The topics of marriage and raising children are both evergreen and ever new for first-timers,” says Philis Boultinghouse, senior editor at Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. “There is a strong need for people who have done well or learned from their mistakes to speak into these issues and give advice and help. Everyone needs guidance in these areas.”
Boultinghouse is behind Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships (Mar.) by Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar. The girls are the four oldest daughters of the Duggars’ 19 children and speak to relationships in four areas: yourself, your parents, your country, and the world.
“The Duggars represent a very conservative lifestyle, and they are well-known in the culture,” says Boultinghouse. “They bring to the discussion a very specific worldview, but are also part of the greater discussion about culture and family.”
The vast majority of marriage and parenting books in religion are from Christian publishers. But Brave Parenting: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Raising Emotionally Resilient Children (Wisdom, Mar.) uses the Buddhist tradition as a jumping-off point to offer parents help raising children who are prepared for the slings and arrows of life.
“We don’t routinely publish parenting titles, but we are deliberately trying to do more general audience books,” says Laura Cunningham, production editor at Wisdom. “We want to help people find a way to use their [Buddhist] practice in a practical manner.”
Countdown to Counsel
Pragmatism seems to be the order of the day for the many titles in the genre, from whatever faith tradition. Self-help–style lists abound in such books as 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom: Expert Advice from One Stepmom to Another by Laura Peterbridge (Bethany House, May); 7 Ways to Be Her Hero: The One She’s Been Waiting For by Doug Fields (W Publishing Group, June); and 52 Things Sons Need from Their Dads: What Fathers Can Do to Build a Lasting Relationship by Jay Payleitner (Harvest House, May).
The new Barbour imprint Shiloh Run offers The Top 10 Most Outrageous Couples of the Bible: How Their Stories Can Revolutionize Your Marriage by David Clarke (June), who editor Paul Muckley calls “a very fun writer from a strong biblical perspective.”
While Shiloh and Barbour have no particular plan to acquire in these durable topics, Muckley says that Shiloh Run’s reach into the trade market makes such titles desirable. “The topics are ongoing. Barbour’s way of doing things has done very well, but in today’s environment we have to take every opportunity to grow.”
Abingdon associate publisher Pamela Clements seconds the “no particular plan,” but adds, “We do have it as a topic or genre that we are intentional about acquiring. We like books that add value to readers’ lives.”
Abingdon’s titles include Julia Roller’s Mom Seeks God: Practicing Grace in the Chaos (Apr.), in which Roller guides moms through 10 essential faith practices; A Blessing on the Way: Counting Each Day While You’re Expecting by Sue Christian and Meg Christian (Mar.); and Never Fight Again... Guaranteed! The Groundbreaking Guide to a Winning Marriage by David B. Hawkins (July).
How to Be Heard
In such a crowded category, it’s hard to get above the noise, especially in the blogosphere, where so many mommy (and now daddy) bloggers hold forth on best-parenting practices.
Getting above that noise might be behind B&H Publishing’s marketing plans for Raising a Princess: 8 Essential Virtues to Teach Your Daughter by John Croyle (May). Croyle and B&H had built relationships with media bloggers who are parents thanks to his earlier book The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood: A Proven Game Plan for Raising Sons (2013). This time out B&H is offering princess wand star cookies to bloggers who agree to review the book, and is also gathering stories from parents about how to engage with daughters; it will post the tips on social media sites throughout the book campaign.
B&H will also publish A Christ-Centered Wedding: Rejoicing in the Gospel on Your Big Day (May) by Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Strode. “This is a book that speaks to our core audience of church leaders really well, and we will be giving out copies to pastors and parents at multiple conferences in the next year,” says Dave Schroeder, director of communications for B&H.
Abingdon is offering a money-back guarantee on Hawkins’s Never Fight Again, something the house has never done before. But Clements says, “I don’t think we’ll get many back. I’ve read the book and this advice is sound.”
Revell’s senior editor Jennifer Leep says that roughly 20% of its releases fit into the marriage/family/parenting category. “We have a long history of publishing practical nonfiction books that apply the Christian faith to everyday life. There are any number of topics that remain strong felt needs in this category—communication, discipline, intimacy, etc. We always want to make sure we have strong offerings that address those evergreen topics.”
