Archives For ebooks

With all apologies to Charles de Lint for borrowing his column’s title, here are some recently released and upcoming books that I think readers of The Wild Hunt will be interested in checking out.

510U4nBPTUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“A Million and One Gods: The Persistence of Polytheism” by Page duBois: Page duBois, Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego, author of “Out of Athens: The New Ancient Greeks” has a new book coming out in June that comes to the defense of polytheism. Quote: “Many people worship not just one but many gods. Yet a relentless prejudice against polytheism denies legitimacy to some of the world’s oldest and richest religious traditions. In her examination of polytheistic cultures both ancient and contemporary–those of Greece and Rome, the Bible and the Quran, as well as modern India–Page duBois refutes the idea that the worship of multiple gods naturally evolves over time into the “higher” belief in a single deity. In A Million and One Gods, she shows that polytheism has endured intact for millennia even in the West, despite the many hidden ways that monotheistic thought continues to shape Western outlooks.” Considering how few mainstream-marketed books we get that really address polytheism, I’m sure this work will generate a lot of conversation in our interconnected communities. Out June 2nd, 2014.

91veuvg9rzL._SL1500_“Walking With The Gods: Modern People Talk About Deities, Faith, and Recreating Ancient Traditions” by Dr. W.D. Wilkerson:  Speaking of polytheism, here’s a new ebook, out now, that looks at contemporary Western polytheists. Quote: “In spring of 2011, Dr. Wilkerson began interviewing contemporary Western polytheists about their religious practices. The point of her research was to discover how “faith” is defined in a polytheist context, and to demonstrate how the experiences of polytheists constitute a unique type of religiosity that deserves to be taken seriously. It was anticipated that there would be between 20-30 interviews, but before the three years of research and writing were finished, over 120 people participated in this large-scale ethnographic study of emerging polytheist religiosity. As the research demonstrates, contemporary Western polytheists are intimately concerned with the business of connection: actively and deeply engaging with their Deities, ancestors, land, and community, and living a whole and fulfilled life within that nexus of connection. This theology differs significantly and substantially from the concerns of the pervasively monotheist culture in which they are immersed. More importantly, these differences raise important theological questions about our culture’s assumptions regarding Deity, faith, religion, nature, and humanity’s relationship with each.” Some of the interviews include folks we know, like P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, and Erynn Rowan Laurie. Ebook available now, print edition due May 1st.

41CZYjUVvOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“Spirited Things: The Work of ‘Possession’ in Afro-Atlantic Religions” by Paul Christopher Johnson (editor): This new collection of essays, edited by Paul Christopher Johnson, author of “Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa,” tackles the sometimes complex topic of possession within African religions. Quote: “The word “possession” is trickier than we often think, especially in the context of the Black Atlantic and its religions and economy. Here possession can refer to spirits, material goods, and, indeed, people. In Spirited Things, Paul Christopher Johnson gathers together essays by leading anthropologists in the Americas to explore the fascinating nexus found at the heart of the idea of being possessed. The result is a book that marries one of anthropology’s foundational concerns—spirit possession—with one of its most salient contemporary ones: materiality. The contributors reopen the concept of possession in order to examine the relationship between African religions in the Atlantic and the economies that have historically shaped—and continue to shape—the cultures that practice them. They explore the way spirit mediation is framed both by material things—including plantations, the Catholic church, the sea, and the telegraph—as well as the legacy of slavery. In doing so, they offer a powerful new concept for understanding the Atlantic world and its history, creation, and deeply complex religious and political economy.” Out May 9th, 2014.

jhp530b85f08e66f “Witchcraft Today – 60 Years On” by Trevor Greenfield (editor): It would be fair to say that the publication of Gerald Gardner’s “Witchcraft Today” in 1954 was a monumental moment in modern religious history. Not only launching Wicca into the public eye, but sparking a much wider Pagan revival. Now, on the book’s 60th anniversary, Trevor Greenfield at Moon Books has collected a number of voices in an anthology celebrating and examining the ramifications of this work. Quote: “In the sixty years following the publication of Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today, new paths have appeared, and older ones emerged out of the shadow of repression and illegality, to express with a new and more confident voice their beliefs and practice, and share, with a steadily growing audience, their knowledge, their certainties, their questions and their vision. This book is a celebration of some of the many paths that Witchcraft/Wicca has taken and of the journeys that people have embarked upon.” Vivianne Crowley calls the book a “fitting tribute,” and I’m sure there’s a lot here for those interested in Gerald Gardner’s legacy. Out June 27th, 2014.

