How I write a Book

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Different authors have different approaches to writing books. I thought I’d share my approach, which may not work for every writer, but nonetheless may have elements that do work. Since I write primarily non-fiction books, it should be kept in mind that I’m writing from that perspective. Nonetheless, I do think Fiction writers can get some ideas as well from how various writers write.

Before I even start writing a book, I put together a rough outline of the book and what topics will be covered. If you’re writing a fiction book you might outline what events will occur in the book. The outline is put together to provide some organization to your thoughts and create a structure through which you can begin to write the book. However the outline shouldn’t be treated as set in stone. It is a suggestion of what can be done with the book.

Next I start doing research on the book. Research can take anywhere from 6 months to a year, because I’m usually reading what other people have to say about the topic as well as related topics. In the case of Fiction writers, you might end up doing research on a setting or the history of an area or time period to help inspire you. As I read books, I create a bibliography. I also extract the specific quotes and cites I’ll be using in the book and put them into a notes file.

When I’m ready to write the book, I take the notes file and start placing specific quotes and cites into separate files that represent the chapters of the book. This makes it easier to write the book and integrate the relevant quotes into it. If you are writing fiction, you might place notes you’ve taken about places or eras you’ve researched into chapters that you think will feature information along those lines.

Then it’s time to write the book. I focus on writing a chapter at a time. I don’t think about the other chapters until I’ve written the one I’m working on and I keep chapter files distinct and separate until the entire book is written so I’m not distracted by previous content or an urge to rewrite what I’ve written. This keeps the revisions down to a minimum while I’m writing the first draft.

After the first draft is written I combine all the chapters into one file. I then revise that the entire book, going through and making appropriate changes where needed. After that’s done the book is shipped to an editor and revised upon getting the edits back.

This is my process of writing a book. What’s yours?

Ars Vercanus by Vasilios and Lynn Wennergren is now Available

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Ars Vercanus is now available!

For as long as humanity has existed, there have been those skilled in the occult arts. Such individuals are capable of transforming the self, perceiving the subtle aspect of existence, and affecting reality via nonphysical means. In every culture, across every era, shamans, magi, mystics, and seers have refined their arts. This has produced a rich and varied collection of magickal techniques and rituals. Ars Vercanus presents a comprehensive system of core magickal techniques and theories distilled from an in-depth cross-cultural analysis of various magickal traditions. The theories of Vercanus Magick impart a deep understanding of how magick actually works. Vercanus techniques clearly delineate methods by which magick may be effectively performed. This style of magick entails a profound shifting of consciousness, facilitating an enhanced perception of reality. Through this expanded consciousness the practitioner perceives the deeper aspects of reality within which magick occurs. The techniques of Vercanus Magick entail the mastering of consciousness and internal energies. This mastery induces a profound transformation in the magus. Thus transformed, the magus is capable of shaping reality at its deepest level.

How to Handle Criticism of your Writing

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Up until a few years ago, I always struggled with the criticism I’d receive about my writing. Whether it was my editor pointing out grammatical or content errors or it was a bad book review panning the writing, or something else, I wouldn’t always handle it gracefully. I think most, if not all writers, go through similar struggles. Our writing is our creative expression, are intellectual children and we feel protective of it, see it as something special…and it is, but nonetheless it’s also something which can always be improved on. Additionally how we handle criticism is important, because the professional connections we have will remember if the author has acted like a prima donna or has handled the criticism in a professional manner.

Recently a professional acquaintance shared a story with me about an author who’d gotten some bad reviews of her books and had blamed everyone else but herself for the quality of writing. This person was unwilling to examine her own writing or the criticism she received in an objective manner. Instead she took the criticism personally. As a result she wasn’t actively working on improving her writing and when another opportunity came for her to feature her writing elsewhere, other people remembered her behavior and didn’t want to offer her that chance because it was clear that her writing and her attitude still hadn’t improved.

Now ideally we all want constructive criticism, which points out what could be improved and offers some suggestions to that effective. However, as writers we necessarily need to accept we won’t always get constructive criticism. And when we don’t get constructive criticism, we need to have a thick skin and more importantly be able to look at the criticism and determine if anything of value can be gotten from it that can help us improve our writing. It’s not easy to do, but what I’ve found is helpful is reminding myself that what’s most important to me is improving the quality of my writing…so when I receive negative criticism, I look at it with that lens and determine if there is any valuable insights. If so, I’ll take them and use them and if not, I’ll move on, because there’s little point in dwelling on the issues that other people have with your writing.

As a writer you need to accept that not everyone will like your writing, nor does everyone need to. As long as you can accept that, you will be able to handle whatever criticism comes your way. Remember as well that most criticism isn’t personal and when it is, it has less to do with you and much more to do with whatever reaction your writing brought up for the person reading it.

The Problem with Facebook Marketing

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The other day my friend  Shauna told me a discovery, which highlights how Facebook is becoming more antagonistic to small businesses, creatives etc., and also less useful. She’d been promoting a concert and workshop for Sharon Knight on Facebook and had created a Facebook event page and invited people to it. She shared it on her personal page as well as on other pages, but what she discovered is that most of her friends didn’t even see the event share in their newsfeed. The only way they saw it is if they visited her personal page directly. Then she told me how she hadn’t seen a Facebook event share I did until she visited my personal page. Further discussion revealed that if the words buy or show or something else sales related are used in an update, its much less likely that people will see the update.

