Tuesday, March 12, 2013: Dedicated Issue: Beyond Words

Beyond Words 30th Anniversary

Beyond Words: Creative You by Otto Kroeger and David Goldstein

Beyond Words: Thin Space by Jody Casella

Beyond Words: Leap of Perception by Penney Peirce

Beyond Words: The New Kitchen Mystic by Mary Hayes Grieco

Beyond Words: One Law by Ruth Miller and Henry Drummond

Editors' Note

Beyond Words: Happy 30th!

With this issue, Shelf Awareness celebrates the 30th anniversary of Beyond Words, which was founded in 1983 as a publisher of fine coffee-table books. Today, the company, based in Hillsboro, Ore., is a leader in the body, mind and spirit category. In partnership with Simon & Schuster's Atria Books imprint since 2006, Beyond Words' publications include the international bestseller The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

Beyond Words has supported this issue. Shannon McKenna Schmidt wrote the stories.

Beyond Words: Mothering From Your Center by Tami Lynn Kent

Books & Authors

Serendipity and Persistence: Beyond Words' Genesis and Growth

Richard Cohn

An out-of-the-blue phone call from a stranger was what originally set Richard Cohn, Beyond Words' publisher, and Cynthia Black, the company's president and editor-in-chief, on the path to publishing.

While on a meditative walk, photographer Richard Cooke heard a voice instructing him to contact Cohn, whom he had never met or even heard of, to publish his book. He told his sister, who did know Cohn, about the epiphany, and she put the two in touch. Cohn's initial offer to provide Cooke with business advice instead led to him and Black joining forces with a third partner to produce the photographer's tome.

"We sort of dove into the deep end, and we didn't really know how to swim," Black said. "We didn't know what we shouldn't do, and we made these really beautiful books."

Cynthia Black

From there, Beyond Words, founded while Cohn and Black were living in her native Hawaii, expanded to include other types of books, including personal growth titles. With The Hidden Messages in Water by Dr. Masaru Emoto, the whirlwind pace of publication helped prepare Cohn and Black for an even bigger challenge.

While they were en route to New York to visit executives at Atria Books, with whom Beyond Words had recently formed a partnership, a snowstorm left them stranded at a Chicago airport. A conversation with another waylaid passenger led to their meeting a feng shui expert who appears in Rhonda Byrne's movie The Secret. Cohn and Black then approached Byrne--who had previously turned down similar requests--about producing a book version of the film. A crash production schedule had The Secret out within months, in time for the 2006 holiday season, and it has since been translated into 45 languages and sold 23 million copies worldwide.

Beyond Words' success stems in part from Cohn and Black's willingness to take risks--a good example is when they were asked to distribute the DVD version of the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know!? Rather than forgo the opportunity for lack of expertise in that area, they decided to give it a try. After all, they had been new to bookmaking once, too. They placed What the Bleep Do We Know!? in bookstores, where it sold extremely well, and, later, they became the exclusive distributor of The Secret DVD.

Headlining the summer list is Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive by Otto Kroeger and David B. Goldstein (July); Kroeger is a renowned expert in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment.

This fall Cohn and Black are "very excited" to share Elisa Medhus's My Son and the Afterlife. A medical doctor, Medhus--once a skeptic about the existence of an afterlife--shares the story of how she came to communicate with her 20-year-oldson after he took his own life.

Thirty years after a phone call launched Cohn and Black into the publishing world, their core mission remains the same. "Not only do we work collaboratively with authors and filmmakers to produce the best information possible on a subject," said Cohn, "we're also partners with our audience, the ultimate reader, to provide an opportunity for transformation and personal growth."

Beyond Words: So You Want to Be a Chef?: Your Guide to Culinary Careers

Celebrate with Beyond Words

Every month through the end of the year, Beyond Words is featuring a different e-book at $3.99 and a DVD at $6.95. Click here for more information. The promotion begins this month with the e-book edition of Wild Feminine: Finding Power, Spirit and Joy in the Female Body by Tami Lynn Kent and Rhonda Byrne's The Secret DVD. Each month illustrates a theme central to Beyond Words' mission, including March: "It is important to remind ourselves of love."

