As a subset of the vast Christian living category, books written by women for women on various topics can sell millions of copies, camp out on bestsellers lists for months, and grow into franchises with their own branded lines of products. Many of these books focus on specific aspects of life—parenting, marriage, family finances, managing a home. But others embrace female readers more broadly, dealing with a woman’s relationship with God as well as her emotional struggles. Successful authors become companions to the women who join their “tribes,” nurturing relationships with readers via blogs, websites, social media, conferences, online events, and charitable campaigns.
Sandra Vander Zicht, associate publisher and executive editor at Zondervan, says these writers “have their fingers on the pulse of what women are struggling with now—body image, betrayal, comparison, depression, shame, the inability to hold their tongues, anger, being a good mom and wife, wanting to make a difference in the world, and being overwhelmed with life.” She adds, “These writers come alongside women with their own incredibly personal and vulnerable stories, and—this is what makes them different from mainstream authors—they call women to hard and holy things.”
Zondervan, and its sister division, Thomas Nelson, publishes several of the top authors in this vein. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan, 2011) has sold more than one million in copies, spent 60 weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list, and generated branded devotionals, gift editions, study guides, and even greeting cards. Voskamp’s new book, The Broken Way, also from Zondervan, will be released in September.
Lysa TerKeurst’s Made to Crave (2010) spent 30 weeks on the nonfiction New York Times bestseller list, and Unglued (2012) charted for 19 weeks. TerKeurst’s Your Best Yes (Thomas Nelson, 2014) was on the nonfiction list for 12 weeks, and on the Times’ monthly religion list for six months. TerKeurst’s newest, Uninvited (also from Nelson), is due out this August.
Jen Hatmaker’s 2015 book for Nelson, For the Love: Fighting for Love in a World of Impossible Standards, made it to #2 on the Times list and has sold more than a quarter million copies. Nelson has an as-yet-untitled new Hatmaker book coming in 2017. Shauna Niequist’s 2015 title, Savor (Zondervan), sold more than 100,000 copies and with her previous four books, she has combined sales of 400,000 copies. Her next book, Present over Perfect, will be released in August.
FaithWords also has a star: Joyce Meyer writes a steady stream of books that routinely sell 100,000 to 200,000 copies. On her syndicated TV show, Enjoying Everyday Life, and in her books, Meyer urges women to change their thoughts—about themselves and about God—to change their lives. Her latest, Overload, was published in March and has already sold 120,000 copies. With her robust backlist, FaithWords sells some two million Joyce Meyer books each year.
The Stars of Tomorrow?
Voskamp, TerKeurst, Hatmaker, and Meyer are bread and butter for their publishers, and editors are always on the lookout for new voices, hoping to find the next big thing. Tyndale hopes it has a franchise author in the making in Jennifer Dukes Lee. This August, Tyndale will publish her The Happiness Dare: Finding the Sweet Spot of Your Heart’s Deepest, Holiest, and Most Vulnerable Desire. Lee’s previous book for Tyndale, Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes (2014), has more than 100,000 copies in print.
In October, Baker Books’ Revell imprint will publish She Believes: Embracing the Life You Were Created to Live by Debbie Lindell, with Susy Flory; it’s Lindell’s debut book. Founder of the Designed for Life Women’s Conference, which now draws nearly 10,000 to its annual meeting, Lindell aims to bring women together in sisterhood.
Also in October, W Publishing Group will publish Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life by Lara Casey. Structured around the seasons of the year and using the metaphor of gardening, the book encourages women to simplify their lives and get out from under the pressure to achieve and acquire. Her first book, Make It Happen, sold a respectable 30,000 copies.
Though the audience for many of these books seems to be 40-ish, married with children, and focused on home and church, some emerging authors are younger, and writing for younger women. Thirty-nine-year-old Jennie Allen is the founder of If Gathering conferences, designed to appeal to both younger and older women and to foster their Christian faith. Her first book, We Are Not Enough, will be published by WaterBrook in January 2017, on the same day as the next If conference in January 2017.
