As promised – comments on the high price of occult books!
Let’s set some ground rules here. I am not a publisher, and I don’t have any deep insight into sales figures, distribution, or any of those other topics. I’m an author who has written and had published a few occult books and articles for occult books, published at different price points, from several publishers. I’m also a reader of occult works who both appreciates a good book, and who has a limited budget for them – probably less limited than many readers, I think, but there are limits. I’d like to discuss the prices from those two perspectives.
First, let’s acknowledge that there are some elements that are necessary in a book, based upon the nature of the material. These might include the following:
Illustrations: If you’ve got a document with a lot of diagrams or symbols, a good illustrator can be essential. As I’m writing this, Eldred Wormwood just sent me a link to this nice review of Oberon. I asked him to make one correction – adding James Clark’s name to the credits. James was absolutely indispensable to Oberon, and we might not have been able to publish without his involvement. Good illustrators are important, and they cost money.
Permissions: I’ve worked with a number of different libraries over the years. When it comes to manuscripts and the like, the permissions for publishing a transcribed text have been cheap as free. Most librarians seem happy that people are making use of the collections and giving them exposure. This is not always the case, however, especially when it comes to…
Photographs: This is where dealing with manuscripts from institutions can become really expensive. There’s a reason why you don’t see any sort of reproductions of Folger V.b.26 in Oberon – it’s simply too expensive to reproduce illustrations, let alone full-color ones, let alone if you want to use one for a cover, let alone reproducing a book entirely in color. The same was true for the Experimentum and other Caduceus works – full-color reproductions can really drive the price of a work up. But they can often be necessary. I purchased the special edition of the Veritable Key, having it shipped all the way from Malaysia (I think) because I wanted the talismans in full color.
If the book is from a private collection, that might be a different story. I haven’t tried to get such a work published, but I know they’ve been a staple of Teitan Press. There’s probably a good outlay in terms of photographic equipment and image enhancing software.
Translations: Professional translation is quite expensive. Once again, Oberon wouldn’t have happened without Joe’s kind offer to make the translations. The same is true of e Mus. 173, on which I’m working on the Latin translations myself. These are tough tasks, even if you’ve been studying the language for years, even if you can read the handwriting or script, even if you have familiarity with this sort of text.
Binding: This is one item on which I’m ambivalent. I do love a beautiful book, but I also know that high-class bindings can drive up the price substantially. I also know there are often talismanic aspects to such works that are important to the publishers and purchasers.
Spiritual Requirements that Someone Spend Vast Amounts of Money on a Book as a Test of Their Faith: Yeah. I suppose some people believe that.
(Bobby D. has pointed out to me that “market” is a key factor. He’s right; I just haven’t had time to deal with it here. I’ll talk about it in a future post.)
Yet are there overpriced books out there? Next time, I give some examples.