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Author Topic: What Do You Think of This New Age Publisher?  (Read 2798 times)
Altair
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« Topic Start: June 09, 2010, 03:27:43 pm »

I'd welcome opinions on the reputations of publishers of New Age books: Are their books generally worthwhile? Do they have credibility in the publishing industry? Etc. etc. Any and all thoughts on the following (or any others you can think of) would be very helpful. Don't hold back; how do you really feel?

Llewellyn
Celestial Arts/Crossing Press
New Page Books
Circle Books (/Zero Books/O-Books)
Red Wheel/Weiser

P.S. And if you've dealt with any of these or any other publishers as an author, let me know your experience. Thanks!
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« Reply #1: June 09, 2010, 03:38:54 pm »


As a reader, the only publisher I know I've read from is Llewellyn, and my opinion of them is pretty much entirely negative. Mostly because I have a deep love and respect of history, and they don't seem to understand the concept of fact-checking their works prior to publication. From the sheer amount of crap they publish, it almost seems like they encourage such irresponsibility.

I've heard that their works that are strictly metaphysical are pretty good, but I avoid them on general principle.
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Altair
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« Reply #2: June 09, 2010, 04:11:35 pm »

As a reader, the only publisher I know I've read from is Llewellyn, and my opinion of them is pretty much entirely negative. Mostly because I have a deep love and respect of history, and they don't seem to understand the concept of fact-checking their works prior to publication. From the sheer amount of crap they publish, it almost seems like they encourage such irresponsibility.

I've heard that their works that are strictly metaphysical are pretty good, but I avoid them on general principle.

Yeah, that seems to be a common response to Llewellyn around TC. I kinda threw it at the top of the pile as red meat, to get things going.

Too bad they're so sloppy, as they seem to be the most capable at getting their books onto bookstore shelves.
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« Reply #3: June 09, 2010, 04:27:50 pm »

P.S. And if you've dealt with any of these or any other publishers as an author, let me know your experience. Thanks!

Many of the Wiccan/Pagan authors who start at Llewellyn move to other publishing houses when they can. New Page and Weiser seem to be fairly popular with former Llewellyn authors. That said, Llewellyn's credibility depends on what line you are talking about. Most of their Wicca and Pagan books are not well thought of. Their astrology, ceremonial magic, and (to a lesser extent) their Tarot books are often quite good.
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« Reply #4: June 09, 2010, 05:22:11 pm »

I'd welcome opinions on the reputations of publishers of New Age books: Are their books generally worthwhile? Do they have credibility in the publishing industry? Etc. etc. Any and all thoughts on the following (or any others you can think of) would be very helpful. Don't hold back; how do you really feel?

The thing is, there's more than one kind of credibility - and different sub-lines from a given publisher may be very varied.

The things I think are most important:
1) Publishers need to make money to stay in business.
The traditional model of publishing has involved having some books that are widely popular and sell to a number of people, which can then support a few titles that have less widespread interest. If a publisher *doesn't* do this, generally the number of titles they can put out in a given year is extremely limited and/or they're extremely susceptible to market forces. This is not good for the long-term availability of the business or of any given title, so publishers often (fairly sensibly) spread out what kinds of material they publish.

1b) There are incoming changes to this as people look at print on demand models, ebooks, and other newer technologies, but how that works is still playing out in practice. One publisher worth looking at here is Immanion/Megalithica, who have built a really nice niche for themselves publishing stuff that is not beginner-basic material and has a relatively small niche - but marketing well to people who are interested in that niche.

2) Very *very* few publishers these days have significant fact-checking editing going on. That's true not just for New Age publications, but for most publications outside of academia (and even there, it can be hit or miss). Detailed fact checking is extraordinarily expensive in terms of time and attention cost, and for a book that's already sort of a marginal seller because it's a niche market, it just doesn't make sense.

