As the birthplace of the New Thought movement, with its significant ties to witchcraft, New England is home to a variety of religion and spirituality publishers, many of which delve into the occult and metaphysical. From Red Wheel Weiser (RWW), which has published books on new age topics since 2000, to Buddhist press Wisdom Publications, publishers in the region are taking advantage of some industry trends and the mood of the country to boost sales.
Instagram has become an increasingly useful way to discover both authors and readers, and the social media platform is having an impact on the kinds of books being published, according to several of the publishers in New England. “It’s more important to us now, and it’s very helpful to get the word out,” says Daniel Aitken, CEO and publisher of Wisdom Publications.
The photo-centric social networking site has also contributed to the surging interest in witchcraft today, according to Michael Kerber, publisher of RWW. The press is ramping up its Instagram presence to promote its deep backlist of books on witchcraft. In part because of Instagram, Kerber says, he is looking for “a whole new generation of authors for a whole new generation of readers.” In this vein, next fall RWW will publish a yet-to-be-titled book on the Wheel of the Year—the annual cycle of pagan festivals—by Temperance Alden, who has nearly 70,000 Instagram followers.
Audiobook sales have been steadily growing over the past several years, and religion and spirituality titles have benefitted from the interest in digital audiobooks. Christian publisher Paraclete Press launched its first five audio titles last month and will release a total of 20 audiobooks during its 2019–2020 publishing season. Likewise, the mind-body-spirit publisher Inner Traditions is aggressively promoting its newly launched audiobooks program, and the publisher will do more titles with simultaneous print, e-book, and audio publications in 2020.
Each New England–based publisher interviewed by PW is looking to 2020 with a strong sense of optimism. Jon Sweeney, publisher and editor-in-chief at Paraclete, says the press will continue to publish books that reflect an ecumenical view of Christianity, including Cloud Devotion by David Robinson (Jan. 2020). The book of devotions is based on the medieval classic The Cloud of Unknowing.
Wisdom’s Aitken notes he has launched a variety of multimedia products since taking the helm in 2016. These include a podcast and the Wisdom Academy, an online collection of courses and lectures. The nonprofit press, which publishes books on Buddhism as well as mindfulness, also recently launched a subscription-based membership program that allows users to access all Wisdom books, videos, lectures, and more. “It’s sort of Netflix for meditators,” Aitken says.
U.S. Games Systems (USGS), which has published tarot, divination, oracle, and inspiration decks for over 50 years, has benefited from a change in the public’s mind-set regarding tarot readings, according to Lynn Araujo, the company’s director of communications. “It’s come out of the shadows—the media has changed, people from all religious backgrounds are using it for exploring issues, and there’s been a shift in perspective,” she says. “Anything that can be used as a tool for self-knowledge is a good thing.”
USGS offers artist-drawn tarot cards related to nature, animals, and more. Among its bestselling decks are the Herbcrafter’s Tarot, about creating rituals, and the Spiritsong Tarot, which incorporates the wisdom of animals. Moving forward, USGS is branching out into areas of self-help and conscious living, Araujo says. “Life today is so fast-paced and public, people need to get back in touch with themselves and their inner lives, rather than their outer lives,” she notes. “People are looking for quiet moments—that’s what these decks’ messages are bringing.”
Having sold the imprint Conari Press to Mango Publishing last month, Kerber at RWW plans on increasing title output, revitalizing backlist titles, and publishing more broadly into the mind-body-spirit category in 2020. “Next year is a big year for us,” he says.
Amy Newmark, publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul, reports a positive year for the self-help publisher, due in large part to what she refers to as the mood of the country. “People are looking for books that give them hope,” Newmark says. “They’re so worn down by the divisive politics and nasty stuff going on in Washington—they want a refuge and a reminder that people are inherently good, even when that behavior isn’t reflected in Washington.”
The company, which Newmark says is heavily print oriented, relies on high-impact book cover designs and placement in big box stores such as Walmart. Coming in 2020 are Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be You, which emphasizes female empowerment, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Believe in Miracles.
John Hays—v-p, director of sales and marketing at Inner Traditions (IT)—cited what he calls a self-care movement in American society that is helping drive sales for the press. “People are more interested in alternative therapies and herbal remedies,” he says. “The opioid crisis has turned many off of unnecessary pharmaceuticals and onto our categories.”
IT is publishing Crystal Basics by Nicholas Pearson (Feb. 2020), a step-by-step guide to cleansing, charging, and activating the healing properties of crystals. And in April, Scripting the Life You Want by Royce Christyn will combine the law of attraction and New Thought methods with daily journaling practices.