Audience and Responsibility

Mike recently posted about audience, and specifically writing for audience, in terms of what topics should be covered and who might read what he writes. It's an interesting quandary and one I've occasionally thought about in regards to this blog. What do I choose to say? What do I choose to reveal? How responsible am I to my audience for what I write about? This isn't just about sharing magical techniques but also experiences on a variety of topics, many of which might be considered adult only.

My own take on it is that I already have written books about magic, including one that had an adult only audience in mind, as it was about sex magic. But even the books that might be inclusive of a younger audience are written for mature people (Go here for a great post on the topic of mature and audiences). I certainly feel some responsibility for the audience I am writing for in the books I've produced. I want the books to accurately represent my magical work and help people understand the process of magic and how they can better apply it to their lives. I don't feel responsible for how my audience uses the knowledge gleaned from my books, as my audience is responsible for their choices and experiences (much as I am responsible for my experiences and choices). How they choose to use and/or abuse what they get from my books is their concern and the consequences are also their concern.

When it comes to this blog, I have a different take. While I know I have an audience of readers (thank you so much), this blog is primarily a way for me to write about ongoing projects, discuss internal work and personal realizations, and other such things. It is as much for my benefit as it is for anyone reading it. I feel responsible to my audience in the sense that I want to authentically share my process and work (and even inner struggles) as a way of inspiring them, but I don't worry about who will or won't read this blog. I figure that for the most part, the people who read this blog are other practitioners of magic who want to read my insights on my work, but even if no one read this blog, it wouldn't concern me because it is a record of my work, for my benefit.

I find that when you are clear about the distinct purpose of a given tool you are using, it makes it much easier to use that too effectively. My books are written for other people. I may glance through once in a while, but I know the material in a very personal way and as such when I write a book I am not writing it for me, but rather as a way to shared refined perspectives and processes of magic. My blog is written for me and for other people, but more as a way of providing insight on the ongoing work. In a sense a book captures the end product of the process...and even though it discusses the process, it discusses from a perspective of finality, whereas with the blog there is a continual revision occurring. One is a textual artifact, the other is an organic changing entity in its own right. Each has their own value and audience in mind.

I trust that whoever reads this blog is someone who is genuinely interested in the practice of magic (though there have been occasional exceptions to that rule). There is little else that needs to be said.

Book Review Sphere of Art 2 by R. J. Stewart

This book is a continuation of the first Sphere of Art with some major differences, namely that the author introduces kabbalistic and alchemical aspects to the Sphere of Art working. I recommend this book with the caveat that it is a good idea to have some practical experience with kabbala and alchemy in order to fully benefit from the practical applications described in this book. The author does an excellent job of showing how  the sphere of art working can be refined via the disciplines mentioned above as well as how it can further be used in the magical work he teaches. The work he discusses is doable, but will take some time and discipline on your part...well worth it for the benefits involved.

A word about copyright

I got a Google alert recently that showed that one of my books was available for free download on a site. I checked it out. I never put the book on that site and my publisher didn't either. So I sent them a DMCA takedown notice. Hopefully that will resolve the problem, at least temporarily. It's a good thing that I had an alert in place, because I doubt I'd find out otherwise. When I posted about this on some social networks, one person asked why I was concerned.

I'm concerned because I'm the author of that book. I spent who knows how many hours researching, experimenting, writing, and revising that book. And honestly, I'm not going to get a lot of compensation for the book. I'm writing for a niche audience within a niche audience. I get royalties and if I'm selling the book directly, I might make a bit more money then if the book is sold through Amazon or a bookstore, but either way I'm still not making a lot. But you know what? I want to be compensated for my hard work and effort. I want to get paid, even if its not a lot, for the writing I've done. I don't think that's unreasonable.

I know...some people will say: "Information wants to be free!" It's amazing how they have ascribed a desire to information, but as far as I know information doesn't give a flying fig about whether its free or not. Me, on the other hand...I care about the information I've compiled and written and put together and since I consider it to be my information, I can safely it doesn't want to be free. If it wants anything, it wants proper respect given to it and to the labors of someone who's worked to produce it.

I don't have a problem with Fair Use or a person quoting me (I do like proper attribution though!). I don't have a problem with a person writing about his/her experiences with my ideas and techniques. But I do have a problem when I see a site that offers a free download of my writing. My effort, my creation, my books deserve more respect. And its that same respect that I give every time I buy a book, quote and cite it, and for that matter review it, so others can get my take on it. That's why it concerns me...that's why it matters.

Revisiting the past

I'm in the process of revising Space/Time Magic for the Revised edition. It's been about five years since I wrote it, and the biggest realization I come away with is just how different I am from the person who wrote that book. Even my conceptualizations of space and time have changed a lot, so that while I recognize the threads and concepts as my own, I also find myself at a place where I recognize how much has changed in how I think about those same concepts and ideas as well as my practice of them.

I told Lupa that I planned not to do any more revised editions of previous works, because not only did I not really want to revisit the works, but trying to revise them and not include everything I've learned (because I'm working on a sequel) is a task I really don't want to do. I don't find fault in her editing either, but simply in realizing that the person I am now, the magician I am has moved in different directions than the magician who first wrote that book.

I'm not even sure I recognize the person who wrote that book. I've spent the last five years doing very intensive internal work to become a very different person from the one who wrote that book. And now, at the beginning of a new phase of my spirituality, when at least for the meantime, I move away from some of the internal work to doing more of the external work, I also recognize that how I approach that kind of work has shifted because of the internal work. So revising this book is really strange in the sense that I'm dealing with an older paradigm that I don't agree with anymore. It's not that the book or its concepts or techniques aren't valid and useful. They are...but they were written by a very different me...and the current me looks at that and doesn't regret it, but does recognize that the door has closed and there's really no going back.