If you are someone who has a Facebook business page, you already know that the business page is next to useless. You can have lots of likes, but only have a post get through to a small percentage of those likes. The reason that happens is because Facebook is trying to get you to pay money to boost the post. However even paying money to boost the post doesn’t guarantee you’ll reach a significant amount of other people you weren’t reaching before. With the changes to event sharing, Facebook is again trying to get you to pay money to get your post in front of the eyes of people. So what can you do?

I tried an experiment where I wrote about an event and posted it and then posted a comment with the link to event. Apparently more people did see that post, because the link wasn’t in the original post. That could be something to try as a way to get around Facebook metrics. However, I also think its fair to say that Facebook is becoming less and less useful for marketing purposes, and whether you’re an author, musician, artist, or small business, the reality is that every dollar needs to count in a big way if you’re going to make the most of it. Facebook marketing isn’t what its cracked up to be, so while you can do it, I recommend exploring alternate approaches as well, depending on whatever event you are trying to do. I’ve found that flyers, if used correctly, can actually do a lot to generate interest in an event, but some of that involves conversations with whoever is hosting your event.

How to work with Bookstores to Market Events Part 2

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In my previous post on working with bookstores, I shared some tips for how to work with a bookstore that can make an event successful. Since the I’ve been thinking of some other ways to help this process along. Both the author and the bookstore want the event to be successful, but in order for that to occur, there needs to be specific communication that occurs, as well as proper strategizing and implementation of marketing to make sure the event is successful. These additional tips can help you and the bookstore put together a mutually successful event.

1. Create a written contract that spells out the responsibilities of the bookstore and author. Both the bookstore and author and have certain responsibilities that need to be spelled out. Each plays a role in making the event successful, but if neither party is clear on what the expectations are, then mis-communication can occur and the event may not be as successful as a result. It’s crucial that the author develops a contract that explains what s/he will do and also details the expectations s/he has of the store. Both the author and bookstore need to sign off on the contract before anything else occurs, so that way each party knows what is expected of them. Bookstore Author Agreement.

2. Marketing calls need to occur regularly to make the event successful. Ideally you and the bookstore owners are talking once a month, up to three months in advance, strategizing over what needs to be done and checking in with each other about pre-registrations and other relevant details. The final month, you actually have a chat on the phone two weeks and one week before the event. These conversations don’t have to be long, but they do need to happen in order for everyone to be on the same page, and to make sure that if anything needs to change, it can be changed while there is still time. This also helps you and the store owners make sure that they have what they need in terms of books, flyers, etc well ahead of the actual event.

3. Double check the dates of your event to make sure you aren’t competing against other events. The bookstore owners should either know if there will be a conflict with the date OR they should know someone they can point you to who can tell you if your event might compete against another event. While it’s inevitably true that not everyone will come to your event, you increase your chances of getting people into the event when your date is scheduled if you aren’t competing against other events that locals might feel obligated to go to.

These additional tips can make a difference for your event and help both you and the book store be successful.

Ten Years of Non-Fiction at Immanion Press

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Ten years ago, give or take a month, my book Pop Culture Magick was published by Immanion Press. That was the start of the non-fiction lineup, which eventually became the Megalithica book imprint for Immanion Press. When I first wrote Pop Culture Magick, I shopped it around to the big Pagan and Occult publishers. None of them wanted the book. I was told it had no market appeal, and that the topic was considered too controversial (Ironically enough now the topic of pop culture magic is quite popular and one of those bigger publishers has published books along that theme of thought). So I took the book to Storm Constantine, who had started Immanion Press up in the next year and asked her what she thought I should do. She looked the book over and told me I should publish it with Immanion Press. While it was true that they were publishing Fantasy and Horror, she thought the book should be published and she felt Immanion Press would be a good home for it. To this day, I’m grateful to her, because she not only helped me get my first also book published, she also got me involved in the world of publishing.

A few months later, Nick Farrell asked me if Immanion would publish his book Gathering the Magic, which was about group dynamics and leadership in magical orders. Although he had books published by bigger publishers, none of them wanted that book. I passed his book onto Storm and she OKed it, but afterwards she asked me if I would like to actually head up the non-fiction line. She realized that it could grow and that people already knew me. I agreed and became the managing non-fiction editor. Shortly after we published Nick’s book, Lupa gave us her first book Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic. Later on we published Tony Mierzwicki’s Graeco-Egyptian Magick. Years later, he would tell me that he’d shopped the book everywhere and gotten tons of rejections and had just about been ready to give up, when he came across us and sent it out one last time. We accepted his book and later on that helped him open some doors with larger publishers. Since then we’ve published over 3 dozen non-fiction books on esoteric topics that are for intermediate to advanced practitioners and cover specific niches or focus on social justice issues in Paganism, and we’ve got more books on the way!

When I think back to ten years ago, I remember how excited I was to open the first box that contained copies of Pop Culture Magick. Here at last, in manifest form, was the book I’d written, ready to be shared with other people. I still feel that way every time a box of books, and not just my own books, but the books of the authors who’ve chosen to publish with us. To know that Immanion can be part of the process for the writer is a humbling experience. I feel blessed to be able to participate in the writing and publishing of the books sent to us by the authors we work with.

Happy anniversary to the non-fiction line! It’s been quite a ride up to this point and I look forward to continue that ride for many, many years to come!