Read an Excerpt
Most nonwriters think that authors come up with an idea and then sit
down and write a book. Life would be easy for writers if this was the
case. In fact, coming up with a good idea is just the starting point.
Nonwriters have no idea of the amount of thought and work that
needs to take place before the author even starts writing his or her
| CHOOSING A TOPIC
You probably already know what the subject of your New Age book is
going to be. Perhaps your specialized knowledge of a particular subject
has created the motivation to write a certain book. You already
know a great deal about your subject and want to express your
thoughts on paper.
You may have experienced something that you want to impart to
others. Betty J. Eadie is a good example of an author who did just that.
According to her book, Embraced by the Light, she died after an operation
and returned to life four hours later, with amazing insights about
life on the other side. Her book was on the New York Times best-seller
list for more than forty weeks, and occupied the number-one spot for
five weeks. The paperback rights were sold to Bantam Books for one
2 | BEFORE YOU START
and a half million dollars. The sequel, The Awakening Heart: My Continuing
Journey to Love, was published in 1996 by Pocket Books. The
first print run was one million copies.1
My first book for Llewellyn was on palmistry. This was a deliberate
choice on my part. I had become reasonably well-known as a palmist,
and had appeared many times on radio andtelevision to talk about
the subject. I had also put out a palmistry video.2 Consequently, it
made sense for me to finally sit down and write a book on the subject.
However, it is also possible that you want to write a New Age
book, but as yet are not clear on what aspect of the New Age you
want to write about. In this case, you need to spend time thinking
about the topics you are interested in. You probably know more about
these subjects than you think you do. When you are interested in a
particular topic you gain information about it almost by osmosis.
It is important that the topic of your book excites you. You are
going to be totally immersed in this subject for a long time. When I
worked as a ghostwriter, I wrote books
that interested the person who was paying
me, but did not excite me. Some of them
were monumentally boring, and I used to
worry that if I, as the writer, was bored,
surely the reader would feel the same.
When I gave up ghost-writing I resolved to
write books only on topics that intrigued,
excited, and stimulated me. Writing about
something that excites you is still hard work, but the work seems like
play. Writing about something that does not interest you is plain hard
work. Fortunately, the New Age encompasses a large variety of subjects,
and you will never run out of exciting topics to write on.
The best topic for a book is one that excites not only you, but also
your publisher and the audience it is written for. An excited publisher
will do an excellent job at publishing and promoting the book, and an
excited audience will buy many thousands of copies.
the fact that you
are not yet an authority
does not mean that
you should not write
BEFORE YOU START | 3
Your own reading and research will frequently provide you with
ideas about a book you could write. Have you ever read something
and afterward thought that you could write a much better book on
that subject? Are there gaps in the books you read that you could fill?
Maybe a book you read contains errors of fact or omission. You could
write a book providing a more honest and accurate account of the
In every field there are good, average, mediocre, and bad books.
Find the worst book you can find on a subject and make a list of the
reasons why you think it is so bad. Evaluate this list and write a paragraph
or two on a proposed book you could write on this subject that
would provide a reader with everything that he or she would need to
know. Do the same with the very best book you can find on the same
subject, listing the reasons it is so good. See if you can come up with
ideas to write an even better book than the very best book that is already
Browse through bookstores and look at books that have already
been published on the subject you intend writing about. Look at the
subtitles to see what the author of each book is focusing on. Naturally,
your book will need to have a different approach to the subject.
| FICTION OR NONFICTION
There is a small market for good New Age fiction. However, there is a
huge market for good New Age nonfiction. Publishers are more likely
to publish a New Age nonfiction book by an unknown author than a
novel by the same person. Nonfiction usually sells better than fiction,
and continues selling, frequently for many years. Novels usually have
a short life. Finally, in difficult times, people buy more nonfiction than
fiction. According to an article in theWall Street Journal ( July 18, 2001),
fiction sales decline when the economy is declining. However, nonfiction
sales increase. When times are hard, people seek out valuable information
from nonfiction books, but are prepared to defer purchase
of a novel, which is read for entertainment.
My recommendation is that you focus on nonfiction. Of course,
there are always exceptions. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
was on the New York Times best-seller list for 165 weeks, and was the
best-selling book of 1996. Redfield couldn't find a publisher for this
book, and eventually published it himself. He sold 150,000 copies himself
before selling the rights to Warner Books for a reputed $800,000.3
Consequently, I would never advise you not to write fiction. However,
most New Age writers are more likely to achieve success with their
nonfiction than their fiction.
| WHAT TYPE OF NONFICTION SHOULD YOU WRITE?
