The spirituality and inspirational category has long had something for everyone—exploring the wildest of fringe interests, as well as more mainstream varieties of encouraging personal and spiritual growth. But in a world where previously unconventional practices like meditation have become commonplace, the definition of “mainstream” continues to expand.
Across the board we are seeing more acceptance of the topics published by us,” says Kat Sanborn, senior publicist at Llewellyn Worldwide, the largest independent publisher specializing in the spirituality arena.
Llewellyn’s upcoming titles reflect the diversity of the category’s offerings. Taming the Drunken Monkey: The Path to Mindfulness, Meditation, and Increased Concentration by William Mikulas (June) and The Yoga of Food: Wellness from the Inside Out by Melissa Grabau (June) are, respectively, aimed at helping people improve their mental focus and relationships with food. And readers can also learn about the life and beliefs of a pioneer of the women’s movement with Merlin Stone Remembered: Her Life and Works, by David Axelrod, Carol Thomas, Lenny Schneir, and Merlin Stone (Dec.). “Today, just like yoga, alternative spiritual and health practices are openly and broadly accepted, practiced, and celebrated,” says Sanborn.
From a publisher’s standpoint, a widening acceptance can also mean that the work of a given author—even on a formerly nonmainstream topic—has the potential to reach a far broader audience than might have been possible in the past.
Atria publisher Judith Curr points to the imprint’s publishing success with TLC’s Long Island Medium star Theresa Caputo. Her first book, There Is More to Life Than This, comes into paperback in September, followed by a new release, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, in October. Curr estimates that Caputo’s work has sold more than 400,000 copies in print and e-book formats combined.
“There’s a mass acceptance of some of these ideas that even two years ago would have been fringe dwellers,” says Curr. “There’s some movement and change in the spirituality market that we haven’t seen for awhile. A theme I’ve been noticing in many of these books is a search for meaning in some practical way that can guide your life, which leads to some spiritual enlightenment that also guides your life.”
Curr sees that evolution represented by a number of titles on Atria’s upcoming list, including Opening Heaven’s Door by Patricia Pearson (May), a journalist’s look at “near-death awareness” and visions of the recently deceased, and Life by the Cup by Zhena Musyka (June), an inspirational memoir about being an ethical entrepreneur.
Atria’s lead title among books with “a new approach to spirituality” is The Power of the Heart: Finding Your True Purpose, by Baptiste de Pape (Oct.). The author experienced a crisis of meaning after graduating from law school, and came out of it with a resolve to interview 18 of the wisest people on the planet and let the results guide his decision about what kind of work he should do. The Power of the Heart, which will feature a glow-in-the-dark mandala on the cover, features interviews with prominent figures such as Maya Angelou, Deepak Chopra, Paulo Coelho, Eckhart Tolle, and many others. A documentary film complimenting the book is in the works, and Atria has already sold book rights in Germany, Russia, and Spain.
There are also several noteworthy new titles on the way from Beyond Words, an Oregon-based mind-body-spirit imprint that has a copublishing agreement with Atria. The Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality by Chris Grosso (Mar.) makes its tone clear up front, as does Be Nobody by Lama Marut (June), a follow-up to Marut’s A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the Good Life. “There’s an urge for titles that speak to the other side or underside of spirituality—new, authentic, edgier voices that herald alternative perspectives that are underrepresented,” says Emily Han, acquisitions editor for Beyond Words.
This month, Backbeat Books issues the first titles in its new Backbeat Spirituality Series, which just might espouse the aforementioned underrepresented and alternative perspectives—for readers who want to take a closer look at the inspirational insights of their pop-cultural heroes. Edited by Nicholas Nigro, readers can choose from The Spirituality of Carlos Santana, The Spirituality of Bono, and The Spirituality of Richard Gere. Fall installments will feature the wisdom of Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, and Bob Dylan.
