I debated this notion several years ago. Just after I began to publish on Amazon, it became a mountain I needed to climb.
The issue at hand is the name I publish under.
I write in three distinct genres — publishing online in two of them. While yes, the content writing, blogs for others, and the like that I do freelance still has my name — it’s less important to that.
For online publishing — blogs and books — I write fiction and nonfiction.
Most of my fiction aligns with sci-fi and fantasy in some way or another. I have The Source Chronicles and the standalones Infamy Ascending and Vortex Pilgrimage in fantasy; The Vapor Rogues, while Steampunk, touches elements of both fantasy and sci-fi; and the Void Incursion and Forgotten Fodder series both are firmly rooted in sci-fi.
My nonfiction generally falls under a mix of self-help, inspiration, mindfulness, conscious reality creation, psychology, philosophy, positivity, and the like (I am uncertain about a single, clear definition of this). The You Are Amazing books are intended to offer to the reader multiple concepts to help live life as fully as possible. The blogs I publish are all related to the above-mentioned nonfiction concepts.
When I first debated what name to publish under, I went through three or four variations before settling on MJ Blehart. Since reaching that decision, I have not only published novels online — I’ve written articles for a couple of local magazines, other blogs, and so on under my one nom de plume.
I determined that it was good to publish as a single entity, no matter the genre.
However, now I am — for the sake of author branding — revisiting this notion.
Why does this matter?
I used to debate how I desired to be recognized as an author.
Because when all is said and done — I desire the recognition. Not for the sake of ego, but more for the sake of expertise, name recognition, and as such brand recognition. For example, in sci-fi/fantasy most people know the names JRR Tolkien, George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, and the like.
Likewise, in the nonfiction genres I stick to, most people know the names Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robbins, Jen Sincero, Deepak Chopra, and the like.
I desire to be known in the same manner. My brand as a known quantity, a household name of sorts.
Admittedly, if you are not into sci-fi/fantasy or this kind of self-helpery stuff, these names aren’t familiar to you. But in their related fields, they are known.
That’s my aim. To be known in my related field. To be an author respected for my work, an authority on the nonfiction self-help topics I write about, and to earn my living via sales of my work, lectures, talks, panels, and so on.
Yes, this is a tall order and will take time, persistence, and perseverance. And because these two notions of fiction and nonfiction aren’t connected visibly — it complicates the process.
Neil Gaiman, for example, has done nonfiction works. So, too, has Paulo Coelho. It was, in part, their influence that led me to not separate myself into more than one name.
But they are known quantities. Whereas, outside my small circle, I am not. Not yet. But in promoting my brand — the blend of fiction and nonfiction presents a more complicated brand message and identity to share.
A rose by any other name…
Whether you are on my author website, my original blog site, or my Medium.com blog, there are a LOT of articles. I have been consistently writing Pathwalking articles weekly for over 9 years now. This week will be my 485 thweek (and thus that many articles).
There are well over a thousand articles written and published online under the name MJ Blehart. All of them are nonfiction (adding in occasional thoughts on politics, and weekly thoughts on the ongoing writing process — like this one).
Additionally, there are 8 works of fiction and 4 works of nonfiction published (plus 2 anthologies where I was first published) on my Amazon author page. Presently, the blogs I write get published via feed there, too.
In making my brand look better, I have recently had the covers for my fantasy novels redone (and I also reformatted them). Sure, we say you don’t just a book by its cover — except, we totally do. My amateur covers needed to go (especially since I am putting out book 3 in the series in 2022.)
There will be 5 more books published before the end of 2021 — all sci-fi, two different series. Amid all my fiction will be the nonfiction — and there is potential for MORE nonfiction.
Do sci-fi/fantasy writers ALSO write self-help/mindfulness/conscious reality creation works? Generally, not as far as I can tell. Which means that I am rather on my own here.
Leave it to me to find the most complicated way to be. Typical.
Separating myself from myself is complicated on multiple levels. Creating a new pen name begs the question of where do I apply it? Fiction or nonfiction? How do I create the separation without confusing the market and decreasing the sales I’m working on increasing?
Is this just rhetorical?
My name is mine alone
If you know me in real life you know me by one name. Likewise, if you know me just as an author, you know me by a different name. Then, because that’s not NEARLY enough fun, if you participate in the same worldwide medieval reenactment society that I do, you likely know by yet another name.
But — when all is said and done — it’s just me. Whatever name I use I am the person behind it. Writer, fencer, court herald, editor, philosopher, sci-fi and fantasy geek, and so on. All is one and one is all.
The current answer I am faced with — until Amazon allows for a better divide of fiction/nonfiction — is to fix everything already in the brand. Distinguishing my fiction from nonfiction works is easy — but they, too, might need better covers and internal reformatting.
Sure, I could create a new pen name and shift things around. But in the end, I suspect that will be more confusing than working with what I’ve got. But — being cognizant of this opens me to recognize the work I need to put into my author branding.
Maybe, years ago, I should have made this choice. But I believe that I can work with it and make the MJ Blehart brand a known quantity where I desire for it to be known. And then — following why I most desire to be a known quantity, I can best apply this mantra:
I am a successful writer who empowers people to be inspired.
Originally published at https://www.mjblehart.com on April 6, 2021.