Writing duo, Piper Rayne, gives us insights on what it is like being a writing duo and they discuss the writing and revision process that works best for them. No two writing duos are alike! They discuss the prep work and strategy behind releasing a successful new persona and give their tips for new co-authors starting out. Plus an exclusive offer on Piper Rayne’s title Lessons from a One-Night Stand!
Elizabeth Grace, Piper of Piper Rayne, has been an indie author since 2013. She published titles in new adult romance, small-town romance, erotica, and romantic suspense before Piper Rayne was established in 2017. Michelle Lynn, Rayne of Piper Rayne, also started publishing in 2013. She focused on new adult and contemporary romance before herself and Elizabeth began writing as Piper Rayne. Piper Rayne introduced itself under a veil of secrecy. Only after a year of publishing anonymity did Elizabeth and Michelle reveal their identities.
Becoming Piper Rayne
Elizabeth and Michelle shared the same editor and met at a book signing in 2014. The two hit it off and had in common that they were both establishing themselves as indie authors. In the early days of indie publishing, there was a lot of connections through word of mouth and authors helping authors. They discussed the idea of writing together a couple times a year until 2016, when they approached the idea seriously. Elizabeth and Michelle were both starting to feel burned out writing on their own. There were a few other author teams that had started writing together by this time, and readers seemed to be accepting this form of writing.
In this stage of the self-publishing industry, things were changing rapidly. Books were going out faster and authors were publishing more titles in a year. When Piper Rayne began, they initially planned to work on books in a series separately. Book 1 would be written by Elizabeth and revised by Michelle, Book 2 would be written by Michelle and revised by Elizabeth, and the system would continue. Later they understood that this was not the best way for them to move forward as a pair.
The Writing Process
Currently, Michelle writes first drafts and Elizabeth does revisions based on feedback from a line/developmental editor and a proof reader. Both women help conceptualize each novel before Michelle starts the first draft. This concept often shifts during the writing process and they brainstorm about the changes together. For Piper Rayne, this method of writing is most efficient. Elizabeth explained that Michelle is the sort of author who can write large chunks in a day, while she describes herself as “a steady Eddy.” This is why Elizabeth is better suited for the backend aspects of the writing process.
Michelle writes full-time, while Elizabeth has a part-time day job. It takes Piper Rayne about 4-6 weeks to complete a book on average. They function best with a looming deadline hovering over their shoulders. It can be stressful, but they are both productive in this environment. Elizabeth and Michelle were not sure if they would make a good writing team, but evidently they do because they have key elements in common. They both took writing classes and function well on a deadline. Both women have children and many responsibilities outside of writing.
Piper says, “Rayne’s strengths play to my weaknesses, and vice versa.”
Early in the co-writing process, Michelle had difficulty coming to terms with relinquishing her early drafts. In the end, she became confident in Elizabeth’s ability to make each novel better through revisions. It was initially challenging for Michelle to send out unpolished writing, even though the point is for Elizabeth to improve this content. Michelle/Rayne describes this sharing of early writing as a type of vulnerability authors can experience.
Piper Rayne splits up the duties outside of the writing process evenly, including marketing and promotion. Elizabeth does the newsletter and responds to emails, while Michelle does the social media advertising. They both have a role in their social media presence, though this is Elizabeth’s focus. They occasionally have disagreements, mostly about story threads and how the plot should progress. Elizabeth said, “it’s sort of like a marriage, pick your battles.” Depending on who feels most strongly about an issue, it might be let go or a compromise might be made.
We asked Piper Rayne if there were any surprises in the duo process as a whole, now that they can look back on the experience. Elizabeth was surprised over how well the process works and now she cannot imagine going back to writing individually. Michelle agrees that it had been a lonely process writing as an individual. Now when either of them are stuck in the writing process, they have each other to brainstorm with, rather than author friends who are not involved in writing the same novel. They are each equally invested in the process for a particular novel, whereas other authors would simply provide friendly professional advice.
Piper Rayne: Fun and Flirty Literature
Elizabeth and Michelle now exclusively write as a duo. We wanted to know how writing as Piper Rayne differs from their previous writing styles as individuals. Piper Rayne features fun and flirty writing, whereas Michelle’s earlier stories had more tragedy in them. The tongue-in-cheek humor of Piper Rayne is similar to Elizabeth’s earlier works, but the topics are quite different. Elizabeth Grace bounced around with more sub-genres and featured more graphic and sexual scenes, angst and weighty emotions. With Piper Rayne books, readers know what they are getting into and the feelings associated with each story. It’s a certain mood readers go for and Piper Rayne novels are a fulfilled promise.