3) That said, publishers do seem to be moving toward a model of better standards around sourcing and other information in books - I just got a contract offer from Llewellyn for an article (more below) which included their guidelines on same which are simple but reasonable for an article. (Although the thing I'm writing for them probably won't have a lot of externally sourced material.)

4) It's also good to remember that there are a number of places in spiritual discussion where formal academic sourcing practices may not be the best solution - we've got issues of privacy and confidentiality, experiential information like that gained in ritual and meditation, things that are a creation of groups of people some period of time ago, and so on and so forth. I'm not saying we shouldn't give appropriate credit (we definitely should) - but I'm also not surprised that we, as a community talking about this stuff, are still figuring out the best ways to do that for our actual needs.

5) Publishers change over time. Even more so, the stuff that's new on the shelves *now* was bought and considered 2-3 years ago, probably. I think it's critical (especially in a small market) to look not just at what a publisher did in the past, but what they're doing recently, and in particular, what they're looking for in their submissions.

Publishers:
First, a disclaimer: I've looked at the submission guidelines for all of the publishers you mention below in the last five years except for Circle Books, been published by one (Llewellyn), rejected by two (New Page and Weiser) and intend to do another round of submission fun later this summer if all goes well. (The book in question is the Better Pagan Research Skills book I've been working on on and off for the last decade, so convincing people that it'll sell is a tricky part of the process.)

Llewellyn: They publish a lot of generic 101 stuff that hits the current trend. This is not always the best information. However, they've been putting out a fair range of actually really thoughtful stuff in the last five years or so - most of the worst of the offenders in their line were put out in the 10-15 year range. Historically, their Tarot and astrology publications have always been highly respected, as have a number of their ceremonial magic offerings - the place they get most criticised for is in the Wicca and general witchcraft books.  

Recent titles of theirs I've really liked in that category, though, include Deborah Lipp's work, Dianne Sylvan's two books, Thea Sabin's _Wicca for Beginners_ and a few others: there are certainly options out there. They also publish enough titles that there's a fairly good range out new at any given time.

The writing I've done for them has been for their Witches' Companion almanac: I had a piece in the 2010 one, will have one coming out in the 2011 one, and like I said, just got the contract for their 2012 ones. They pay professional rates for these, and my discussions with both the editors I've worked with have been professional, pleasant, and thoughtful: they clearly have a good idea of the relevant content areas. I haven't done a word for word comparison with the first article, but it was not significantly edited if it was edited by them at all for content. (On the other hand, I did a lot of editing myself, and it was certainly more concise than my usual posting style, and more coherent, and sourcing was not an issue. There are other articles in that volume that do have some nice general source information for further reading or to cite a specific resource mentioned in the text.)

Celestial Arts/Crossing Press: It looks like they've continued to move away from explicitly Pagan works in the last few years - the books they're still publishing that are on these topics all are from 2004 or earlier. (The 2005 _Wicca's Charm_ is not a book about Wicca as much as it is Wicca's role in modern religious culture, and what Christian churches might consider to engage people who end up seeking in the Pagan community.) It's a pity: I rather like their layout and design choices in a number of cases, both in Pagan and non-Pagan materials.

New Page Books: They've done some stuff I really liked. They've also done some stuff that's as poorly considered as the worst stuff out there. But they also publish *many* fewer titles than Llewellyn while having the same range of general quality and depth. That means that the really great stuff is relatively sparse on the ground.

Circle Books (/Zero Books/O-Books): Not familiar with their stuff, but from the website, small press expanding into mid-sized one. I'll keep an eye out for a couple of their titles, but would put them in the same category as Immanion/Megalithica albeit with a slightly different publishing/distribution model.

Red Wheel/Weiser: This is the press I'd say has the most long-standing deeper-work reputation: they tend to not publish the intro stuff, but do publish a range of titles that go deeper.

Publishers you don't mention:

Kensington: I've gotten the impression they've reduced the number of Pagan-related titles in their line in the last couple of years, but that's an impression: I haven't dug into the numbers thoroughly. They're sort of somewhere in the middle historically - somewhat deeper works than the most general of Llewellyn and New Page, but not as academic-focused as some of Weiser's publications.

