Juan Martinez - 9/22/2008
Traditionally, the New Age category has catered to aficionados of the esoteric and the occult. Today the genre gratifies a more mainstream consumer. Fading is the era of crystals and tarots. Nowadays, readers seek science-based titles that will help them become healthier and more spiritually aware. As New Age is continuing to expand into other categories, many titles that were once the provinces of health, psychology, self-help and spirituality (to name a few) have now assumed the New Age mantle. According to Jo Ann Deck, publisher of Celestial Arts and Crossing Press, the new New Age reader is “more practical and less interested in nebulous philosophical and spiritual exploration.” As a result, the genre reads more like Dr. Phil and Jack LaLanne than Carlos Castaneda and Ram Dass.
Llewellyn publisher Bill Krause cites current world events as the reason behind the drastic change in New Age literature. “Political, environmental and cultural changes are upon us in the form of elections, wars and even 2012 [see sidebar, p. 34]. The public is looking at a wide range of spiritual practices to find solace,” he says. “Things that were once looked upon as niche or fringe are now looked upon as interesting solutions worthy of exploration.” Llewellyn’s Soul Visioning: Clear the Past, Create Your Future by Susan Wisehart (Oct.) combines self-help principles with New Age philosophies to “connect you with your higher self to guide you into the ideal expression of your soul in your work, relationships, health, finances and spirituality.”
This shift in focus presents new challenges for publishers while simultaneously providing a new and more expansive market. Though Gina Clark, editor at Alight, agrees with Deck’s and Krause’s assertions about why New Age works have changed, she has an additional theory. “[Today] publishers of New Age titles are looking to do more than entertain,” she says. “They have a vested interest in improving quality of life.” Because traditional New Age books were geared more toward enjoyment and enlightenment than the new breed of didactic literature, Clark thinks the category’s biggest challenge is determining a proper definition for itself, “since [the category] can include everything from numerology to astrology to the beliefs and ritualistic practices of ancient cultures.”