Publishers of books in the religion and spirituality category met with Publishers Weekly’s editors March 14-15 at PW’s New York City headquarters. Representatives from Baker Publishing Group, Crown Publishing Group (with its Multnomah, WaterBrook, and Convergent imprints for Christian books), Rowman & Littlefield, Chalice Press, Hachette’s FaithWords division, and Penguin Random House’s TarcherPerigee imprint discussed business developments, commented on industry news, analyzed trends and topical shifts, and spotlighted new and forthcoming titles.
With its Bethany House and Revell imprints, Baker Publishing Group is a major publisher of Christian fiction, taking 25% of all genres of Christian fiction sales, according to PubTrack POS data shared by Baker v-p of marketing Steve Oates. Oates also presented data on rising and falling genres (Amish is finally fading; romantic suspense is rising), and outlined some of the publisher's approaches to the top challenges in the Christian fiction segment. One trend Baker pointed to in nonfiction was books on neuroscience and spirituality, such as their Think and Eat Yourself Smart (April) and Switch on Your Brain (2015) by Caroline Leaf, a physician and researcher who weaves religion and spirituality into her books.
Crown Publishing senior v-p and publisher Tina Constable gave an update on the company’s three-imprint strategy, with Multnomah publishing for more conservative evangelicals, WaterBrook more in the middle of that market, and Convergent Books doing edgier, sometimes controversial books for Christians. Constable reported “vibrant growth” in the Christian book market, noting it is a half-billion dollar business annually.
Rowman & Littlefield has religion imprints for Catholics (Sheed & Ward), Episcopalians (Cowley Press), and religion professionals (Alban Books), and owns the Judaica backlist of Jason Aronson. The press sells into the trade and direct to clergy and congregations; it also has a library program. V-p of marketing Linda May noted that R&L “likes to challenge readers and prompt controversy” with its books, such as Catholic Women Confront Their Church (Sept.) and Sacred Bliss: A Spiritual History of Cannabis, a book about marijuana use as a spiritual practice, by Mark S. Ferrara (Sept.).
Brad Lyons, president and publisher of Chalice Press (associated with the Disciples of Christ) pointed to “the death of denominations” as shaping Chalice’s publishing program, which has turned toward issues-oriented books—on topics such as racism and income inequality—by “prophets of the 21st century” like Melvin Bray (Better: Waking Up to Who We Could Be, Sept.).
FaithWords marketing director Andrea Glickson and senior editor Adrienne Ingrum talked about some of their biggest authors—Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer—but also highlighted books by emerging writers like Karen Valentin, author of The Mother God Made Me To Be (Mar.), which is unique in the Christian market as a memoir of the once-taboo subject of single motherhood.
Joel Fotinos, publisher of TarcherPerigee, the newly combined imprint of Penguin Random House, discussed the imprint’s broad range, comprising books on the occult, biblical studies, mysticism, mindfulness, happiness, and creativity, among other topics. He noted that 2017 is the 25th anniversary of the publication of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way; TarcherPerigee is rereleasing the book with a new preface as well as a blurb from Elizabeth Gilbert to mark the milestone. The imprint also has a book about marijuana, The Stoner’s Coloring Book by Jared Hoffman, due out in June.
The coloring book trend has not passed over the religion/spirituality houses—Baker, WaterBrook, TarcherPerigee, and FaithWords all have offerings for readers looking to color their way to serenity.
As a result of the religion and spirituality summit, new additions to PW’s editorial calendar include categories for conscious living, Islam, gifts such as adult coloring books, and more. In response to readers’ growing interest in religion and spirituality coverage, PW is planning another summit in midsummer or fall. For more information on the upcoming summit, contact PW’s publisher Cevin Bryerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.