Focusing on Faith
A clear indication of this sea change came in the ripple effect caused by “The Prayer of Jabez.” Last year, in the wake of the book’s success, Multnomah was bought by Random House. The publishing giant now owns two imprints dedicated solely to the burgeoning religious-book market.
“A lot of the major houses have Christian lines now,” notes Mark Kuyper, president and CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. “All of a sudden, we have New York houses competing with each other.”
The impact on the market
The effect, on all levels, has been profound.
“It used to be the case that a lot of presses weren’t all that interested in religion, and we had the field largely to ourselves,” points out Brian Hughes, humanities marketing manager at Oxford University Press. “But now that religion is a ‘hot’ topic, more publishers are getting in on the action, and some of our competitors have very deep pockets.”
That’s almost an understatement. The Random House-Multnomah deal is only one of a spate of purchases, mergers and new imprints focused on religion to have emerged within the publishing world in recent years. The trend got off the ground in 1988 with HarperCollins’ purchase of Zondervan and accelerated with Random House’s creation of Waterbrook Press, Time-Warner’s launching of Warner Faith (now FaithWords, an imprint of Hachette Book Group USA), Simon and Schuster’s purchase of Howard Books in 2006 and the launch later this year of the Penguin Praise line, not to mention Baker Publishing Group’s purchase of rival Bethany House in 2002, and other recent consolidations among traditional religious publishers.
The result for Publisher’s Weekly Religion Book Review Editor Jana Reiss has been upwards of 3,000 books on religion and spirituality crossing her desk each year.
“It’s kind of amazing to me how it continues to grow,” she says. From self-help to evangelical fiction, New Age, religion and science, books for children and teens, cultural studies on Islam or the cottage industry that built up around “The Da Vinci Code,” the growth, Reiss notes, has been “astonishing.”
- Amg Publishers
- Baker Publishing
- Bethany House Publishers
- Bowker Books
- Deeper Faith Resources
- Evangelical Christian Publishers Association
- Hachette Book Group
- Islamic Society of America
- Jewish Lights and Skylight Paths Publishing
- Multnomah Publishers
- Oxford University Press
- Random House Inc.
- Simba Information
- The Book Industry Study Group
- The New York Times
- Time Inc.
- USA Today
- Warner Faith
- Waterbrook Press