A Malkuth of Me,  business of writing

Should Knowledge Be Free?

Several times this past week I was actually chastised for writing occult books for money. Well, not directly, but indirectly. Let’s just say the topic came up several times. I really think this is something that needs to be addressed because I think this attitude of “knowledge should be free” is part of a larger problem — that problem being e-Piracy.

It seems in the occult world, pirates use the “you should give it away for free because knowledge should be free” as an excuse to pirate books about magick and spirituality.

So first let me give you some background and the TRUTH about why I started writing esoteric books and why I still write them and ultimately why I, as an author, should get paid even though some folks think knowledge should be free.

My first esoteric text, Modern Demonolatry was published back in 1999. I wrote the book after friends requested I write an introductory, pre-initiate text for those starting out in Demonolatry.  The reason my friends requested I write the book is because I had, three years prior, gotten a B.A. in English with a creative writing emphasis and I was one of the priestesses of TSL. I was also, at the time, an aspiring novelist.

The truth is I’ve been a writer even longer than I’ve been an occultist (by about 4-5 years). I never went into writing thinking I would write about the occult and I never went into the occult thinking I would get into writing about the occult. These were two separate interests that happened to overlap when an opportunity fell into my lap.  I agreed to write the book because I believed in the project and because my mentor/teacher and my friends asked me to. I wrote the book for them and fellow Demonolaters and I wrote it for the sake of education. We needed a pre-initiate text and I was the only person in the group who everyone agreed could write the book. And so I did.

Sadly, back then, there were NO books about the subject anywhere and all we had were pamphlets that volunteers typed up one at a time. After a lot of the major publishers turned down the project, and told me it really wasn’t a book they wanted to publish (because it was too controversial and too niche), a friend of mine who owned a small publishing company went ahead and published 100 copies of the book for us. We figured it was just as well and decided we should probably just keep our texts within our small community anyway. It turned out those copies went very quickly and the book sold-out within months.

Not to mention more than half the books were sold to the general public.  In all fairness let me say right now that Modern Demonolatry was not my best work and it was very amateurish.  But then it wasn’t meant as a mass produced volume or as something that was really ever supposed to be seen outside our small community.

We wanted to do more books, but back then publishing wasn’t an easy endeavor and it was expensive. Not to mention printers were wary of printing such stuff and my friend in the small press had temporarily closed up shop due to a money flow issue. In that time our groups kind of kept to ourselves so we went back to our typed pamphlets.

Meanwhile, I was getting phone calls at my residence from people who had tracked me down looking for copies of Modern Demonolatry. I even had publishers coming out of the woodwork making me offers on the book. I could have very easily SOLD OUT and given Demonolatry to the mainstream, and trust me – I had cash offers. But I didn’t.  Evidently that small, amateur book had made a huge impact. Clearly there was a need for these kinds of books.  But we still didn’t have the backing we needed to re-publish the book.

I kept getting calls until, in 2005, a friend sent me a link to Lulu Press. That’s when print-on-demand publishing technology became a do-it-yourself deal. It eliminated the up-front costs for me, and gave me a way to put Modern Demonolatry back into print for all the people who had been bugging me for copies. My groups also convinced me to print the companion study guide, Lessons in Demonolatry.  It was at this point we decided to formally create DB Publishing which was a publishing company by Demonolaters for Demonolaters.  We were going to use it to print books just for people in our small community. Little did we know that our books would be valued by other practicing magicians and Satanists, as well as solitary Demonolaters world-wide. We were filling a niche and every title we put out has always been with the end goal to provide reference material to practicing Demonolaters and Demonolatry magicians. Not for money. In those early days I would have written some of those older books for my close group of friends whether anyone outside our community wanted them or not. That’s the reality of it.  (But times have changed, I now have limited time and mouths to feed.)

So that’s how I fell into writing esoteric books and how DB Publishing got started.

Now I do realize that nowadays everyone in the LHP has written a book and followed our lead and printed their own. I get it. I also know of A LOT of authors who write to capitalize on the occult community and they do a bang up job. I can legitimately understand people pirating copies of out-of-print books as well. I also understand the economics of limited edition hardcovers (which we’ll discuss later).  So I can see why some people may be disgusted by those in the occult world who write books just to make a buck. I understand. I’ve read some of the “darkest most sinister books of [insert Daemon name here]” and they were all complete bullshit.  Hell, I even collect the limited edition hardcovers myself. Some of the books are good – some suck ass. It really depends on the author and if they’re trying to baffle you with bullshit and make a buck, or if they’re genuine. Trust me – you can tell. Just read a preview – and if they don’t offer a preview — run.