Other Pagan Books To Look For:

Do you know of some recently released or upcoming books that should be spotlighted here? Leave a comment or drop us a line and it may be featured in a future edition of this series. You can find previous installments of this series, here. Happy reading! 

In yesterday’s post, I discussed the state of the publishing industry with respect to Barnes & Noble’s recent unimpressive fiscal announcements. How would the disappearance of the last remaining large-scale, traditional bookstore affect the metaphysical book industry? After speaking with two industry experts, the answer seems conclusive. A Barnes & Noble collapse, while not at all preferable, would not permanently damage either company. Llewellyn and the Phoenix & Dragon Bookstore both maintain flexible, diverse, customer-driven business structures that are adaptable in this evolving marketplace.

books3-1024x516

Photo Courtesy of Elysia Gallo, Llewellyn

Will Barnes & Noble go the same way as Borders? Only time will tell. The industry is still changing and evolving. To date, there are many factors that have contributed to the upheaval including increased competition, changing consumer behavior, and the diversification of the product. There are paper books, audio books and eBooks in multiple formats. There are books published by the “big six,” by independent publishers, and most recently, by the authors themselves.

Self-publishing has become one of the hottest trends in the marketplace. Several weeks ago I interviewed New York Times best-selling author John Matthews, who had just announced the launch of his new self-publishing venture Mythwood Books. After years of negotiating the traditional publishing world, Matthews has chosen to “go it alone” in order to earn a greater percentage of the revenue and to maintain creative integrity over his work. 

As I reported in that article, approximately 43% (or 148,424) of all published books in 2011 were self-published. Bowker Books in Print reports the 2012 figure to be well-over 235,000 titles.The number continues to grow.

DSC06408

Cara Schultz

First-time author Cara Schultz chose to self-publish after an uncomfortable encounter with a traditional publisher. She explains:

The security, expertise, and wider distribution offered by publishers were attractive, but in the end the loss of control over my content and brand weighed too heavily… The publisher wanted to add and subtract products featured in my book based on advertising and marketing partnerships with companies.  I wanted to only feature products I own, use and recommend based on performance. 

Ginger Wood

Virginia Chandler

Virginia Chandler, author of fantasy fiction novels, and Christine Hoff Kraemer, Patheos Pagan Channel’s managing editor, also made a similar choice. Chandler’s first two books were published by Double Dragon Publishing, who she describes as “very supportive.”  However, she “craved more control” over her end product and has now turned to Amazon’s Create Space. Kraemer published her first books through a traditional academic publisher but turned to the more progressive Patheos Press for her most recent work, Seeking the Mysteries: A Introduction to Pagan Theologies. “The royalty percentage [is] much higher,” she says.

In response to the Matthews interview, author Donald Michael Kraig posed a poignant question to those who do choose to self-publish:

Self-publishing replaces everything the publisher did, including promotion, advertising, marketing, etc. Publishers have distributors and can get their books into bookstores and chains. How will you, the self-publisher, accomplish this?

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer

All three of authors had the same response. Shultz said, “Publishing houses say they will help market your book, but … they really won’t.” Chandler agreed saying, “Unless you are JK Rowling, Dan Brown, or a guaranteed million dollar selling author, you are going to be doing all of the promotional legwork.” Kraemer added, “Some publishers still do limited marketing for you, although this is becoming more rare.”

