Stage by Stage

Book by John Graham
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Stage by Stage

“Every magician should read this book.” –Asi Wind

What makes Stage by Stage unique is the scope and intention of this remarkable magic book. Author John Graham has not written other magic books. He has not released dozens of tricks. Instead, he has dedicated his life to perfecting his stage show. And, in this book, he shares every part of the process: the tricks, the transitions between the tricks, why he made the changes he did, and how to build your own standing-ovation-worthy stage show.

This is not merely a book on parlor and stage magic (though it contains more than a dozen complete parlor pieces). This is a book for those wishing to transition from close-up to stage. It’s a one-of-a-kind roadmap that takes you through the nuts and bolts of how to design an act. Stage by Stage is an equal mix of essays and routines, gorgeously illustrated and designed.

You’ll learn how to convert the magic you already do to parlor situations, and make those same tricks play for audiences twenty times the size of a close-up crowd. You’ll learn about prop management, and how to create a show that is modular (so that you can swap tricks in and out, without sacrificing the feeling of a cohesive show).

But don’t take our word for it. This is from Asi Wind’s Foreword to Stage by Stage:

"Even seasoned performers will find a great amount of valuable information within these pages. The author explains much more than the mere mechanics of the tricks. He goes into the details that make his material work in the real world, from managing the props to how the tricks play in relation to the routines before and after…I had the privilege of using “Name-Dropper” before it was published, and it instantly became one of my show’s highlights. You can easily create an entire show from the material in this book, with tricks like “Final Sale,” where a random audience member guesses the cost of your jacket; another favorite is “Now and Later,” an effect where you appear to lasso a randomly chosen playing card. I find the method to be as beautiful as the effect."

More feedback on Stage by Stage:

“John Graham is the real deal when it comes to working for real people in the real world. I know how hard it is to bring your magic to the stage. This book will save you years of trial and error.” –David Blaine

"Close-up and street magic have always been my thing. The thought of going on stage always terrified me, but reading John Graham’s books really helped me understand how to make that transition, as I think the reason we fear something, ultimately, is because we don’t understand it. John's books are a source of understanding from his vast experience and I am a better magician from having read and studied them. If you want to grow as a performer I recommend you study them too. Full of experience, wisdom, and magic!" Steven Frayne

“This is an amazing book about magic, full of all the things that magic books never dare to explain. Yes, the tricks are wonderful, but the author has also given us the “what,” “where,” “when,” and “why” of magic. Did I leave out “who?” It’s John Graham’s book, Stage by Stage, and it’s hard to imagine anyone in magic not benefitting from his insights.” –Jim Steinmeyer

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“John Graham has done what I thought was impossible. He has written a book that spells out in an orderly way how to put together a stand-up comedy magic act. I mean really, actually, truly, step-by-step how you can go from a person who performs a few good close-up magic tricks for a couple of friends to a person who can present a full, kick-ass stage magic show for hundreds of strangers. The tricks he teaches are superb (direct from his act—with nothing held back), and the advice he imparts is priceless, practical, and born of years of John’s painstaking trial-and-error work and sweat.

"Seriously, before reading this textbook I would not have thought it feasible to put down on paper the methods, thoughts, techniques, and knowledge needed to put together an actual, worthwhile show. I would have said the process was too specifically individual to be systematically delineated. I mean, I know that folks in the past have ostensibly written volumes on how to put together a magic show. But after reading John’s manual I am convinced that those other books are all superficial compared to what John has done here. If you want to do a stand-up sleight-of-hand magic show, I believe you can do no better than make this extraordinary book your bible.”

—Mac King

Contents of Stage by Stage

The Tricks

Let’s dive into some of the sensational effects you’ll learn in this collection:

Name Dropper: You cause a spectator’s thought-of name to appear spelled out across several playing cards. This is the ultimate version of a Paul Harris effect that might just be the most commercial effect in the collection.

MVG: This is John’s take on “Magician vs. Gambler,” that wonderful Harry Lorayne plot. This is the version you ought to be doing for laypeople, with signed cards and a shuffled deck.

Final Sale: A blockbuster prediction effect with a terrific comedic interlude. The audience predicts the exact price of your jacket.

