Consumers have a ferocious appetite for advice telling them what to do, how to act, what to eat and what to shun in order to feel good, spruce up their health and shed uncomely pounds. In fact, that hunger is so great that publishers scramble to sate it with books promising, if not the moon, at least a celestial body and mind.
"People are always looking for the next thing," says Gary Krebs, publishing director of Adams Media. "What's the next trend? What's the best way to lose weight? The key thing for any book is that it has to sound new. It has to seem like something the reader hasn't done before."
Becky Cabaza, executive editor of Three Rivers Press, concurs. "People are always looking for the next solution to their problem. There is no one right way." Charles Nurnberg, Sterling executive v-p, puts it another way: "The market for diet and health books? It's strong, but faddish. If you happen to hit with the right book at the right time, you'll be okay."
"The trend is very much toward developing one's sense of overall health and fitness," says Carl Raymond, marketing director, ReganBooks. "It's no longer about doing a few exercises to get rid of extra weight. It's a much more holistic approach now. Fitness is about developing overall body strength and stability, not just about getting great biceps. Body for Life is certainly a testament to that. That's a completely integrated approach to phenomenal fitness."
Jason Smith, book buyer at Transitions Bookplace in Chicago, points to a new trend: "Books about being active are leaps and bounds ahead of herbal or any other alternative health books. The number one hottest thing for us right now is Pilates. Within the last two years, that has gone from one book to more than 20. Pilates is the next yoga." Two favorite books, he says, are Pilates Body by Brooke Siler (Broadway) and Pilates Powerhouse by Mari Winsor (Perseus).
Smith cites power yoga as another trend, adding that he's "really excited" about Baron Baptiste's Journey into Power: How to Sculpt Your Ideal Body, Free Your True Self and Transform Your Life with Yoga (Fireside, May 2002). "This isn't just a yoga book," says Trish Todd, v-p and editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster trade paperbacks. "It helps change the way you approach life, the way to find your edge and push beyond it."
Underscoring the vigor displayed by Pilates and yoga, our attention has been drawn to more than two dozen recent or forthcoming titles. Among them: The American Yoga Association Wellness Book by Alice Christensen (Kensington, Jan.); Pilates for Beginners by Kellina Stewart (HarperResource, Oct.); Peaceful Journey: A Yogi's Travel Kit by Shelley Lynne Cummins (Barron's, Oct.); Jennifer Kries Pilates Plus Method by Jennifer Kries (Warner, Jan. 2002); Healing with Yoga by Doriel Hall (Southwater, NBN dist., Feb. 2002); Yoga Pure and Simple by Kisen (Hay House, Mar. 2002); Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon and David Life (Ballantine Wellspring, Apr. 2002); and The Pilates Back Book by Beverley Witherington (Fair Winds, May 2002). A subcategory within yoga and Pilates books deals with soon-to-be or new mothers: The Pilates Pregnancy by Mari Winsor with Mark Laska (Perseus, Dec.); Pilates Workbook for Pregnancy by Michael King (Ulysses Press, Mar. 2002); and Yoga Mom, Buddha Baby by Jyothi Larson (Bantam, Apr. 2002).
It's news to no one who keeps tabs on the diet and health field that by far the largest percentage of its books are female-centric. "Women buy these books because they're more concerned with health," states Patsy Cole, a bookseller at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Jackson, Tenn., part of the Joseph-Beth Group. "Women are the care-givers in the family."
Smith at Transitions Bookplace goes so far as to comment, "I'd say that 80% of our total book sales are to women or to men who plan on giving them as gifts to women." He cites Christiane Northrup's The Wisdom of Menopause as one bestseller, which Bantam will move from cloth to trade paper in March. "Health is one of our strongest nonfiction areas," reports Bantam executive editor Toni Burbank, "and women's health is certainly a key focus for us. We look for a complementary medicine approach, books by people who are well-credentialed and who have an openness to the newer alternative therapies. Dr. Christiane Northrup exemplifies this, and we're now over 280,000 in print since March."
Fishing for Complements?
