When I Pray for You, a new picture book from Random House’s WaterBrook imprint, recently debuted among the top five on PW’s bestsellers list after a trailer for the book went viral. Written by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated by Kimberley Barnes, When I Pray for You depicts the hopes and wishes parents have for their children, and a promotional video posted on February 7 features an excerpt from the book read by Grammy Award-winning singer Amy Grant.
“I prayed you felt safe, Full of joy and content, When I whispered ‘I love you,’ You knew what I meant,” Grant reads. “I pray you grow strong, have passion and fight, And stand up for what’s good with all of your might.”
As of press time, the total number of views for the trailer are more than a million, in addition to over 2.2K likes and 2.6K shares on Facebook. Following its publication on February 19, When I Pray For You sold more than 10,000 copies, according to NPD Bookscan, and it landed on PW’s bestselling children’s picture book list—a rare feat for a religion children’s book outside of holiday seasons.
Shannon Marchese, executive editor at WaterBrook who worked on the book, credited the success to Turner’s unique engagement with the industry. “Matthew has a great network of friends and supporters that span all the writing he has done over the last couple of decades," she said, "and a real partnership with his wife [author Jessica Turner], who is brilliant at promotion.”
Turner is the author of over 20 books for adults as well as two previous children’s books: When God Made Light (2018) and When God Made You (2017). Writing for children, he said, was inspired by his experiences as a parent, and while When I Pray for You is based on his Christian faith, Turner's use of the word God is “open-ended,” a part of a message that can be read by people of all faith backgrounds.
“I started brainstorming for it right at a time when I felt the need to think about my kids, about the future, the politics of today, and how prayer would play into that,” he told PW. “The one thing about prayer: it’s a beautiful act that most of us do on some level. Even those who don’t necessarily believe [in God] have hopes and speak positive words over their kids.”
Already in its third printing, When I Pray For You has more than 100,000 copies in print. Pre-sale incentives featured a buy one, get one free offer that included a copy of When God Made Light, and Christian authors such as Jen Hatmaker and Jaci Velasquez promoted the book on their social media channels. Additional marketing included a sponsored post on AnnVoskamp.com, according to the publisher.