The Beauty of Becoming an AND AUTHOR - Shawneda Blog

The Beauty of Becoming an AND AUTHOR


In middle school, I dreamed of becoming a forensic psychologist. My life plan consisted of analyzing crime scenes, profiling serial criminals, helping the field officers capture them, and writing books about the cases. A few other career fields were explored that involved helping people and using my analytical thought process. Every career involved the ability to write books about the work.  Writing books has always been part of my professional goals. Somewhere along the way, I forgot how in my childhood plans and dreams, I worked in a professional manner and wrote books. Working full-time freed me to be the author I’ve always wanted to be, the author from my childhood plans and dreams.

Becoming an AND AUTHOR Freed Me

There are factions of the writing world who consider anything more than writing what you’re passionate about for a living as being a sellout. I’ve read blog posts and comments on popular writing blogs insinuating your worth as an author somehow being determined by making your living as an author. Members of writing groups spent untold hours regaling the importance of being able to live from their author earnings.
Mind you, I didn’t have these aspirations. When I started writing, I simply wanted to have my book published and read by readers. Rejoining the workforce as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur (aka employee) filled my thoughts as much as my books. Publishing my books at the beginning of the eBook era offered me an unprecedented opportunity to be discovered without the elusive agent or now disappearing traditional publisher.
Being surrounded by career women who wanted to do nothing but write I questioned my motives. Why wasn’t being an author enough for me? The truth is my original career paths were just that, just for me. While the women in my writing groups yearned to write full time I yearned to be what I’d always imagined… a professional career woman AND AUTHOR.

Freed From the “Full-Time Author” Dream

The interesting part of my journey to AND AUTHOR is I discovered my ability to help people launch businesses and for brand communications because of self-publishing my books. Researching how to be an indie author the importance of having a “marketing” plan appeared on every platform. Other authors hated the “marketing” phase of the book. I loved the entire process from creating fictional worlds to building websites. Every part of being an author appealed to me.
Over the years, how much I enjoyed doing brand communications became as well known with authors as my books with readers. Publishing my own books led to freelance communications work and returning to college. The second year of returning to school I found freedom from the “full-time author” lie I traded for my truth. Nothing is wrong with being a full-time author, it’s just not the right choice for me. Continuing to build websites, taking on clients as a freelancer while finishing my undergraduate degree, and realizing how many of my professional skills lined up with being a technical communicator I made the decision to be what I’d always envisioned for myself. A college educated professional career woman AND AUTHOR.

Freed From Using Off Brand Communication Practices

Working in integrated marketing communications I’m exposed to countless communication practices. While completing my undergraduate studies I received a certificate in Marketing. For the most part marketing in and of itself isn’t “bad” however the classes on manipulating human behavior to influence buying decisions turned my stomach. While I’m happy to utilize the information for employers and clients I don’t implement those practices in how I execute my brand’s image and communications. Having a full-time job gives me the option to make the decision not to use proven marketing practices that I don’t want to use for my books (and freelance services).
Am I versed in content marketing lifetime cycles, customer journeys, and marketing funnels? Absolutely. Do I execute them well for employers and clients? Yep. Have I tested these strategies, considered them for my book business? Yes. Did I like it? No. So I stopped. I don’t have customers, fans, followers, or prospects for my books. If you’ve read one of my books (blogs, apps… etc), I’m humbled you took time to engage with something I created and you’re a reader. Referring to readers as anything other than readers or human is off-brand for me.
To stay engaged and connect in an authentic way with readers I’ve taken the road not oft traveled. Free content on my website will be just that… free. Your email is of no interest to me unless you’re purchasing something for me to send you a receipt. Loss leader freemail deals are a dime a dozen. When you find me in an eBook marketplace, on Pinterest, or as a referral from a friend I trust your ability to know what you want to buy. I respect authors who decide to use the more traditional marketing systems and processes to help readers discover them, the tactics and strategies just aren’t for me.