Complementary medicine, integrated treatments combining both traditional medical practices and a range of alternative strategies, has been building in popularity for some years and seems now to be reaching nearly universal acceptance. Ed Claflin, editorial director of direct-to-consumer publishing at Prentice Hall Press, observes, "Today people are so familiar with natural foods and natural healing that they're looking for physician endorsements, and they're looking for naturopathic doctors." "People want to hear it all now," says Joan Schulhafer, Kensington publicity director. "Surgery and Its Alternatives [by Sandra McLanahan and David J. McLanahan, Apr. 2002] is a case in point. People know about alternative medicines, but they don't want to dismiss traditional medicine either. Health buyers are looking for a total package and don't want to buy three books."
One of the more interesting aspects of this shift is that not only are many more traditional health books by doctors indicating a greater willingness to consider what were previously rejected as fringe notions--such as herbs, meditation, massage, etc.--but many publishers whose lists emphasized these very subjects are now tending toward the inclusion of traditional medical or scientific information in the books they acquire. One of the motivations joining these two currents into a mainstream is a weakening of the market for strictly alternative therapies, a development to which several editors attest.
"We started as an all-natural publisher," says Tami Booth, editor-in-chief of Women's Health Books at Rodale, "but we're moving away from covering only natural remedies. Those books have been flagging a little. Our readers now don't specifically seek out alternative or natural treatments per se. They want something that will work, whether it's herbal supplements, food remedies, exercise. They also want to know how to work with their doctors." Booth notes that Rodale is turning away somewhat from its reliance on direct mail-driven books and is striving to build trade sales.
"Avery has had an alternative feeling to its list," says executive editor Laura Shepherd, "and now we're taking more of a lifestyle approach. Before we had nothing on exercise or Pilates, but we're adding books like The Edge by Ben and Joe Weider [Jan. 2002], the founders of the modern fitness movement."
Avery provides another insight into the evolving diet/health publishing landscape. A couple of years ago, this established imprint was purchased by the larger Penguin Putnam. Keats, another small and similarly inclined house, was bought by NTC/ Contemporary and, last fall, McGraw-Hill acquired Contemporary, into which Keats is disappearing. Just this past spring, Random House purchased another small stalwart that had had its own strong presence in the health market, Prima Publishing.
"The doctors whose books sell today are more open to alternative approaches," says Contemporary senior editor Judith McCarthy, "although of course they want whatever they recommend to be proven. A book we have high hopes for is The Healing Promise of Qi by Robert Jahnke [Apr. 2002], who's a doctor of oriental medicine. Qigong is a very gentle way of breathing and exercise that even people who are ill can use."
Jamie Miller, acquiring editor at Prima, says, "For many years we were successful with our books on natural health, but there has been a softening in that market, mainly because there's a lot of hype out there and people are starting to question herbal supplements. We want books with the cutting edge for traditional prescription drugs along with alternative medicines." A Prima series with both elements includes New Hope for People with Fibromyalgia by Theresa DeGeronimo et al. (Aug.) and New Hope for People with Diabetes by Porter Shimer (Sept.).
Norman Goldfind, who in the past led Keats and later Avery, is now founding his own company, Basic Health Publications, in association with Basic Media Group. "The marketplace for books on alternative medicine was terrific from 1994 through 1997," he says. "It's still growing, but not in double digits anymore. Major publishers began to ramp up their programs and there's been an enormous proliferation of titles. They buy these companies because the specialized niche players were doing very, very well, but when the niche players are brought into a corporate structure, their dynamics change. That's why I see this time as an opportunity to start up a company that's not part of any conglomerate--even though the market is not as vibrant as it used to be." One of Basic Health's first big books is next May's Cracking the Metabolic Code: 9 Keys to Optimal Metabolism by James B. Lavelle with Stacy Yale.
Mindfulness of metabolism--those chemical and physical processes always taking place within our bodies that can spell the difference between well and unwell, chunky or thin--plays a central role in a number of new books. Dare to Lose: 4 Simple Steps to a Better Body by Shari Lieberman (Avery, Mar. 2002) is one. "Shari has supplements at the core of her program to get the body's metabolism on track from too much yo-yo dieting," says Laura Shepherd.
