A look at the destructive side of our culture born in gaslighting, shaming, and forming opinions based on misinformation.
Just to be clear my article is about the toxicity of our witch community/culture and how far too many form opinions bases on hearsay. I am in no way defending authors who rip-off other authors. This claim is absolutely incorrect. When I wrote my article Lisa, myself, and all legitimate self-publishing authors were under attack. It was only after my involvement did Nathara do her research and create her retractions.
Witches do things differently! We are innovators. It is, for this reason, we tend to live on the fringes of society. However, we can’t facilitate change or be revolutionary when we are part of the problem!
Over time Witchcraft and Pagan communities have fallen into the trap of mainstream gaslighting and tabloid-style thinking. Sadly, this mindset has thoroughly contaminated our Witch Culture. Where is the lifeboat? This ship is sinking, folks.
WHAT is she talking about?
Recently as I browsed my newsfeed on Facebook, I came a crossed a post in a popular Witch group. This post was an article written by Nathara (I love her name BTW) from CrowSong, deliberately shaming self-published authors, calling them “Fake Witchy Authors.” The concerning thing is that members of this group were eating it up, many without even reading the blog post. I was willing to brush it off until the article appeared in another group, AND then another! The more it was posted the more people blindly bought into the statements made in the article. The blog posted on CrowSong claiming Amazon self-published authors are fake piggy-backs on an article initially posted by The Wild Hunt, written by author Star Bustamonte.
By now, I am sure you have seen these blog posts naming authors, mainly Lisa Chamberlain. The claim is that authors like Lisa are targeting readers in Wicca, Witchcraft, and Pagan communities. The whole hailstorm started with a single tweet shared by Thorn Mooney. 140 characters and BOOM, down goes the ship!
This really ticks me off. We have become a culture of blasting others without doing our research. Speaking (or rather, typing) before we think is now a common practice. (To be fair, Thorn Mooney did post an explanation of her initial tweet after the damage was done.)
If you missed all the commotion here is an excellent timeline by AINE LLEWELLYN with Patheos Pagan.
So what happened that we are spending more time being critical instead of thinking critically?
& Why do I care?
Easy. I, like so many others, am a self-published author. I have 3 books on Amazon, and as you might know, I am a long-time blogger for the Witchcraft and Pagan community. I am also VERY active in my local and semi-local community. This kind of negative behavior will naturally catch my attention. Self-publishing and writing content every day is not easy. It takes dedication and determination. Shaming someone else and their work without the right perspective or context is a symptom of something much bigger.
As I read the articles claiming self-published authors are fake, I did what I always do. I did some research. I started looking deeper into the content posted and began asking questions. Mainly, I wondered why? What’s the point in defaming others? Who are these people to determine one Witch is more valid over another?
One, it gives us a greater look into the toxic mindset that has permeated our Witch Culture. Where a little bit of miss-information coupled with a negative opinion, and a decent following can go a long way with those who love a good scandal. Witches and Pagans are not strangers to vicious attacks on our character and livelihoods out of fear of our activities and beliefs. We have long been under attack by outside organizations for the simple fact that we are on the outside. Who knew our own communities would begin using similar tactics within. We should all find it deeply concerning when we choose to turn on each other. This act is far more destructive than we can imagine. Have we completely forgotten the Witch hunts and trials?
Two, this behavior is telling. It goes to show how even well known, long-standing blogs might choose shock value over facts. After all, adopting toxic behaviors seems to be something our culture rewards.
In my experience, there is plenty to go around for all. We can all thrive together if we choose to uplift one another instead of ripping each other apart. So what if Lisa Chamberlain’s books made it on Amazon’s Best Seller List? Obviously, she has a business model that works. There is no need to shame anyone for being successful. Instead, maybe, we can learn from her? I’m not talking about exploitation here; I am talking about building an honest living doing what you love. In this case, publishing books about – Wicca and Witchcraft.
Three, This is low hanging fruit. In this wake of the tweets and TWH article, we have other small bloggers gulping this up content like ravenous baby crows desperate for attention – every pun intended. Let’s face it. SEO is very important to a small blog trying to make it in the vast sea that is the internet. Exploiting a trend is an effective way to drive traffic.
Naturally, giving readers something scandalous is easy and effective. After all, tabloids have been feeding readers loads of similar bullshit like this for decades… and making a lot of money in the process. Being on the front page of a Google search exponentially increases the chances that more people will see your site, click on your website link, and buy your stuff. It still doesn’t excuse the harmful behavior that is gaslighting, slandering, and blaming.
I opened the door a crack, and suddenly it blew wide open!
There are many reasons given as to why these self-published authors are fake. Let’s take a look.
