As 2018 began, Billy Graham was 99 and frail, yet his death on February 21 caught publishers of books by and about him by surprise. Many told PW they had no new plans in place for promotion, and some feeling awkward about appearing to capitalize on his passing. But with almost half of American churchgoers (Protestant and nondenominational) telling Lifeway Research they have seen Graham preach on TV, and 15% saying they have read one of his books, clearly there is an audience to be served.
A major title that continues to be a backlist mainstay is Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham, published by HarperOne. The book was a #1 New York Times bestseller in 1997 when it was originally released, spending 26 weeks on the list; it has sold more than 1.5 million copies. An updated edition, published in 2007, added material on events from 1997 to 2007, including Graham’s role as “America’s pastor” after the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11.
The list of books about Graham also is long, and continues to grow. Billy Graham, God’s Ambassador: A Celebration of His Life and Ministry, a narrative and photographic tribute published by Harper in 2007, is a strong backlist seller. Asked about any new marketing, David Moberg, at HarperCollins Christian Publishing says, “We haven’t made any of those plans yet. Right now we want to honor him and support his family and organization.”
Hachette imprint FaithWords has two backlist books about Graham that have sold a combined 120,000 copies. The Preacher and the Presidents by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (2007) looks at Graham’s relationships with presidents from Truman to Trump; Billy Graham: A Tribute from Friends (2006) collects essays by those whose lives he affected, including former presidents. While FaithWords has no immediate plans for promotion and has not yet seen any uptick in sales, Gibbs and Duffy wrote an essay on Graham for Time magazine that FaithWords hopes will stir renewed interest in their book.
Two seminal biographies of the evangelist are getting updates: Grant Wacker (professor of Christian history at Duke Divinity School), author of the highly regarded America’s Pastor (Belknap, 2014), has written a shorter biography, One Soul at a Time, which Eerdmans hopes to publish this year. “He’s working as fast as he can to finish, and we are planning to fast-track it when he does,” says David Bratt, executive editor.
William Martin (senior fellow in religion and public policy at Rice University) has added new content to his magisterial A Prophet with Honor (1991). Zondervan released the book February 20, the day before Graham's death. HCCP spokesperson Casey Harrell explains, “There was not a hard street date--as soon as the stores received the shipments they were allowed to make it available. When Rev. Graham passed and we realized that people could already walk in the store and purchase the book, we retro-activated the pub date so that the e-book also would be available. “ (Amazon will not sell the e-book or hardcover until the specified release date, which is March 5.)
Other publishers with backlist titles include David C. Cook, with Billy Graham: Candid Conversations with a Public Man by David Frost, published by in 2014. Frost interviewed Graham many times over a 30-year span. Baker Publishing Group did a biography of the evangelist and his wife, Ruth and Billy Graham by Hanspeter Nuesch in 2013; it made the CBA bestsellers list. Neither Cook nor Baker were ready to announce renewed marketing plans.
In 2014, W. Terry Whalin, senior acquisitions editor at Morgan James, published his own book, Billy Graham: A Biography of America’s Greatest Evangelist, through Morgan James; the audiobook released in November 2016. Whalin worked for Graham as associate editor at Decision magazine—a publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association—in the mid-90s. In the wake of Graham’s death, Morgan James has seen a spike in sales and ordered another print run, says Whalin, who has been doing interviews with U.K .and U.S radio and TV. He notes a possible new market: “My book is short enough that 8 to 12 year olds can read it.”
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me, 101 Inspiring Personal Stories from Presidents, Pastors, Performers, and Other People Who Know Him Well, edited by Steve Posner and Amy Newmark and published in 2013, is a tribute collection of stories and recollections from well-known figures in politics, entertainment, and sports, as well as from Graham’s family and friends; it includes more than 40 historic photos. Maureen Peltier, senior director of marketing, says, “Amazon went out of stock immediately, and we started receiving orders from the first day that Reverend Graham’s passing was announced."
Among new books in the pipeline are Hear My Heart (Howard, Mar.), a compilation of articles written by Graham for Christianity Today magazine, which he founded in 1957 as a journal of Christian thought and culture. When Howard acquired rights to the content from CT in 2012 the agreement stipulated the book not be published until after Graham’s death. Paraclete Press's Billy Graham: An Ordinary Man and His Extraordinary God by Lon Allison was originally scheduled to publish in September, just before his 100th birthday. Paraclete has moved the publication date up to April 4, says spokesperson Rachel McKendree, “right after Easter, the season of the Resurrection, and a different sort of ‘birth day’ for Billy Graham.”