Book Sales and Marketing For Spiritual and Mission Driven Publishers (Part 1)

For Spiritual and Mission Driven Publishers

This an excerpt from Simon’s talk on spiritual book publishing at a recent Book Expo America. This is the first of four parts.

I’m Simon Warwick-Smith and I specialize in the intersection of spirituality, marketing and publishing. I have a consultant firm out of Sonoma in Northern California whereby we concentrate on building people’s sales however that can be done ranging across from publicity to marketing, and also working with sales people directly. This is a very complicated business that we are in.

I wanted to acknowledge a couple of people who contributed information to what I am talking about today: Rob Meadows who is the head of sales at Inner Tradition, Phyllis Tickle who is one of the religion editors at Publishers Weekly, Paul Cohen who is the head of sales and marketing at Anthroposophic Press. These people have a fund of knowledge about this business.

I would like to touch in with who we have here today. Those who come from the religion camp 3-4, those from the “New Age” 10-12 out of about 60 people.

I’m going to be speaking from the vantage point of how to publish successfully. It runs the gamut from choosing what you publish across to how to promote and how to sell, and how to be successful.

So I wanted to define our terms. Spirituality and mission driven covers all of the religions from Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and so forth across to New Age and will include Psychology, Recovery, Self Help and so forth. And for you as a publisher I encourage you to keep your definition of spirituality as wide as you can to encompass these areas that are on the edge.

My talk today is really a check list for you. To make sure that you are covering all of the bases and perhaps give you some insight. Let’s go to the core of it. How do you hit the jackpot as a spiritual publisher? The principles are very clear and one keeps coming back to them again and again. Whenever you scratch your head wanting to do better, you go back to the principles. Which is, who are your customers, what do they want, and how do you meet their needs. Living in Sonoma there is a local cement company who have emblazoned on their trucks, “Find a need and fill it.” It’s a wonderful motto, they have their marketing down. That’s also the basis of successful publishing.

However, we have a paradox here–immediately, as soon as I have said those words, “Find a need and fill it.” A mission driven publisher doesn’t necessarily do that. You publish first, You feel strongly about your material, you want to get it out there, you feel it is timely, and so you publish it. And, you are hoping to create a response. So there is an element of putting it out there and hoping it will resonate. A good example of that is Eckankar who are a modern religion. Eckankar was around thousands of years ago and then sprung up again out of nowhere I think in the 60’s. They have an Eck master, the leader of the church. They publish extensively and they have built a following now of thousands worldwide. They created it purely from starting to publish, starting to get the word out. That is really what the mission driven publisher does and that is the core of the challenge that we have in front of us.

Interestingly, Publishers Weekly, has said that spiritual and mission driven publishing is the fastest growing genre in publishing. As everyone in this room would know consciousness is the only game in town, in the end, when all is said and done. For the first time we have the opportunity of making a living, even making a profit, in the realm of spirituality and consciousness. It really is a new era. We are in the middle of a spiritual explosion and it’s not really apparent now because we are in the middle of it, but looking back years from now we will be able to see how fast we have moved.

Next: Define Your Market and Reach Them (Spiritual Book Marketing Part 2)

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