Canary In A Coalmine

Pagan author, lawyer, and activist Phyllis Curott has kicked off a series of articles for Witchvox based on her talk “Sex Religion & Politics: The Growing Threat of the American Theocracy”. The first installment deals with the Pagan publishing industry and how the growth of political influnce by culturally conservative Christians has created a chilling effect in the chain bookstores.

“Censorship isn’t just blatant, brutal and overt like book burnings or angry proselytizing from pulpits. It can also be done by stealth, with such subtlety as to be almost imperceptible…Perfectly comfortable with the power that Mammon affords them, it’s been reported that the Christian Book and Evangelical Christian Publishing Associations are having an impact on major booksellers and mass retailers like WalMart. Knowing that it’s all about the bottom line, they’ve pointed out that Christian titles such as The Left Behind series earn retailers, and publishers, far more money per square inch of book shelf space than subjects such as Wicca, feminism, and psychology, subjects which also happen to offend the so-called “family values” of their vast consumer market. It’s no coincidence that Wiccan shelf space is disappearing while “Christian” sections are exploding. And Pagan authors are already feeling the impact. One of the community’s most prominent elders and authors was just told by his publisher that they weren’t interested in his new book because publishing books on Witchcraft is too politically controversial and just not lucrative enough right now. Instead, this publisher which has so dominated the market that you’re often unable to find anything but their books in Pagan stores, will now be publishing more books on angels.”

Did she just call Llewellyn out? While I’m sympathetic to the concerns of getting Pagan and Pagan-related books out into the mainstream book markets (I myself have just finished a book proposal to shop around) I just don’t see any remarkable change in Llewellyn’s output lately. Sure they publish a ton of books about Angels, but they also publish books on Pagan polyamory, Goth magic, and Vampire tarot decks. More likely is that “prominent elders” sadly don’t shift units the way they used to.

Having said all that, we do need to be aware of efforts by cultural conservative groups to kick us back out of the mainstream. We do need to be vigilant and stand together to protect hard-won battles. But I want to be careful that we don’t confuse a market over-saturated with crappy books with a right-ward trend culturally. I look forward to reading the rest of Phyllis Curott’s series to see where she goes with this line of thinking.

In the meantime I would LOVE to hear from other published authors on what they see happening in the Pagan/occult/metaphysical publishing market. Do you share Curott’s concerns? What trends do you see emerging?

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Rain

    In bookstores in the area here (I’m in Canada, so we have Chapters instead of B&N), there are always several copies of any of Curott’s books. I’ve noticed the latest, The Love Spell, has even received flack in the Pagan community because of its focus on love spells and sex. Some want to avoid the mainstream public thinking Wiccans cast love spells to control others, and some want to avoid them thinking Wiccans are focused on sex.I had noticed the many angel books myself as well, but had attributed it to the fact that angels are more mainstream and acceptable. Such books will sell to a wider audience (much like Chopra’s books do, or books on astrology).

  • Rain

    I wanted to add, Curott mentions “I’ve been told that the Pagan community isn’t buying as many books, the market is saturated, books don’t have the quality that readers want, and worst of all that the community doesn’t support its authors. All of these discouraging explanations may be true, but there are other forces that are at play”. She is doing talks about “the other forces” along with three essays in a series at Witchvox. It’s a good thing we’re writing and talking about the first 4 reasons. They shouldn’t be discarded by Pagan authors in favour of crowing about Christian censorship. Hopefully it will be the impetus needed to get some new material out there.

  • Mariah

    Gee, maybe we aren’t buying as many books because, A) Pagans who’ve been around awhile have a lot of books already B) the new books aren’t so good and last but not least C) the price of the books- they all cost $20 a pop! Can’t someone write a book that costs around $8, which is a more typical price for a paperback? Sheesh. Granted there are some good books that have come out more recently, but they are vastly outnumbered by “spells for the masses” type books. I’ve heard the largest market for pagan books is still 101 type stuff, because so many are still new to it and so many people just pick up one book and dabble in it. Personally, I’ve been buying more scholarly books on mythology, ancient history & religion. Also, the pagan book niche has been around long enough that I can find some stuff used, including out of print books. Sorry if I’m not doing my pagan duty.