Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making Money As an Esotericist Through New Techs Paradigms

I got into a "how can you accept payment for the sacred art of X, Y and Z?" discussion on a group that got me thinking and I realized that books, whether as hard copy or electronic media, were likely to be considered more broadly acceptable. Of course, the "everything I want should be free" contingent won't like any of this, but nobody gets paid for nothing clearly isn't a viable option for the economy.

I'll still run into people that tell me they have written a book, or worse, a novel and are looking for an agent, so they can get a publisher. Folks, this is a very 20th century approach! This is still thinking in terms of printing technology where you do big print runs, store the books in a warehouses, sell through intricate distribution chains from a distributor to book stores. The publisher takes big risks and has big capital costs for author advances, printing, marketing, editing etc. The focus is on bestsellers and mass sales with a tiny profit per sale. Very hit or miss and only for the big boys.

Or alternatively you can do the tiny occult press thing. Again a big, big risk because you need to sink a huge amount of money into your print runs. Sales are slow, then you sell out your print run after many years and suddenly with the book out of print the price skyrockets and the used books dealers get the profit.

The game has, or rather, is changing drastically. Amazon killed the local bookstore. But they never had the titles I wanted anyway, even a huge Borders only had 100,000 titles, while Amazon has everything in print, literally millions of titles.

But the real change is print on demand (POD). Instead having to sink money into print runs, you publish by uploading a pdf and then when the customer orders it, the printer prints the book for them. The cost per copy is higher, but you don't need to have any money upfront. No risk means you can take more chances in terms of sales.

Put that POD book on Amazon and customers can't tell the difference between you and Random House. They order the book and it shows up looking like the paperback or hardcover they are used to.

Now Amazon takes a hefty bite and POD is more expensive, but you aren't paying the bookstore its 40% trade discount and you've cut out the publisher and distributor.

Couple of other points. First, you can target a much smaller, niche audience profitably. Our translation of the Complete Picatrix has sold less than 300 copies, which seems miniscule, but since we aren't splitting the profits with a publisher or distributor and we have no overhead, it's been profitable from the first copy. We even used the POD concept for our high end handmade cloth bound and leatherbound Picatrix editions.

Rather than doing very expensive print runs, the customer orders a copy and we had a local book binder do the binding. This meant that every customer of the cloth and leatherbound got a special dedication page with their name on it, the leatherbound, they could choose the color of leather, designs, sigils, etc, as well.

Basically we are back to the 14th century! Before printing was invented, each manuscript was done only after an order and could be done uniquely for each client. Modern technology has changed the publishing paradigm.

And this is just for hardcopy books! I'm not a big fan of selling pdfs because they are ultra easy to pirate. I know that some of the esoteric heavy hitters do have good luck with pdfs. I'm not quite ready to do Kindle or other e-book readers, but I think these have potential too. I was thinking I would do a pdf with a Creative Commons license that people could freely distribute it if they didn't change or charge for it, to get some useful information out there along with some advertising.

Any hooooo, when I heard on Jason Miller's Sorcery course (very interesting by the way, I love his practical approach) that a popular idea for making money with esoteric stuff is opening a bricks and mortar occult shop, I again, had to say, how 20th century! Heavy overhead, big time commitment and limited to local business. It might be worth it if you used the shop as marketing tool for your Internet business, but otherwise, no way!

I know that there are plenty of people out there that magic, etc., are just hobbies for or are something they do for free for friends and family. That's great, but there are increasing numbers of us that are so serious about this that they want to do it full time and give value for the $.

For those people, don't get locked in the past. We haven't really thought through how to use Internet and these incredible technological changes, but the opportunities are really out there! Don't get locked into the paradigms of fading technology!


M.C. said...

Very astute of you Chris, and very wise. Times, technologies and cultures change whether we like it or not and we are left to adapt to or be overcome by them

Anonymous said...

It is certainly true that it is much less expensive to run an online shop than a b&m one. The other thing is that being online allows the merchant to fulfill a niche that basically does not exist for b&m occult shops. I encourage people to try that.

The problem with self-publishing is that so much crap is being self-published that it has begun to contaminate the very idea of self-published, so that if something is self-published, many have immediately a negative view of it.

Jason Miller, said...

Hi Chris,

We totally agree on the brick and mortar occult shop: I love them and frequent them when I cam, but think it is a TERRIBLE business idea.

I have to disagree with you a little on the publishing end of things though.

I am a strong advocate of traditional publishing, and publishers, and while POD has its place and uses, especially for people that are already established in their field, I get kind of disappointed when someone immediately wants to do their book as POD without even thinking about submitting it to a publisher.

Here is the deal: You will not make as much per copy with traditional publishing, but that is ok because there will be a lot more copies out there. Essentially you will probably bring home the same amount of cash give or take in the end.

However, I do not write books for New Page to make money off the books. Its advertising that I get paid to make. The books are solid and have a lot of great info in them, but no where near as much as the course.

Protection and Reversal Magick was published in 2006 and still is regularly breaking the top 10,000 in ALL books. For an occult book, thats pretty damn good. It is also available in Kindle as well as Russian and Spanish languiage versions - all of which I did NOTHING to arrange myself. One day a box of books in Cyrillic and a check shows up on my doorstep, surprise!

I get a dozen or so e-mails a week from people that picked the book up here or there. I would never be able to reach that amount of people thru my own distribution.

Now, does POD have a place? yes. I am considering doing a POD hardback of my Hekate Grimoire and offering it for sale on the blog and website. It is only because I have other books out on shelves though that enough people would hear about it to purchase it.

Books and bookstores are not quite old news yet.

Also, there is a certain amount of prestige that you will not benefit from as a self published author. You benefit from such prestige because of your website and renown as one of the worlds best Astrologers, not everyone is in the same boat. Many magazines and reviewers will not even look at your book if it is not received through a proper publisher.

I WOULD say that by going with a traditional publisher you also benefit from professional editors and such, but given the state of The Sorcerers Secrets, I am not really in a position to make that case :-)

Anyway, just some food for though. Thank you for the kind words about my class. I am tyring to find the appropriate astrological timing to make the charm that keeps flies away from the Picatrix, which you and JMG did a fantastic job with.

Christopher Warnock, Esq said...

Both Harold & Jason make the point that they think as an esoteric author you should choose to go with traditional publishing rather than POD and make some good points.

However, this assumes you have a choice! In our case, despite John Greer being a full time professional author with many traditionally published books, we had exactly ZERO success interesting a publisher in Picatrix, despite it being the most famous grimoire of astrological magic.

In the old days that would have been the end of it, maybe we could have sold mimeographs or something.

Luckily with POD, we can actually make Picatrix and other books, even less well known available. And not only available, but profitable for us.

Jason Miller, said...

Which is exactly why I am probably going to go POD for my Hekate book. New Page is interested in publishing it, but not in a HC format, and I kind of want it done like that.

Again, its not really that POD is not the way to go for some people and some things, it is just that many people run right to it out of what boils down to fear of rejection.

Being traditionally published will also help sales of any POD that you might release, which will eventually make youy more money per unit. I am sure that the projects that you and JMG work on benefit from the fame both of you have in other areas.

Christopher Warnock, Esq said...


You are having the same problem we did, which is trying to comprehend how there was NOT A SINGLE traditional publisher who wanted to publish Picatrix.

We did not CHOOSE to self publish Picatrix, we were not afraid of being turned down, we were turned down, repeatedly.

It was POD or nothing!