Religion publishers are tapping into the name recognition of bestselling authors as those authors’ children enter the arena with books of their own.
New books are publishing this year by authors such as Matt Hagee, the son of prophecy expert John Hagee (Four Blood Moons; Worthy, 2013) and Andrea Lucado, the daughter of Max Lucado (Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World; Thomas Nelson, Sept.). Matt Hagee’s Your Guide to the Apocalypse: What You Should Know Before the World Comes to an End releases from WaterBrook in August, while Andrea Lucado’s memoir, English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith, released in May, also with WaterBrook.
The decision to publish Lucado was simple, according to John Blasé, acquisitions editor at WaterBrook Multnomah. “Andrea is a brilliant writer in her own right,” he said. “[And] we knew there would be support from Max—he’s tweeted about the book and they did a podcast together.”
Regarding both Lucado and Hagee, “It would be a falsehood to say that [their names] didn’t play a part in the attention we gave those proposals,” said Blasé. “In both cases, based on the content and the writer, we felt good about both decisions. They both fit with what we’re doing at WaterBrook (which aims to “help readers thrive in their faith,” according to its mission statement).
Lucado’s connections in the publishing world, including with other authors and publishing professionals, have led to book signings, podcasts, blog posts, and book reviews on sites such as the Jesus Calling blog/podcast and She Reads Truth.
At Tyndale, the daughter of novelist Ted Dekker (Eyes Wide Open; Worthy, 2014) Rachelle Dekker is author of The Seer Collection, a trilogy of dystopian novels aimed at young adults. The first, The Choosing (2015) had an initial print run of 15,000, according to the publisher, with sales for the series nearing 50,000. Today, Dekker has a contract for three more standalone novels with Tyndale, with the first, tentatively titled When Through Deep Waters, slated to publish in 2018.
Karen Watson, fiction publisher for Tyndale, said that Rachelle Dekker is naturally skilled at creating both interesting situations and strong hooks. “She starts with a theme that drives her story, and she carries that theme through the story arc. Neither of these traits is necessarily a given in authors early in their careers,” she said.
“I got an interesting view of the hardships that come with writing,” Dekker told PW. “I saw my dad’s discipline to get up every morning, put out novel after novel, and battle his own insecurities.”
Ted Dekker’s bestselling status has also connected her with readers via promotion on his social media platforms, and he has done interviews with her that have been promoted on YouTube and Facebook. “My father has been really supportive, helping me to build my own audience,” Rachelle told PW. “I asked him to be more hands-off [with the writing] than people assume, but I don’t think I’ve had a marketing meeting without Ted Dekker’s name coming up.”
Thomas Nelson has a number of next-generation authors, including Sarah Jakes Roberts, the daughter of author/speaker Bishop T.D. Jakes (Destiny: Step into Your Purpose; FaithWords, 2016). Her book, Don’t Settle for Safe: Embracing the Uncomfortable to Become Unstoppable, released in April. Additionally, Thomas Nelson is publishing Why I Didn’t Rebel (Oct.) by Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, the daughter of Sheila Wray Gregoire; The Age of Promise (Jan. 2018) by Randy Robison, the son of televangelist/author James Robison; and Friend of Sinners (2018) by Rich Wilkerson, Jr., the son of evangelist and author Rich Wilkerson.
Legacy authors are able to follow the example of their writer parents, but that does not necessarily result book sales. “If the publisher or author goes in thinking success will come easily because of the name recognition, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment,” said Brian Hampton, senior v-p and publisher at Thomas Nelson. “We still have to develop great content, deliver strong distribution, and create a promotional plan that ensures readers who’ll love the book [can] find it. None of this is easy, even for the son or daughter of someone famous.”
Nevertheless, “There is at least some name recognition that accrues to the children of well-known authors,” said Hampton. “That’s almost always a positive thing.”
Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr., the son of Don Miguel Ruiz, Sr. (The Four Agreements; Amber-Allen, 1997), takes a different tack in following in his famous father’s footprints. His book, Don Miguel Ruiz’s Little Book Of Wisdom: The Essential Teachings (Hierophant Publishing, Mar), compiles his father’s bestselling wisdom and essential teachings from lectures, workshops, and private moments between father and son. A bestselling author in his own right, Ruiz, Jr. has sold over 150,000 copies of previously released books, according to Hierophant president Randy Davila, but the Little Book of Wisdom has already sold 15,000 copies to date, according to the publisher.
Hierophant’s Davila says he’s been approached by children of other famous authors, but has turned their books down. “The critical point as a publisher is that if the book of the child isn’t worthy to be published, it will not be published,” he said. “Nepotism is quickly figured out in this publishing world.”
Occasionally, the writing bug reaches a third generation. Gil Beers, who has been in publishing for 60 years in leadership positions at Christianity Today and David C Cook, also writes for Cook today. He has published about 170 books for all ages, with sales of more than 13 million, he said. His son, Ron Beers, is an author and senior v-p/publisher at Tyndale. The pair has collaborated on over 15 books, such as the One Year mini-series devotional with Tyndale (part of the One Year Bible suite of products).
“When Ron showed an interest in publishing and writing, I was more than happy to share, almost daily, what would equip him,” said Gil Beers.
Ron Beers passed that legacy on to his daughters. Amy E. Mason’s Bible Promises for Parents of Children with Special Needs released in April with Tyndale, and Katherine Butler’s Habits of the Heart: 365 Daily Exercises for Living like Jesus releases in September with Tyndale.
“I’ve done the same kind of mentoring with them that my dad did with me,” said Ron Beers.
The three generations have worked together on TouchPoints (Tyndale), a series of Bibles and verse collections tailored for specific needs such as TouchPoints for Women (Ron Beers, Mason, 2012) and TouchPoint Bible (Gil and Ron Beers, 1996). The series, according to Ron Beers, has sold over five million copies.
Wanda E. Brunstetter, bestselling author of Amish fiction, has co-written novels with her daughter-in-law Jean Brunstetter. And today, another relative is joining in with The Beloved Christmas Quilt: Three Stories of Family, Romance, and Amish Faith (Shiloh Run, Sept). Wanda, Jean, and Jean’s daughter, Richelle Brunstetter, each contributed a story to this holiday collection.
“Planning a generational novella collection was a natural progression of their interests and conversations,” said Rebecca Germany, senior fiction editor at Barbour/Shiloh Run. “Richelle shows a lot of promise as a developing author with interests in writing more about the Amish, as well as other contemporary stories.”
Ultimately, publishers agree on the benefits of publishing authors with a family legacy of writing, but it's the quality of writing that must come first.
“It’s all been very positive,” said Blasé of Waterbrook. “I would call Andrea Lucado a writer first, who gained a lot of that ability and her good ear from her dad.”
Tyndale’s Watson said, “The process has run smoothly for us, as Rachelle and Ted Dekker have a great relationship. Ted sees Rachelle as a talented writer whose fiction can stand on its own merit.”
Hampton of Thomas Nelson noted the delicate pairing process between writers and publishers, regardless of any famous author relatives. “As we consider the concept, the fit with our program, the writing, and the platform, ultimately the project will have to stand on its own two feet,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Andrea Lucado had another book deal underway with WaterBrook; this is not the case.