and What I’m Doing to Fix It
Brandi Spencer (formerly B. C. Marine), CAO Authors 4 Authors Publishing
I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to own their mistakes or flaws, especially in the era of social media. And I am far, far from immune to that drive to keep up that polished veneer. Frankly, I’ve been putting off writing this post because of it. The fear that publicly revealing my errors will destroy any confidence in me—it’s paralyzing.
Why? Because I’m not just an author. I’m one of the founders and directors here at A4A, and copyediting and proofreading are under my purview. It’s literally my job to find other people’s mistakes, not make them myself! Of course, it’s one thing to say, “Oops, disregard that note,” when an author points out an iffy correction. This is…decidedly worse.
What’s in a Name
Let’s start with my biggest mistake: my pen name.
Too Close to See It
The Algorithm Hates Me
I shrugged these off and figured it wouldn’t connect to fiction books. Oh, how wrong I was. Not only were readers having trouble finding my books via Amazon search, but even I couldn’t find myself unless I was ridiculously specific with my search terms. Rather than showing my titles, a search for B. C. Marine gives page after page of boating and military books. While writing this, I actually received an email from a reader who was concerned my second book, The Allurist’s Son, might be out of print because they couldn’t find it. Cue my infinite groan of frustration.
Surely, You Can’t Be Serious
Most of my other mistakes are various results of my trying too hard to look professional and respectable as an author. I picked titles and covers that emphasized high fantasy, not romance. I took critiques of my book descriptions to heart when they said they sounded “fluffy.” My author photo was stiff and aloof, and my interactions on social media weren’t much better. When it came to packaging and marketing, I was afraid to be true to myself and my writing.
Is This a Kissing Book?
I know what I write. My trilogy is about a pair of lovers who have healing kisses, one of whom is a perpetual jokester. While I break hearts from time to time in my stories, they’re ultimately fun and a bit silly if you think about the premise directly. As an author with neither aspirations nor desire for literary or academic accolades, why should I care how serious I look? Even among the fantasy geek crowd who might enjoy my world building, if I have to obscure the romance to get their attention, they aren’t my target audience anyway.
Knowing all this, the longer I keep this all the same, the harder it will be for me to change it. As is, I have two novels and a short story series to republish, along with an overhaul of my social media accounts and website. So, like ripping off a bandage, I’m getting it all over with quickly, making all my changes at once.
Being True to Myself
Going forward, I need to accept myself as a person and an author for who I am. For my books, that means titles and covers that embrace the romance. Some people might find them cheesy, and that’s okay because they’re more genuine this way. For my online presence, I got a new set of author photos that look more relaxed and approachable, and I’m working on coming out of my shell and letting my humor and whimsy show more.
It also means being more personal and opening up about parts of my identity that might be considered uncomfortable. My ADHD and probable autism are just as much a part of me as my intelligence and imagination—or my real name. Remember how I said I was teased for my name? I’d spent most of my life thinking my name was the problem, but the more I learn about myself and my place in the world, the more I realize that my name was just a weapon some bullies chose to wield. I was picked on for being different, and if it wasn’t my name, it would have been something else. In fact, my eldest son actually started gushing about how he didn’t want to call me “mom” because he liked to say my name. I realized that I shouldn’t have to hide what might be beautiful just because some people decide to be assholes.
And as a romance author, what could be better than my married name? As I write about love, I want to celebrate that with my name (not to mention how much simpler it makes things to just use my legal name).