TWH – The new year has been rung in and resolutions have been made and, for many, high on the list of resolutions is to finish writing a book and have it published. This is, would be their first attempt at becoming a professional author. While there are many resources devoted to the budding writer, there isn’t much specific to publishers who work with Pagan, Heathen, and other occult topics.The Wild Hunt spoke with several publishers about the kinds of books that they are looking for this year and what common mistakes prevent a book from being accepted. They offer some helpful and direct advice for budding authors.
We spoke to four publishers, including: Taylor Ellwood, managing non-fiction editor at Immanion Press. Ellwood is also the author of fifteen different esoteric books. Elysia Gallo, senior acquisitions editor at Llewellyn Worldwide. Mitch Horowitz, VP/Executive Director at TarcherPerigee (Penguin Random House). Horowitz is also a PEN award-winning author of Occult America and One Simple Idea, and is an occult historian. Finally, Erin Lale acquisitions editor at Caliburn Press. Caliburn Press includes the owner’s original company, Spero Publishing, in addition to a number of imprints that previously had different owners.
The Wild Hunt: Are there any areas of topics your publishing house is looking for in 2017?
Taylor Ellwood: Intermediate to advanced topics on magic, and paganism, basically books that take a new approach to magic or advance an existing tradition or practice.
Elysia Gallo: I am not looking for anything in particular. People need to write about what they are passionate about because it’s a long process. They need to be the expert/authority in the topic, I’m not going to tell them what to do. If someone has a handful of ideas that they are interested in writing about, they can always ask me (or another editor at another house) before they start writing, to see if any of the ideas are higher in priority/interest level for us than the others.
Mitch Horowitz: I’m always interested in “beginners books”–really well-done portals of entry to bedrock topics in spellwork or divination. I am interested in scholarly translations of classic or ancient writings, such as Agrippa, Marcus Manilius, or the Hermetic writings. In 2017 I’m publishing a new translation of Eliphas Levi, which I’m excited about. I’m also interested in works that bring an ethical dimension to magick or any kind of esoteric practice.
Erin Lale: In addition to coloring books, we’d love to have something for the games imprint on the intersection of stage magic and witch magick. On the nonfiction side, we’re open to any pagan or magic related topic for the imprint Spero. On the fiction side, Eternal Press publishes all genres except mainstream. We’re hoping to publish more pagan related novels, especially about ordinary pagans who don’t have fantastical powers, but EP is not specifically a pagan imprint. EP’s biggest genres are romance and erotica (including both straight and QUILTBAG), and horror.
TWH: What’s the number one mistake you see aspiring authors make when submitting work to you?
TE: The number one mistake I see when authors submit working is not doing the research about the publisher. Aspiring authors should take a look at the lineup of a publisher and ask themselves if they think their book is a fit.
EG: Number one mistake? There are so many mistakes. Assuming that they are pitching me a book we might actually publish (which is honestly mistake number one – know the publisher you’re pitching to!), the biggest mistake would just be being sloppy. If I see a person can’t be bothered to spellcheck their proposal, it shows me right away that perhaps they’re not serious enough. I also like to see that they know how to cite information properly, have a real connection to the material, and, in general, are not charlatans.
MH: Never having tested their ideas in front of an audience or a readership, however small. It is vital not to work and think alone. I’m far less interested in marketing plans or social media platforms than in seeing that a writer has been engaged within a community or subculture, and has road-tested his or her ideas. A relationship with an audience is key.
EL: The biggest mistake is not including all the necessary information in the cover letter. The cover letter should have all the author’s contact info, including their paypal email, the genre and word count, a brief synopsis (not a teaser– a synopsis reveals the ending), an author bio, and a marketing plan.
TWH: What suggestion do you have for aspiring authors?
TE: My suggestion is that it’s not enough to write a book. You need to think about how you’ll market and launch the book as well as yourself. [When authors submit their work to the publisher] they should be prepared to describe what they will do to reach their ideal audience, as well as who that audience is.
EG: If you can, talk to other authors who have been published to explain the process to you, since I can’t always spare the time when potential authors approach me. Write for magazines, blogs, and annuals to get your name out there and work on your writing skills. Have friends test read and proofread for you. Have smart friends.
There are also tons of writing workshops and classes out there, I strongly encourage everyone who wants to get published to take some courses! Feedback is golden, and it’s best to get it in their early stages than when it’s on my desk.
MH: It is really the simplest thing you can imagine: write, write, write. Become masterful at your craft. The problem in publishing today is that we take on too many people who aren’t real writers. I tell people who are interested in magick, the paranormal, esoterica, or any of the topics I handle, that if I met someone who could write and research what used to be called a “wire service” news story I would publish him in a second. The magician or Fortean needs to demonstrate that he can truly write, and on any topic.
For good writing advice, check out the book Ogilvy on Advertising. He emphasizes research, clarity, and a to-the-point style. I can’t tell you how many people neglect the sweat-equity of good writing in favor of all kinds of “tricks” that are supposed to attract editors. Editors read a lot mediocre or unfocused material all day long. When they encounter something that’s brilliantly clear and simple, they take notice. Be in that small handful of people who demonstrate solid, basic writing ability. It will get you published.
EL: Join a writers’ critique group specific to your genre. Always exchange critiques with fellow writers before you submit a novel.
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While each of the publishers are looking for different types of projects to publish in the coming year, the mistakes to avoid and tips for success do follow common themes. First, research publishers so you pitch your book to the one most likely to be interested in your topic. Don’t keep your writing a secret, share it with others, and ask for feedback before you submitting to a publisher. Most of all, hone your writing skills. “Write. Write. Write.”
If you keep these suggestions in mind, 2017’s resolution to finish that book could result in a published book in 2018.