Pages of spirituality upstairs on Front Street: Company breaks into high-tech book publishing

In spirituality-speak, the synonym for "no-brainer" might just be "right thought." Both terms denote a decision so obviously good and true, that it requires little soul-searching to recognize its outcome. That could be why Spirituality & Health magazine publisher Victoria Sutherland used the word when talking about the media company's expansion into book publishing.

"We have a marketing vehicle and that appeals to the trade," she said. "We've already created 15 years of relationships that have opened many doors for us, and we know how to put a book together. Really, it's a no-brainer."

Sutherland is founder and publisher of ForeWord Magazine, a trade book review journal, as well as Spirituality & Health, the bi-monthly that reports on spiritual matters. With the launch of Spirituality & Health Books she and her staff in the 120-block of E. Front Street will have the opportunity to bring their brain-trust of publishing know-how to the book world. And bring it in digital, as well as paper, formats.

Each new Spirituality & Health author is set up with a blog, webcasts are planned, and portions of the books will be available on the publisher's website, www.spiritualityhealth.com. The new initiative will also make use of print-on-demand technologies which allow publishers to print only the books needed, a both environmentally and economically sound initiative.

"Because we're small, we can be very flexible," Sutherland said. "We're not just starting a publishing house, we're trying to be on the cutting edge of what technology has brought to the book business."

In that way, the new independent publisher is right in line with what some of the household names in the media and publishing world are up to. In November, Google reached an agreement with the Association of American Publishers and with the Authors Guild to make book content available on the Internet and even to sell digital versions of books that have gone out of print. Worldwide, the sales of electronic books, or e-books, are up 55 percent over this same time last year, while paper book sales in the U.S. were down 1.5 percent in the first three quarters of 2008.

In May, Spirituality & Health Books will release its first two titles, both written by local writers. "The Virtue of Wealth: Creating Life Success the Zenvesting Way," by local financial planner, author, and philanthropist Paul Sutherland aims to show readers that their everyday choices can create lasting happiness and wealth. And, "Going Out Green: One Man's Adventure Planning His Own Natural Burial," by Bob Butz, an examination of alternatives to the traditional casket, cemetery plot, and granite headstone. Forthcoming later in 2009 is a cookbook by Cook's House chef and co-owner, Eric Patterson.

Butz's previous book, "Beast of Never, Cat of God," was published by an established publisher, The Lyons Press, and he said that there are some differences working with a new publisher like Spirituality & Health Books.

"They've been actively engaged in the marketing of the title since I signed the deal," said Butz. "For instance, they set up a blog almost immediately that I've been updating regularly in an effort to build an audience . . . They've also been out there generating interest with distributors, which will hopefully translate into a lot of books leaving the warehouse as soon as the book is complete." BN

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