my left temple. I like to tell people it was from a shark attack, but the real story is almost as cool. It's a scar I got when I was four from a bayonet. We were walking alongside a parade right before it was about to start. My parents were looking for a good spot. There was a military processional and they were called to attention while we were still walking along the side. My face was grazed by the end of one of the solider's bayonets as he snapped to attention. That was probably the closest to death I ever got. I can still remember my parents freaking out and me not having any idea what just happened. It's a pretty sweet war wound if you ask me.

Fiona - 

When you buy and read our work, you are supporting this blog and my ability to bring you this kind of research and information.

We thank you,

Stay in touch with Julie!
Author FB Page
Fan FB Page 
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads Author Page
BookBub Page 
YouTube Channel
Twitter Handle - @JulieGHall
Instagram Handle - @JulieGhall (this last one is the one with the author commentary)

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