Reason #1: They are Self-Published
I find this form of “validation” to be hilarious. Did someone forget to tell them that self-publishing is HUGE! MANY authors make it big through self-publishing. Ironically, some of the quotes used in the articles were from self-published authors? What exactly is happening here?
Reason #2: Ghost Writing and Using Pen Names
Sorry to burst the drama bubble, but ghostwriting and using pen names have been around for quite a long time. Historically, these are well-used tools for many writers. There is nothing sneaky or hinky about it. Nearly all famous writers accomplish their fame and growth through the use of ghostwriters. Often pen names are used to protect writers from judgment. I am confident that if I used ghostwriters, I would have many more books on the market, and my blog would have far more articles for you to read.
Reason #3: Low or Non-Existent Following
This is where it becomes really fun. One of the arguments posted on The Wild Hunt against the author Lisa Chamberlain is that at the time TWH’s article was published, Lisa only had a few followers on FB. Sorry, CrowSong I am going to get real with you here because I have to point it out.
From TWH: “There is a Facebook page for Lisa Chamberlain, author and connects with the website, Wicca Living. The facebook page has 57 likes, and 60 followers, both unusually low numbers for an author who has published over 20 books.”
If judging someone’s following on a single platform is a measure for their validity in the community, then Nathara from CrowSong is out of validation. After all, with an audience of under 200 on FB, The Wild Hunt just made CrowSong irrelevant.
If we are going to measure the validity of an author by their following on Facebook, then The Magick Kitchen is GOLD! Check it: The Magick Kitchen on Facebook has 17,289 likes compared to CrowSong on Facebook with 154 likes (at the time this article was written).
Well DAMN! Since we are using this as a measure, my blog must be a forefront authority! No, I don’t think so. That is not how it works. I have worked very hard over the past several years to build my following. I am genuine with my readers, and I pull no punches. My readers appreciate this! Hard work validates you, not your following.
Reason #4: Plagiarism
The only way to determine if plagiarism is actually happening is either in a court of law or by putting the works in question through massive databases where the texts can be compared, and dates published can be determined. Until there is solid linked proof, this claim is invalid.
Reason #5: Number of books written in one year
Most self-published books are small. Using resources like Fiverr to form a team to help you write and publish books makes writing and publishing easier than ever before. Self-publishing gives writers the ability to publish multiple books in weeks instead of months or years. It is for this reason self-publishing has become so attractive to authors all over the world.
Another great advantage is that authors don’t have to endure months and years of rejection after rejection from traditional publishers. Instead, they can get their content into the hands of their readers quickly and without ridiculous fees and red tape. Self-publishing has eliminated the rhetoric authors were once forced to tolerate when dealing with most traditional publishers. OH! AND the best part of this system is that authors get to keep the rights to their work!
Reason #6: Fake Reviews
Reviews are critical when you are trying to sell books, but I don’t know any writers who buy them. Instead, we ask for reviews from our readers. Most authors have been around for a long time and have built a following. As a result, the author gets reviews, no scandal there. If you work hard to engage with and encourage your readers to write reviews, you will likely get them.
Reason #7: Lack of personal Information
I’m sorry… What? Since when was anyone’s personal information your business? Much more, why is this a measure of their validity? Yes, I know there is a contradiction with me on this one. I do share some of my personal activities with my online community. That is my choice. I hold the view that you (my reader) should know what I am doing when I am doing exciting stuff. That doesn’t mean I am going to report everything I do. To be honest, I am usually so busy leading, I can’t whip out my phone to record a video or write a post. Most times I can’t even get a picture.
Let’s get real here, most aspects of my life are simply none of your business. A good example is the private work I do with my coven. We keep our secrets! Does this suddenly make me less valid? There should never be an expectation that a writer’s entire life is for public consumption.
Reason #7: The Books are short and cheap
Most people are busy. This means most people do not have a ton of time to spend reading one long book when the basic concept can be addressed in 30,000 to 40,000 words. Plus, large books can be broken down to create many smaller publications, making it easier to read and retain. Additionally, smaller books are easier to conceal for those who like physical books and remain in the broom closet. After all, they don’t look like textbooks.
As far as cheap goes. Sure, you get what you pay for. You’re not going to get an in-depth look at a topic from a small book. But that’s okay. If you want a more detailed look into a subject, other books are out there for your consideration. In all honesty, if you really want to know a subject, you will read multiple books on the topic. It also goes back to my point about our culture. People are busy. They can’t spend days or weeks on one book, which makes smaller books very appealing. It boils down to personal choice over hinky author activity.
Okay, I am done!
It’s exhausting taking an in-depth look into the disfunction of our community. Before we part, there is one more thing I would like to point out. This bothered me a lot.
