From Elder to Ancestor by S. Kelley Harrell

Excerpt from Chapter Two of my upcoming book, From Elder to Ancestor – Nature Kinship for All Seasons of Life

Repairing the Human-Nature Relationship

Engaging the Resources to Reconcile Our Separation from Nature

We’re not supposed to have to hold our space alone. By “space” I mean our energetic hygiene, protection, boundaries, health, balance—all of it. We’re not supposed to have to do it alone. In fact, we don’t do it alone.
Read that phrase again: we don’t do it alone. It’s a strange concept isn’t it? After a lifetime of having individuality shoved down our throats, our value is based on how well we function alone, professionally, socially, mentally, and financially, and we so heavily enforce individualism that we see reliance on community as weak or flawed. Likewise, we project the idea that community has little to no responsibility for its people. Such is the revolutionary thinking of settler culture Americans. In truth, human persons are collections of relationships, dynamics, ecosystems that are always evolving. There is no such thing as individual.

In three months From Elder to Ancestor will be in bookstores. It’s equally unbelievable, frightening, and exciting. That’s partly due to the reality of something that’s been in my head actually taking its own form in the world. It’s also the sheer anxiety of having to promote it.

I’d rather eat dirt than have to promote anything, really, but in particular my books. Not because I’m not in love with them or because I don’t want to talk about them. On the contrary; I do. But talking about them and promoting them is two different things in the publishing world. I’m totally down to have discussions and casual gatherings about my books. But to have to do the Piscean thing, standing in front of a group, reading, mini-lecturing–no thank you. I’m a roundtable human. I’ll take that facet of the Age of Aquarius any day.

When my first book was published (Gift of the Dreamtime), the atmosphere around book promotion was more relaxed. Now, it’s insane. The cliché is that authors have always been the best PR for their books, but the advent of digital media has taken that to skill-centric extremes, if not impossiblities for most authors to do well. Now we’re expected not just to write, but to be our sole authorities on publicity, promotion, analytics, visibility, audience engagement, etc. What this inundation looks like in reality is:

  • written outreach, which is often unpaid, through our own blog, newsletter, and community channels
  • media outreach via our own podcasts and audio blog outlets (some of which of mine is community supported–thank you!)
  • be heavily involved in multiple platforms of social media, which means conceiving (be a marketer) of and writing more unpaid content at least on a daily basis over the longterm, coming up with original visuals for that content (be a graphic designer) and curate original video for stories and reels (be a video visionary and editor)
  • understand the analytics of how the above mentioned social media campaigns perform (be a data marketing specialist–which requires more hours on top of creating the actual content), so that continued content is genearated to support that visibility
  • publish articles through other channels like journals, magazines, webzines (more unpaid writing)
  • be a guest on podcasts, radio shows (usually fun, but unpaid time)
  • do interviews, both real-time and written, also unpaid
  • do live online presentations (key notes (sometimes paid) teach classes themed around book topics, online releases, book clubs)
  • attend face-to-face public events like lectures, panels, book fairs and festivals, all unpaid, and usually involving reservation fees, travel, and hotel fees that come out of the author’s pocket

The vast majority of promotion is not only unpaid but at cost to the author, and takes up HOURS of time, to say nothing of the fact that I’m disabled, chronically ill, and usually ready for bed at any given time. In my case promotion more evidently results in gaining new clients through Soul Intent Arts or Runes for Change than in obvious book sales. Those sales determine the details of your next book contracts. And to clarify on that note, most traditionally published authors, including myself, get about 30% of a sale, if that.

From Elder to Ancestor by S. Kelley Harrell - Morgan Daimler endorsement

To note, doing all of that is incredibly harder to do now. It was already hard before COVID, but now it’s doubled down. Did you know that whether you publish traditionally or on your own, authors foot the bill of reserving bookstores to do readings? They also often are financially  on the hook for unsold books ordered for those readings. And to set expectations clearly, I made enough off of my royalties last year to pay for one family meal. Unless you’re a big 5 author, the publisher isn’t contributing anything to promotion. In fact, the latest data analyzed from 2022 states that authors earn right at the poverty level.[1] Their income stems mostly from paid speaking engagements as a result of their craft, rather than from their craft.  More of everything but writing.

Three months. We’re not supposed to have to hold our space alone, and I cannot with this. Therefore, if you haven’t already pre-ordered From Elder to Ancestor, now’s a great time to do it. If you don’t know the impact of pre-ordering a book, check this out:

  • Pre-orders have a huge impact on a book’s lifetime ranking because in terms of algorithms, sales (and reviews!) in the first 24-hours of a book’s published life carry more weight than the entire rest of the book’s lifespan. Only in rare cases do sales not diminish after the first 6 weeks.
  • These first 24-hour algorithm results go on to suggest books to a wider range of readers
  • A high number of pre-orders pushes visibility of the book up to distributors, who are then more likely to push it into stores
  • A high number of pre-orders make publishers feel secure about the author and their book, thus future contracts
  • A high number of pre-orders communicate to brick and mortar shops to continue keeping your book on their shelf

From Elder to Ancestor is available for pre-order in book stores and online, and comes out 4 June 2024.


From Elder to Ancestor by S. Kelley Harrell
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S. Kelley Harrell, M. Div.

I’m an animist, author, deathwalker and death doula held by Tuscarora, Woccon, and Sissipihaw land. For the last 25+ years, through Soul Intent Arts I’ve helped others to ethically build thriving spiritual paths as fit, embodied elders, who upon death become wise, capable Ancestors. My work is Nature-based, and focuses soul tending through the Elder Futhark runes, animism, ancestral healing, and deathwork. I’m author of several books on soul work and runes, and when moved I host the podcast, What in the Wyrd. I also write The Weekly Rune as a celebration of the Elder Futhark in season. Full bio.

#beyourcommunity ~ #youareecosystem

elder well, die well, ancestor well


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Elder Well

To bear your unique gift to the world.

Die Well

To leave the planet better than you found it.

Ancestor Well

So that your descendants never elder alone.