I came across this blog entry from S. Connolly about the future of esoteric publishing and found myself in agreement with what she wrote. I find the publishing industry to be a quixotic beast to say the least. You have larger publishers who focus on publishing books that will sell to a larger market. You have smaller publishers, which focus on more niche markets because they have smaller overhead, but also because it is for very specific audiences. I am not the bigger publishers' audience, though they might disagree and say I was. The majority of books the bigger publishers put out just don't interest me, and usually are written for an audience that is just starting out, or is at best, an intermediate audience. Much like S. Connolly, I am very picky about what I pick up. In fact, the last time I picked up a book from a bigger pagan publisher, it was Jason Miller's Financial Sorcery, which was in 2012. Since then I've picked up a handful of occult books, all of them from smaller presses. The majority of books I buy aren't even occult books anymore because most of its just the same old, same old, which I've already read. I want something different and I have to go elsewhere to find it.
Authors face a hard choice, I think, when it comes to publishing. Do you go with a larger publisher who can give you better royalties (maybe even an advance) but also be required to write books for that larger audience? Or do you write a book that's for a niche audience, which won't make as much money, but will provide you more artistic control over your voice? Some authors opt for doing both, while other authors choose to stick with one type of publisher or another. For a short time, I considered publishing one of my book with a larger publisher, but it didn't really work out. I decided ultimately that it was better to publish with Immanion. Yes the audience is smaller, the royalties are smaller, and I don't have access to some of the resources that larger publishers have (or at least I have to get creative to get in front of those resources). But I do have that creative control and I'm writing for a specialized audience. Most of what I write is something that'll be found by people looking for something specialized and specific to what they need.
For readers, I have the following advice. Ask yourself what you really hope to get out of a given book. What is it you really want? How will it contribute to your magical work, your spirituality, your journey as a person? Then look through the book and decide if its really what you want. Not all books are equal or worth it. What you really want is something that contributes to your life, your practice, etc.
I used the word glamour in the title. It's an apt word which describes just how much of an illusion the whole publishing world is. Yes we have our BNP's, oh so glitzy and fabulous, our publishers, our news media ready to put a spin on what's relevant or not to Pagans, but it's all just a lot of words, a lot of image. The reality is something else. It's something experienced each time you choose to apply magic to your life, each time you do the work and make it part of your being. Anything you get should really be about the relevance it has to your spiritual work. Because when you strip all the glamour away what you'll see is other people and you'll know if they're work has value only in relationship to the work you are doing. An author is only an authority because enough people find him/her relevant and think it worthwhile to read the books and attend the workshops, but that same author is only an authority to him/herself if s/he is really doing the work, as opposed to just talking a good game. So strip away the glamour and ask yourself: Would I really want to meet and work with the person who's written this book? If the answer is yes, buy the book and if not, leave it be...