Able to Be More Creative as an AND AUTHOR

Creativity Flows Better When My Bills are Paid

From a personal standpoint, having my bills paid keeps my creative juices flowing. Writing to market so I can pay my bills means I’m studying what readers want and only telling stories that won’t piss people off. Some of the storylines aren’t easy to digest. A Holy-Spirit filled lesbian minister who refuses to bend to anyone else’s identity is not going to be popular.
​Writing to market isn’t bad, it just isn’t for me. Having my main income source from doing work for clients or a traditional employer liberated me. No more spending months at a time researching reader expectations and then restraining myself when I write so I don’t upset readers.

Working on NonBook Related Stuff Increases My Creativity

Learning how to create multi-media content for led to discovering I’m well-suited to be a technical communicator. Creating social media content and building websites showed me the power of software. For my first few years as a SAHM and author, I created my book covers using GIMP and salivating over Adobe Photoshop. Freelancing while going back to college afforded me the ability to try the entire Adobe Creative Cloud suite.
As I continued to learn Adobe Creative Cloud my ideas and story lines grew and changed. Interacting with clients, meeting peers while completing my undergraduate degree, and working for different companies inspire me. Nothing in the world prepared me for how much non book activities would increase my creativity.
Each new software I learn introduces new ideas for plots, characters, setting, and book series branding assets. Client stories, marketing strategies, researching branding resources for employers, and networking events spark new ideas for characters I’d never be able to come up with as a full-time author immersed in nothing but the literary arena.

Being an AND AUTHOR Unleashes Creative License

There is something stifling about writing to market versus writing the story that unfolds before me. Working through building the world for each series presented the opportunity to address challenges, opportunities, and theology unable to be done when worrying about offense + decreased sales overrides the authenticity of the story. Learning the new software and playing with the tools to illustrate the stories I see in my mind has been liberating. Building a character is akin to the personas in marketing, research, and other non literary endeavors. Potential covers growing from concept to created helps flesh out the stories to pursue or build as backstory for future series.

An Improved Writing Process as an AND AUTHOR

Creating Better New Characters?

Meeting more people IRL (in real life) online and offline inspires better-developed characters. Nothing improves a story more than wanting to connect with the characters. Even when the genre is plot driven rooting for a detective, mom turned assassin, or anti-hero is better if you can relate to them. A fully developed character in a thriller, spy tale, horror, military action novel creates depth. Well written, fully formed characters in romances, literary fiction, rom coms, women’s fiction, and dystopian series are the difference between a genre filler and a new bestseller.
Working outside of the home I encounter people with quirks, flaws, strengths, and skills I want to share in my book world. Nervous ticks can be borrowed. Eye color. Names. Nothing harder in the world for me to do than come up with age-appropriate genre respecting names. Yes. Returning to my original plan of being an AND AUTHOR introduces me to endless opportunities to meet people who help me create better characters. So to my clients and employers. Thank you.

More Time to Connect with Characters

Being a research invested plotter getting to know my characters is necessary to write. Connecting with the character makes the story richer. More time between books gives me the ability to connect to how they look and ways to share that with readers. Character creation before having time between books left me wanting to do more after the story was published.
Characters can be depicted digitally using all of my technical communication tools. Giving me more opportunities to introduce them in fun ways to readers. More time to connect with characters wasn’t done as well before becoming an AND AUTHOR.

More Time to Plot

The delight in a great story is always in the details for me. Little things that build the underlying message of the storyline. Building an intricate depiction of how each person’s life intersects to move the story along and deepen the connection with the characters and the readers. Plotting gives me joy and delight I’ve never been able to explain. Akin to few appropriate things, so I’ll probably share in a more appropriate setting like on my podcast.

Being an AND AUTHOR Provides

Opportunity to Establish an Authentic Connection with Readers

Marketing works for some authors. For me, after studying the origins and expected practices of marketing I prefer promotions and brand communications. Brand communications and promotions require more patience than marketing. Patience requires funding from a source outside of your book revenue.   
​Working in technical communication provides access to fun ways to introduce books to readers. Building spaces to connect with readers on and off my website. Focusing on establishing authentic connections with readers is not going to be easy or fast. Having an unrelated source of income makes it possible to invest the time needed to build a connection with readers authentic to who I am as an author.

Shawneda Crout

Independent author of more than twenty books. 

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