The easy answer to this is to write the sort of nonfiction that you like
to read. However, the type of nonfiction you write will largely be determined
by the publisher you choose. Llewellyn publishes how-to
books and practical reference books. If you write a good how-to book
on an aspect of the New Age that is exciting to you, there is a good
possibility that they will publish it. However, they would not be interested
in a channeled book from an entity on another planet, as
Llewellyn does not publish that type of book.
How-to books are always popular as people want to learn new and
different skills. Dowsing for Beginners (Llewellyn, 1996) is an example of
a how-to book. Self-help books fall into the same general area. Selfhelp
books pinpoint a problem, and then come up with strategies to
resolve it. My book Seven Secrets to Success (Llewellyn, 1997) is a selfhelp
There is always a need for practical reference books. These books
usually do not sell large quantities initially, but can keep on selling for
many years. The contribution that the authors of this type of book
make to the New Age field is incalculable. The Magician's Companion
by Bill Whitcomb and the two-volume The Key of It All by David Allen
Hulse (Llewellyn, both published in 1993) are good examples of this
type of book.
4 | BEFORE YOU START
There is a smaller market for books that discuss New Age topics,
but are not practical, how-to books. A book on the history of the
Golden Dawn would fit into this category, but it would not be as popular
as a book that taught the secret rituals of the Golden Dawn.
Channeled books are a separate category again. There are a number
of specialist publishers who are interested in this type of book, but
they are hard to sell. Most channeled books are self-published.
| ARE YOU QUALIFIED TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
Naturally, you must have some interest in a subject to even contemplate
writing a complete book on it, but you certainly do not need to
be an expert at the start. However, you should be an expert by the
time you have finished writing it. Every book requires research. If you
are already an expert on the subject, your book will require little research.
If you know much less, you will have to do extensive research.
I enjoy the writing more than any other aspect of creating a book.
Consequently, I prefer to write books on subjects that I already know
a reasonable amount about.
You can become an expert in any subject if you are prepared to work
and study at it. Consequently, the fact that you are not yet an authority
does not mean that you should not write the book. Every day journalists
write articles on topics that they are not necessarily experts on.
However, they find the facts, interview the right people, and create informative
articles. You can do exactly the same with your book.
You have to know more about the subject than you intend including
in your book. This additional knowledge will give you a sense of
authority, which will be picked up subliminally by your readers. Conversely,
your readers will also sense when you are struggling with the
This expertise needs to be practical as well as theoretical. If you
intend writing a book on palmistry, for instance, you will have to
read hundreds of palms before starting to write. I feel that practical
BEFORE YOU START | 5
experience is just as important as the theoretical. How can you teach
someone how to astral travel, for instance, if you have never visited
the astral plane yourself ?
| IS THERE A NEED FOR YOUR BOOK?
Some 60,000 new books are published every year, and you would
imagine that there is a market for a book on virtually any subject.
However, this is not necessarily the case.
About thirty years ago, when I was in India, I learned how to construct
and interpret numerological yantras. Yantras fascinate me and I
thought they would make a wonderful topic for a book. I finally
wrote the book (Talisman Magic, Llewellyn, 1995), and quickly discovered
that not many people in the West share my enthusiasm for
yantras. Although the book sold reasonably well, it did not sell as
many copies as I had hoped. I thought that writing the first book in
the West on this important topic would guarantee its success. However,
most people had no idea what a yantra was, and were not prepared
to hand over their hard-earned cash to find out.
The first book I wrote for Llewellyn was a book on palmistry (Revealing
Hands, Llewellyn, 1994). I have more than four hundred books
on palmistry in my own library, and more books appear on the
subject every year. At first glance it appears ridiculous to write yet another
book on a subject that has already been covered so comprehensively.
However, the reason there are so many books available on
palmistry is because a large number of people are interested in the
subject, and want to learn more about it.
Consequently, before you write a single word, you should find out
how many books are already available on the topic you intend writing
about. This is a simple task now, as a quick search on Amazon.com
will list all the books that are currently in print on your subject, as
well as many that are out of print. Bookfinder.com lists many out-ofprint
titles that are available from used bookstores.
