Last week, I read author Kristin Lamb’s book, The Rise of the Machines: Human Authors and the Digital World. It’s an interesting book with an eye-opening take on traditional versus self-publishing and social media marketing in particular. Lamb stresses authors being their authentic selves and letting readers get to know you as people. Some of the ways she suggests doing this are:
- Not using multiple names/pennames
- Not separating your personal and writing social media accounts
- Having a photo of yourself as your profile pic
- Talking about all your interests, not just those that are reading or writing related
- Blogging about real life things
- Being present on social media rather than sending out automated messages
Can I Even Do That?
First, let me say, I have no problem with most of these suggestions and in fact, think they are pretty good ideas. If I were writing mainstream romance, I’d probably do them without hesitation. However, as a spanking romance author, I’m not sure all of them are reasonable or even safe for me. That led me to another question. Is it possible to be my authentic self when I’m a deeply closted spanko?
I write under multiple pen names. Mostly, I use the one you all know, Ruth. That one is for all my spanking romances. However, next spring on publishing a M/M romantic suspense that doesn’t involve spanking so I chose to publish it under a similar but different pen name. I will promote it here because in my experience most people who will read spanking romance will also read stories that don’t include spanking. The same cannot be said of vanilla folks who want nothing to do with spanking so I thought that was a safer approach. I also have a children’s book under a third name because I in no way wanted people who were looking for children’s books stumbling across my rather unconventional adult stuff.
Another thing, there is no way in seven heavens OR hells that I am mixing my personal and my writing social media. Y’all, seriously, saying I am deeply closeted is probably an understatement. I can count the number of people on one hand that I know in my daily life who know about my adult writing or my interest in spanking.
I live in a tiny rural farming town in the deep South (and yes I know that’s not what it says on my Facebook, putting where I actually live would be tantamount to outing myself). The town is still mostly segregated as far as where people live. All the churches are segregated. Same-sex couples are still looked at by a lot of people as, at best, an anomaly. The same is true for mixed race people and mixed race couples. The town isn’t quite on the level of the Westboro cult, but it’s not all that far from it either. Much of my family and many of my neighbors would be horrified to discover my books. Coming out would be tantamount to social suicide and incite lethal levels of criticism and judgment.
Some of you undoubtedly think I’m exaggerating out of fear. Unfortunately, I’m not. What’s more, I hold a teaching license in a state where teachers have lost their jobs over posting a picture on social media holding a glass of wine while on vacation. Suffice it there are genuine concerns driving my decision, as there are for many kinky folks. It’s not just a marketing ploy or trying to be cute.
Am I Not Being Authentic?
Since I am unwilling to mix my author persona with my legal identity, does that mean I’m not authentic? I don’t think so. If anything, I think I am more authentic as Ruth that I generally am in my day-to-day life. Online I can be honest about my thoughts and interests and desires without having to worry about what my family or my neighbors have to say about it. I don’t have to worry about the judgment and criticism that would inevitably happen if I chose to take Lamb’s the advice. My online friends don’t know me otherwise and therefore don’t judge me on appearances like many other people in my off-line world do. I can block someone on Facebook if they choose to be nasty and hurtful. I can’t pack up and move away from where I live. With those safeguards, I’m able to be more authentically myself than I can ever be otherwise.
What do you think? I have a hunch that my experience is a common one for other people in the spanking community. Am I right? What has been your experience?