In today's tough publishing climate, Paul Cohen, publisher of the newly established Monkfish Book Publishing Company, still believes there's room for a nondenominational independent press that combines books of literary merit and spiritual value. "We're publishing to the monk or nun inside us all," Cohen told PW. He's already made at least one convert to his pan-spiritual approach that cuts across religious traditions: Consortium Distribution will distribute Monkfish to the trade starting with its first list this fall.

At present the press is a two-person operation, begun by Cohen and Georgia Dent in their home in Rhinebeck, N.Y. "Georgia does the design and is learning publicity; I'll be acquiring the books and handling marketing and sales," explained Cohen. "My plan is to stay small and publish one title a month and focus on the quality of the books and not the quantity." Cohen first got into the spirituality market in 1987 as v-p of sales and marketing for Atrium and most recently was marketing director for Anthroposophic Press.

The first Monkfish list will consist of four paperback originals, ranging from performance artist Marilyn Stablein's Sleeping in Caves: A Sixties Himalayan Memoir to a revised edition of Jacob Needleman's 1976 work on science and spirituality, A Sense of the Cosmos: Scientific Knowledge and Spiritual Truth. In addition, the house will launch a series of spiritual classics starting this fall, Provenance Editions, which will publish two or three books a year in hardcover gift editions. The first one will be Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki's translation of Self-Realization of Noble Wisdom, the Lankavatara Sutra.

Going forward, said Cohen, "One particular area of interest for me is the delinking of spirituality and religion. I think the problem with this is the loss of history that tends to ensue. It would be wonderful if Monkfish were able to offer venues to remedy this."