Beyond Words: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Reaching Out to the 'Unaffiliated' Spiritual Seekers

The results of a Pew Research Center report released last October came as no surprise to Beyond Words staffers. The number of Americans who do not identify with a specific religion has grown rapidly in the last five years, encompassing just under 20% of the adult population. While some are atheists or agnostics, the majority of the "nones" or the "unaffiliated" are religious or spiritual in some way.

"This is a population we've been attending to for a long time at Beyond Words," said acquisitions editor Anna Noak. "It has been an underground trend for a while, and it's exciting to see it come forward into more of a mainstream space."

In recent years, Beyond Words has reached out to spiritual seekers and the unaffiliated with titles like Pierre Pradervand's The Gentle Art of Blessing, which illustrates how the act of blessing can be incorporated into one's life whatever their belief system. Another is Roll Around Heaven: An All-True Accidental Spiritual Adventure by Jessica Maxwell, who trekked around the world exploring different religions.

Anticipating the surge in the trend, Beyond Words began making plans a year ago to expand its publishing program in this area. It's focusing on consumers 45 and under who prefer to incorporate spirituality into their daily lives in an informal, individualized way, be it prayer or a nature walk, instead of adhering to the mandates of established religious institutions.

Lama Marut

Author Lama Marut, an American Buddhist monk, has seen an increase in the number of people who "feel freer to cross boundaries" and incorporate elements from several religions into their own personal practice. He views the trend as a positive development, one that is "instilling more tolerance and open-mindedness into the spiritual life."

While touring the U.S. last summer to promote A Spiritual Renegade's Guide to the Good Life, a blueprint for creating and sustaining happiness that draws on various spiritual traditions, Lama Marut detected a "palpable relief" when people realized they weren't being told they had to associate with a specific religion.

"The 'good life'--in the sense of a truly satisfying, joyful life--comes from practicing the 'good life' in another sense--a life guided by ethics and virtues such as forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and wisdom," Lama Marut said. "These guidelines are taught in every authentic religious tradition and are not the monopoly of any one. They can be learned and practiced by anyone, with or without identifying with one or another of the institutionalized religions."

Along with a desire to draw from different religions, Lama Marut attributes the rise in the unaffiliated to other key factors: a willingness to reconcile religious and scientific views, disappointment in scandal-plagued religious figures and an aversion to intolerance and fanaticism. "For many, being a 'none' is a lot more palatable than overly identifying with one or another of the world's religious 'isms,' each one replete with its own historical and collective embarrassments," explained Lama Marut.

Rather than accept the status quo, they "see it from all different angles," said acquisitions editor Emily Han. "They're rebellious in the sense that they look at it in a different way."

Chris Grosso

Whereas previously the unaffiliated may have felt isolated, they're now realizing their numbers are growing. Han recently signed up an as-yet-untitled book (coming in spring 2014) by musician and writer Chris Grosso. Feeling as if he didn't fit within an established religious framework, Grosso set out to find an alternative. After discovering there were others doing something similar, Grosso founded TheIndieSpiritualist.com, a website that melds "dogma-free spirituality" with independent culture. Although a spiritual practice is unique to each individual, said Han, "they're still looking for a community to express it with."

Also coming next year is Lama Marut's Be Nobody (June), in which he distills traditional spiritual traditions into a set of guidelines for creating a truly happy, fulfilling life by letting go of ego and discovering one's true nature. "We live in a time of unprecedented awareness of options when it comes to religion," noted Lama Marut. "In some people this may have resulted in a sort of paralysis and inability to make a choice, whereas in others it may be experienced as an exhilarating sense of freedom."

The Varied Voices of Beyond Words

To achieve its aim of "producing information that will help make a difference in people's lives," said Richard Cohn, Beyond Words partners with an array of authors, both established and emerging.

Philosopher and scholar Jean Houston, Ph.D., who has more than 25 books to her credit, signed on with Beyond Words to publish The Wizard of Us: Transformational Lessons from Oz. Having worked with many publishers in her 50-year career, Houston believes Beyond Words is a great fit for her message. Her experience with the company extends beyond receiving excellent editorial advice and working with a congenial staff. "I like their open-hearted, very spirited approach to thinking about a book," she said.

