How to get your book published

by BardofEly

Many people write books in the hope of becoming successful authors but finding a publisher willing to publish your work can be very difficult.

An individual angle
When I set out originally to write and get the book I had written published I knew that competition is fierce and that publishers could ask what is so special about your work then? I knew an individual angle would help me get a deal and I was proved right so am passing this on as advice.

I decided my book, which was eventually published under the title of Herbs of the Northern Shaman, would have the fact that all plants covered in it were ones that grow somewhere in the northern hemisphere.

I knew there were plenty of titles about entheogens and specific mind-altering herbs but none that only dealt with plants from a specific area of the world. My book would include the UK, Europe, Russia, northern parts of Asia, China and the USA.

Herbs of the Northern Shaman

Book cover
Cover of Herbs of the Northern Shaman
Cover of Herbs of the Northern Shaman

Finding a publisher

Self publishing

Finding a publisher, unless you opt for self-publishing on or elsewhere, is perhaps as much of a task as writing the book. I spent around two years mailing off to publishers in London.

Rejection after rejection followed but many with encouraging comments praising my research and work.

A part of the problem was that I had read it was not thought of as good etiquette when seeking a publisher to approach more than one at the same time so this meant I had to wait for a publisher to get back to me before I could send to another.

Finally I got a letter back from Louise McNamara, who was an editor at Thorsons Books, and she asked me to come in and see her in person because she was interested in my work.

Julian Cope


I had found Louise and tried Thorsons after discovering that she had worked with rock star turned author of books on ancient sites, Julian Cope. I thought she might be the right person to contact, especially seeing as I was involved in music myself as a singer-songwriter and, as a Quest Knight of the Loyal Arthurian Warband, was part of a druid order, and so attended Avebury, Stonehenge and other sites on a regular basis.

My hunch paid off to the degree I got an appointment to go in and see Louise in her office in London. We got on very well and I was feeling really hopeful after she said to leave it with her and that she would do her best to get my book accepted.

I felt like my journey from Cardiff to London had been well worthwhile and that it looked as if I was going to get a deal for my work at last.

Sadly, a week or so later I got a letter from Louise saying that despite her efforts her colleagues had not wanted to go ahead with publishing my book but to keep in touch with any future ideas.

After that I thought, I would broaden my field having tried most of the UK potential publishers. I decided to try America.

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Loompanics Unlimited

American publisher

I researched publishers that might be more likely to accept my work and in just a couple of weeks found success when Loompanics Unlimited agreed to publish my book.

A point to bear in mind here is that just because no publisher in your own country is interested does not mean that one in another land might not be waiting to offer you a contract.

I had sent off all my manuscript and photos and illustrations and in a short time Herbs of the Northern Shaman became a reality. I got a very welcome advance of $1,000 plus a box of the books was delivered to my house. At last I was an author!

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Out of Print


Now that I had "made it" this far I was soon to learn that whilst writing a book and finding a publisher are wonderful achievements, there is a lot more to becoming a success financially from being an author. Unless your book has the marketing, publicity and distribution then it isn't going to sell no matter how brilliant it might be.

Sadly Loompanics, being a small American company, had no European distributors, not only that but the big chain bookshops like Waterstone's won't accept new books unless everything goes through the right channels.

I found this out the day I confidently went into the city centre thinking that all I would have to do is walk into the big book-stores and show them copies of my book and say that I am a local author and that would be it. I thought they would welcome having the works of a local writer for sale on their shelves.

My optimism was a false hope though because I was asked if I had an account with the bookshop, if I had a distributor and if I had been in touch with their head office. I could only answer in the negative to all these, and that was the end of me getting my book in the main shops in town.

I spent months afterwards mailing potential distributors but none wanted to risk taking on the work of a new author and paying the shipping costs from the US that would be involved.

I was also contacting people and places that might review my book. My publisher was happy to send sample copies to reviewers and my book got a lot of critical acclaim this way.

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Mr Nice

Howard Marks

Probably the best thing that happened was that Howard Marks, the best-selling author of Mr Nice, who also was successful as a public speaker and DJ, said he would be happy to help me sell my book. Howard went as far as offering to stock Herbs of the Northern Shaman alongside his own work that would be on sale on all dates on his UK tours.

This was such a fantastic offer but unfortunately I couldn't accept because I simply could not afford the shipping rates that would be needed to make this economically feasible.

I sold books via my own engagements as a public speaker at pagan festivals and suchlike and via a friend's shop.

There was never to be a second run of my books though because Loompanics was forced to close down and so my book became out of print. This swiftly resulted in crazy prices being asked for it on Amazon, eBay and elsewhere. Herbs of the Northern Shaman went from a $12 or $14.95 cover price to a whopping $150 or more because it was now a "collectible."

The original Loompanics edition, which was only printed in black and white, is still selling at these inflated prices on-line.


This of course meant that I was back to square one but with a lot of learning experience and some great reviews to help me onward.

While looking for a new publisher my friend the photographer Katrinia Rindsberg and I came up with the plan of creating a new updated book that would include additional text as well as a whole new series of illustrative photography that she would contribute, and this time it would be in full colour.

Eventually, after Katrinia had been able to track down all the plant species and get photos, and after her husband Ole, had used his desktop publishing skills to sort it all out into a neat book format, we self-published Herbs of the Northern Shaman on

Whilst this meant that my book was back in circulation it is nowhere near as good as having a 'proper' publisher and distribution. I set out again with the goal of finding one.

Philip Coppens

Pyramids of Tenerife

In January of 2009, my friend the author Philip Coppens, came over to Tenerife to investigate the pyramids here. I had a look at the book company he is published by, which is O-Books, and thought they might be interested in my work.

I got in touch and was able to use my experiences to date and contacts already made, as well as all the past reviews my book had gained, to get accepted for publication again. I am very proud to be able to announce that Herbs of the Northern Shaman was republished and relaunched in October 2010, and this time in full colour.

This time it has proper distribution and the marketing it had needed but didn't get on its first time round. Tesco and Waterstone's have my book on their lists.

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

Where to buy Herbs of the Northern Shaman

Updated: 12/17/2012, BardofEly
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