Resolved to adopt healthier habits in 2015? There's a wave of new and reissued books from religion publishers aiming to help, and while some link physical health to spiritual fitness, others don’t have explicitly religious content. Regardless, publishers view the topic as part of their mission to minister to the whole person.
"Interest in health and wellness titles with a faith-based component has not waned, particularly in the Christian marketplace,” says Woodley Auguste, v-p of marketing for Charisma House Book Group. He notes that health is the cornerstone of Charisma’s Siloam imprint, which has published the Bible Cure series by Don Colbert—to the tune of over five million copies in print. “That same level of interest in health hasn't peaked but has broadened into other categories such as juicing books by The Juice Lady, Cherie Calbom, and others, all centered on natural or conventional health practices with a Christian worldview,” Auguste says. Siloam just released The Juice Lady’s Anti-Inflammation Diet on January 6.
Zondervan’s v-p of marketing, Tom Dean, agrees that demand for health books with a spiritual angle is growing. At his large Grand Rapids church, diet and health programs have been offered in each of the past four years. “So many churches are focusing on wellness,” says Dean. “I don’t see this category as something that’s going to go away. It’s not a fad or a trend.”
Destiny Image, which caters to a charismatic Christian market, wants to meet the growing demand for wellness books, says publisher Ronda Ranali. The company has several health-related titles in the pipeline for 2015, including Unhealthy Anonymous (June), chiropractor Pete Sulack’s guide to the relationship between illness and stress. “The book goes through almost a 12-step program to help the reader become healthier,” says Ranali.
To access the church market, Zondervan was one sponsor of an ambitious simulcast to churches on Saturday, January 10. Rick Warren, co-author (with Daniel Amen) of the year-old Zondervan bestseller The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life, hosted the event, which featured multiple speakers, authors, and wellness experts. Dean says that some churches are launching their five- to six-week Daniel Plan curricula right now at the New Year, but others will wait until the Lenten season begins on February 18. “The Daniel fast idea gets a one-two punch, with an initial push in January, but also again for Lent and Easter. A lot of people are interested in fasting during that time,” he explains.
The Daniel Plan isn’t the only backlist title to get new life this winter. HarperOne—well established as a religion and spirituality publisher—has branched out in the past few years to publish more books on health, wellness, and fitness. HarperOne’s The Melt Method turns two this month, but it continues to attract enviable publicity, including a January 2 feature story in the New York Times. Sue Hitzmann’s guide to pain relief through fascia massage “has sold well into the six figures, and the movement is still growing,” says HarperOne v-p and executive editor Gideon Weil. He attributes that success to old-fashioned word of mouth. “The whole key to backlist is that if you have a positive response to a book, you share it. With practical health books, that’s even more true.” An enhanced e-book version will come out on January 20.
Backlist is also vital at Destiny Image, which will release an expanded 10th anniversary edition of The Maker’s Diet this coming November. The 2005 juggernaut by Jordan Rubin has sold more than a million copies, according to the publisher. Another backlist success is the 2006 title The Hallelujah Diet by George Malkmus and Peter Shockey, who advocate a “biblically based” vegetarian diet of raw foods. Ranali says the book sold 30,000 copies in its first year “without having a dedicated marketing agenda, just because of the subject matter. It crossed over into audiences that we don’t always reach,” prompting RTD sales of more than 100,000 copies.
If backlist is golden, one challenge for frontlist titles in this category is determining the optimal time to get to retail. If they arrive too early, these books get pushed aside in the Christmas onslaught; too late and publishers have missed the resolutions window of early January, when booksellers feature wellness prominently on endcaps and tables.
Zondervan has found that shipping in early December is key. “That way they are on the shelves right after Christmas and ready for the new year,” says Dean. For its January 6 release, Spiritually Strong: The Ultimate 6-Week Guide to Building Your Body and Soul, author Kristen Feola “started engaging with her tribe in early December,” creating 90-second YouTube videos and leveraging her sizable email list, Dean says.
It’s clear that wellness books with a spiritual bent are here to stay, as evidenced by the upcoming launch of HarperOne’s dedicated mind-body-spirit imprint HarperElixir in fall 2015. “It’s not your mother’s New Age,” says senior v-p and associate publisher Claudia Boutote. While HarperElixir plans to focus more on spirituality and psychology than diet, it’s part of a larger trend of books for people who want to improve themselves—not just in January, but the whole year through.