But there are also plenty of traditional books on the way—including some from familiar names—that aim to help readers tackle a wide range of issues. The latest from Alexander Loyd, author of the international bestseller The Healing Code, is due in June from Grand Central: The Greatest Principle: Unlocking the Hidden Keys to Ultimate Success in All Areas of Your Life, which promises to “show readers how to go from stress to success in 40 days.” Simon & Schuster released a 25th-anniversary edition of Gary Zukav’s The Seat of the Soul in March, and will have The Map of Heaven: How Science, Religion, and Ordinary People Are Proving That the World Beyond Is Real by Eben Alexander in November, the follow-up to the author’s #1 New York Times bestseller, Proof of Heaven. And Penguin’s Portfolio imprint has two books aimed at spurring people to greater success: Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (May) and Ben Arment’s Dream Year: Making the Leap From a Job You Hate to a Life You Love (Aug.).
Meanwhile, New World Library is excited to have the first all-new book in 15 years from Shakti Gawain, the publisher’s cofounder: The Relationship Handbook: A Path to Consciousness, Healing, and Growth (Nov.). Gawain’s titles have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. “The Relationship Handbook is absolutely unique in the crowded how-to-create-better-and-more-inspiring-relationships genre,” says NWL publisher Marc Allen. “There’s nothing about the differences between men and women. Instead, it’s all about looking within, and using your relationships with others as your own unique path that leads to growth, greater awareness, and a more fulfilling life.”
Red Wheel Weiser has two fall offerings centered on spiritual empowerment from its Hampton Roads imprint. Debra Landwehr Engle’s The Only Little Prayer You Need (Oct.) describes how to use prayer to get rid of fear-based thinking, while Gangaji’s Freedom and Resolve: Finding Your True Home in the Universe (Nov.) provides guidance for undertaking self-inquiry.
Viva Editions has high hopes for several of its upcoming inspirational and spiritual titles. Former hospice counselor Allen Klein’s Having the Time of Your Life: Little Lessons to Live By is out in paperback this month, and interfaith minister Susyn Reeve’s The Wholehearted Life is due in November. In addition, the publisher recently inked a deal with well-known inspirational writer June Cotner for six more books; its first Cotner title, Garden Blessings: Prose, Poems, and Prayers Celebrating the Love of Gardening, will be out in May, with Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion slated for the fall. “Inspiration is actually a serious business,” says Brenda Knight, publisher of Cleis Press/Viva Editions. “When I was at Harper Collins, we published June’s book Graces, which sold massively. I saw the real power of what these books can do and bring to people.”
Of course, for many, many people, religion is a source of both inspiration and a connection to the spiritual, and publishers’ lists reflect this connection.
“The inspirational market is home to some of the biggest-selling books in recent memory,” says Brian Tart, president and publisher of Dutton, Gotham, and Avery. “When you hit it big with an inspirational book, the sky’s the limit. People need happiness and inspiration in their lives, and books are a reliable way to find it.”
On tap for Dutton are two fall books that put iconic inspirational topics at their center—both from authors with bestselling track records. First up is Eric Metaxas’s Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life (Oct.), followed by New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller’s Prayer: The Essential Guide (Nov.).
HarperOne has a mix of fresh takes and the tried and true coming up. This month it releases a 25th-anniversary edition of Paolo Coehlo’s influential fable of self-discovery, The Alchemist. In August, the publisher has Yes, You: How to Find Your Path and Thrive by Rob Bell, author of the New York Times bestseller What We Talk About When We Talk About God. Bell’s latest will expand upon the message he intends to deliver on Oprah’s “The Life You Want” eight-city tour later this fall.
Bethany House and Chosen Books also have several books coming up that are anticipated to be in high demand. Inspired by the learning experience of going through a divorce, Sarah Jakes—daughter of Bishop T.D. Jakes—wrote Colliding with Destiny: Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth (Sept.) to help others through painful times. The book will have a 65,000-copy first printing. And Bishop Jakes’s wife, bestselling inspirational author Serita Jakes, has adapted her The Princess Within, which has sold almost 250,000 copies, for a young audience, with The Princess Within for Teens (July).
Bethany House will release Heaven Touching Earth: True Stories of Angels, Miracles and Heavenly Encounters, compiled by James Stuart Bell, in October. Citing the success the publisher has seen with previous compilations on similar topics, acquisitions editor Andy McGuire notes that, “The supernatural is still hot.”
Career Press/New Page Books has found that to be the case as well, and believes that Power of Angels: Discover How to Connect, Communicate, and Heal with the Angels, by Joanne Brocas (Apr.), will find a ready audience.
