WaterBrook Multnomah, the evangelical Christian imprint of Random House’s Crown Publishing Group, has acquired To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels and Life Again by Mary C. Neal, which she self-published in November 2011. Neal, a physician, tells the story of her drowning in a kayaking accident in South America, and her return to life after experiencing heaven and the presence of angels and God.

The book gained word-of-mouth momentum and now has garnered a wave of national media attention--including a mention by Jay Leno on the Tonight Show—that had as high as #5 on BarnesandNoble.com and #29 on Amazon. (As of today it is #83 on Amazon and #25 on bn.com.) WaterBrook declined to provide sales figures for the self-pubbed edition, but a first printing of 200,000 is planned for the trade paper edition, based on 185,000 in pre-sales. The trade paperback releases May 29; the e-book released May 23. Random also acquired audio rights.

Waterbrook is hoping that To Heaven and Back can generate the kind of excitement that Heaven is for Real has; the Thomas Nelson title has sold over 2.2 million print copies since it was released in November 2010, according to Nielsen BookScan.