So how does their choice to “go it alone” affect the traditional book industry players? EBooks nearly eliminate the need for a publisher, distributor and brick-and-mortar store. Everything is done digitally. Phoenix & Dragon had already lost 15% of its sales to Amazon even before the popularity of eBooks. Self-publishing only exacerbates the problem.

Many self-published authors, like Kraemer, have turned to print-on-demand publishing services. These companies, such as Lulu.com, bridge the gap between a traditional publisher and full self-publishing. With print-on-demand, the author can offer a tangible product which broadens the potential readership and increases the likelihood of seeing their work on a store shelf.

However, it is not quite that simple. When I asked Candace Apple about the growth in self-publishing, she simple stated, “It makes life crazy.”  Phoenix & Dragon employs a full-time book buyer who evaluates every book sold. This screening process becomes more strenuous with self-published products. In such cases, Apple can’t rely on a publisher’s reputation in order to pre-qualify a book’s content.  Her buyer must carefully screen every self-published book. That takes time.

ba944243e5ae7ca30d2ae62a3545bb54

In addition, the cost is prohibitive.  As Apple explains, self-published authors do not offer wholesale discounts and large inventories. Apple must pay the full cover price plus shipping for every book purchased.

With that said, Apple believes in supporting community and will showcase local self-published authors. “I enjoy finding the gems,” she told me. Fortunately for the self-published Pagan author, the independently-owned metaphysical bookstores have that flexibility. The big chains, like Barnes & Noble, don’t. Going forward, Apple hopes that Amazon’s new distribution processes will alleviate some of the headaches associated with selling the self-published book.

What about Llewellyn? How is it handling the increase in self-published material? Bill Krause said:

There is no denying it has never been easier to self-publish and would-be authors may choose this path rather than submitting a manuscript to a traditional publisher for consideration. We can’t change this, so we have to figure out how to work with it. We have picked up some authors who were originally self-published and sold them to the trade quite successfully. In some cases we had them write new books, in other cases we had them rework their original. In all cases, it’s based on the content of the work.

He continued on to say:

The number of self-published books that find success is extremely small. Unless the author has some industry knowledge and also happens to be a tireless marketer/promoter while also being a strong writer, editor and designer (or willing to pay for this assistance), it’s very difficult to find success. 

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

Author David Salisbury echoed this sentiment saying:

My books so far have all gone through the traditional publishing process. It made the most sense for me to go that route for all the practical reasons. I love writing but hate doing everything else that goes along with putting a book out (editing, marketing, pitching etc.). I felt better handing my work over to professionals who I trust more than myself to complete a nice polished product

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton, author and Wild Hunt Columnist, also chose the traditional route. She said:

All three of my books are published through Immanion/Megalithic Press….I was looking for a partner in the process of working on my book. I chose to publish with a small press because I wanted the support of a publisher yet the creative freedom that a smaller press like Immanion could provide.

But what about that great promise of 70% revenue on every self-published book sold versus the 10-15% from a traditional publisher?  Krause said, “70% of what? To be another face in the crowd with no marketing budget.” He reiterated the importance of the relationship that Llewellyn forms with its authors.  This relationship along with its professional services can be invaluable over the long run – making up for that 55-60% revenue difference.

By Jorghex (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) via Wikimedia Commons

By Jorghex (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

For the author there are certainly pros and cons to both forms of publishing. For both Llewellyn and metaphysical shops, like Phoenix & Dragon, the self-publishing boom has created complications – ones that now must be taken seriously.

As for the mega book seller, don’t count Barnes & Noble out just yet. According to some analysts, Barnes & Noble is now in a golden position to thrive in one specific area –book selling.  It has the brand name, the resources, the real estate and industry clout. The only question is: can it adapt to the changing climate, find a way to work with the growing population of self-published authors and compete with Amazon? If it does, it will only be good news for Llewellyn, specialty stores like Phoenix & Dragon and many others.  If it doesn’t, we can all reminisce about our glory days getting lost in a book superstore.