A book update

The radio show on language and its connection to reality is now up. But that isn't what I'm really excited about today. For the first time in...a while, I've been going through the material for my next book. I have three appendices and Eight partial chapters. I'll be adding some material in today and also taking what I have and deciding what fits into my upcoming workshop at esozone, Which will focus on the intersection between neuroscience and magic.

For me writing is a very particular process. I'm one of those people who won't write a book until I know I have enough research and experimentation done to justify putting a book out there. It always feels good when I can finally get to the moment where I can say: Yes I'm ready to write. I'm not there, but I'm much closer and the fact I can add more notes to the growing mass of book I want to write has me in good spirits about the development of not only the book, but most importantly the techniques and process I'm developing.

I do consider writing to be a magical process, and one of the more potent techniques a person can use. We see it put to good (or bad) uses every day. I've used writing to steer the direction of my life as well as imprint on myself actions I can take to manifest particualr goals. I've used collages to bring people into my life and set the tone for specific months. I think writing and language will always be an essential tool and expression of people. I don't forsee that changing anytime soon, and hope it never will change.

Upcoming Releases from Immanion Press

We here at Immanion Press/Megalithica Books have a couple of surprises! In addition to the imminent arrival of DIY Totemism: Your Personal Guide to Animal Totems, we managed to release two other books this month! Ecstatic Ritual by Brandy Williams is a classic text on practical sex magic that's back in print after nearly two decades. This revised new edition has expanded material, as well as an annotated bibliography and other features. Lupa and I had enjoyed the book as readers several years back, and now we're pleased to be a part of making it available again!

Additionally, a last-minute decision led to the release of the new edition of my Pop Culture Magick. Updated with more recent examples of pop culture, and re-edited to smooth out the writing, the content is still the same innovative ideas about integrating video games, RPGs and other geekery with magical practice. We do have a very small number of the first edition left that we're clearancing out at a discount, too, and you can find information on it at the page above.

Pop Culture Magic Anthology

I'm editing an anthology on pop culture magic. It's nearly finished, I'd say. It's fascinating to read what other people have done or are doing with pop culture and magic. It gives me a renewed appreciation for that field of magic. I'll admit I'd become a bit cynical about that particular area, but after reading and editing the articles I may actually write another pop culture magic book down the line. *shrugs* or not. We'll see. The fact that I'm finding renewed appreciation in it is enough. Not everything has to involve writing. I've been doing a lot of thinking about my place in the occult/pagan community. I posted in my live journal earlier today about some of my reservations and whether I really identified as an occultist anymore. I practice magic and mostly I think that's useful enough as a descriptor of an area of my life, but not the entirety of it.

I think the practice a person takes on is really a personal thing...you make of it what you will. It's easy sometimes to get caught up in what others are doing, but what others do is not what I do...it can be similar, but I'm also on my own journey. I need to remember to honor that.

Advanced books: Is there a market for them?

Recently Carl Weshke, the owner of Llewellyn books put up a call for readers, asking them to email him about advanced books, i.e. what they wanted Llewellyn to publish that would constitute advanced material. Oddly enough, Donald Michael Kraig had recently written an article in New Worlds Magazine (A Llewellyn magazine), which seems to contradict with Carl is looking for in advanced magic. In Donald's article, he suggests instead that it's not deeper books, but broader books which are more important, and that there's no such thing as advanced material. I disagree with the sentiments of the latter article. I believe that it is possible to write and publish advanced books on magic and find an audience for them, but it strikes me as odd that there is such a fundamental disconnect, or rather contradiction at work within a publisher that wants to publish advanced works, but also discourages the concept. Granted, it could be argued that DMK doesn't speak for Llewellyn, as opposed to Carl Weshke, but he is an editor there, as well as an author. Then too, there's the question of whether Llewellyn ultimately can publish advanced books. Their focus is on trying to reach the broadest demographic, which is impossible to do with an advanced book. An advanced book is for a smaller audience and will generally utilize discourse that is focused toward that audience. The goal isn't to sell books to as many people as possible, but rather to meet a specific market's need, which necessarily limits the number of people who will buy the book.

Finally, The wildhunt as weighed in on this issue, as well as commentators. The sentiment there seems to be that the focus on advanced magic and esoteric technologies is too limited, with not enough focus on advanced pagan spirituality and theology and philosophy. While I think their is a point to be made for the lack of advanced books on those subjects, I also think it's important to find a way to bring some practical applications to those topics. Thus a book on advanced spirituality or theology could still include some form of practical exercises or magical work that integrates the concepts into the person's life. Then too there are publishers such as Asphodel press who do in fact offer a venue for publishing books on advanced spirituality, etc. The difference is asphodel isn't a big publisher, with access to big box book stores, while Llewellyn is...and perhaps that's where some of the discontent from some authors is, because presumably those big box book stores will sell lots of their books...but let me just say that any book of an advanced topic generally will not sell well in big box stores. The audience has to be reached through different means, through personal interaction, but also through recognizing that your audience probably won't go to Barnes and Nobles to buy a book on advanced magic.

As someone who helps publish intermediate and advanced books on magic, and spiritual practices, what I find time and again is that the sales are not driven by big bookstores, but by knowing the audience and recognizing it's not a large target demographic. And that's okay. It works, because the people who do buy the books usually end up being loyal and continuing to support the publisher, while also spreading word of mouth to other people. The market success is based on knowing what the audience wants, and also accepting that what is wanted doesn't need to sell in large numbers to be a success (though I'll never complain if large numbers sell). The bottom line isn't what's important. It's the value the audience places in the material and also the author's voice being fully listened and allowed to show through in the books that are written.