"For the future, it's all about balance," says Carl Raymond. "An author such as high-tech nutritionist Oz Garcia [author of Oz Garcia's The Healthy High-Tech Body, ReganBooks, Sept. 2001] doesn't back away from our 21st-century reality of too much stress and too little time. He gives us a very advanced program on how to combat these realities through enhanced nutrition, supplements and monitoring our metabolism. The goal is simply how to get our bodies back in balance, which is ultimately the strongest defense against disease." Other books on the topic include Metabolic Typing Diet by William Wolcott, which Broadway reprints in trade paper in May, and Fat Wars by Brad J. King (Hungry Minds, Jan. 2002).
Dealing with the F Word
Ah yes, the fat wars. Other weapons in the ongoing battle are wielded by dozens of books, including The 9 Truths About Weight Loss by Daniel S. Kirschenbaum (Holt/ Owl, Apr.); Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell After Pregnancy by Debra Waterhouse (Hyperion, Jan. 2002); Fat Flush Plan by Ann Louise Gittleman (McGraw-Hill, Jan. 2002); Get with the Program by Bob Greene (S&S, Jan. 2002); The Take Control Diet by Ian Smith, M.D. (Random House, Jan. 2002); and A Fresh Start by Susan Smith Jones (Celestial Arts, Mar. 2002). The onslaught of new books, however, does not suggest that well-established names don't keep right on going. After sales of 8 million copies, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution by Robert C. Atkins, M.D. (Avon) has just been revised and updated with new recipes, new case studies and new information for using the low-carbohydrate diet safely.
"Everybody is very careful about diet books," says Kensington's Schulhafer, "because they can be hard to establish, but those that do can be phenomenal. In January we have The Secret to Low Carb Success [by Laura Richard], which discusses all the major low-carb diet programs and tells how to maximize them after you plateau."
"In diet books, it's still low-carb," says Daniel Goldin, trade book buyer at Wisconsin's Harry W. Schwartz Bookstores. "Sales of low-carb diet titles are not what they once were," says Clay L. Farr, buyer at Borders, "but they still sell remarkably well. In many cases, books are so general that they are no longer 'diet' books. The trend toward a holistic approach to health is growing. Many people who may have reached for a diet book not so long ago are now looking for one book to include diet, exercise, meditation, etc., all presented together--a 'lifestyle' plan, rather than a diet plan."
Whatever one calls them, diet books are showing no signs of going away. At Wiley, where executive editor Tom Miller notes that health books represent the largest category in the house's general interest publishing program, the upcoming regimen is The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain (Jan. 2002), whose high-protein and low-carb diet allows unlimited amounts of fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables. "That's anathema to some low-carb authors," remarks Miller. (Paleo, by the way, refers to early humans, the very inspiration of The Origin Diet: How Eating Like Our Stone-Age Ancestors Will Help You Live Longer, Feel Healthier and Lose Weight by Elizabeth Somer, which Holt reprints in an Owl edition come January.) "We're expanding our diet and health program," says Ballantine v-p and editorial director Maureen O'Neal. "We have millions of copies in print of our Sugar Buster books, which opened our eyes to the market." In December, Ballantine releases Your Last Diet! The Sugar Addict's Weight Loss Plan by Kathleen DesMaisons, which follows last January's The Sugar Addict's Total Recovery Program by DesMaisons, who says that the proper balance of protein and carbohydrates can heal the biochemical problem contributing to sugar addiction.
Turn Off the Hunger Switch: Reset Your Brain to Change Your Weight is by Paul Rivas, M.D. (Prentice Hall Press, Jan. 2002), who identifies four types of people with a propensity to gain weight because they have deficiencies in serotonin, norepinepherine or dopamine or are acutely sensitive to carbohydrates. The Equation: Minimum Effort=Maximum Weight Loss by Dan Isaacson with Greg Payne and Mark Laska (St. Martin's, May 2002) proposes small, incremental changes in lifestyle to achieve a balance in the input and output of calories.