The Examiner Special Edition: A worker’s solution to the Torn and Restored Newspaper plot, with a very, very clever twist. The setup takes less than a minute.

The Ring: A complete act in itself, it’s a ring on string effect with repeat climaxes to your keychain, culminating with a borrowed ring in a sealed envelope.

An Act in Itself: Buffalo John

More than a trick, this section of the book is actually a full 25-minute act unto itself. Based on a Harry Anderson routine, this can most easily be described as a wild adventure with borrowed bills, a dry erase board, and the barcode gag. It’s hilarious, totally deceptive, and worked out through twenty-five years of performing.

The Three Ps

The theoretical centerpiece of Stage by Stage is John’s essay on “The Three Ps”: Planning, Performing, and Perfecting your act. In this essay John lays out our spiritual journeys as performers, by outlining the never-ending cycle of how we strive for constant improvement and how we can be our true selves onstage. This essay is essential reading for any serious performer.

Bringing it All Together

The book closes by bringing all the lessons and tricks learned together, with a suggested outline of show ideas, and how to organize your setlists. Even seasoned pros will get lots of terrific ideas that they can apply to their own work.

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Customer reviews for Stage by Stage



John Graham offers a master class on how to develop a professional stage show, taking us from a germ of idea to the big themes and then back to the nitty-gritty details of everything from sound to scripting to packing. He details how to plan, perform, and perfect a show, based on the wisdom and experience of a seasoned professional. The tricks he offers here are not asides or throw-aways. They are world-class routines. The book itself is one of the most physically beautiful books you will own. What a great investment!



This is probably the most useful magic book I have ever purchased and I have far too many and too little time to count them. I have already started to re-read taking copious notes. It has something for everyone not just a list of tricks but lots of helpful professional advice and a number of fully scripted tried and tested performance pieces essentially ready to go. This book is ideal for anyone wanting to move from just demoing your latest download to fellow magicians at your club to developing and performing a polished and effective "proper" magic show in front of a real audience. Highly recommended - get it you will not regret it !



Firstly let me say I was pleasantly surprised to see as many effects in the book. I thought it was more around theory. This is an absolute stunner of a book and once I started reading I could literally not put it down. Its most probably one of the best books on magic I have read. The effects are excellent and well thought out. The ones I have read so far is not easy, it's pretty sleight heavy. It speaks of running through the deck moving the cards to the bottom of the deck in a very non chalant way. For the life of me I still cannot do a multiple cull. But I will keep on practicing. This is a great book. Get it!



This book is perhaps the one I have just sat down to read to browse and then II have just kept on reading.

Phenomenal.. how have I not heard about the author before and I am not surprised ASI Wind has asked him to write it.

Absolutely amazing.



This book is phenomenal. I have spent many thousands of dollars throughout my magic career, and I can say without a doubt that this is within my top three purchases.

This book is chock full of practical tricks and real-world advice that are worth their weight in gold for anyone trying to build a stage show. I've already added a trick, and bunch of lines, and several pieces of advice to my show and they have improved it tremendously.

Honestly, I'm shocked that John wrote this book. He literally gave away basically his entire working repertoire and it's all stuff that's within the reach of anyone who has been in magic for a few years. Books like this are incredibly hard to come across. Honestly, for anyone looking to make a stage show or fix up their existing one, I can't think of a better product. Highly recommended.



~Quick Review~
Book Quality - 9/10
Book Design - 8/10
Contents of the book 9/10

~Longer Review~
I will start by saying that this book SHOULD be a required read for anyone person new (ish) to magic who wishes to take magic more seriously.
What can I say that hasn't already been said already? There is a reason this book has pretty much a full 5-star review (I say pretty much because I can't see the future and one day there may come a person who isn't a fan)

Let's first look at the cover. Stage by Stage is a nice easy to read but the beautiful font is Debossed into the cover and pressed with gold leaf. The book itself appears almost like it's covered in black leather(it's not but gives the appearance) and the inside has a nice mute red. Very well done.
The book itself is a pretty beefy book. At around 332 pages, that contain information that cant boost any readers show to a much higher level.

