‘Fake Witch Books’ Timeline – and Commentary

‘Fake Witch Books’ Timeline – and Commentary February 12, 2020

A Rough Timeline, Composed of Tweets and Relevant Links

The dates I have listed are based on those found on the Tweets and articles themselves. If a date seems off, please let me know.

If you have written something on this topic that I missed (or comes out after this post originally goes up), please comment or shoot me an email at aine@otherfaith.info. If you have a Tweet you would like included, feel free to shoot it my way.

December 22, 2019:

  • Althaea Sebastiani (@LadyAlthaea on Twitter) kicks the discussion off with a Tweet

  • Thorn Mooney (@TarotSkeptic) tweets, in response. The tweet is later referenced in the Dec 26 Wild Hunt article.

December 26, 2019:

February 7, 2020:

  • Nathara posts ‘Fake Witchy Authors on Amazon‘, delving into the authors behind some of the Amazon bestsellers. The post goes fairly viral (for the Pagan and witch communities).
  • Nathara also posts a Youtube Video with the same title as their article
  • This post seems to have kicked off the latest round of discussions, with a focus more on ghostwriting.

February 8:

February 9:

February 10:

  • Nathara posts a follow-up to their ‘Fake Witchy Authors on Amazon’ article: ‘The World of Fake Authorship – Part 2′. The post explores PLR – Private Label Rights – and how it works, as well as elaborating on Nathara’s original post.

February 11:

  • Thorn Mooney posts about the topic here on Patheos, ‘Fake Witch Books?
  • Mooney also publishes a Youtube Video under the same title (on Feb 10; I’m grouping them together because they go together). Notable quote from the video: “For many people, when they buy a book about witchcraft they are not just buying the information that is in the book. They are functionally buying a kind of relationship with the author.
  • Nathara posts an update: ‘I Have Been Contacted by Lisa Chamberlain – and May have Found the Re-Spin Seed – Part 3’. The post states that Lisa Chamberlain – a focus of much of the discussions – reached out to Nathara to confirm that Chamberlain was a real person.

February 12:

February 14:

Some Notes/My Thoughts

One thing I noticed while trying to gather up discussions on the ‘fake witch books’ or ‘fake witch author’ phenomenon was how the conversation shifted over time. Looking at the tweets that started the more visible discussions, the focus was on being critically minded. Thinking about what you were reading and why it was written, who wrote it and how the author was being advertised.

Discernment isn’t just for spirits.

The publishing of the Wild Hunt article on Dec 26 seems to have shifted some of the conversation to ghostwriting and the ‘fake’ quality of the books. This was obviously a much less fruitful discussion.

Nathara’s post on Feb 7 swept through various social media platforms and inflamed the discussion all over again, though this time the focus was much more on ghostwriting and the authors themselves being ‘fake’.

Which wasn’t what the original discussion was about. Looking at Nathara’s second post, with its heavy focus on PLR and problems with Amazon, we see a discussion that is certainly related to the one from December, but it’s got a different focus. (PLR stands for ‘Private Label Rights’. As described by this link: “…when one buys PLR content, they are free to take the work, modify it, put their name on it and even sell it, for example, as an ebook.“) And we see the really unfortunate and wrong assumption that we should just stick to traditional publishing houses coming out in response to this post. (From what I read, I don’t think Nathara said such a thing.)

That’s not a solution to either problem of discernment or the Amazon marketplace.

Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash

As I see it, the PLR issue, while related to ghostwriting, is different. We should try to untangle the two a bit more, I think.

When it comes to the PLR and the deluge of questionable books (Ars Technica goes into the Amazon spam problem…in an article from 2011, for reference on how long this has been a problem), I view the problem as similar to one that impacted Steam, a video game distributing service. Steam was, and is, plagued by a lot of bad, regurgitated games. If you want a fun overview of what was happening on Steam, check out this video by game critic Jim Sterling. (Warnings for cursing.) These games were made by piecing together assets bought on the cheap, and they weren’t meant to be enjoyed. They were meant to make money as quick as possible with as little effort as possible. And they choked out a lot of actual indie games.

Same thing is happening on Amazon – though Amazon has actually been dealing with this for longer than Steam has.

I think it absolutely makes sense to be frustrated that actual books – whether ghostwritten or not – are being overwhelmed by PLR. As the Plagiarism Today article I linked to notes:

In my experience, the people who do best with PLR content are, unfortunately, spammers. With scraping and other copyright infringement becoming riskier, most find it cheaper and easier to shell out a small amount of money on PLR content that they can then run through content spinners and then generate thousands of low-quality articles from the set that are at least somewhat unique to the search engines.

When it comes to the many complex and weird ways books are advertised and make it to bestseller lists, well, that’s a much larger topic concerning the whole publishing industry. Not to mention the high profile ‘NYT bestseller scandal’ that happened a few years ago (if you’re interested in reading about that, check this link at Jezebel).

So that’s my hot take. I’ll keep updating this post with new information as it becomes available.

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