by Len Lear
I have interviewed well over 100 authors during my 25 years at the Local, many self-published but others whose sweat-stained work was accepted by traditional book publishers, a feat today virtually akin to be picked to play center field for the Phillies.
Never before now, however, did I meet a successful author who actually spends much more of her time and artistic capital under the bylines of other people rather than her own.
Sharai Robbin, 35, is the bestselling author of “Candace Reign,” released in January, 2014, by Strebor Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and catapulting into its third printing not long after its release. On the Simon & Schuster website, the average rating of readers’ reviews was four-and-a-half stars out of a possible five stars.
In the book, Candace is a single mom with a promising future and a plan to get herself and her son out of the “hood.” Even with a good job, though, Candace is barely getting by, and raising her son, 10, who is becoming more challenging every day. Then she meets Chris, a pretty boy seven years her junior who eventually drags her down a road that threatens to end her career – and her life.
Robbin, who lived in Germantown and Mt. Airy during most of her adolescence, graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls in 2001 and then earned a B.A. in Communications and English from Temple University and a master’s degree in English from Arcadia University in 2017.
In addition to “Candace Reign,” Robbin has also written “Things My Grandfather Taught Me” (April, 2016) and “Write Your Book, Build Your Brand Manual,” a comprehensive guide to writing, branding and publishing, in September 2017.
Robbin is not hung up about seeing her own name in print, however, since she has also ghostwritten six books in recent years, the most recent one published in June of this year.
Robbin, who is not allowed to reveal the names of the clients she has written books for, explained, “I stumbled into ghostwriting with my first celebrity client, whom I met at a conference asking me to help him with his book. He told me his idea and explained that he didn’t have the time to write it but would pay me to do it for him. I accepted the offer and the opportunity, and together we’ve completed two books and will be going into the third project together this fall.”
Why is Robbin ghostwriting for other people as opposed to writing her own books, especially since she has had success with the latter?
“Ghostwriting is something that just sort of happened to me because of my literary and critical questioning skills. I won’t be continuing the service personally after this year … Though I enjoy it and it pays handsomely, it is a lot of work … that has kept me from my more personal writing.
“I love when I can make the words sing, and I find joy in capturing my clients’ thoughts and ideas on paper and seeing them light up when they know they’ve been understood. I enjoy helping them give life to their voices and stories and seeing them use both to make an impact in the world. I like to say that as an editor and ghostwriter, I get to win twice. I win by helping my clients help other people, and there’s something that just feels very right and fulfilling about that.”
On the other hand, “I miss my own voice sometimes. I’m so busy writing and editing for others that I feel like I’m missing a part of myself. I’m anxious to get back to the same girl who missed her bus stop because she was reading poetry. I am also looking to explore some storytelling options in film. I’ve had a few offers to get involved in film, and I’ll be moving in that direction soon.”
In 2013, Robbin started Good Ground Literary Services, a fullscale editing and publishing company. She and her cohorts help authors from the developmental stages of writing to line editing and aspects of publishing, including cover design and layout. She also started a nonprofit, Urban Author Academy, in 2017.
In 2015, Robbin left a well-paying full-time job with a housing stipend and benefits “to step out into the erratic world of entrepreneurship full-time, which is like jumping out of a perfectly functioning airplane. But I’ve been skydiving, so I know you travel a very long way to the jump site and hundreds of miles up into the sky just to let go and soar.”
Robbin’s website, SharaiRobbin.com, is currently under construction. You can reach Len Lear at firstname.lastname@example.org