"The trend in diet and fitness books is that readers don't want a program anymore that controls every mouthful they take," remarks Marnie Cochran, senior editor at Perseus. "Those plans are impossible to sustain. We try to give control back to the reader. Books have a longer shelf life when the program is easier to incorporate into the reader's lifestyle."
Patient, Heal Thyself
The concept of personal empowerment has become a cliché as the 21st century opens up before us, but it has also become something of a necessity as many doctors spend less time with patients and as HMO numbers-crunchers dictate what is appropriate medical treatment.
"We've been doing a series for a couple of years that we keep adding to," says Diana Baroni, Warner senior editor. "The next book is What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer [by John Lee, M.D. et al., Jan. 2002]." And May will bring What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About HPV and Abnormal Pap Smears by Joel Palefsky, M.D., with Jody Handley. As a series, the books have sold upward of 800,000 copies, says Baroni, who adds that another book designed to increase the public's knowledge is Power to the Patient: The Treatments to Insist On When You're Sick by Isadore Rosenfeld, M.D. (Feb. 2002).
The lack of control in one's life has also been underscored by the events of September 11, and it is perhaps not surprising that Heather Jackson Silverman, senior editor at St. Martin's, remarks that following that date she has seen an increasing number of proposals for books intending to strengthen yet further both body and mind. "We've even seen a bump in sales of our book, The Essential Guide to Psychiatric Drugs [by Jack M. Gorman, M.D.]," she says.
First published in 1990 in hardcover and revised for the December 1998 mass market edition, that Essential Guide shows the importance of backlist. Most publishers look for books that will have legs, and most find that the writers, whether doctors or lay experts, are more than willing to update information for new editions. Because medical research is unending and because consumer interests inevitably rise and fall, revisions are of evident importance because books can affect virtually every area of life itself. Covers, too, date, and they can often profit from a little rethinking. Even a book's internal illustrations are able to convey significant messages beyond the obvious.
Christopher Reggio, marketing director for Reader's Digest Trade Books, says, "Because of our name, we have a brand-driven program of both general health books--like Looking After Your Body [by the Editors of Reader's Digest, Jan. 2002]--and specific books, such as Taking Charge of Arthritis [by the Editors of Reader's Digest, Apr. 2002]. Because we appeal to a wide range of people, the models, for example, in one of our popular backlist books, Yoga for Every Body [by Paul Harvey], range in age from 30 to 60."
That group encompasses several generations--including baby boomers, of course, who have been blamed for a great many things including a swelling interest in books about diet and health. This includes the search for information on basic health issues as well as specific conditions and maladies. Books advocating tricks and techniques to retard aging and lengthen life spans continue their popularity. "I buy titles on anti-aging and longevity," says Farr at Borders. "These titles are doing fine, but no truly outstanding new books have come along lately."
Perhaps some chart-toppers will emerge from the nearly 20 titles on publishers' recent and upcoming lists. Two books due next month are The New Longevity Diet by Henry Mallek (Perigee) and Achieving Vibrance: A Seven-Minute-a-Day Plan for Feeling, Looking and Being Younger by Gay Hendricks (Three Rivers Press). The new year brings Age-Busters: Simple Steps to Enhance Your Life and Reclaim Your Youth by Charles Salter and Carlotta Salter (Citadel, Jan.); The Anti-Aging Diet Evolution: A Six-Step Program for Women by Fran Gare (QVC Publishing, Apr.); Keep Your Brain Young by Guy McKhann, M.D. and Marilyn Albert (Wiley, May); and Astro-Fit: The Anti-Aging Program Used by Astronauts--Now Adapted for Everyone by William J. Evans and Gerald Secor Couzens (Free Press, May).
Turning to Specifics
Research is proving what many of us have long known: Animals can make you feel better. And now we're learning just how true that is.
Houghton Mifflin presents what is perhaps the boldest look at the subject with Wild Health: How Animals Keep Themselves Well and What We Can Learn from Them (Jan. 2002) by Cindy Engel, who holds a Ph.D. in biology from the University of East Anglia and lives in Suffolk, England. The book is about "the actions animals take to keep themselves well, the behavioral strategies they have evolved to avoid, prevent and treat injuries, infections, poisoning and parasites," she says. "The book also looks at how animals deal with psychological disturbances such as anxiety and depression and even with the vulnerability of aging and dying in the wild. In the process, it looks at instances in which animals appear to self-medicate with herbs, clays and medicinal insects." Desert tortoises, for example, crawl miles for calcium to strengthen their shells, and some birds line their nests with leaves that repel mites and lice.
