Suspicious Witchy Authors: Community Reactions And My Final Thoughts

Suspicious Witchy Authors: Community Reactions And My Final Thoughts February 14, 2020

In the last few weeks, the Witch/Wiccan/Pagan internet world has blown up with a discussion regarding suspicious Witchy authors. Essentially, more and more attention has been given to a slew of highly questionable books on the topic of Wicca and Witchcraft being released on Amazon. These books have raised suspicion due to all sharing the same titles while being written by authors who have bizarre pen-names (including mash-ups of well-known authors like Scott Cunningham and Raymond Buckland as well as objects like candles and gems). Additionally, there is ZERO information given about these authors – such as who they are and what qualifies them to write such material. As the investigation has continued to unfold, there has been a relatively positive response from the community. People have generated their own discussions on the topic and encouraged others to be mindful of the books they are purchasing. However, there has been a depressing amount of others who have completely misconstrued the conversation and lambasted those of us who are working to help shed light on an upsetting trend in the publication of Wicca/Witchcraft books on Amazon.

If you are unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, please refer to my fellow Patheos blogger Aine Llewellyn for a complete timeline of this discussion (including the original articles published by partner Nathara).

Now let’s get something clear right away, the investigation into these books is not about any of the following things:

  1. It’s not about self-publishing. The issue here is NOT that these books are self-published. Self-publishing is a legit industry and there are countless self-published books on the topic of Wicca and Witchcraft that are genuine and well-received. 
  2. It’s not about pen-names. The issue here is NOT that these books are being written by authors using pen-names. The use of pen-names is incredibly common, especially in the world of Wicca and Witchcraft. Hint: Kelden is a pen-name. There are many important reasons why someone might use a pen-name, including privacy. 
  3. It’s not about ghost-writers. The issue here is NOT that these books might have been written by a team of ghost-writers. There is a long history of ghost-written books and those books are no lesser than any other book because of that fact. My favorite book series as a child, Nancy Drew, was famously written by ghost-writers and that did not detract from their quality. 
  4. It’s not about a lack of community engagement. The issue here is NOT about these authors not engaging in the community. There are many authors who are not well known and who do not engage directly with the Wiccan/Witchcraft community. That doesn’t make their books lesser than someone else’s. 
  5. IT IS NOT ABOUT LISA CHAMBERLAIN. While her name did originally come up initially in this investigation, it quickly became apparent that Chamberlain is not the problem here. In fact, it now seems that she is a VICTIM in this, specifically that the other authors being discussed have been ripping her off. 
Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

What is it about then? It’s about FACTS and the UNANSWERED QUESTIONS that have resulted from those facts coming to light.

When I joined Nathara in her investigation, I saw that there was a need for a database of information regarding these books and their authors. So, I took to Amazon and began to compile a list of authors as well as their books and publication dates. Yes, the criteria for that list included: being self-published, having a suspicious pen-name (Seriously? No one finds it suspicious that at least 16 of the authors have the first name Lisa? Again, an obvious rip-off of Lisa Chamberlain), lack of author information, and having the same title as other suspicious books. But a book had to have ALL FOUR of these criteria in order to make the list! No book was selected simply because it was self-published or because the author was using an obvious pen-name. 

From the list that I compiled, I was able to pull data numbers in order to fully illustrate just how alarming the trend is with these suspicious books. PLEASE NOTE: The list I created only contains the books I was able to find at the time. As such, the list is continuously growing – especially since more of these books are being released each week – and so the numbers may be even more staggering as time goes on.

Since 2015, at least 229 of these books have been released on Amazon. In 2019 alone, 143 were released. And since the start of 2020, at least 45 have been released. 

The most popular title choice appears to be Wicca for Beginners. Of the 229 books on the list, 66 of them share this title. In 2019, at least 42 books titled Wicca for Beginners were released on Amazon. Since the start of 2020, at least 14 books titled Wicca for Beginners were released. It should be noted here that Lisa Chamberlain’s book, Wicca for Beginners was published on September 10, 2014. Prior to this time, there is an absence of suspicious books on Amazon- again suggesting that Chamberlain’s books are the ones being ripped-off. 

Other popular titles include:

Wicca Herbal Magic: 28 books on the list share this title. 

