Going on all the time here are Book Expo Educational Programs, panels and talks for booksellers and publishers on a variety of ways to sell books better and sell better books. I am in one right now called “Steal This Book: Selling and Promoting Literature on the Edge.” I came because I thought I might get some interesting ideas on how to market Bead One, Pray Too, but it is more about how to reach 20-Somethings who don’t always buy books in bookstores or hear about them in book review publications. Not really applicable to me, so I left early. And I REALLY don’t want anyone to steal my book!
At midmorning, I went to the autograph signing area to see my friend and colleague Donna Freitas sign copies of her first young adult novel, The Possibilities of Sainthood, which is being published by FSG in August. Donna is a professor of religion at Boston University and is perhaps best known for her four non-fiction books, including Killing the Impostor God, about the religious/spiritual/moral world constructed by Phillip Pullman in his His Dark Materials trilogy, among my favorite books of all time. She is young and thin and brilliant and we hate her (not really!). She devours YA fiction for fun and has recommended a number of good books to me, including the books of Stephanie Meyer and Tamora Pierce. Now that I have the book in my hands, I cannot wait to read it and will start tonight. The back copy is enough to pull you in – a letter written by the main character to the Pope alerting him to the fact that there is no patron saint of the first kiss and offering herself for the role. I love it!
A few lanes in the autograph session and picked up a small book by Lama Surya Das called Words of Wisdom from Koa Books. I think it is something the book industry might call a “gift book” or a “novelty book” – a small collection of witty sayings by the author, a famous Buddhist teacher. Some be appropriate as short prayers for prayer beads, like these: “What we seek, we are,” and “Life is breath. Breath is spirit. Spirit is joy” and “Surrender to what is.” Each one is stands alone on a single, small page, some decorated with drawings of scattering leaves. A nice, light book of Buddhist insights.
After half a yucky sandwich picked up in the Publishers Weekly press room (along with a more than decent brownie, so I can’t complain), I went to an afternoon session by the Book Industry Study Group in which they released new numbers about the strength of the book market. I don’t want to bore you here with sales numbers and book unit figures, but let me tell you this – of all the publishing categories this group studies, religion is the strongest in terms of dollars made, numbers of books published and numbers of books purchased by consumers. As someone who writer about religion for an industry publishing magazine, this is good news!
From there I went to a session that was billed as helping authors and publishers promote their books on social networking sites. It was only moderately helpful to me, a small author at a small-ish publishing house, and was geared more towards publishers who can purchase space on book social networking sites like gather.com. I can barely manage to answer messages left for me on Facebook and LinkedIn, so I left about three-quarters of the way through and went back to the publishing floor.
And that’s when I started to have some real fun!
In addition to there being miles and miles of books here, there are also lots of vendors offering all the other things you might find in a bookstore – journals, bookmarks, t-shirts, candles, lap desks – you name it. Among these I found Starlinks a vendor of “enchanted jewelry and gifts.” I was pulled right into this booth with its large display of pewter, silver, copper and brass charms that would, almost without exception, make fantastic terminal charms for prayer beads and rosaries. Starlinks has everything from traditional Christian crosses to symbols of the deities of Nordic, Egyptian, Celtic, Neo-Pagan, Native American and New Age traditions. I had so much fun looking at charms of dragons, fairies, Celtic knots, zodiac symbols, dreamcatchers and goddess symbols, many of them enhanced with colored Swarovski crystals. Among my favorites were the Celtic designs of metalsmith Courtney Davis, which included some unusual crosses- St. Brigid’s St. Manchan’s and a Pentney cross. Starlinks charms are very affordable, running between $7 and $70 and each one comes with a card that explains its origin and meaning and has some information about “consecrating and empowering” its energy. One of these rituals suggests that you hold your charm under running water and visualize the water running straight through it. Owner Felicia Riccardo purchased the business, located in nearby Long Beach, about two years ago and it has been a transformative time for her. “I was always interested in folklore,” she told me as we looked at the cases of charms in her booth. “I truly believe this quest for new information [about new and different forms of spirituality] will take us into a New Age. I am having a great time.” Starlinks charms can be found in many book stores and purchased online through the company’s website. I strongly recommend you check it out. I think there is something here to satisfy the prayer beader of any and every religious tradition. I’m hot for the “magical charm” that will “develop intellectual abilities.”
Next I came across Tughra Books in a small booth at the back of one of the first aisles. Tugrra is a small publisher of books on Islam with offices in both Istanbul, Turkey and Somerset, N.J. There I found a lovely copy of one of the most famous and sacred of all Islamic prayers, the Al-Jawshan al-Kabir. Huseyin Senturk, the director of publications, told me this translates to “shield of power” and that this prayer, which Islamic tradition holds was narrated to the Prophet Muhammad by an angel just before one of the prophet’s battles with the people of Mecca, is highly revered by Muslims for its protective qualities and its ability to endow the reciter of the prayer with strength. Part of prayer includes the 99 names of God, or Allah, that many Muslims recite on their prayer beads. But, as Huseyin told me, there is beauty in the prayer for all “peoples of the book” – Muslims, Christians and Jews. “They can all like the book because it is all about praying to God and offering thanksgiving,” he said. “When you pray it, you are praising God. This is nothing but praising God.” In this version of the prayer, the Arabic form of the prayer is written out in beautiful calligraphy and illustrations on the right side page, while the English translation appears on the right. I asked the men if either of them had a set of prayer beads with him, and here is a picture of marketing director Ahmet Idil with his own wooden set! Prayer beads at the book show! I found them!
There was more, too, but how much information can I stick in one posting? I’ll tell you more about spiritual crafting and prayer books from Jewish Lights Publishing and Skylight Paths Publishing in my next post!