Closer to home, Marty Becker signals The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Abilities of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy (Hyperion, Feb. 2002). Becker, who is resident veterinarian on Good Morning America, declares that pets can aid those facing everything from arthritis to cardiovascular risk factors. "He gives us the facts about the benefits pets can have for autistic children and for people with things like Alzheimer's and cancer," says executive editor Leslie Wells. "Animal companions can accomplish really amazing things, and Marty Becker has many heartwarming anecdotes about the special effects pets can have."
Even the most efficacious book intent on turning back the calendar can't spare baby boomers from the ravages of age, as joints become achier and other unpleasant clues to passing youth present themselves. Books on arthritis are doing well, as are books on osteoporosis and the aforementioned menopause. We've also turned up over a dozen recent and forthcoming books on cancer; among those out this year are Breast Cancer: Journey to Recovery by Carol Noll Hoskins et al. (Springer, Mar.); and Surviving Cancer by Margie Levine (Broadway, Aug.). Included in next year's output are Dr. Folkman's War: Angiogenesis and the Defeat of Cancer by Robert Cooke (Random House, Feb.) and Living Well with Cancer by Katen Moore and Libby Schmais (Perigee, Mar.).
Pain and its relief, of course, continue to be a vital part of this category; recent and forthcoming titles on the subject include Seven Steps to a Pain-Free Life by Robin McKenzie and Craig Kubey (Plume, Oct.); Pain Free for Women by Peter Egoscue with Roger Gittines (Bantam, Jan. 2002); and Painbuster: A Breakthrough 4-Step Program for Ending Chronic Pain by John Stamatos, M.D., with Jane O'Boyle (Holt/Owl, Apr. 2002).
As to the more specialized needs of modern humanity, assists can be found in The Prostate Book by Stephen N. Rous, M.D. (Norton, May); The Carpal Tunnel Helpbook by Scott Fried, M.D. (Perseus, July); How I Overcame Psoriasis by Kent Trussell (Sally Milner, Sterling dist., Jan. 2002); and Controlling Crohn's Disease by Virginia Harper and Tom Monte (Kensington/Twin Streams, Feb. 2002).
The breadth of subjects and the varying approaches to covering them suggests that room will somehow always be made for more. In fact, Rebus Inc., distributed by NBN, is embarking on its first entry into trade distribution. Among its initial titles are The Johns Hopkins Consumer Guide to Medical Tests by Simeon Margolis, M.D. and the Johns Hopkins Medical School Faculty (Nov.) and The Complete Home Wellness Handbook by John Swartzberg, M.D., Sheldon Margen, M.D. and the editors of the University of California, Berkeley, Wellness Letter (Oct.). "We've been selling by direct mail since 1984," says publisher Joan Mullally, "and we could see the trend. Sales were down 8%, catalogue sales down 7%." Ergo, a new focus on trade sales results for Rebus's books linked with two renowned institutions of learning.
Longevity: It Isn't Just for People
The books mentioned so far are but a fraction of the new and forthcoming titles in this category--which suggests how major the challenge is for publishers to make their books stand out from the rest. It is also true that many times they don't. "There certainly is a degree of redundancy in this category," says Farr at Borders. "Our customers send us that message loud and clear. This is why many titles are so short-lived and why there remains the same core backlist of titles year after year."
So how to increase the likelihood that short lives will become longer ones? One way is to establish franchises. "One trend I've noticed is that when a diet book works, I get a whole number of spin-offs," says Goldin at the Harry W. Schwartz stores. The examples are too numerous to cite, but consider Formula 101: Maintaining 40-30-30 Nutrition for a Lifetime by Gene and Joyce Daoust (Ballantine, Jan. 2002), which follows last January's The Formula: A Personalized 40-30-30 Weight Loss Program by the Daousts. "We consciously try to develop author franchises with many of our diet and health authors," says Raymond at ReganBooks. "As they create new and exciting research, we are able to continue to publish their work and extend their brands." He goes on to mention the ongoing work of Dean Ornish, Barry Sears and doctors Robert Atkins and Michael Roizen.