Jean Houston

In The Wizard of Us, Houston uses the classic tale The Wizard of Oz--in particular the character Dorothy--to illustrate real-life lessons for personal transformation and social development. The book is a sort of counterpart to works centering on the hero's journey by the late Joseph Campbell, who encouraged Houston to explore the idea of the heroine's journey.

In addition to working with veteran writers like Houston, Beyond Words is nurturing a new generation of authors. "We're looking for new ideas and new trends and often those come from people who haven't published before," said Cynthia Black. A new voice in women's health is Tami Lynn Kent, MSPT, the author of Wild Feminine: Finding Power, Spirit and Joy in the Female Body and Mothering from Your Center: Tapping Your Body's Natural Energy for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting.

Tami Lynn Kent

When Kent, a holistic women's health care provider with a successful private practice in Portland, Ore., found out that Black would be speaking at a local conference, she attended and passed her a copy of Wild Feminine, which she had self-published. Although the exchange lasted less than a minute, it ultimately led to a three-book deal for Kent.

The self-published version of Wild Feminine was well-received in Portland, boosted by support from Powell's Books, Kent's neighborhood bookstore. During the editorial process, the current edition "was enhanced and improved without losing the original voice," said the author. The book has since benefited enormously from Beyond Words' extensive reach. One indication: Kent regularly receives e-mails from readers in Australia, South Africa and many other countries. "Without Beyond Words it would not have gotten to that level."

Kent's follow-up, Mothering from Your Center, was released last month, and her third book, which explores creativity and how to access it, is slated for publication in 2014. The founder of Holistic Pelvic Care, her work bridges a divide between physical medicine and holistic practices in women's health. Beyond Words is partnering with Kent to build her brand and reach a wider audience. "Beyond Words is very aligned with mission," said Kent. "They're clear on their values, and I admire that in a company."


Titles That Inspire Kids: Find Yourself. Know Yourself. Be Yourself.

Beyond Words re-launched its children's and teen line in January 2012 after a hiatus of several years. As it does with Atria Publishing Group for its adult titles, the publisher has partnered with Simon & Schuster's children's imprint, Aladdin, and its teen imprint, Simon Pulse.

Creating a strong identity for the line, which focuses primarily on inspirational nonfiction books for middle grade readers and teens, included crafting a slogan: Find Yourself. Know Yourself. Be Yourself. "That's the foundation from which we function," said Whitney Quon, marketing and event coordinator. "All our titles tie into that idea."

Publications include brand-new books as well as updated and expanded editions of backlist titles, such as New Yorker writer and Yale graduate Sarah Stillman's Soul Searching: A Girl's Guide to Finding Herself, written when the author was 16. Also for teens is a series of beautifully illustrated oracle decks like Lucy Cavendish's Oracle of Shadows and Light and Oracle of the Shapeshifters (April).

Debut novelist Jody Casella's Thin Space (September) has the distinction of being the first young adult novel published by Beyond Words. Guilt-ridden over his twin brother's death, Marshall Windsor has one chance to seek out his sibling and make amends. He must find a "thin space," a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

"The story has a quiet brilliance to it," said production editor Emmalisa Sparrow. "It's very much a journey that deals with a lot of the themes we address in our nonfiction, both children's and adult, including grief and identity."

In the popular "Be What You Want" series, revised editions of So, You Want to Be a Writer? and So, You Want to Be a Comic Book Artist? not only enlighten children about those particular vocational paths, they offer guidance on how to get started immediately and where readers might sell their work. Next in the series is So, You Want to Be a Chef? (October), which was inspired by the avid interest in television cooking shows.

Beyond Words was "a pioneer in giving kids a voice to communicate with their peers," said managing editor Lindsay Brown. One such title was Better Than a Lemonade Stand!: Small Business Ideas for Kids. Originally published in 1991 by then 15-year-old Daryl Bernstein, who is now a father himself, it was recently updated and reissued. "We pride ourselves in continuing that tradition. Our books are about kids' experiences, publishing their stories and giving them a voice," Brown said. "We respect them and their intelligence and abilities."

Another objective is to encourage children and teens to be forward-thinking. Quon explained: "These books are asking them to live bigger than the day to day, to really reach for something beyond what they think is possible; and here's how we can help you do that."

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