I noticed that in these articles, NO ONE worked to reach out to the #1 name on their so-called FAKE Author list. This author is Lisa Chamberlain. I thought, “Well, how hard could it be to shoot her an email and get her thoughts on this issue.” Guess what, I did, and she responded!
We emailed back and forth a few times and I asked her what she thought about all of this. She agreed to give me a statement. No! She did far better than that. She copied me on the email she sent to Nathara at CrowSong and she agreed to let me share it with you! So here you go. The other side of the story:
From Lisa Chamberlain,
Hi. I’m Lisa Chamberlain. 🙂
Thank you for including an invitation to reach out to you regarding your article, “Fake Witchy
Authors on Amazon.” I do wish you had reached out to me via my website before posting it, but
hopefully this response will clear up the misconceptions.
First, I’d like to assure you that I’m a real person and a practicing Witch, though I understand
that my lack of public presence (online or off), might cause one to suspect otherwise. I’m quite
frustrated about the proliferation of copycat books on Amazon, given that my name is one of the top search trends they’re ripping off (in addition to Cunningham and Buckland). If you look at the list of names in Thorn Mooney’s tweet in your article, all but two contain “Lisa.” That’s because of me. If they could pass “Chamberlain” off as a first name, I have no doubt they’d have used that in a few titles as well.
This has been a disturbing trend over the past few years that has escalated as sales of my books have increased. However, I didn’t realize how much of a threat they are to my publishing
business until very recently, in large part due to your article. I’m doing what I can to get Amazon to take the fake books down, but they make it a pretty arduous process, and there’s no guarantee that new ones won’t pop up in place of any that get removed.
In the interest of full disclosure, Lisa Chamberlain is a pen name, but that’s hardly a rarity in thePagan world. Essentially, I’m an introvert. I’m also not 100% out of the broom closet with my family, which is why I don’t have an author headshot. (I have a large, fervently Catholic family
and it’s just not worth the reaction that the discovery would cause.) I know I should do more with the Facebook account, but I don’t care much for social media, and since it hasn’t been an issue (at least until recently), I’ve been slack about it.
As for interviews, you can find one from a UK site called “SheKnows” here:
https://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/1137183/witchcraft-on-the-rise/ . I’ve been approached for several other interviews over the past few years, but either the writer has asked at the very last minute before their deadline, or I haven’t felt comfortable with the publication. (For example, I turned down Vice Magazine, because I just didn’t trust them to do the subject justice.)
The publishing pace does look over the top, at least in comparison to a traditional publishing
schedule. There are a few reasons for it, aside from the brevity of the books. Basically, the self-
publishing world requires more rapid output in order to stay relevant in search rankings. After
the success of Wicca for Beginners, I was advised to release as many titles as possible in order
to build an audience. So I pulled together some older writings in addition to the new books I was
working on and just went for it for a few years. It worked. Once I had enough momentum, I was
able to relax the pace to fewer books per year.
Furthermore, delays on the production side can cause two or more books to be released in
close proximity to each other. Ironically, I’m encountering this in the traditional publishing world
as well. I’ve recently entered into a multi-book contract with Sterling Publishing, which will be
releasing new and expanded versions of Wicca for Beginners, Book of Spells, and Kitchen Witchery (now called Wiccan Kitchen) this year.
As for the length and scope of the books, I always envisioned these offerings as introductory,
jumping-off points that could lead aspiring Witches into deeper study. Every book ends with a
recommended reading list, which typically emphasizes well-known, traditionally published
authors. I’ve never wanted to get too much into my personal practice or opinions, as I prefer to
present the information as neutrally as possible. This is an approach I really would have
appreciated when I was coming up in the Craft, but could never quite find.
Finally, I have never, ever paid for a review. In the beginning, I offered a free book in exchange
for an honest review, and these are typically noted by the reviewers. I have seen the stolen
reviews for my books on some of the copycats’ pages, though. It’s tempting to respond, but then
I run the risk of a bad-review war, which is certainly the last thing I need now.
I hope you will publish a correction to your article, in light of this response. There has been
an influx of one-star reviews (“This author is fake, etc.”) and other negative fallout that is
threatening my livelihood right now, as well as that of my small publishing team, so I’m very
eager to set the record straight. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further
I’m done ranting. I hate it when our community turns on itself. I find our culture’s ability to ridicule and humiliate others exhausting and pointless.
I do what to leave you with a solid take-a-way from all this. It’s simple, if you want to know an author, engage with him or her for yourself, then make up your own mind. Read their books and decide for yourself if their work is valuable or not. You should not allow others to form your opinions for you. Don’t be a Sheeple.