The aim of the book is to help close-up performers move to the stage. But It is most definitely way more than that. The routines in the book are pretty hard-hitting well rounded routines that can add high impact to anyone's shows, but everything is structured to teach you how to build your own shows. How to add massive leaps in value to your shows. It teaches you how to look at your material and better mold it into yourself and build off of it. All in all, cover to cover. This book is an absolute must-read. You may not perform any of the material, but the advice alone is worth triple the cost (As long as you are actually a performer)

This Review comes from book owner 1/200



At first I was going to write a long review detailing each and every effect in this book along with the advice given. However, having completed the book all I will say is that if you are a close up performer interested in performing on bigger stages this is the book you need. This book is full of excellent effects, advice and lessons from a true professional. Do yourself a favour and buy this book. It is wonderful.



This has not left my hands since it came in the mail!
First- Andi and Jay, well, all of the people at Vanishing Inc. Are all amazing. The book got here in record time.
Second- it is packed with so much information. The tricks? They are all great! But it's the info hidden in between the tricks that really will make your magic soar!!
Trust me, you better have a pencil and paper next to you while you read this!
Shaun Robison



Wonderful book with great tips and nice routines! Highly recommend it.



This book is worth twice the price! Great effects that are learnable and so much information about taking my close up magic to parlor or my parlor magic to stage. John Graham's advice is concise down to the smallest detail. I would love to see him perform live. Stage by Stage will be in a place of honor in my library and re-read often.

Jeffrey Marks



This is an outstanding magic book! For me, it was highly motivating and inspirational. The tricks are just the starting point. This book is perfect for the performer who wants to take their magic to the next level but is unsure of what that level is.

More importantly, John helps you develop a way of thinking to create and improve your own routines.

Simply put, this book is gold! I give it my highest recommendation.



John Graham’s Stage by Stage is destined to become a classic. A major focus is on pivoting from close-up to parlor / stage magic. The book is well written and illustrated. It includes practical and wise advice in making this transition and how to enhance your shows. There are also strong magic effects explained with scripts. My favorite effect in the book is Name Dropper – I have long been a fan of Paul Harris’ amazing “Anything Deck” and following variations – Name Dropper may be my favorite version partly because of the ease in resetting.



“Stage By Stage” by John Graham is 332 pages of experience. Real world experience. Some readers feel compelled to sing the praises of a book they have purchased so as not to appear to have fallen victim to marketing and hyperbole. No such bias exists in this review. In the interest of transparency I have no affiliation with Mr. Graham nor the publisher other than being a customer. To be honest I had never heard of John Graham prior to this book’s publication. More’s the worse for me. He knows what he is talking about. Several youtube videos of him performing the routines from the book are available to view. However not all the videos are covered in the book to be clear. The book consists of effects, scripting and sections on structure and routining as well as a section entitled “Beyond The Tricks”, 26 pages of information specific to stage performances. Theatrical considerations such as music, tables and cases, and more can be found in this section as well. The stage performer must usually hunt high and low for material suitable for presentation. By comparison the close-up performer is usually faced with the dilemma of an embarrassment of riches as regards availability of material. Mr. Graham demonstrates in this book how to take material usually performed in a close up scenario and bring it onstage. In turn he rightly points out the confidence you exude performing material you are already familiar with in a close up setting will in turn engender confidence in your audience. And audiences want to know they are in capable hands. He also stresses the importance of “flight time”, (performance in front of live human beings) and has several useful suggestions as to how to acquire it. I have purposefully avoided citing specific effects/routines that I was particularly drawn to as individual tastes will certainly dictate otherwise. Suffice it to say there is no filler in this book. None. You would have to work extremely hard to NOT find something of value in this book wether you already perform a stage act or are aspiring to make the move from close-up to stage. Highly recommended.



Really enjoyable book with solid routines and methods that are worth the price of the book alone. I found the book scattered with extremely thought out methods and advice from a working pro. It's really got the juices flowing again! Highly Recommended!



As a reviewer I feel that it is my duty to read each book I am given cover to cover to be fair to both the writer and the publisher. Sometimes it becomes a job and is a real chore to plow through. This, I am glad to say, is not one of those times.