 

Full Unedited Comments from authors:

Cara Schultz
Virginia Chandler
Christine Hoff Kraemer
Crystal Blanton

 

With all apologies to Charles de Lint for borrowing his column’s title, here are some recently released and upcoming books that I think readers of The Wild Hunt will be interested in checking out.

out_for_blood_adler“Out For Blood” by Margot Adler: In a Kindle Single released on June 10th,  Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America,” takes a look at the vampire, and how the monster has changed over the years to  suit our needs. Quote: “Starting as a meditation on mortality after the illness and death of her husband, Margot Adler read more than 260 vampire novels, from teen to adult, from gothic to modern, from detective to comic. She began wonder why vampires have such appeal in our society now? Why is Hollywood spending billions on vampire films and television series every year? It led her to explore issues of power, politics, morality, identity, and even the fate of the planet.“Every society creates the vampire it needs,” wrote the scholar Nina Auerbach. Dracula was written in 19th century England when there was fear of outsiders and of disease coming in through England’s large ports. Dracula – An Eastern European monster bringing direct from a foreign land – was the perfect vehicle for those fears. But who are the vampires we need now?” At only $1.99 this essay is certainly more than worth the price, and catches you up with what one of our most celebrated journalists has been working on.

livesoftheapostates“The Lives of the Apostates” by Eric Scott: Hey, look! It’s The Wild Hunt’s very own columnist Eric Scott with his debut novella (out June 28th), a story about friendship, religion, tragedy and coming-of-age. Quote: “In a Midwest college town, a Wiccan student named Lou finds himself forced into taking a History of Christian Thought class from a religion professor who spends his weekends preaching at the local Baptist church. Between shifts as a caretaker for mentally handicapped men Lou calls “the boys,” he confronts his professor’s story of Christian triumph with increasing anger. As tensions escalate, he turns to his roommate, a fellow Pagan with the unfortunate nickname of Grimey, and his coven-mate and crush, Lucy, for support. But Grimey is dealing with his own problems hiding his faith from his mother. In the course of a single night, the world collapses for Grimey and one of Lou’s boys, and Lou finds himself standing up for himself and his beliefs.” When asked to provide an endorsement, I said it was “a tone poem of rage and grief at growing up in a world where your very beliefs place you in opposition to the way most of the world is run, to the blunt instruments of religious power and privilege [...] a barbaric yawp from the Pagan soul.” However, I may be biased. So instead, listen to celebrated novelist and essayist Peter Manseau: “Finally, something new under the sun: a midwestern pagan coming of age story that is at once a poignant evocation of young love and a searing meditation on the ancient conflict between faiths. As sharp as a ritual blade, as full as a chalice, The Lives of the Apostates is a great surprise, and Eric Scott a writer to watch.” Eric has only started his career as a writer, and I’m proud that we’ve had a hand in nurturing it. 

america_betwitched“America Bewitched: Witchcraft After Salem” by Owen Davies: I knew about this book, released in March of 2013, but I haven’t had a chance to pay much attention to it (sometimes you lose track of things in my line of work). In any case, Owen Davies, author of such fine books as “Grimoires: A History of Magic Books” and “Paganism: A Very Short Introduction” (see my interview with Owen Davies regarding that book) digs through the archives of America to debunk the popular notion that we stopped killing and persecuting “witches” after 1692, and shows that belief in witchcraft persisted throughout this country into the 20th century (and beyond). Quote: “Witchcraft after Salem was not just a story of fire-side tales, legends, and superstitions: it continued to be a matter of life and death, souring the American dream for many. We know of more people killed as witches between 1692 and the 1950s than were executed before it. Witches were part of the story of the decimation of the Native Americans, the experience of slavery and emancipation, and the immigrant experience; they were embedded in the religious and social history of the country. Yet the history of American witchcraft between the eighteenth and the twentieth century also tells a less traumatic story, one that shows how different cultures interacted and shaped each other’s languages and beliefs. This is therefore much more than the tale of one persecuted community: it opens a fascinating window on the fears, prejudices, hopes, and dreams of the American people as their country rose from colony to superpower.” I think this book will be powerful and necessary reading for anyone interested in how our attitudes about witchcraft have been shaped. Here’s a video of Owen Davies discussing the book.

