Confession Time

It's about time I came clean about something rather important. Don't worry -- I'm not admitting to any major crimes ... yet. But I want to tell you about the first novel I self-published nearly a year ago. Wait, some of you might be thinking. A year ago? But you published The Calling in April.

And right you would be.

The Calling was the first novel I published under my own name.

Before that, I published a novel under a different name.

Some eagle-eyed readers probably already figured it out. Honestly, I didn't really do much to try to hide the fact.

What fact, you might be asking?

Quite simply that I wrote this book:

Yes, that's right. I am Z. Constance Frost. Or Z. Constance Frost is me. Either way, I'm the author of No Shelter.


As I explained during last night's two live readings, the entire thing was meant to be an experiment that didn't go very well. You see, I wrote No Shelter years ago. In fact, in the spring of 2009 when the whole Hint Fiction thing came about, my agent was shopping around No Shelter. He was sending it out under a pen name, because that's what I requested. I knew I wanted to do a female assassin series, but I figured since it would be a straight series (five or seven or however many books) it would be best to put them under a different name, as the books I planned (hoped) to publish under my own name would be different standalone novels. Besides, the series is about a female assassin, so who better to author the books than a female writer?

And so, after some creative thinking, Z. Constance Frost was born.

I liked the name. My agent liked the name. It has a distinct ring to it that definitely sticks in a reader's head, and that was what I was going for.

But, as usual, though there were several nibbles from publishers, nobody took a bite, and so into the digital drawer the book went.

Until late 2010 when I started to seeing the disturbing trend in publishing and saw some other authors having success self-publishing their work digitally, and I thought about No Shelter and figured why not. Besides, I saw this as a great opportunity to pull a Richard Bachman.

If you're unaware, Stephen King in his early career published four novels under the pen name Richard Bachman (five, I guess, counting Thinner, though that was the book that eventually made the whole truth come to light, and besides, I don't believe King was really trying to hide the fact he was the true author in that book to begin with). King's publisher was afraid he would oversaturate the market with his own work, so they released the novels under the pen name. It was a big secret. Nobody really knew King was Bachman, unlike nowadays when everyone knows J. D. Robb is really Nora Roberts (also nowadays publishers don't give a shit about over-saturation as long as it sells).

You see, it was a marketing thing. Dean Koontz used to do the same, publishing works in different genres under different names. Only, from what I understand, Koontz decided in the end it was a bad idea, and, I'm assuming, can become confusing for readers who begin to become fans of one particular author, even though that author isn't real.

Had No Shelter sold, the publisher might have gone ahead and published it under the pen name, but would have wanted me to make it clear that I was the actual author. After all, somebody has to help market the thing, and as we've discussed before, it almost always falls on the author's shoulders.

So when I realized I could self-publish it, the fact that practically nobody had to know the truth was appealing. I created a blog, as well as Gmail and Facebook and Twitter accounts, and pretended to be this single mother of two living just outside of Washington, D.C. It was going to be fun.

And it was fun, at first. But the truth is it's hard enough trying to focus on writing for and promoting just one writer -- namely me -- let alone writing for and promoting another writer -- like, you know, Z. Constance Frost. Just how do you get the word out about a very new writer? I did a post here last year, which even included an interview with Z. Constance Frost. She in turn interviewed me at her website for my blog tour of The Calling. I included an excerpt from her book in the back of my book, and she included an excerpt from my book in the back of her book. Sometimes she would even leave comments here on this website (!).

Cute? Clever? Pathetic? Asinine?

No matter what you call it, it was exhausting.

As I began to make more sales and money with my own books, I began to spend less time keeping Z. Constance Frost alive. I wanted to start working on another Holly Lin novel, but the truth was the sales for No Shelter were so low that I didn't see much point. It made more sense to keep promoting myself, as my books had started selling well. Maybe if Frost had more books out there would be more sales, but as it is No Shelter has sold just over 300 copies for the year, with the e-book being priced between 99 cents and $2.99. Compare that do The Serial Killer's Wife or The Calling, both which have already sold over 400 units each this month alone, and you'll see my problem.

I wish things could have been different, truly. I wish Z. Constance Frost could continue living her imaginary life with her imaginary children (hell, No Shelter is even dedicated to her children!). I wish I could keep this secret going for the next couple of years, as more and more Holly Lin books became available and "she" grew a bigger readership (nay, fan base!) and then, at the peak, I would somehow let it slip that it was me.

But, alas, it was not meant to be.

Z. Constance Frost's byline will remain on No Shelter until later this year when the second book comes out. Then No Shelter gets a new cover and Z. Constance Frost will be no more.

Which is sad.

I was really getting to like her, despite the fact she was apparently a pretty slow writer.

But, in all honesty, her two kids are complete brats.

Anyway, so this is my confession. The truth is out now. Not sure if it was the best way to "out" myself, though I don't think there's proper etiquette when it comes to something like this. But now you all know my dirty little secret, the time I tried to pull a Richard Bachman.

Which is not to say that, who knows, I might not try it again at some point down the line.

Only time will tell.

For now, do yourself a favor if you haven't already -- go check out No Shelter.

From what I hear, it's a pretty good yarn.