Medical credentials are an obvious way to create authority for books. At Prima, Jamie Miller says, "We've even hired a doctor full-time to be the medical reviewer of everything we publish." Then, too, almost every editor declares that the search is on for authors with platforms of their own--a Web site, an ongoing infomercial, a strong presence on QVC or any other media outlet. Jonny Bowden hands out advice on the popular site, iVillage , and in May Perseus published Jonny Bowden's Shape Up! Perigee publisher John Duff says that Joanna Lund, who has done upwards of 20 titles using her Healthy Exchanges philosophy, sold 11,000 copies of A Potful of Recipes in six minutes on QVC. While they don't always work, the celebrity book is another ploy, and this tack has succeeded with Suzanne Somers at Crown and Three Rivers, with Marilu Henner at HarperCollins and ReganBooks. In April, Villard ushers in The Living Principal: Looking and Feeling Your Best at Every Age by Victoria Principal.
While it is acknowledged that women fuel the diet and health market, this may also mean that a void is out there waiting to be filled. "I would love to see someone publish a diet book for men that does well," says Farr at Borders. "There is obviously a large prospective market for this kind of book, but for whatever reason, men don't seem to buy many diet books. We could see some great opportunities if someone could figure out how to change this."
So we'll track what happens to the fortunes of Prime: The Complete Guide to Being Fit, Looking Good, Feeling Great--For the Man Who Wasn't Born Yesterday by Bob Paris (Perigee, Jan. 2002); The Testosterone Advantage Plan by Lou Schuler et al. (Rodale, Feb. 2002), a weight control and fitness program for men; The Whole Man Program: Reinvigorating Your Body, Mind and Spirit After 40 by Jed Diamond (Wiley, Apr. 2002); and the updated third edition of The Male Stress Survival Guide by Georgia Witkin (Newmarket, May 2002).
We asked the publishing folk we spoke with, What other subjects are hot, or perhaps warming up? Toxins in food, perhaps--a topic addressed in Beef Busters by Marissa Cloutier et al (Adams Media, Jan. 2002) and Is Our Food Safe? by Warren Leon and Caroline Smith DeWaal (Three Rivers, Mar. 2002). There is a plethora of titles concerned with children's and teens' health issues, such as Healthy Child, Whole Child by Stuart Ditchek, M.D. and Russell Greenfield, M.D. (HarperResource, July) and The Teen Health Book by Ralph I. Lopez, M.D. (Norton, Mar. 2002).
One of our bodies' most essential constituents is our blood. Riverhead has sold over 2 million copies of Peter D'Adamo's blood type diet books to date and in January will release The Eat Right 4 Your Type Complete Blood Type Encyclopedia by D'Adamo with Catherine Whitney. "We're publishing something new next April with The pH Miracle [by Robert O. Young and Shelley Redford Young]," notes Warner's Baroni. "It says that monitoring the pH value of your blood is the way to improve your health and lose weight." Last month Walker released Blood Sugar Blues: Overcoming the Hidden Dangers of Insulin Resistance by Miryam Ehrlich Williamson, which explores the link between insulin resistance and 20 diseases and conditions.
With all the advice, knowledge, opinions, theories, guidelines and programs filling these books (and many more books that we were unable to cover here), it's manifestly apparent that the health and diet book category is, well, healthy. It is also apparent that the books fill many needs. "The future of health books is in the things you can do for yourself, using the energies of your own body," says Smith of Transitions Bookplace. We found examples of these, too: Dr. Judith Orloff's Guide to Intuitive Healing (Times Books, Mar.) and The Essence of Self-Healing by Petrene Soames (Fleet Street, Mar.). As Nurnberg at Sterling says, "Remember when doctors were gods? That's changed. Nobody today thinks the doctor has the final word."