Religious Publishing Market

religious content, religious publishing market, religious publications

Religious Titles are Enduringly Popular

The religious publishing market produces works promoting religious themes, practices, and principles that advance adherence to faith. It includes the following types of material:

* Devotional literature, i.e., written works of lasting artistic merit

* Fiction and non-fiction

* Fables, stories of legends, myths, parables, and allegories about real and symbolic people, places, and events

* The Old Testament, New Testament, Quran, the holy books of other religions and their commentaries

* Historical and current novels, theatrical productions, music, letters, theological treatises, instructive and devotional works, religious-themed newspapers and magazines, especially with strong story and editorial content, biographies of religious leaders (hagiography), and pamphlets

* Audio/visual and digitally produced communications promoting the religious message

* Religious journalism, which has grown exponentially and includes products like The Christian Broadcasting Network, The Christian Science Monitor, The Jewish Press, Al-Jazeera, and organizations like the National Religious Broadcasters

Religious Publications Sell

The Statistics Portal online reports that religious book sales in the United States between 2011 and 2015 had annual revenues ranging between approximately $530m and $609m.

The religious publishing market has grown so large in the United States that secular publishing houses entered the field. HarperCollins, for example, has a Christian publishing division whose mission is, “We inspire the world by meeting the needs of people with content that promotes biblical principles and honors Jesus Christ.” Penguin Random House sports the evangelical division WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

A cursory review of religious publishing houses, however, suggests most are vanity press requiring authors or organizations having to pay the publishers to produce their books. Magazines are more likely to be royalty paying, but stories must strictly adhere to the religious standards and themes promoted by the publishers, e.g., evangelical, Orthodox Jewish, Sharia Islamic fundamentalism, and ecumenical. These demands are characterized by the publishing arm of the World Council of Churches, whose motto is “seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service.”

The best-selling religious publications in 2014 were living/lifestyle books featuring diet management, relationships, money management, Christian teachings about end times and prophecies, and biographies of former and current religious leaders. An excellent example is To Your Health: The Torah Way to a Healthy Life in Modern Times by Rabbi Y. Ishayek. He makes the case for the spiritual necessity of Jewish dietary laws from the wisdom of ancient scholars by framing the discussion with the most recent scientific research and evidence-based medicine. This approach is one that advances the religious publishing market.

Dr. Goldmeier was a Research and Teaching Fellow at Harvard University, where he received his Doctorate in Education. Currently, he teaches international university students and serves as a business analyst and development consultant for companies and nonprofit organizations.

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