Any number of small press: It seems like every month I see a new one popping up somewhere; there are certainly bunches out there. The potential problems with these are threefold: 1) them being around long enough to pay in any meaningful way, 2) whether they provide editing and other meaningful services, or just rubber stamp the process, and 3) whether their titles ever appear on bookshelves in actual stores or in libraries (both of which take some navigating): for some books, this is a much bigger deal than others.

Worth nothing
There are any number of publishing scams out there: I recommend the Writers Beware blog and Preditors and Editors for anyone considering a small press - and actually, publishing in general.

http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/ (there's a link to the blog there)
http://pred-ed.com/
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Altair
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« Reply #5: June 09, 2010, 10:47:33 pm »

Many of the Wiccan/Pagan authors who start at Llewellyn move to other publishing houses when they can. New Page and Weiser seem to be fairly popular with former Llewellyn authors. That said, Llewellyn's credibility depends on what line you are talking about. Most of their Wicca and Pagan books are not well thought of. Their astrology, ceremonial magic, and (to a lesser extent) their Tarot books are often quite good.

Good to know. These are nuances of which I was unaware.
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Altair
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« Reply #6: June 09, 2010, 10:49:09 pm »


Jenett, you rule. This is exactly the kind of info I was looking for. A heartfelt thank you.

(I knew TC was the right place to come to with this question!)
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« Reply #7: June 10, 2010, 12:51:37 am »

1b) There are incoming changes to this as people look at print on demand models, ebooks, and other newer technologies, but how that works is still playing out in practice. One publisher worth looking at here is Immanion/Megalithica, who have built a really nice niche for themselves publishing stuff that is not beginner-basic material and has a relatively small niche - but marketing well to people who are interested in that niche.

2) Very *very* few publishers these days have significant fact-checking editing going on. That's true not just for New Age publications, but for most publications outside of academia (and even there, it can be hit or miss). Detailed fact checking is extraordinarily expensive in terms of time and attention cost, and for a book that's already sort of a marginal seller because it's a niche market, it just doesn't make sense.

I do minor level fact checking as part of my job (I'm a (copy)editor working for Immanion/Megalithica, for reference), but primarily that's as someone who knows a whole bunch of random stuff and can thus do things like say "This star is not in that constellation" and/or "You might be interested in correcting this statement about Hera and making reference to peacocks instead" (to pick two I actually did).

But really, this is not going through and factchecking a manuscript; that's the manuscripts happening into the hands of an editor who has a brain full of random crap.
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« Reply #8: July 10, 2010, 01:57:03 am »

The thing is, there's more than one kind of credibility - and different sub-lines from a given publisher may be very varied.

The writing I've done for them has been for their Witches' Companion almanac: I had a piece in the 2010 one, will have one coming out in the 2011 one, and like I said, just got the contract for their 2012 ones. They pay professional rates for these, and my discussions with both the editors I've worked with have been professional, pleasant, and thoughtful: they clearly have a good idea of the relevant content areas. I haven't done a word for word comparison with the first article, but it was not significantly edited if it was edited by them at all for content. (On the other hand, I did a lot of editing myself, and it was certainly more concise than my usual posting style, and more coherent, and sourcing was not an issue. There are other articles in that volume that do have some nice general source information for further reading or to cite a specific resource mentioned in the text.)


Was your article the one on music? 
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« Reply #9: July 10, 2010, 01:15:21 pm »

Was your article the one on music? 

Yep! (And I just got my author copy for the 2011 one, which is on connecting with Pagans online: I don't think it's up for sale yet, but will be shortly.)
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« Reply #10: July 10, 2010, 03:17:28 pm »

Yep! (And I just got my author copy for the 2011 one, which is on connecting with Pagans online: I don't think it's up for sale yet, but will be shortly.)

It was a very nice article.  I'm not overly far from the twin cities, so I thought of applying to intern there next summer.
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