Wicca Crystal Magic: 13 books on the list share this title.

Wicca Candle Magic: 10 books on the list share this title.

Wicca Moon Magic: 14 books on the list share this title. 

Wicca Book of Spells: 16 books on the list share this title.

It should also be pointed out that some of the authors have been releasing numerous books on a single day. One author released 5 books in one day, amounting to over 400 pages of written material. Some may argue that these books were written over a period of time and then they were all released on the same day. But, who does that? I have yet to see any author outside of this investigation release their books in such a manner.

I am personally dumbfounded that anyone could look at these numbers and still try to defend these books as being genuine and written by honest authors.

Photo by Valentino Mazzariello

But what about the reviewers on Amazon? I started to look at the profiles for the people reviewing these books – and I highly encourage you to take the time and do the same, especially if you are still trying to defend these books and their authors. 

Many of these people were leaving numerous reviews on a large variety of books on a daily basis. One reviewer left 27 reviews in ONE DAY. Not impossible, but certainly weird. But it gets weirder because these people were also leaving reviews on suspicious books outside of the Wicca/Witchcraft genre. For example, this book on the Keto diet written by an author named John Carb. Or this book on learning Spanish written by Patrick Spain. But please, continue to argue that these are honest reviewers and not bot-generated reviews on books that are a part of a larger scam.

So what is happening? I’ll refer to Nathara’s article in which she thoroughly breaks down our current theories. But in sum, it seems more than likely that people are putting Lisa Chamberlain’s work through re-spinner (a program that rewrites already written material, often in order to bypass plagiarism scanners) and selling it as their own. 

….

Final Thoughts: I am super disheartened, but unfortunately not surprised, at the negative responses to this investigation. I have been accused of being an elitist and of creating a “hit-list” of innocent self-published authors. When really, all of this was done with the well-being of our community in mind. I am saddened to see people being exposed to books that are not only poor in content (one book literally explains how “Alexander Sanders” was a feminist and the creator of Dianic Wicca) but also a rip-off of others’ work – INCLUDING LISA CHAMBERLAIN. I am saddened to see quality books written by hard-working authors being overshadowed on Amazon. Search results for books on Wicca and Witchcraft turn up many of the suspicious books first, with genuine books being pushed back by pages – which greatly decrease their chances of being purchased. This is especially true for self-published authors who are already competing for sales with books being released by big-name publishers.

But of the negative commentary, I found Leandra Witchwood’s response to be particularly disappointing – not just because it is based entirely on a misunderstanding of the situation. Witchwood’s take on the matter is filled with hyperbole about how myself and others are gas-lighting, instigating Witch-Hunts, and engaging in “tabloid-style thinking” while lacking any facts regarding the actual issue at hand. Additionally, she complains that Nathara, Thorn Mooney, myself, and others are “blasting” self-published authors and going for the low-hanging fruit. But meanwhile, she compares “small bloggers” writing on the matter to “ravenous baby crows desperate for attention.” Real mature. Furthermore, Witchwood confidently states that those of us writing on this topic have not done their research, but if she had done hers she would know that ALL of the issues brought up in her article have already been addressed in numerous places. Additionally, it is highly doubtful that she has read ANY of the books that are being discussed. Because if she had, and she is still choosing to defend them, then there is no hope in reasoning with her. It’s also worth noting that Witchwood is writing a book with Lisa Chamberlain – so why she is choosing to defend authors who are obviously ripping-off her new partner is beyond me…

As I wrap-up this blog-post, I am exhausted and so done with this topic. I believe that the discussions that have generated are extremely important. We are a relatively small community, and we need to take care of one another – including watching for exploitative behavior and trends. That is all that I wanted for this investigation, to help bring a problematic trend to light. But at this point, it has been so deeply misconstrued that I’m left questioning others’ ability to think critically or to simply use their own commonsense. So, I’ve done my part and me and my compatriots have put the facts out there for all to see. Now it’s up to people to decide for themselves what they are going to do. But I’ll leave you with this question: who are you going to trust more? The authors (INCLUDING SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS WHO USE PEN-NAMES AND ARE MORE PRIVATE ABOUT THEIR IDENTITY) who are working hard to put out quality content or the “authors” who are pumping out poorly written, misinformed, blatantly ripped-off books?


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