Thursday, September 27, 2012

Split Ends: Two Identities, One Pain!

Sarah Michelle Gellar pulled double duty, too!

When I first began my pursuit of romance publishing, I was determined to keep the "real" me and Suleikha Snyder completely apart. It was a grandiose idea of separate lives and secret identities -- I crafted a story for myself, just as I would for a character. My stuffed animals became real cats, my unrequited crush turned into an on-and-off boyfriend, etc. Suleikha lived in Manhattan, Suleikha was political, Suleikha did vaguely pretentious interviews with Yahoo! blogs...and it lasted barely a year before it became too much.

How could I craft an effective author brand when "real" me, a longtime writer and editor, already had an established identity both online and off? I'm a crazy, mouthy, live tweeter of TV shows who lives in Queens, loves babies and seems to always get stuck on the subway with mariachis. I worked hard for that recognition. (Okay, I didn't have to work for the mariachi part...that happened all on its own.) There are plenty of people who have pseudonyms and who have crafted multiple authorial identities effectively. I am not one of them. Building Suleikha from the ground up, in nearly one-tenth the time it took to craft my primary voice, was proving impossible for me! Plus, it was just stressing me out. I'm an open can't sit next to me at a restaurant without learning way too much about me. Pretending Suleikha was a different person -- or, at least, a part of me that lived in a different room in my head -- was starting to chip away at my soul. It was like having a dirty little secret when all I wanted to do was shout from the rooftops, "Yay, I'm published!"

Even now, after "coming out" via Twitter as one person, finding a public voice for Suleikha has been full of stops and starts and Do's and Don'ts. I re-did my blog design, created a tagline that describes what I write (pretty much everything) and have been diligently submitting and publishing. I've done four readings this year, with one more coming up next week. Great. Yay. Wonderful. Right? Fifty percent wonderful. Because where I falter is in interactive publicity. Guest blogs don't seem to work all that well for me. Giveaways...another dead end. I'm not on Suleikha's Facebook much because I'm barely on my real-life one. Being opinionated about politics has its pitfalls. Snark requires a balance (and I do a lot of that on my other Twitter account and don't want to double dip). Suleikha's very uneven in tone, and I'm trying infuse more of myself, so it's less scripted reality and more...actual reality. But it's a slow process, and finding the right marketing tools is like a scavenger hunt.

Growing up, my father taught me the lesson of letting your work stand for who you are: If you work hard, you'll be appreciated. If that was true in fiction, we'd all be Booker Prize winners. But merely putting your nose to the grindstone and putting out good works does not get you noticed. You need buzz, you need PR, you need a hook.

All I've got is two personas and a headache!

(And a novella coming out next month!)

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