Revell’s titles this season include I Need Some Help Here! Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan by Kathi Lipp (June) and The Controlling Husband: What Every Woman Needs to Know by Ron Welch (June).
“Ron brought the perfect mix of professional and personal experience to this topic,” says Revell editor Vicki Crumpton. “He’s a counselor and a professor of counseling, and he had years of experience as a controlling husband before he realized the impact of his behavior on his family.”
Credentials, Platform Matter
Revell, like most publishers, is looking for a platform and reach into the community that will read an author’s books. Leep says the house tends to favor authors who are counselors with professional credentials and speakers with solid platforms who have demonstrated a strong ability to connect with their core audience. Still, says Crumpton, “It’s exciting to discover new authors who’ve been honing their message in the trenches who are now ready to write.”
Clements of Abingdon adds, “Platform matters more than ever, but I wish it was not so. We look for an existing platform, or a willingness to work with us to build one. If an author is willing to put in the work before and when the book comes out, then yes, we will overlook a weak platform. But with nonfiction, you cannot be a hermit. Those days are over.”
Jeannie Cunnion’s “blog with traction,” according to David Morris, v-p and publisher of trade books, was enough for Zondervan to publish Parenting the Wholehearted Child: Captivating Your Child’s Heart with Extravagant Grace (Apr.). “In this day and age, women blogging has become its own new phenomenon. Jeannie’s reaching her audience online,” says Morris. But “she [also] has a background in counseling and a degree in social work, so she has the credentials.”
In April, Zondervan published The Good Dad: Becoming the Father You Were Meant to Be by Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family. His tumultuous background—an alcoholic father, a stepfather who deserted him, his time in foster care—and his role at Focus allow him to “speak from the crucible of experience. This is a remarkable book,” says Morris.
For publisher David C. Cook, the category remains competitive for authors trying to break in, while the number of titles each year remains steady. “This is a category we’ll hit three or four times every year. It’s an area of massive need in the church and the world, and we want to offer biblical teaching on these issues,” says Alex Field, publisher of trade books and media. Cook is publishing Love Well: Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck by Jamie George (Aug.) and Getting Ready for Marriage: A Practical Road Map for Your Journey Together by Jim Burns and Doug Fields (Sept.).
“We are bringing in people who are experts, who have done this kind of ministry, and are part of our overall ministry in a big way,” says Field. “These are respectable, credible sources writing on these topics.”
Big Names Have Staying Power
While publishers seem eager to bring new voices to the table, they continue to capitalize on authors who are established in the category:
—Jill Savage and Kathy Koch (Hearts at Home series): No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are (Moody, Mar.)
—Bob and Dannah Gresh (Pure Freedom series): Talking to Your Daughter About Understanding Boys (Harvest House, Mar.)
—Sarah Jakes (daughter of T.D. Jakes): Lost & Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life (Bethany House, Apr.)
—Jim George (husband of Elizabeth George): A Dad After God’s Own Heart (Harvest House, Apr.)
—John MacArthur (The MacArthur Bible Commentary): Being a Dad Who Leads (Harvest House, May)
—Shaunti Feldhahn (For Women Only): The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths About Marriage and Divorce (Multnomah, May)
Of course, in addition to anything innovative a publisher might come up with, the standard marketing methods apply. David C. Cook’s authors will be on media tours in the months surrounding the books’ releases.
For Revell, it’s about readers getting to know their authors through all the ways available now. “When readers feel that they can connect and relate to the author on a personal level, there’s a greater chance they’ll be drawn to the author’s message,” says Lindsay Davis, marketing manager for Revell. “When an author offers extra content on his or her blog and social media, readers have an opportunity to engage with the author and get a sneak peek of what they can expect from the books.”
Wisdom Publishing’s marketing manager, Lydia Anderson, is pushing for Brave Parenting to be shelved in the parenting section of the store, not the section on Buddhism. “We think hard about ways that readers will encounter our books,” she says. “While this book has its roots in Buddhism, it’s a general market title.”
Abingdon engages its marketing team at the acquisition stage, asking such questions as, can we reach this market? And, is the book clear in what it promises? Once the book comes out, the team searches for creative ways to engage readers.
“We ask the hard questions up front because we know there will be a wide number of other books that are similar or that speak to the same subject,” says Clements. “Every family is different, but every family is the same. We try to speak to the uniqueness of the situations, but have a sound basis at the core.”