Sandra Vander Zicht, associate publisher and executive editor for Zondervan nonfiction, has announced she will retire in July. During her 33 years at Zondervan, she helped launch and nurture the careers of a multitude of best-selling authors and experienced significant changes in the publishing industry.
“My role has always been to help authors say what they want to say in the best way possible,” said Vander Zicht, who specializes in nonfiction Christian living titles.
She was instrumental in launching the publishing careers of Henry Cloud and John Townsend with Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life (over 4 million sold) and subsequent titles (www.boundariesbooks.com), and Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (www.onethousandgifts.com) and The Way of Abundance: A 60-Day Journey into a Deeply Meaningful Life, releasing this week.
Vander Zicht was also deeply involved in the release of the bestselling Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda; Christine Caine (Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny and others), Les and Leslie Parrot (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before—and After—You Marry and others), and Anne Graham Lotz (The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations and others).
Vander Zicht started her career at what is now Christian Schools International and The Banner, a publication of the Christian Reformed Church. She moved to Zondervan in 1985 to work in the Bible department. Her first-ever project in there was Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford’s The Student Bible, which is still in print.
Vander Zicht recalls when Cloud and Townsend submitted their manuscript for Boundaries after asking how many pages it should be. She said around 400 pages, knowing that number translated to a book of about 320 pages. The pair indeed submitted around 400 pages—single-spaced. Vander Zicht’s 400 pages were meant to be double-spaced, as per the contract.
"We had to cut about one-third to one half of the manuscript, and the final book was still 356 pages,” she said. “I still have a hard copy of the single-spaced manuscript with the edits.”
She also remembers the acceptance process of what came to be titled Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lysa TerKeurst. TerKeurst’s working title was When a Cheez-It and Chocolate Girl Gets Healthy. The executives she needed to sign off on it thought it was just another diet book although it had it tested well on Lysa’s blog. “ Lisa was discouraged, but I persuaded her that this was her next book and the rest is history,” she said. That "history" included rising to the New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists in 2011.
Vander Zicht observed vast changes in the Christian publishing industry in her career. Among those she listed: the advent of digital editing and book production; the e-book revolution in format and sales; and the move to online retailers with its significant impact on brick and mortar Christian retailers.
The acquisitions process has also shifted. In the past, writers might submit their own proposals but now, they will only consider books submitted through an agent. An author’s platform matters as well. Before acquiring a book, Vander Zicht and her team consider a prospective author’s social media numbers, podcasts, blogs, speaking engagements, and other avenues for promoting his or her own book.
“We call it ‘content, craft and crowd,’” she said. “It used to be that the author handed in the manuscript, and after edits and rewrites his or her job was done. Marketing did all the work then. But now the author works very hard on promotion even before the book is published.”
Still, she told PW, “The hunger for great books and great writing stays the same. Everyone still needs an editor, both big-picture and micro-editing, and great packaging for their book.”