I know there will be some who don’t believe me, but admittedly I have never really looked at a book and made my decision on whether or not to write it based on the kind of money I thought it would make. For the most part I print paperbacks because they’re affordable and accessible. The only reason we did Infernal Colopatiron in limited edition hardcover was A. To discourage dabblers, B. Offer up something to the collectors who were requesting advanced level, heirloom quality books for permanent libraries (yeah – I get requests for that ALL THE TIME), and C. Give serious Demonolatry magicians books just for them that aren’t cheap throw away paperbacks.   But again — I wrote the book for the Demonolatry community and the generational set — not the curious, dabblers, or the casual weekend magician.

Truth be known, most of our Demonolatry books have sold less than 200 copies. We really are a small niche publisher. I write books I am passionate about and that I believe will be the most beneficial to the community at any given time. I also listen to my readers and give them what they want. But because publishing takes TIME and MONEY – I HAVE TO GET PAID and so do our editors, artists, etc. Otherwise I can’t afford to do it.

Now I admit that I make enough money with DB Publishing to keep the publishing house open, and to pay my electric bill and part of my grocery bill every month. [A little more now in 2016.] So while I’m NOT making money hand over fist (and I never expect to), I am making enough from writing the books for it to make a difference to my income and to be able to offer editors and artists compensation for the work they do for us whether it be cash or free copies.

I also write fiction and I also have a part-time day job. The part-time day job (about 32 hours a week) is for a small reliable income for my large reliable bills, and the rest of my income is made from writing fiction. So technically I have two jobs and I work about 80 hours a week total.

This means that YES – I do count on book sales as a part of my income.

Now before you scream, “How dare you!” let me tell you what the life of a real professional writer is really like. I’m not sitting here eating bon-bons and taking huge vacations. I don’t have butlers or maids or drive a Mercedes. I also don’t have a personal assistant even though there are days I joke about wanting one and would love to have help dealing with my e-mail.

First – writing is not a hobby for me, or for any professional writer. I passed the stage of hobby writing when I started having to hire an accountant and itemize my deductions on my taxes because of my writing income.  Professional means you make a real, living taxable wage from doing something. While the bulk of that living wage is from writing fiction, some of it is from writing esoteric books.

If that offends anyone – I’m sorry.

So since the IRS doesn’t think my writing is a hobby and considers me a professional writer it means I have to treat my writing as such, too.  Mind you the esoteric books will ALWAYS be a labor of love for me and when I run out of interesting things to write about – I will stop writing about magick and Demonolatry because I refuse to write about anything I’m not passionate about or that I don’t believe in. I actually considered quitting the Demonolatry writing gig this year and passing the torch to someone younger than me. It was my mentor and a larger part of the Demonolatry community that convinced me to stay on.

Second – let me tell you what real professional writers do for a living because I think there’s some confusion about that.

I wake up at 6:30 or 7am. I make some coffee and maybe grab some breakfast. I take a quick shower. By the time 7:30-7:45 rolls around I am in front of my computer. I go through my e-mail, answer it, contact editors, printers, readers etc… as needed.  By 9am I’m writing. I write from 9am to noon, usually with a break here or there to get up and stretch my legs. I stop for lunch. Then I sit down and write from about 1pm to 5 or 5:30 with a break here or there to get up and stretch my legs.  Sometimes I’ll use the break to get on the FitDesk, get some exercise (to ward off deep vein thrombosis, a job hazard), and read publishing news.  Some days I have to gather and sort receipts, look at sales reports, and work on marketing. Other days I edit, research, or toss cover art back and forth between the artists and me. I’m always social networking not because I’m narcissistic, but because I’m marketing my books. (Okay, maybe I’m a little narcissistic. I suppose all writers are to some degree.)

Point being that writing is a REAL job. I spend well over 40 hours a week at the writing gig.

An acquaintance who told me she has mixed feelings about esoteric authors who make money from their books also told me mere hours later that she wouldn’t work for less than $10 an hour.