However, it took only a few pages into the book to realize that I hated it. Just as when I get a new Stephen King novel, I started reading and the next thing I knew it was 2:00 in the morning and I was sleeping in my chair. It is dangerous to have a book that catches you so quickly and completely. John's style of writing is both very informative and quite entertaining. His personality really shows and his jokes are actually both new and really funny.

When I took a marketing class back in my college years, one of the first things you were taught were the three P's. Product, pricing and placement. Very important things. John teaches you his three P's with an equal importance to your act.

He teaches methods to perform two related tricks in a row and how to develop a script for that. He also teaches you what to do to link up two unrelated effects.

You learn how to take that closeup effect that you love and adapt it for the stage. He offers many tips on all phases of you becoming more professional. To me, one of the biggest things is connection with the audience and he offers some pointers on that. If you remember Mat Franco competing on America's Got Talent, you saw what a good connection can do for you. There were magicians on that season that to me performed better magic but the thing that allowed Mat to win was the way he connected with his audience. He won because he was just so darn likable.

On top of all the tips he offers a number of outstanding routines and they can be done without knucklebusting. On a number of the routines, he starts with someone else's work then explains to you how he made each his own. He makes sure he gives full credit to each of the original creators.

One thing I love that I don't often see with a magic book is that John has four of the routines from this book on Youtube so you can see not only how the effect looks but you can get a picture of his personality and how he sells each effect to his audience.

The Ring - A very nice ring on string type effect based on Dan Fleshman's work. It ends with the ring disappearing and being located in a zippered wallet inside a sealed envelope.
The Ring

The Examiner - Special Edition. A very pretty turn and restored newspaper. However, this uses only a four page sheet. Direct from the work of Paul Harris.
The Examiner -

Now and Later - Those of you who do lassoing the selected card just may switch your method. This requires no magnets and the lassoed card can be given out with the rope attached. This one will definitely fool those "in the know."
Now and Later -

Buffalo John has been adapted from a Harry Anderson routine.and can easily be expanded to a full act featuring bits of "the Million Dollar Mystery", the "Barcode Gag', card flourishes, a "Before Your Eyes" prediction, a Himber wallet transformation , a hat tear and a $100 bill switch
Buffalo John -

The tricks are separated into Openers, Middles and Closers. He gives simply everything you might want to know about polishing your show, from Prop Management to his jokes. He even goes through three full acts telling where everything goes on his table and listing the music for each step. The music is the only thing that concerns me. This is obviously not royalty-free music and the way the tunes are inserted into the routines and the number of different things I think could cause a problem with BMI or ASCAP.

This is a superbly written book that you should have on your shelf if you are serious about your art. It is nicely illustrated by Jeremy Dutcher with a forward by Asi Wind. The book is beautifully produced as are all of Vanishing Inc's books.

John has produced an excellent primer of upping your games. Well written and well illustrated. This is finding a permanent place in my library so , of course, it gets a highly recommended..

VI Monthly


John and vanishing inc have finally produced the book I have always wanted to read. It’s like a mix of maximum entertainment and Tarbell rolled into a single volume. Simply amazing keep up the great work.



John's magic saved me in the nick of time a few years ago. I was about to begin a two-year run at Franz Harary's House of Magic in Macau, China, and needed a single piece of stand-up magic that wasn't language-dependent, and that was practical for 3 shows/day. I'd settled on Slydini's single-sheet newspaper tear, preparing myself for the tedious daily prep it would require. Then, just before leaving the US, John released his effect THE EXAMINER. It solved all my problems. He'd given me the effect I wanted (a single-sheet torn and restored newspaper) that was massively fooling (it fooled every magician I met who came to see the show) and, best of all, I could prep the trick in under a minute.

That trick and so much more is revealed in John's book. This tome is a true gift to the community, and one that anyone can gain by; from beginner to professional, there's something for everyone. John holds nothing back. He's given you everything you need to create a show and begin performing it. The material is practical and strong; evidence of a man who has been in the trenches doing the real work.

STAGE BY STAGE is worth 100 times the asking price. If you put this advice and material into practice, it will pay for itself a thousand times over. Don't hesitate to hit the "Buy" button. You won't regret it.



Very good. Plenty of solid material to perform. And lots of solid advice to make what you already perform even better. Worth every penny.