Destiny Image, publisher of books for Charismatic Christians, will release a debut book from 31-year-old Amber Picota in July. God’s Feminist Movement: Redefining a Woman’s Place from a Biblical Perspective “gives women permission to step into their rightful roles in the kingdom of god, not as subservient to men, but as partners and equals,” says acquisitions editor Sierra White. “Her message will be liberating to women who are strong, opinionated, and not afraid to stand up and speak out on issues that women face in the workplace, the church, and the home.”
Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted by Shannan Martin (Nelson Books, Sept.) tells the story of how 39-year-old Martin and her husband lost their jobs and had to downsize and reinvent their comfortable, conventional life, with unexpectedly positive results.
InterVarsity Press, through its Crescendo line, has published books on spirituality and Christian living for women, whether they are working single women, stay-at-home moms, or college-age students, both mainline and evangelical. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren, looks at everyday activities—making the bed, brushing teeth—through the lens of liturgy and relates them to spiritual practice and worship. It is set for a December release.
Getting to Work
More Christian books for women are turning their attention to work and careers. Because being married and having a family is considered the pinnacle achievement for evangelicals, professional women in those churches often feel out of place and unsupported. In July, Howard Books will publish A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World by Katelyn Beaty, the first female editor of Christianity Today magazine. Marketing director Brandy Lewis says, “Beaty is young [in her early 30s] and well-connected, and the topic is interesting to Christian women and women who read Lean In. Her book encourages women to find joy in their vocations.”
Authors in the Christian women-to-women genre are overwhelmingly white, but FaithWords adds an African-American voice with Eboni K. Williams, a Fox News political commentator and legal analyst. In Pretty Powerful: Appearance, Substance, and Success (Aug.), Williams encourages women to “leverage their beauty” for success at work, noting they are still judged on their appearance—perhaps not a politically correct message, but a practical one.
A Hand Up
Some women write about their traumatic experiences to help readers through their own. Esther Fleece recounts a difficult childhood in No More Faking Fine, to be published by Zondervan in January 2017. Fleece, who often writes about Millennials, faith, leadership, and family, has been recognized as one of Christianity Today’s “Top 50 Women Shaping the Church and Culture” and CNN’s “Five Women in Religion to Watch.”
Among non-evangelical presses, Franciscan Media has Don’t Panic! How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough by Maureen Pratt (May). In her first book, Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain and Illness (Image, 2005), Pratt wrote about living with lupus; Don’t Panic deals with ways to confront any kind of crisis.
Servant Books, an imprint of Franciscan Media, is publishing Who Does He Say You Are? by Colleen Mitchell in August. The book grew out of the journal Mitchell kept after losing an infant son and suffering several miscarriages while a missionary in Costa Rica. The book “mines the Gospels for models of womanly strength,” says director of marketing Louise Paré. Mitchell has created an adult-coloring flyer to help in promoting the book.
In April, Jesuit publisher Loyola Press releases Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses by Ginny Kubitz Moyer. Marketing director Andrew Yankech says, “Our physical senses are powerful avenues through which we encounter God, and this [book] will help readers recognize God that way. It offers the woman’s perspective on Ignatian spirituality, which is so often written by a Jesuit priest or scholar.”
Abingdon, the trade publishing arm of the United Methodists, will publish Marlo Schalesky’s Waiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God’s Timeline in November. “This book is for women who have experienced waiting—for a child, for a change, for a breakthrough,” explains marketing director Brenda Smotherman. “Marlo recasts this waiting time as an intentional and purposeful stage of life through the story of Sarah and Abraham.”
In October, Presbyterian publisher Westminster John Knox will release More than Enough: Living Abundantly in a Culture of Excess by Lee Hull Moses. In her book, Moses addresses the guilt many Christians feel about their prosperity and urges them to use their resources responsibly, to help others—a message many Christian women want to hear as they seek to make a difference not only in their own lives, but in the world.