One of the many questions I get asked is how does one write a Masonic book and get it published. Over the years, I’ve met so many Freemasons that want to write a book. Perhaps they are inspired by the Craft and want to talk or write about their experiences, others want to search deeper into the essence of Freemasonry and want to share their thoughts and their journey. And others of course see it as a way to gain influence and get promotions within the Craft.
My career as a Masonic historian happened completely by accident and I had no ambition at all to get my thesis published as a book. I started doing my PhD in the history of Freemasonry, but the original end game for me was to get more lecturing work at the University and maybe get some academic papers published. My PhD advisor suggested later on in my research that I should get the thesis published by a Masonic publisher, though at first I was sceptical. However, my advisor kept suggesting it, and after I submitted my thesis in the December 2007, I started to enquire about getting it published as a book. I had nothing to lose.
I successfully defended the thesis in March 2008, and around that time was given a contact email for Lewis Masonic, and I sent them a message. They quickly responded asking for a synopsis. I sent them one, and within a month, the work had been accepted. That became my first book The Genesis of Freemasonry, and it was published in April 2009. It became a best seller and today it is on its fourth imprint. That book changed my life. I became a Masonic author, and I had not only discovered a talent for writing about Freemasonry, but had acquired an audience for my books. And that is what it’s all about; publishing your work is a two way thing, it has to be great work that is well read. If your book doesn’t sell, then it’s going to take up storage space in countless boxes and you probably won’t get published again.
In Masonic book terms, Freemasonry is a Micro-niche – a ready-made market for good books on Freemasonry. Many Freemasons want Masonic education, and a good, meaningful Masonic book could sell in the thousands. The publisher, for example Lewis Masonic, is after all, a business, and sales are important.
My second book The Transformation of Freemasonry was published in 2010, first in hardback, and is still in print as a paperback. This particular book was again drawn from my PhD work and comprised of the bits I had cut out of my PhD, mainly the research that had taken the Masonic story into the 19th century. This book was also a big seller, acting as a sequel to The Genesis of Freemasonry. And from my first two books I expanded my research into other areas; the Liverpool Masonic Rebellion and the York Grand Lodge, which also explored elements of English social history, which was a particular interest of mine. Indeed, one of my main interests in Freemasonry is how certain Freemasons have changed the world around them in a positive way, either through charity, science, medicine and engineering. I feel all my books have examined this theme in some way.
Being an academic and a historian, my books concern historical aspects of Freemasonry, backed up by references and research, but there have been some excellent books that examine the philosophical aspects of Freemasonry, or books that concentrate on ritual or indeed, personal journeys.
Masonic works are always needed, because of the nature of the deeply personal experience of initiation, and for this reason I always like to encourage new work and promote it when I can. Every Masonic journey is different and expresses a new aspect for us to understand, and I would always encourage Freemasons to write about the Craft.
If you want to write a book, then write it. There are many options available now to publish, and the old stigma of print on demand and self-publishing is slowly being lifted. You don’t need to be a PhD, an academic or a member of a research lodge to write on Freemasonry, you just need to have a passion and an idea; the passion will drive the idea to new dimensions and your muse will help you.