6 | BEFORE YOU START
As well as going on the Internet, I also visit New Age bookstores
and libraries to have a look at any books on the subject that I am not
already familiar with. I want to see how the information is presented,
the number and type of illustrations, and what original contributions
I can make to justify the publication of another book on this particular
You might find that there are no books on the subject on which
you intend to write. In this case, you should do some serious thinking
before proceeding further. It is possible that there is no book on this
topic because no one is interested enough in the subject to buy a book
on it. However, the opposite might also apply. You may have discovered
something that will start a whole new trend.
You are more likely to find hundreds of books on your area of interest.
There is no point in simply writing yet another book on a subject,
unless you have something new to offer. In Revealing Hands, I
included a chapter on my researches into dermatoglyphics. This information
had never been in print anywhere before, and became a major
point of difference. Revealing Hands has now been reprinted as The
Complete Book of Palmistry. For this new edition, I wrote a chapter on
Indian thumb reading. Again, this is information that has not previously
been published in the West. You may not have any new information,
but instead have a new way of presenting it that makes the
topic easier to understand. This, also, becomes a point of difference.
Naturally, a publisher has to make money to stay in business. Your
book may contain fascinating information, but if the publisher is able
to sell only a few hundred copies, he will lose money if he publishes it.
Consequently, while looking at books on the same or similar topics to
the one you are planning to write, check to see how many times they
have been reprinted. Did you find any of them on the remainder
table? In the case of library books, you may be able to see how many
times they have been borrowed. You can also see how popular different
books are by checking their rankings on sites like Amazon.com
BEFORE YOU START | 7
It is a good idea to think like a publisher when estimating the need
for a book. If you were a publisher and received the manuscript you
intend writing, would you be excited?
| WHO ARE YOUWRITING FOR?
Most beginning writers say that they are writing for a general audience.
They feel that their topic is so important that everyone will
want to read it. Sadly, this is not the case. Newspapers and general interest
magazines are written for a general audience, but most other
writing has to be targeted to a specific market. Fortunately, this makes
the writing task easier, as you can keep a picture of your target reader
in your mind as you write.
It is important to think about your potential audience before starting
to write. Who are you writing your book for? Sometimes the answer
is obvious. If you are planning to write a book on Sabian
symbols your market is going to be serious astrologers. Consequently,
you will not need to explain many of the technical terms that appear
in your book. However, your approach would change dramatically if
you decided to write a book on Sabian symbols for people who had
no prior knowledge of astrology. In this case, you would need to devote
much of the book to an explanation of the basics of astrology,
and the meanings of all the terms. Your whole approach to the book
would be completely different.
Many years ago, I read somewhere that Malcolm Forbes published
Forbes magazine for a dentist in Des Moines. I remember this well, as
it showed an incredible understanding of his market. If a dentist in
Des Moines enjoyed each issue of Forbes, so would everyone else in
his target market. Consequently, each issue was designed to appeal to
this imaginary person.
I write my books in the same way. I always have someone in mind
whenever I write. Most of the time, this is an imaginary person. I do
not necessarily use the same person each time, because so much depends
on the particular book I am writing.
8 | BEFORE YOU START
My first book, Freedom to Read (HPP Press, 1972), was a study of
censorship. I no longer recall who my imaginary reader was for this
book, but can guarantee that it was not the same person I had in mind
while writing Success Secrets or Aura Reading for Beginners. I have an
imaginary person in mind while writing this book. I visualize someone
who is intelligent, sincere, eager to learn, knowledgeable about
some aspects of the New Age, prepared to work hard, and keen to become
a successful, published author. My last book was written for an
imaginary sixteen-year-old girl.
Your choice of imaginary reader will determine how you write
your book. Will you write in a chatty manner? Or would it be better
to write your book in a more authoritative way? The slant you take,
the words you use, and even the length of individual sentences, paragraphs,
and chapters will be determined by the maturity and educational
level of your imaginary reader.
Choose an intelligent person. Your readers will quickly know if you
are condescending and talking down to them. A good choice is to
choose someone who has a great deal of common sense, but is not familiar
with the subject you are writing about. I make sure that all of
my imaginary people are friendly, discerning, intelligent, and possess
a good sense of humor.
