A number of publishers in the religion category offer gift books with spiritual or religious themes, and while many publish only a few gift titles per year, others are in the gift book business in a major way, with entire imprints devoted to gifts and robust product lines.
HarperCollins Christian Publishing Group now comprises both Nelson Gift Books (including the popular J. Countryman line) and Zondervan Gift Books. Nelson Gifts publishes 45–50 titles per year; the Zondervan gift division, launched in 2013, is publishing about a dozen titles in fiscal 2014, with plans to ramp up, according to Laura Minchew, senior v-p and publisher for gift books, children’s, and new media. She says Christian gift books have expanded far beyond the familiar short, small-format books of the past. “There is much more breadth of product, especially for us,” Michew says. One of Nelson’s most successful gift-book lines is part of its Jesus Calling franchise, with 13 million in combined sales for the original book (Jesus Calling), by Sarah Young, and its spin-offs (Jesus Today, Jesus Lives, Dear Jesus, 40 Days with Jesus); children’s editions bring the total to 14 million, according to the publisher. A boxed 10th-anniversary edition of Jesus Calling, with a bonded leather cover, releases in spring 2015; a compilation of quotations from the book is also coming next year.
One unique feature of gift books is the range of retail settings where they can be found—not only in bookstores (both Christian and general interest), but also in gift stores, mass market outlets, and other retailers. Jason Rovenstine, senior v-p of Nashville independent Worthy Publishing, which purchased the Ellie Claire gift division from Guideposts in 2012, says the company’s gift products are sold in department stores such as Von Maur and in specialty retailers such as Brooks Brothers, as well as in drugstores, hospital gift shops, toy stores, airport outlets, cruise-ship gift shops, and even truck stops. Ellie Claire’s top sellers are its Signature Journals (For I Know the Plans I Have for You) and gift series (When God Thinks of You He Smiles).
BroadStreet Publishing, a new house founded by Carlton Garborg this year, has a substantial gift book program—no surprise, since his father, Rolf Garborg, owned an eponymous Christian gifts company for many years, where Carlton cut his teeth. (Carlton Garborg sold the Ellie Claire line to Guideposts in 2010.) BroadStreet has 26 gift books currently in print and plans to publish another 24 in 2015 under its Belle City Gifts imprint. Garborg says titles will include movie tie-ins, biographies, author-driven devotionals, devotional journals, and Bible promise books (compilations of passages from the Bible that are understood as God’s promises to believers). “Our primary focus is quality, both in content and packaging,” says Garborg. “We work with authors to tell meaningful stories and bring messages of truth and inspiration; we package those into a variety of beautiful, gift-able formats that our retail partners can promote every day as well as seasonally.”