pagan_family_values“Pagan Family Values: Childhood and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary American Paganism” by S. Zohreh Kermani: How are Pagan families passing their beliefs on to their children? This is a central question explored by S. Zohreh Kermani, a Harvard PhD who teaches religious studies part time at Youngstown State University. Quote: “The first ethnographic study of the everyday lives of contemporary Pagan families, this volume brings their experiences into conversation with contemporary issues in American religion. Through formal interviews with Pagan families, participant observation at various pagan events, and data collected via online surveys, Kermani traces the ways in which Pagan parents transmit their religious values to their children. Rather than seeking to pass along specific religious beliefs, Pagan parents tend to seek to instill values, such as religious tolerance and spiritual independence, that will remain with their children throughout their lives, regardless of these children’s ultimate religious identifications.” Sarah Pike, author of author of “Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community,” says the book is “one of the best and most nuanced ethnographic studies of contemporary Paganism to come along. Kermani takes us into the deeply conflicted religious lives of Pagan families, yet as she so deftly reveals, Pagans are not unique in their ambivalent desires for their children.” This sounds like a must-read for anyone interested in how we raise our children, and understanding how children experience growing up Pagan. Out July 29th, 2013.

pop-pagans-paganism-and-popular-music“Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music” edited by Donna Weston and Andy Bennett: I briefly mentioned this title earlier, but I thought it deserved a more robust mention here, not because of my involvement, but because I think there’s some very important scholarship regarding the intersections of Paganism and popular music that I think many will find enlightening and useful.  Boasting contributions from Andy Letcher, author of “Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom,” and Douglas Ezzy, co-author of “Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for the Self,” among several others talented individuals, this book covers a lot of ground. Quote: “Paganism is rapidly becoming a religious, creative, and political force internationally. It has found one of its most public expressions in popular music, where it is voiced by singers and musicians across rock, folk, techno, goth, metal, Celtic, world, and pop music. With essays ranging across the US, UK, continental Europe, Australia and Asia, Pop Pagans assesses the histories, genres, performances, and communities of pagan popular music.” This book has been long overdue, and one that I hope will finally open the door for a proper history of self-consciously Pagan contemporary music.

Do you know of some recently released or upcoming books that should be spotlighted here? Leave a comment or drop us a line and it may be featured in a future edition of this series. Happy reading!

[The following is a guest post from CJ Stone on the newly revised Kindle edition of his book, "The Trials of Arthur," which explores the life and work of British Druid activist Arthur Pendragon. CJ Stone is an author, columnist, and feature writer. He has written four books: "Fierce Dancing: Adventures in the Underground" (Faber & Faber 1996); "The Last of the Hippies" (Faber & Faber 1999); "Housing Benefit Hill & Other Places" (AK Press 2001); and "The Trials of Arthur" (Thorsons/Element 2003). He is currently working on his fifth.]

“The new Druids and especially those involved in direct action such as Arthur, are therefore not fringe figures with ideals and preoccupations detached from those of a wider national community, but some of the more colourful contributors to a set of arguments and activities which involves a large part of that community.” - Ronald Hutton, from the forward of “The Trials of Arthur: Revised Edition”

It was just over three years ago that Arthur Pendragon asked me if I could get our book re-printed. It had originally been published by Thorsons/Element, an imprint of HarperCollins, in 2003, but had since gone out of print.

I contacted a friend on the off-chance: John Higgs, the writer of “I Have America Surrounded,” a biography of Timothy Leary. John had written a film script based upon our book, so I knew that he’d be interested.

This is where the magic kicks in, as it often does in Arthur’s life.

It just so happened that John had recently set up a publishing company in order to publish a book by a friend of his, and he had some ISBN numbers spare.