The choice of reader will also ultimately determine the sales potential
of the book. A book written with a teenage girl in mind is
probably going to be an introductory book to a particular subject. You
would write a popular, rather than a scholarly, book to appeal to this
person. This means that, ideally, it will have a much wider appeal than
a book written for a middle-aged academic. There is nothing wrong in
writing books for mature academics, but by doing this you are probably
limiting the size of your potential market, which in turn limits
sales, and that naturally reduces your royalties.
It is not easy to find the right voice, but it is an important part of
the writing process. Fortunately, you can change your imaginary
reader if you find he or she is not right for the particular book you are
BEFORE YOU START | 9
working on. If I discover this at, say, chapter four, I do not return to
the start and rewrite the book. I simply make a note to remind myself
of what I have done, and change anything necessary when revising
| WHY ARE YOU WRITING THIS BOOK?
There are many reasons why people decide to write books, and you
should have a clear idea of your motivations before starting work. It
takes a huge amount of time and effort to write a book, and you need
to keep your goals clearly in mind as you write. If you don't, the
chances are that you will never finish the book.
Here are some of the more common reasons why people write
books. You might find your motivations in this list:
1. To make money.
2. To teach others.
3. To position yourself in the marketplace as an expert on a
4. To become more visible in your field.
5. Because you love writing.
6. To have a book to sell after giving lectures and presentations.
It is important that your goals are realistic and attainable. It is not
realistic to expect to make a million dollars from your first book, for
instance. It is possible, of course, and a few fortunate authors have
done it. However, most authors do not make a full-time living from
their writing. They work in all sorts of different fields, and the money
they make from writing enables them to enjoy a more comfortable
lifestyle than would otherwise be the case.
Evaluate your goals carefully. Some years ago someone told me
that he wanted to write a book to impress his mother-in-law. I told
10 | BEFORE YOU START
him there were much better ways to make his mother-in-law proud of
| ARE YOU HOLDING YOURSELF BACK?
I am always meeting people who say they want to write a book, but
somehow never get around to doing it. There is always something
that prevents them from writing. There are a number of fears that
hold people back.
1. Fear of failure is the most common. Every successful author
has experienced failure at one time or another. Every time a
book or article is rejected, the author, no matter how experienced
he or she is, experiences failure. Most authors experience
self-doubt along the way as well.
2. Fear of success. Many would-be authors start their books, but
never finish them. As long as the book is not finished, they run
no risk of being successful. An acquaintance of mine has been
working on a book on Nostradamus for at least twenty years.
I doubt if he will ever finish it.
3. Fear of criticism. No one likes to be criticized, but it is a fact of
life for writers. Not everyone is going to love your book. The
critics may not be kind, and some of your readers will not
enjoy reading it.
4. Fear of having nothing to say. This is a particularly insidious
fear that makes people feel worthless and insignificant. If nothing
you write has any value, why would you even attempt to
put words down on paper?
If fears like these are holding you back, examine them carefully,
because you have to eliminate them before you can start a writing
career. In the cold light of day, these fears seem ridiculous, but they
have the power to prevent you from embarking on a satisfying and
BEFORE YOU START | 11
worthwhile career. The best remedy for fears of this sort is to totally
forget any thoughts of publication, and to write the book for your
own pleasure and satisfaction. Once the book is written, you can look
at it again and decide what to do with it.
| THE TITLE
It is a good idea to have a tentative title in mind before starting to
write the book. This helps you focus your thoughts on the exact topic
of the book. Ideally, you want a strong, saleable title that is memorable
and says exactly what the book is about. Think and Grow Rich
(The Ralston Society, Meriden, Conn., 1937) is an excellent example.
It is short, memorable, and says everything that the potential reader
needs to know.
It takes time and effort to come up with a good title. However, this
time is well spent, as a good title will help make your book a success.
Write down everything that occurs to you, and see how many different
titles you can come up with. You will be surprised at the number
of titles you can create in a brainstorming session.
Choose the best and use that as your working title. Other ideas will
occur to you as you write the book. Add these to your list, because
you might decide to change the title before sending the book to your
Cute titles often confuse potential readers. It might be better to call
your book "How to Read Auras" rather than "Swirling Vistas of
Color." The first title may not be exciting, but it tells the reader exactly
what the book is about. The second title could be almost anything.
Fortunately, you can add a subtitle to explain what the book is
about. If you were positive that "Swirling Vistas of Color" was the
best title for your book on auras, "How to Read Auras" would make a
Publishers have the right to change the title, if they wish. After all,
they are investing a large sum of money in your book, and naturally
12 | BEFORE YOU START