The season’s inspirational titles also include a pair of titles from Skylight Paths Publishing: Like a Child: Restoring the Awe, Wonder, Joy and Resiliency of the Human Spirit by Rev. Timothy J. Mooney (May); and Dreaming—the Sacred Art: Incubating, Navigating and Interpreting Sacred Dreams for Spiritual and Personal Growth by Lori Joan Swick (Apr.). Also coming from Skyhorse is 1001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom, edited by Kim Lim (Apr.), and Jewish Wisdom for Daily Life: Sayings of Rabbi Menahem Mendl of Kotzk, edited by Miriam Chaikin (May).
Let’s Get Spiritual
This season boasts a handful of inspirational and spiritual titles that focus as much on the body as the mind and spirit. “Learning techniques for improving physical health, emotional well-being and increasing our skills in navigating personal relationships are popular topics,” says Llewellyn senior publicist Kat Sanborn.
Yoga, as always, is a popular topic on this front. Llewellyn has Yoga and Body Image by Melanie Klein and Anna Guest-Jelley (Oct.), featuring 25 essays on self-love and body image from a yoga perspective from celebrities like Alanis Morrisette and Bryan Kest, among others. There’s also Jewish Lights Publishing’s Mussar Yoga: Blending an Ancient Jewish Spiritual Practice with Yoga to Transform the Body and Soul by Edith R. Brotman (May), designed for beginners to expert yogis, which provides step-by-step exercises to introduce Mussar yoga.
Rodale offers something a little different, with Linda Fondren’s inspirational fitness memoir Shape Up Sisters! The Permanent Weight Loss and Fitness Program for the Rest of Us and What It Took for My Town in America’s Fattest and Poorest State to Lose 15,000 Pounds (May).
“Linda shares her incredible personal story, along with a fitness and diet plan for people with real-life challenges, limited budgets and resources and busy schedules,” says Aly Mostel, Rodale Books’ West Coast communications director. The publisher hopes that people will “use what she’s accomplished in Vicksburg as a blueprint for other cities.”
And Touchstone hopes that fitness guru Jimmy Peña’s The PrayFit Diet: The Revolutionary, Faith-Based Plan to Balance Your Plate and Shed Weight will attract others who want to follow in the spiritually and physically fit paths of celebrities like Tyler Perry, L.L. Cool J, and Mario Lopez.
Life and Death
It’s no surprise that many spiritual and inspirational titles focus on improving the way people live their lives, but there seems to be a growing interest in topics that explore the ways life and death coexist—be that aging, coping with loss, or the afterlife.
Red Wheel Weiser’s Hampton Roads imprint has seen a definite increase in demand for these topics and identifies the aging baby boomer population as part of what’s driving the demand. “Seeking answers to what lies ahead is different from worrying about it and baby boomers, as history shows, question everything,” says Bonni Hamilton, Red Wheel Weiser Books and Conari Press’s director of marketing and digital content.
The publisher’s popular 2013 title The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad Boy Brother Proved to Me There’s Life After Death by Annie Kagan has drawn more than 80,000 people to its Facebook page, many to share their own personal stories. And This month How to Survive Life (and Death): A Guide to Happiness in This World and Beyond by Robert Kopecky releases from Conari Press, chronicling the author’s three near-death experiences in a few short years, and how they led him to grapple with his own beliefs about dying and living.
From Penguin’s Viking imprint comes a heartfelt memoir of a mother’s coming to terms with the loss of her daughter. The Angel in My Pocket: A Story of Love, Loss, and Life After Death by Sukey Forbes (July) details how Forbes was able to find help from a medium in accepting the death of her six-year-old daughter from a rare genetic disorder.
Wisdom Publications has several books on the way that may interest aging baby boomers and others: Zen Cancer Wisdom: Tips for Making Each Day Better by Suzanne Friedman (Sept.), The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older by Kathleen Dowling Singh (Aug.), and Lessons from the Dying by Rodney Smith (Jan., 2015).
And New World Library has a unique book for those challenged by jobs and other work that brings them close to death or events that may cause post-traumatic stress disorder on a regular basis with Bulletproof Spirit: The First Responder’s Essential Resource for Protecting and Healing Mind and Heart by police captain Dan Willis (Oct.), a former SWAT commander and homicide investigator who currently works at the La Mesa Police Department in San Diego County. With advance praise from the National Police Suicide Foundation and the chief of police of San Diego, this first of its kind guide is designed to help those who work side by side with death and violence cope to protect their own quality of life.
