Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Chicken Soup for the Soul has branched out widely, bringing its classic story format to TV, the web, podcasts, and, of course, to newly conceived books that will nonetheless feel familiar to longtime fans. But, publisher and editor-in-chief Amy Newmark says, "the company's core mission—sharing authentic, personal stories from real people—has never wavered."
In 2008, Newmark and her husband, William J. Rouhana Jr., with the help of a group of investors, purchased Chicken Soup for the Soul from the company's founders. The couple saw a tremendous opportunity to update the brand, which launched as a publishing phenomenon in 1993.
When Newmark took over, she wanted to rethink the books without giving up what readers love most about them—the stories. "The Chicken Soup for the (Something) Soul' template was limiting the topics the books could cover," Newmark says. The new title format—for example, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Yes!—puts the familiar branding first and follows it with a broader topic, enabling Newmark to take the books into new territory and gather stories for each that address a topic with relevance to many kinds of readers. Newmark also updated the cover design, giving each book a fresh, inspiring look. Newmark has added 150 titles to the list since 2008, while the older books are still available in print and/or digital format.
The Chicken Soup for the Soul story is still the bedrock of the company. Each story, Newmark says, "needs to have its own arc and be a stand-alone compelling piece that makes the readers feel something—whether they laugh, tear up a little, or pick up the phone to share." The stories are crowdsourced from upward of 5,000 submissions for each book. Then, Newmark says, she "curates like crazy."
"Our books are like a mirror, reflecting back to our readers what the public is telling us they're interested in today," Newmark says. This engagement led to recent collections such as Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman, which, Newmark says, "we rushed onto the schedule last fall in response to current events and the fact that our readers were looking for some support and encouragement."
In September, Newmark will publish Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think, Act & Be Happy, a collaboration with Dr. Mike Dow, a therapist who is a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors. The book takes the Chicken Soup story further, showing readers how they can use the lessons in the stories to train their brains to think and act differently and to be happier; along with stories, it features guided journal exercises and commentary by Dow.
Newmark says that Chicken Soup for the Soul "needs to reach readers where their eyeballs are, often trained on a screen, or where their ears are, listening to podcasts." The company now makes video trailers for each book and produces three podcasts each week. With more than two million followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the company is able to engage fans anytime. Newmark also makes regular TV and radio appearances. And, with the launch of the company's new lineup of television shows, Chicken Soup for the Soul is reaching even more new readers.
Today's Chicken Soup for the Soul has wide reach and broad appeal. "Who else has 101 authors promoting their books?" Newmark asks. "Our writers do signings, promote our books on their blogs, and appear in local media in their cities." That, and the innovation Newmark and Rouhana have brought to the brand, accounts for the strength of Chicken Soup for the Soul, which has more to share today than ever before.