I have to say that I was never very pleased with the old book. I’d had a lot of difficulty writing it, and had had to deal with a fairly serious depression in the middle of it. I was about six months into it, and struggling, when 9/11 happened. After that I couldn’t see what relevance a book about road protests and Paganism in the 90s had any more. The world had suddenly turned apocalyptic in front of our eyes.

But I struggled on with it, very slowly, and, in the end, did the best job I could. It came out in 2003.

The second half was always much better than the first half, being as much about the protest scene in the UK in the 90s as it was about Arthur. And I rushed the first and last chapters in order to beat the deadline. I always knew they would ask me to re-write these chapters.

Except they never did. They asked me to re-write the last chapter, but the first chapter stayed the same, with all of its faults. It was clumsy, turgid, awkward and it entirely failed to do what any decent opening chapter should do: it failed to draw you into the story.

Thus, when Arthur asked me to get the book republished, I decided to re-write that first chapter.

Only now something magical happened again. I wrote two chapters to replace the original first chapter, but then I just couldn’t stop writing. I wrote chapter after chapter, much to Arthur’s annoyance, who wanted to get the book out quickly. And I have to say, in Arthur’s defence, that he had a point. My struggles with the earlier book had meant that we’d missed deadline after deadline, and the book had been seriously delayed.

Thus it was that we decided on a compromise. We republished the book as it had originally appeared, and I carried on writing what I thought was a brand new book.

Only it didn’t turn out like that either.

After a while I just found I was rewriting the old book again, and the whole project got shelved, while I waited for new material.

No new material turned up.

It’s funny how long it can take to spot the obvious at times. I had half a book I liked, and a published book I didn’t like. I was thinking of releasing some of my old books on Kindle, and spoke to John Higgs again. This was only a few weeks ago.

“Shall we put the Arthur book out on Kindle” I asked?

“Sure, why not?” said John. “Only why don’t you put those two chapters back in?”

Those were the two chapters that had turned into seven chapters and which we had jettisoned in favour of bringing out the book in its original form. So I looked at the two chapters and then at the seven chapters, then at more material I had, plus two more chapters that Arthur had written, and it all just slotted into place.

We had a brand new book on our hands.

And I have to say that, unlike the original book, this is one that I am genuinely proud of. It’s not only that it reads better – that it is faster paced and more compelling, or that the first chapter draws you right into a magical scene and then doesn’t let you go - it’s also that it all suddenly makes perfect sense.

I can clearly see the relevance at last.

Yes, it’s mainly about long-forgotten battles for the soul of Britain – about road protests and protests around access to the Stonehenge monument on solstice night – but it also brings up important issues about identity, about freedom, about culture, about our place on this planet, and about who we think we are.

That’s the point about Arthur. People say he’s crazy. It takes not knowing him to think that. Once you meet him you know how gloriously sane he actually is. It’s the rest of the world that seems crazy by comparison.

Whatever you think the mechanism of his claims might be – is he the reincarnation of a historical Arthur, or just the current representation of a mythological spirit? Did he become Arthur by living the part, or did he evoke something that was already there? Is ‘Arthur’ a title, or a name? Could anyone be Arthur if they chose? – However you think the process has evolved, the fact is that by his very presence he challenges much of what we take for granted in our 21st century world.

He takes us back to a magical time when our souls were our own and we were free to make decisions based upon the needs of the Earth and of our fellow creatures, rather than the hypnotism and propaganda of the global elites. He asks us to be heroes: to have adventures, to be bold and upfront in our lives, and gives us some hilarious and compelling examples of how he went about achieving the role for himself.

This is the true glory of Arthur’s achievement, that he makes Paganism an adventure again, rather than a learned squabble between rival factions. He brings it out of the library and onto the field of battle. He turns it into a battle cry for the Earth and for the dispossessed of the Earth. He makes it fun to be alive.

To buy the book: Amazon / Amazon UK
For more information about Arthur Pendragon: http://www.warband.org.uk/
For more information about CJ Stone: http://cjstone.hubpages.com/

Well-respected esoteric publishers Scarlet Imprint, producers of high quality limited-edition volumes on such topics as the cult of Pomba Gira, Palo Mayombe, and magical grimoires, has announced that they are going to start releasing their titles as ebooks.