BOOK OF THE YEAR! This is similar to recent theory/showmanship books, but on steroids, and so much more informative. Everything is basically given to you on a silver platter. It fills in the gaps that the other books leave out, and doesn’t hold back. To top it off, it includes John’s current material, routining, and scripts. Helping you to understand the how and why with his routines. He also goes into straight-forward detail on applying the same thinking to your material.
Stage by Stage helps you turn your set list into a SHOW. It’s an easy read, and is hard to put down. It inspired me to make so many detailed changes to my material.
Get it, read it, make a few changes, try those changes, and keep adding. In two weeks, between scripting, jokes, connecting tricks together, performance, and pacing; I’ve made at least a dozen positive changes to my own material.
The key word is inspire, this book will inspire you, and get you excited about the endless possibilities to enhancing your performance. More importantly, it will help you connect with your audience so much more!

VI Monthly


It's a good book. I'm definitely not in agreement with all of his ideas, but ALL of them are worthwhile thinking about. And this makes the book very good in my mind.

The handling of the tricks are really interesting, and studying the structure of the routines is fun, as they are clever as heck.

Good read.



One of the best magic books of the last 30 years, IMO. I've done close to 500 shows at the Magic Castle, and tons of school and corporate shows -- I KNOW how fantastic the material and insights John Graham shares in this book are. The tricks are crazy good, and the insights into planning and performing a show are spot on and obviously learned in the trenches. Those who miss this book really will be missing out on something great; and those who read the book should go back and study it. I don't know John Graham -- in fact, I'd never heard of him. Thank goodness he decided to write a book!



John Graham is a magician who truly cares about magic, and more importantly the performance of magic. John not only shares his ideas on close-up effects many of us are familiar with but explains how to incorporate them into parlor and stage shows! The fact that John has performed from casinos and corporate events to the infamous Magic Castle validates this book as a serious resource for those of us who want to transition from restaurant/table hopping to parlor and stage with the existing close-up magic we already perform.
Even if you only read Stage by Stage to check out John's handlings of the many great effects he shares, it will give you the inspiration to look at ways to improve the magic you already perform, as well as realizing the dedication John has put into fine tuning his show.
This book has become one of, if not the best magic investment, I have ever made.

VI Monthly


This is PACKED full of real world workers material and advice. I have been looking for a book like this for a while as I have wanted to transition from close-up to Parlor but had not idea where to start. This book is the field guide and manual to putting a show together and he covers everything in great detail. You get so much value out of this book and I have not been able to put it down. If you ever wanted to make that transition to Parlor or stage, this book is gold.



John gives us a very good and useful book.
Each part of the book teaches how to build magic show and gives us examples with some very good tricks.

After the tricks part, John explains how to connect every pieces together. Very informative for magicians who wants to perform.

And as usual, Vanishing made a very beautiful book for your bookshelf


Community questions about Stage by Stage

Have a question about this product? It's possible others do too. Ask here and other Vanishing Inc. Magic customers will be able to respond with assistance! Alternatively, email us and we can help too.

  • Steven asks: Does this include a download of his show?

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: It does not.
  • Eli asks: Is there a difference in content to the limited edition and standard other than the higher production materials and slip case?

    • 1. Marc answers: Just the following: "Each book incluides a signed and numbered bookplate by the author."
    Post an answer to this question
  • Simon asks: How many pages?

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: 322!
  • Frank asks: Is there a pdf or png of the cue card from the book anywhere? I can of course make it myself but figured it never hurts to ask.

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: Unfortunately, there is no PDF.
  • Nick asks: Can these things be applied to creating a mentalism show? Or is this exclusively for magic?

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: Absolutely! While many of the routines are magic based, the structuring of the show and selection of material can be applied to mentalism.
  • Anna asks: What is the length of the stage performances? Thanks

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: 25 minutes
  • asks: What would you estimate to be the percentage of card effects to be presented in this book? (e.g. about 20% of the effects involve playing cards}

      Post an answer to this question
    • Jay asks: Any idea when the ebook version will be out? I love being able to carry my entire library in my shirt pocket!

      • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: An ebook version is not planned to be released at this time as per the writer's request.
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