Establishing a New Readership
Since both authors kept their writing duo a secret, they essentially had to engage a whole new readership. Over 7 months before their first book was released, they were promoting it on social media and got a lot of people subscribed to their newsletter. Their first series contained three books, which were each released four weeks apart. Elizabeth credits romance fans for being excited to learn about new authors and add to their favorites. Prior to their first publication, Piper Rayne released a 7500-word prequel to the series, which really bolstered engagement. The prequel was offered free for newsletter subscribers.
We asked Piper Rayne for advice on how a new author could start their self-publishing journey through social media. Elizabeth and Michelle introduced Piper Rayne to the world the way they would introduce themselves, through being genuine. They emphasized that they had been published before, that they were women and that the writing team would remain a secret. Elizabeth and Michelle joined conversations organically, commenting on book posts. They created an online group for their series prior to publication, posting sneak peeks pre-release.
#1 Advice: Start your newsletter early and find as many subscribers as possible. Some authors may not know what to put in a newsletter. You can share parts of the writing process, what stage of the process you’re in, sample passages. Readers enjoy this kind of involvement and staying in the loop. The sooner you can get people engaged, the better!
Elizabeth and Michelle revealed their identities one year into publishing as a team. They were surprised at how little cross over there was between their original and Piper Rayne readerships.
Kindle Unlimited, BookBub, and Going Wide
Piper Rayne initially published through Kindle Unlimited in their first 6 months as a duo. We were curious about their decision to go wide and Elizabeth jokingly responded that it was in the name of “sanity.” In all seriousness, Elizabeth/Piper emphasized, KU is not for everyone. It works for some authors and not for others. Piper Rayne had always approached KU as a temporary model that would help generate reviews and make their books accessible. They wanted to get people talking about Piper Rayne and going wide was their eventual strategy.
Piper Rayne experienced only minor backlash when they announced to readers that their titles would be taken off of KU. The readership they gained from going wide definitely outweighed the few authors that were disappointed. The titles were taken off of KU in stages, where some books were offered and others were not. There was a 3-month transition at the end of 2017 in which Piper Rayne titles were removed from KU. Elizabeth says they were very fortunate for having gotten a BookBub feature at this time, which did very well. BookBub helped expose their titles to so many readers, just as they were going wide. At this point, Piper Rayne already had nine titles published, which gave fans a lot of content to read after they enjoyed the title offered free on BookBub.
Where are Piper Rayne’s Readers?
Piper Rayne has a large international readership, which is why going wide was the best decision for them. Elizabeth and Michelle mentioned their readers in Australia and the UK. Since the Piper Rayne books were translated, they have gained many fans in Germany and the Netherlands. There are readers located in France, though not nearly as many compared to other international regions. Elizabeth and Michelle have found it especially interesting to learn how different series have varying readerships across different countries and retailers.
Indie Publishing from the Start
As a team, Piper Rayne knew that they wanted to be self-published from the very beginning. They like the control over the process, the ability to publish quickly and pivot if something in the writing process is not working. They like the freedom of being able to experiment and try new things. They are not ruling out traditional publishing completely, but for now they are happy with indie publishing. Becoming a hybrid author could bring about new readers and a different form of cross-over, which they are not opposed to in the future.
Piper Rayne has also ventured into audiobooks, with 15 of their titles available in this format. They had a slow start, but in the last six months audiobooks have taken off for them. Elizabeth mused over whether this is linked to the fact that with more audiobooks out now, it is easier for their books to be discovered. Audiobooks have a different readership, but there is still a cross-over — some fans have expressed online that they listened to the audiobook after having first read the book.
Tips for Authors Considering Writing as a Duo
- Start a corporation so that all royalties are under the same business. This makes things easier in terms of royalty splitting and taxes.
- Establish a contract for both authors to abide by. Piper Rayne recommends the co-author contract included in Joanna Penn’s book, Co-writing a book: Collaboration And Co-Creation For Writers.
- On writing: Piper Rayne recommends the computer program Scrivener for authors. Margie Lawson classes are intense and incredibly useful, and her podcast is very informative.
What’s Next for Piper Rayne?
The writing duo is working on The Baileys. This series follows a group of 9 siblings who were orphaned ten years before. They live in a small town in Alaska and each book is about a sibling navigating life and romance. They plan to release books 4-9 consecutively and The Baileys are their most popular. Piper Rayne describes The Baileys as “a cozy, coming home feeling.”
You can learn more about Piper Rayne through their website, piperrayne.com. They are also active on Facebook and Instagram and links to these platforms can be found on their website.
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Piper Rayne, or Piper and Rayne, whichever you prefer because we’re not one author, we’re two. Yep, you get two USA Today Bestselling authors for the price of one. Our goal is to bring you romance stories that have “Heartwarming Humor With a Side of Sizzle” (okay…you caught us, that’s our tagline). A little about us… We both have Kindles full of one-clickable books. We’re both married to husbands who drive us to drink. We’re both chauffeurs to our kids. Most of all, we love hot heroes and quirky heroines that make us laugh, and we hope you do, too.