A selection of Scarlet Imprint titles.

A selection of Scarlet Imprint titles.

“The e-book hopefully means more people will read books. That can only be a good thing. It also means that we can create affordable versions of our work so that readers can take the risk on new authors and unfamiliar subjects. You can dare to read and enrich yourself outside of your field, perhaps you haven’t encountered Pomba Gira or Palo Mayombe before, or you want to see if the poetry cuts it. It allows you to travel with a library rather than dislocating your shoulder with a satchel full of books- as we often do. It makes unwieldy reference texts quickly searchable for research. To this end, we are issuing all of our future paperback Bibliotheque Rouge titles in epub and mobi format.”

The move is part of their Bibliotheque Rouge line, which made cheaper paperback editions of their high-quality collectors editions available to the general public, and this latest expansion is being made in hopes that by “embracing the digital revolution” they can “get these relevant voices of modern magick to the new generation.” How are small metaphysical booksellers reacting to this move by Scarlet Imprint? I spoke with David Wiegleb, owner of Fields Books in San Francisco, about the new digital turn, and he expressed support and optimism for Scarlet Imprint’s new initiative.

“I applaud Scarlet Imprint for making their materials available in a variety of formats. They have fine editions available for the collector, nicely designed standard editions for those who want a copy for their permanent library, Bibliotheque Rouge unlimited paperback edition for the curious, the budget conscious, and future readers, and now ebook editions for those that want them. And the ebooks probably substantially help their bottom line. As a bookseller (and as a reader), whenever I see a publisher pursue a strategy that helps them not only survive into the future, but do so in a way that honors their commitment to good material and well-produced physical books, I will celebrate it. It looks to be a strategy other publishers should emulate.”

Also enthused by Scarlet Imprint’s new digital editions is poet, performer, and writer Ruby Sara, who edited the publisher’s recent collection of esoteric poetry, “Datura,” and is currently working on their new poetry collection, “Mandragora.”

“From a publisher that has amply demonstrated its continued commitment to the fine-bound book, I think the decision to offer digital editions represents an excellent, relevant, and holistic approach to the entire project of book-making. It simultaneously affirms the important place of the bookbinder’s art while ensuring that the words themselves – the blood, sweat and tears of the writer/occultist – are accessible to all. I’m personally very excited that the poetry in Datura, and the forthcoming anthology Mandragora, will be even more accessible through a variety of mediums, from the tactile beauty of the physical books to the economy of the digital editions.”

All digital books can be purchased directly from Scarlet Imprint, and are being released in EPUB (Nook compatible) and MOBI (Kindle compatible) formats. In addition, the company says they’ll “replace lost files for you free of charge as long as the lights stay on.”

While other Pagan and esoteric publishers have made digital editions of their releases available in recent years, I think Scarlet Imprint’s move deserves special notice for making limited edition works accessible to a larger audience. Like it or not, e-readers are here to stay. Millions of people use iPads, Nooks, and Kindles to read books in a variety of contexts. While there will always be a place for traditionally published books, digital editions offer a cheap(er) and convenient way to  experience works that may not be easily acquired otherwise. It can also act as a deterrent to those who would pirate their books, removing the excuses of price or availability from normal rationales. Here’s hoping more specialty publishers make their works available in electronic formats, creating real options for those who prefer using e-readers. Our thanks to Scarlet Imprint for “offering a free and unfettered choice.”

The publishing industry is in flux right now. The Borders chain has closed down, Amazon is continuing to expand from mere retailer to high-profile publisher, smaller booksellers continue to struggle, and access to ebooks is increasingly becoming something large book retailers and publishers will fight over. In this climate of uncertainty it is more important than ever for authors to have control over their intellectual property, or trust the ones who do. As digital rights become more than a mere afterthought bigger publishers are trying to force increasingly draconian contracts on writers desperate to break through. In some cases publishers are outright refusing reasonable requests for the reversion of rights on out-of-print books.

