Confessions of a Former Christian Turned Dark, Erotic, Romance Writer.

 “When you're a new author, you have a fearsome enemy. ANONYMITY. We know this, and it's our biggest fear. The fear that nobody will read our work plagues most of us, keeping us awake at nights. No matter what some authors say, we published because we want to be read.”― Eeva Lancaster, Being Indie: A No Holds Barred, Self Publishing Guide for Indie Authors

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Consider this post my I'm-almost-ready-to-release-this-damn-book personal pity party (3P). I'm sure I had one of these about two years ago when I released my first full length novel. I don't think the sentiment is the same as before, and I don't know if it matters that it's changed. The point of my 3P is to dump it all outside of myself so I'm able to complete the tedious tasks ahead of me.

My to do list is a living thing; always growing and changing, adapting to my moods swings. I don't even write it down anymore, I just plow from one task to the next and hope that eventually I'll see the button that says, "Go Live". Indicating it's time for my Facebook live book launch party! Until then, I keep my head down, my eyes open, my mouth closed, and my fingers moving.  Click Image to Tweet ↓

                                                                             Here's the Problem

Anonymity: describes situations where the acting person's identity is unknown. Some writers have argued that namelessness, though technically correct, does not capture what is more centrally at stake in contexts of anonymity. The important idea here is that a person be non-identifiable, unreachable, or untrackable.[1] Anonymity is seen as a technique, or a way of realizing, a certain other values, such as privacy, or liberty. (Wikipedia

I chose to write under a pen name for several reasons. None of which I discuss with anyone because I didn't think it was that important. However; I realize more often than not, the anonymity my pen name affords me is also what could be damaging my ability to capture an audience. It's quite the double-edged sword, really.  The truth is, I chose a pen name for the following reasons, in no particular order.
  1. I have children, who at the time were all in grade school
  2. I'm married to a respected man in our community
  3. I was still a well-respected teacher in the same community
  4. I write extremely dark, erotic romance
  5. I was too chicken-shit to publish under my given name
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 There! The last reason makes me want to peel my skin away from my face, I'm so pissed at the me who felt that way. Really, all of them... the reasons, make me want to go back in time and kick my ass into realizing what a huge mistake it was to trade in a name I'd worked long and hard to make known in all sorts of circles, for a name no one would even think to associate with me. Silly, foolish woman.

After considering my reasons and lamenting my choice, I shook away the heaviness and decided to look at what's happened since taking on this pen name and I must say, I'm rather proud of the platform I'm building. It's slow going, and isn't really translating into book sales or downloads, but there are some interesting tidbits to mention.
  1. My Instagram following starting at 0 and now I have exactly 900 followers. This is all organic growth without the help of social media wizards for hire.
  2. My Twitter account started at 0 and today I have 938 followers. Again, completely organic.
  3. My Facebook profile has 519 friends, my author page has 192 followers, as of yesterday. Yes, you guessed it. Completely organic.
  4. I've been asked by several diverse companies to be their brand ambassador because they love what they see on my feed.
  5. I've connected with several authors who have become good associates of mine.
  6. I'm a part of a writing community that spans the globe.
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 So, it hasn't been a waste of time and in some ways, my pen name is becoming known. Yes, there is always a 🍑. But--I know my book sales would be much greater if I had the balls to publish under the name I've given to thousands of people over the years. And that's where my problem with anonymity lies. This conundrum forced me to ask the hard questions and seek the even harder answers.

Why is your anonymity so important to you?

 I grew up Southern Black Baptist. If the church doors were open, we were there. I sang in the choir, went to bible study, vacation bible school in the summer... I was the quintessential good-church-going-girl. Even though I've long since moved on from my very Christian upbringing and ascribe to a more spiritual way of navigating the world, some of the residual guilt and shame from my past seeped into my decision to remain anonymous.

I hadn't thought about how my religious upbringing still played such a huge role in my life choices, but here we are. Confessions of a former Christian turned dark, erotic, romance writer. The truth is, the only things I ever felt while practicing the faith of Christianity was guilt, shame, inadequate, insecure, and fear. Well, damn-it-all-to-hell. I chose to write under a pen name because I was filled with guilt, shame, insecurities, and fear that my writing would be inadequate--wouldn't be enough. That I... wouldn't be enough to be successful.

As a writer, notoriety is extremely important! If nobody knows who the hell Ella Shawn is and what she writes, there's little point to writing and publishing books. I know everyone says to write because you have a story to tell. Don't worry about who's going to read them. It's easy to say shit like that when you're on a national best selling list and your email list is over a hundred thousand. No, I'm not bitter or cynical, I'm simply stating my truth.

Is your anonymity still important to you?

Yes and no. Anonymity is both my best friend and my worst enemy. I love meeting knew people and interacting with groups, but I'm also a super loner. I value and demand my alone time. If we're ever allowed to roam freely without masks again, I don't want to have run from people who recognize me as their favorite romance writer because I'm in the mood to be Author, Ella Shawn. To that extent, I don't ever want to be famous and recognizable as a person. So, anonymity is my bestest friend and therefore; still extremely important to me.  Click Image to Tweet ↓



On the other hand, name recognition is the number one caveat for a successful career as a writer. As an indie writer without the backing of a publishing house and their marketing/public relations departments pushing my name out into the atmosphere every 3.9 seconds; building that name or brand recognition is a Sisyphean task.  This is the state I find myself in right now. Yes. I'm building my platform and online presence; however, turning those followers into readers is proving to be more difficult then I ever imagined. So, it would be great to have my given name attached to my novels because literally, thousands of people would flock to support their favorite high school English teacher, or the child's high school mentor or their former colleague's writing career. 

See? Double-edged sword. I'll end up a bloody mess either way. Pen name or given name. They both require sacrifice. Only, using my given name seems to have a better return ... or maybe, it wouldn't be worth it just to sell books. God! I may as well be trying to figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg. Name recognition or anonymity? Build brand and grow audience or use given name & tap into a sure resource? Give up lazy Sundays at Starbucks with friends or spend time with readers who love my books?

Shit, I'm no clearer about what would be better for my career as a writer than I was when I started writing this stupid blog post. It doesn't really matter, because my ISBN is registered to Ella Shawn and all of my social media is also registered to Ella Shawn. So allow me to the author of the Broken Souls series, Book Two to be released in late September, 2020... (drum roll, please).

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Author, Ella Shawn

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Remember, writing is a journey, just because you wander a little doesn't mean you're lost.  Until next time; be brave, be beautiful, and stay enchanting.

Ella



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