Herbs of the Northern Shaman is a book about entheogens and is published again

Loompanics Unlimited

Back in the year 2000, I managed after two years of trying, to find a publisher to get my book Herbs of the Northern Shaman - a Guide to the Mind-altering Plants of the Northern Hemispherepublished by the American company Loompanics Unlimited. It was a very exciting moment in my life!

Originally the idea for the book had been announced in CJ Stone's Guardian column Housing Benefit Hill and eventually I got down to writing it. My angle to make it a unique work was that I would only be writing about herbs, trees and fungi that grew within the northern hemisphere and that these plants could be used as entheogens or had mind-altering properties..

Herbs of Northern Shaman covers and some herbs (my photos)

Heavenly Blue Morning Glory
Heavenly Blue Morning Glory
Original Herbs of the Northern Shaman
Original Herbs of the Northern Shaman
Peyote cactus
Peyote cactus
Henbane
Henbane
Wild Lettuce
Wild Lettuce
Datura flower
Datura flower
Wormwood
Wormwood
Thornapple plant (Datura stramonium)
Thornapple plant (Datura stramonium)
Belladonna
Belladonna

Belladonna and Mandrake

I had some misgivings at first because I wasn't sure whether it was a good idea to put information on plants with drug properties out there, but then I thought, the more people know the better they can make valid judgments on any area of life, and I got down to taking an idea out of my mind and making it concrete. I also decided that I would include warnings against any dangerous plants like Belladonna, Mandrake and Thornapple included in the book and would point out that it was for information purposes only.

In 1998, I was a student studying for a Higher National Diploma in Media Studies at a local college and was just managing to learn the basics of using a computer and the Internet. Not having my own PC at home, I used free time at college and all the summer holidays typing up my book. I also collected photos of all the plants and had help from a lecturer friend Tim Brett, whose subject was photography. My former partner the late Janice Pugsley did drawings for all the plants I couldn't get actual specimens of.

Eventually it was all knocked into shape and I set out to find a publisher - much easier said than done! The manuscript went around many London publishers and I had lots of replies usually saying it was well researched and an interesting subject but not what they were looking for right now. There was usually a long wait before I actually got the reply too and I had read it wasn't good etiquette to send to more than one publisher at the same time.

I had some great encouragement from Richard Rudgley, who is the author of Encylopedia of Psychoactive Substances , whom I had contacted and he replied to me offering some advice and approval for my work.

Then I had a nearly lucky break when I got in touch with Louise McNamara of Thorson's Books. I had found her in Julian Cope's Modern Antiquarian credits and I thought if she had been working with him maybe she'd appreciate what I had written.

I was right, because in a long meeting with Louise in London we got on really well and eventually she said: "Leave it with me, Steve. I will do all I can to get this accepted and will let you know very soon."

I was really feeling optimistic and went back to Cardiff thinking at last I have possibly done it. She kept her word because a week or so later Louise wrote to say she was terribly sorry but despite her efforts her colleagues were not willing to publish it.

It was at that point I thought, well, OK, the UK doesn't want to know so let's try America. Within a fortnight Loompanics Unlimited had accepted it and all systems were go. Inner Traditions were also interested - I had just sent them the idea only - but I decided I would go with the first offer I had had!The amazing thing was that after nearly two years of real time in which I failed to get a deal in my home country I had found two interested publishers in two weeks in America!

At last, which wasn't that long after I confirmed the deal, we sorted out a title and cover art and it was on its way to becoming a reality. They sent me $1,000 advance and, when it had been printed, a box of books.

What an exciting day that was. and I had visions of now becoming a successful author and making some decent money eventually. I was soon to find there were many more hurdles to overcome.

I tried local bookstores like Watersone's but they all asked if I had an account with them, and whether I had been in touch with their central office. There are many things you need after you get a book published - you need a distributor for starters and I hadn't got one.

I sold copies to friends and put some "sale or return" copies in Troutmark Books secondhand book dealers, whom I was already friends with but I found the best way to sell books was to get booked as guest speaker at some event. At the Pagan Federation conference in London after my lecture people were queuing up to buy and I sold all the copies I had.

I sold some more when I was guest speaker at Glastonbury Festival talking about the role of mind-altering herbs in witchcraft and shamanism.

I sent out quite a few promo copies that the publisher supplied and we had some great reviews. One of the best was from Howard "Mr Nice" Marks, who sent me a postcard saying "Excellent! If you want a hand with this let me know!"

Howard was actually willing to sell my book alongside his own works on his ongoing tours. This was a fantastic opportunity but all I could do was thank him and let it go. It was far too much money needed to ship the books over in quantity from America to the UK. I didn't have it and I could hardly ask Howard!

The final blow arrived when Loompanics was forced to close and my book became out of print with no hope of it coming out again on its original publisher. After this it started appearing for sale on Amazon and Ebay at crazy prices - almost 10 times the price it had been going for!

I then met up with and became friends with photographer Katrinia Rindsberg at Myspace and we hatched a plan. She would do a whole collection of new colour photos for each of the species and I would do some rewrites to improve it and add a few more herbs that were not covered in the first edition.

We agreed to split any money coming in on the book and we thought we could self-publish on lulu.com. Katrinia's husband Ole is a desk-top publishing wizard so he sorted out all the layout.

At last we are very proud to be able to announce that Herbs of the Northern Shaman is back and in full colour!

STOP PRESS NEWS:

Herbs of the Northern Shaman has found a new publisher and was republished by O-Books in November, 2010. Please click on the following link for more info: http://www.o-books.com/book/detail/758/Herbs-of-the-Northern-Shaman

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Comments 9 comments

VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

Didn't know you had published a book, how cool! And yikes, it does take a lot of work to have it published, sort of scares me as I am slooolwy but surely writing an inspirational book. I assume your book is in Amazon.com?


Jerry G2 profile image

Jerry G2 8 years ago from Cedar Rapids, IA

Congrats, Bard! I think there's really something to be said about taking control and really pushing for something you love. Sounds like an incredible book, I'll be sure to pick up a copy once my next pay check is in the bank! Thanks for sharing.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

VioletSun, the original version has been on Amazon for years and used to be on Barnes and Noble too. It now appears either at crazy prices of $120+ or is listed as "Out of Print" and "Currently unavailable."

Lulu.com do not promote books for authors so it will be up to Katrinia and I to get it listed and as it only came out last week we haven't done much yet. Not sure how to get it on Amazon either so will look into this. There was a long wait at lulu. There is an awful lot of waiting involved in my experience, apart from as I said, when I first got published back in 2000 after applying to US publishers. UK ones can hang on for over a month before they even send you a standard rejection letter!

Thank you, Jerry!


pgrundy 8 years ago

Steve that is so cool. I will definitely buy one at Lulu once its available. I love plant books anyway. Will you sign it for me? Can you do that somehow?

Congrats! Back in the game again at last!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Pam! The only way I could sign it would be if I buy a copy and sign it and then send you it, which of course isn't ideal due to the extra postage first from lulu to me and then from me to you! Why is everything so complicated? lol

It is available on lulu now but not from Amazon.


pgrundy 8 years ago

Yes, too bad for that! But I'm glad it's available again. As soon as I get paid I'll order up a copy. I'll be needing some medicinal advice now that my health insurance is shot! lol!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks again, Pam! I recommend hubber Brainfire for excellent medical advice:

http://hubpages.com/@brainfire...


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

Definitely one to look out for. Hope it all goes well for you!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Amanda! My personal copy has just arrived and it looks brilliant! Lulu only took three days to deliver it too!

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