“After three weeks of silence and unreturned phone calls, [SFWA] GriefCom sent a different kind of request, giving Red Deer forty-eight hours to either revert the book or provide proof that it was being sold via regular trade channels, and asserting that after that, I would be forced to take additional steps. Early the next day, I heard from the GriefCom chair that he had received a phone call, and that the unidentified caller took him to task in no uncertain terms–claiming harassment, declaring there would be no reversion on the title, and warning that she would “report” us to [prominent Canadian SF writer #1] and [prominent Canadian SF writer #2]—all before hanging up on him.”

The above quote is from fantasy/romance author Doranna Durgin, who finally had to go public to try and shame her publisher into honoring the very clear reversion of rights clause in her contract. Why is Fitzhenry & Whiteside being so obstinate? Because as the ebook market continues to grow, publishers know they are now sitting on potential goldmines of out-of-print, but technically not-out-of-contract “backlisted” material. The last thing they want is their “midlist” authors defecting en-masse and selling directly to their now-established audience of fans (like Stephen “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Covey has done). Indeed, a number of digital middlemen have emerged to cater to authors who want to have more control (and money).

“Arthur Klebanoff, chief executive of RosettaBooks, said that Mr. Covey would receive more than half of the net proceeds that RosettaBooks took in from Amazon on these e-book sales. In contrast, the standard digital royalty from mainstream publishers is 25 percent of net proceeds. [...] His move comes as publishers ratchet up their efforts to secure the digital rights to so-called backlist titles — books published many years, if not decades, ago. These books can be vitally important to publishing houses because they are reprinted year after year and provide a stream of guaranteed revenue without much extra marketing effort.”

This phenomenon has already hit the esoteric/occult/Pagan sphere with the launch of the LVX/NOX and Sunna Press e-publishing imprints.

“Their first release is “The Magick of Qabalah” by British author Kala Trobe and is currently available via Amazon, with more platforms to be rolled out shortly. Future releases from the LVX/NOX and Sunna Press e-publishing imprints include works by  T. Thorn CoyleDiana Paxson, and Shen-tat. With the large number of Pagan and occult works that are out of print, this is an exciting and useful first step in using the power of digital publishing to rescue lost classics and important developmental works in the history of our communities.”

For the past thirty years publishing books has been one of the main methods Pagans have gotten the word out about their teachings, philosophies, or ideas. In the days before the Internet publishing a book was one of the only ways to make an impact outside your geographic region. The history and spread of modern Paganism would look very different today if it were not for authors like Margot Adler, Stewart Farrar, Starhawk, or old Gerald Gardner himself. Today, in a world of blogs, smartphones, and ebooks, having your work available on popular e-readers (iPad, Nook, Kindle) is becoming increasingly essential. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of out-of-print books by a number of Pagan and occult authors. Imagine if they were all available for purchase, and under terms where the author, not the publisher, got the bulk of the profits from each sale.

I know for a fact that some publishers of Pagan books have very stringent reversion clauses in their contracts, so I urge all Pagan authors to look at those old papers, and initiate the process of reverting the rights of out-of-print books back to yourself. Even if you decide to do nothing with those rights immediately, it still means that you, or your decedents, can someday sell your work again should you so choose. There is no reason, in this digital age, that your books should be unavailable. You have little to lose, and everything to gain by making all your works available again for sale under terms that you control. You don’t even have to go through Amazon if you abhor their business practices.  Services like Smashwords offer ebook alternatives that favor content creators. Heck, you could create a cooperative with several other authors and do it yourself! The options are endless, but only if you control your own work.

In the era of digital content, who controls your copyright is more important than ever. If you have a book, or several books, that are out-of-print, don’t wait for your old publisher to decide when they are worthwhile again. Start the process of reversion of rights now, because in some cases that process could take years, and will often include clauses that allow publishers to put your work back in print to avoid losing control over your copyright (they may even try to charge you money). If you’ve never thought of your digital rights, now is the time to start.