The Spirit World
Discovering concepts and practices from far-flung corners of the world is something the audience for spirituality titles always seems interested in. And whether it’s Eastern, Western, inside the mind or way out with the stars, publishers have it for readers.
The University of California’s Reflections on Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace by Amanda J. Lucia (Apr.) explores the teachings and community around low-caste born Mata Amritanandamayi, better known as Amma, meaning “Mother,” who is a guru to millions around the world who know her as the hugging saint.
Teachings around Eastern concepts like meditation and mindfulness remain hot topics. “Mindfulness is having its moment,” says Nancy Fish, head of marketing and publicity of Parallax Press, pointing to a new year’s piece at the Huffington Post declaring 2014 “the year of mindful living” and a host of other such headlines as evidence.
Parallax will release the first title in its new Mindfulness Essentials series this month. How to Sit by Thich Nhat Hahn, a thirty-year expert on meditation and mindfulness who will author the series, will be packaged in a pocket-sized paperback format at a $9.95 price point. The publisher also has a non-series, inspirational children’s book from Nhat Hanh this month, Is Nothing Something? Kids’ Questions and Zen Answers About Life, Death, Family, Friendship, and Everything in Between.
Other publishers have new offerings coming around the same topics. Larson Publications has Paul Brunton’s The Short Path to Enlightenment: Instructions for Immediate Awakening (Sept.), which seeks to distill popular and traditional “sudden-awakening” teachings such as Zen, Advaita, and Dzogchen into simple, easily accessible terms. Meanwhile, Octopus Publishing’s Gaia imprint, distributed by Hachette, will release Patrizia Collard’s Mindfulness for Compassionate Living: Mindful Ways to Less Stress and More Kindness in August, which discusses how self-compassion and mindfulness can work hand in hand.
Publisher of Cleis Press/Viva Editions Brenda Knight says that while this space in the category is crowded, books can find an audience. “The category of mindfulness is profoundly overpublished, yet people still have the need for new ways of approaching this topic,” says Knight.
Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them by actress turned therapist Tina Gilbertson (May) is one of Viva Editions lead titles for spring and provides what Knight calls “a unique path to loving-kindness.”
Shambhala Publications continues to experience healthy sales for its titles on meditation, mindfulness, and Zen, including 500–600 copies per month of Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, which has sold more than a quarter million copies to date, and 25,000 copies of Karen Maezen Miller’s more recent Momma Zen. The latest addition to its list of Zen titles is this month’s The Authentic Life: Zen Wisdom for Living Free from Complacency and Fear by Ezra Bayda.
“I’m not saying we’ve cornered the market on Zen, but we have published some of the most successful books on the topic,” says Steven Pomije, marketing communications manager for Shambhala. “That’s quite indicative of a marketplace that continues to find Eastern philosophy and spirituality appealing and refreshing, and one that will enjoy Ezra’s new book.”
But the most interesting emerging trend of the year draws from the shamanistic practices and traditions of Amazonian and other indigenous peoples, as well as an embrace of other forms of nature-based spirituality.
“By shamanism, we mean traditional beliefs and practices, often of indigenous peoples, regarding communication with the animal and plant spirit world,” says John Hays, VP/director of sales and marketing for Inner Traditions. “Shamanism seems to be gaining acceptance among a wider audience. Perhaps among those many Americans that identify with being spiritual but not religious.”
Inner Traditions has several new books related to these trends, including Sandra Corcoran’s Shamanic Awakening: My Journey Between the Dark and the Daylight(Mar.), Margaret De Wys’s Black Smoke: Healing and Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon (June), Stephen Buhner’s Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm(May), and Tony Wright and Graham Gynn’s Return to the Brain of Eden (June), among others.
And this trend may fit neatly into the larger category of fringe concepts gaining much wider acceptance. None other than fashion magazine Marie Claire featured an article on increasing use of the hallucinogenic ayahuasca and acceptance of shamanistic concepts in its February issue, saying that among certain circles these days it seems that, “ ‘Who’s your shaman?’ is the new ‘Who’s your yoga instructor?’ ”