Let me break this down for everyone: I generally sell about 70 books a day (about 1/4 or less being esoteric) and make anywhere from .35 cents to $2 a copy per book.  Most of my books generate under $2 a copy (don’t forget that I have to pay distributors, editors, artists, production people etc…).   I’m just the author and that’s my cut after it’s all said and done. So I average about  $80 a day and the IRS takes 35% of that. What can I say? Self employment taxes are higher than a regular job. Now, if I work 8 hours a day for five days a week writing, which is 40 hours a week (usually it’s more because I often work weekends, too), that means I make roughly $10 an hour as a writer. If I sell less than that then I make less than that per hour.

So she wouldn’t work for less than $10 an hour – but she expects I should???

I found that very amusing.   After all – I’m working almost 80 hours a week to everyone else’s 40, and yet somehow I’m not even allowed to make the scant $10 an hour writing that I make,  without offending the same people who would not work for less than $10 an hour.

And this is how ePiracy of occult books is justified by some people. They really believe you should not be allowed to make any portion of your living, no matter how small, on esoteric work. Somehow these people think it’s wrong. Probably because they don’t realize that writing is a REAL JOB that requires REAL HOURS and REAL WORK.

Not to mention the cost of printing and binding books isn’t cheap, folks. Part of the cost of a paperback or hardcover is in the production. Part of the cost of eBooks is keeping the file on a file retrieval system and paying someone to maintain that system. Not to mention there are A LOT of people (not just authors) involved in producing a book. This includes editors, layout and cover designers, printers, binders, distributors, IT professionals, marketers, etc… So really, when you think knowledge should be free – think of all the people who spent hours and hours (away from their loved ones) working on that book to make that knowledge easily available to you.

Is their work and time worth nothing?

Would you work for free?

If you wouldn’t work for less than $10 an hour – why should those who provide you with knowledge work for less than $10 an hour?

Do you think your college professors or children’s school teachers should work for free? No? Then why esoteric writers?

Yes – I get that there are some douches out there who really are just trying to make a buck (those channeling Daemons and writing the darkest of dark sinister books), but what about those of us who really do write to educate or share information? Aren’t we allowed to at least make a living wage?

Nothing in life is free. As an acquiring editor over at Llewellyn pointed out – everything in life is about the exchange of energy. You give your boss your time, body, and mind for so many hours a week in return for a paycheck that you, in turn, use to obtain goods and services in order to live. Authors – even esoteric authors (and everyone who works the publishing industry) works to make the knowledge accessible to you in exchange for money (i.e. energy) that we can then use to buy goods and services in order to live.

I see nothing wrong with this.

It may not be an ideal situation or an ideal world and if I could live on nothing but air and love for writing and sharing my knowledge –  I would happily give away everything I write for free. But that’s not how the world works and a girl does have to eat, and so does her family who depends on her income. Those are the cold, hard facts of life. I give my readers plenty of free reading material in my blog posts and in the few books that I freely give away on demonolatry.org and here.

But for the most part I charge for my writing and I am not sorry for it. Knowledge isn’t free.  It takes a lot of energy to produce educational materials, which is essentially what esoteric authors do. I am also sharing my knowledge, experience and research and years of hard work (I didn’t come by my knowledge via osmosis).  I, for one, think that’s worth at least $10 an hour, if not more.

Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at swordarkeereon@gmail.com


  • Tanya

    This was a very interesting post. I learned a lot about how publishing and writing a book works from beginning to end, and how DB publishing got started. I agree with everything you said. I am glad to hear that you decided to stay on as an author. The demonolatry community needs you. They need someone with the education background and knowlege base with the occult, and the drive and passion that is so obvious with your work because it shines through it like a 300 watt light bulb. If you ever decide to leave, I understand. I understand for all the reasons that you listed in this article. However, I am glad that you are here right now, and I plan to purchase your valuable gems of wisdom to fill my perverbial basket and gather the knowlege I need to make my life spiritually better and their for physically and emotionally better too. So I just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work and thanks for deciding to continue on for at least the 2012 year. I hope that us reading fans give you many reasons to stick around.

  • Brian

    Anyone who is using the term information wants to be free to take books is missing the point. There are different meanings of the word free. In this case it isn’t referring to price but to access. ie. not censored or blocked in other ways. As an author (especially on a subject that may be considered by some controversial) you are disseminating information. Sure it might cost a few dollars for someone to buy the book, but they can buy it which is the point.

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