Sparkhouse Family, the children’s book imprint under the 1517 Media umbrella, has been rebranded as Beaming Books with a goal of reaching a wider audience for spiritually uplifting messages.
The shift, announced January 30, “is an extension of our mission and values as an organization,” said Andrew DeYoung, who continues in his role as managing editor. The parent company is the publishing ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
“Our history has been Christian books and we will speak from within that context in a way that speaks to all readers, whether they have some faith, a little faith or no faith. We believe that faith is essential to thriving and there that are other essential aspects as well to thriving socially, emotionally, and spiritually that we want to speak to as editors, authors, and illustrators,” DeYoung said.
Books will continue to appear under the Sparkhouse Family imprint until fall when the Beaming Books imprint takes hold. DeYoung said the new approach is expected to expand sales by increasing their offerings to book outlets, and garnering more shelf space in children’s sections along with selections from board books to middle-grade titles.
He gave examples of three books releasing this fall that show the Beaming Books range. One book, Sarah Raymond Cunningham’s May God Bless You and Keep You, is specifically Christian. And two have “strong appeal for both Christian and secular or more generally spiritual audiences,” DeYoung said.
-- Laura Renauld’s Porcupine’s Pie, “is a good example of one of our non-religious titles that nonetheless features a deeper spiritual meaning about the importance of generosity and community spirit, and how we all have more when we share,” DeYoung said.
-- Caryn Rivadeneira’s Generous Kids series “is a little more spiritual,” he said, noting that is being produced in partnership with brightpeak financial, a division of the Lutheran-founded Thrivent Financial faith-based financial services company. The books align with the company’s focus on “spiritual insights about concepts of having enough and abundance.”
All three picture books also represent another trend at Beaming Books – a move to a wider range of artistic styles than more traditional Christian children’s books. "So far, the feedback we are getting from the Christian market is that they really like the more adventurous look,” said DeYoung.
The rebranding comes in the context of a raft of changes since July 2016 when Augsburg Fortress, Sparkhouse Family’s parent company, was rebranded as 1517 Media. Later that year the company announced that Tim Blevins, currently senior v-p and publisher, would become the president and CEO September 1, 2018. In a brief interview, Blevins said the company will increasingly focus on "helping all of our readers, inside and outside the church, thrive in a way that brings them spiritual and emotional health and helps bring about a more just and caring society."
Beaming Books, Blevins said, is intended for parents in the pews and those who are not church-goers, to "help parents and kids grow together." The company has plans to "expand our adult trade publishing program based on the success of Theology for the People titles from Fortress Press. These titles will cover the full range of human experience from a theological perspective,"
The other publishing units are Augsburg Fortress, which publishes resources for use by Lutheran congregations including music, books, and online services and Sparkhouse, which publishes ecumenical curricula.