"Blest be the tie that binds" begins an old hymn that praises the virtues of faith-based relationships. Religion publishers and retailers can also sing the praises of relationships in a down-turned economy. Books on the topic continue to form the core of many publishing programs and provide bread-and-butter sales for bookstores. Many religion-oriented books on relationships have enviable staying power, remaining on backlists for decades and producing numerous offspring.

The ties that bind us together are as varied as the coffee drink combinations at Starbucks. Relationship topics run the gamut—-dating, sex, marriage, remarriage, friendships, parenting, grandparenting, step-parenting, singleness, divorce. Books that speak to a person's deepest relationship needs are always in demand, says John Constance, v-p of sales at Harvest House, perhaps even more so today. "Books that promise and deliver help are successful in a tight economy because they meet needs that might be more strongly felt in financial hardship," Constance says. In May, Harvest House had the top marriage title on the CBA/Evangelical Christian Publishers Association's bestseller list, The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian (1998)—with sales to date of just under 2.5 million—and the top parenting title, Omartian's Power of a Praying Parent (1995), which has sold more than one million copies.

At Multnomah Publishers, senior v-p Kevin Marks notes that bestselling titles such as Boy Meets Girl (2000) by Joshua Harris (ranked first on CBA/ ECPA's May "Relationships" bestseller list with 337,000 sold) and James Dobson's Love for a Lifetime (1987, 1.6 million sold) "have shown resilience and stability despite an overall soft economy and lower in-store traffic counts." At Mardel, a 19-store Christian retail chain, book buyer Craig Stoll notes that "any Christian who is growing in his or her faith has a strong desire to know what the Bible teaches about all of life, not just the 'spiritual' issues. That hunger definitely extends to relationships, especially marriage and parenting." And with war news and financial woes in the headlines, "people are more focused on their relationships with one another, and turn to their faith traditions for guidance," says Stuart Matlins, publisher and editor-in-chief at Jewish Lights, which has God in Our Relationships: Spirituality Between People from the Teachings of Martin Buber by Rabbi Dennis S. Ross (Jewish Lights, Mar. 2003) and Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening: A Guide to Enrich Your Relationships and Kindle Your Spiritual Life—The Listening Center Workshop by Kay Lindahl (SkyLight Paths, Aug.).

Family First

In a post—September 11 world, many moms and dads seem to be turning their primary attention toward nurturing their families. Among the books that have caught consumers' attention is James Dobson's Bringing Up Boys (Tyndale House, 2001), which has sold more than 972,000 copies, according to publicity director Mavis Sanders, and is "a steady backlist title" with several thousand copies sold each month. Tyndale hopes to piggyback on its success with an 85,000 first printing of Dobson's gifty photo book The Wonderful World of Boys (Apr.), with a second printing of 30,000 on order by mid-May.

What would Jesus do—as a parent? Baker Book House attempts to answer the question with How Would Jesus Raise a Child? by Teresa Whitehurst (Mar.). According to John Sawyer, marketing director for Baker, the author is involved in an organization that helps children in Iraq and is an expert on the effects of war on children. "This has opened up some exciting media opportunities," Sawyer says, noting that Whitehurst is slated for an interview in Parents magazine.

For Latter-day Saints (Mormon) publisher Deseret Book, relationships—especially in families—are vital to its target audience. "A key belief of most of our readers is that the family is the central unit of society now and throughout eternity," notes Emily Watts, assistant director of publishing. "Anything that can help strengthen the family usually finds a welcome reception." With this in mind, Deseret offers 250 Ways to Connect with Your Family (May).

"Train up a child in the way he should go..." begins the oft-quoted Proverb, and a trio of April releases offer help, with titles such as FAITHfully Parenting Preschoolers by John R. Bucka (Concordia) and Raising a Mensch by Shelley Kapnek Rosenberg. Sales for the latter "have been brisk," according to Helene Bludman, marketing manager for the Jewish Publication Society, who notes that the book suggests ways to use Jewish values to teach children moral virtues. From the Unitarian Universalist tradition comes The Gift of Faith: Tending to the Spiritual Lives of Children by Jeanne Harrison Nieuwejaar (Skinner House).

Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City is promoting its 7 Emotional Skills Every Child Needs (June) with print and radio publicity and a signing at July's CBA International convention by authors Rachel Hoyer and Pam Galbraith. Northstone Publishing's The Gift of a Child by Jamie and Katrina Holtom (Mar.) offers short readings about everything from fears to bath time.

In many families, mothers still shoulder the bulk of parenting. The Mom You're Meant to Be by Cheri Fuller (Focus on the Family/Tyndale House, Apr.) encourages moms to relax and rely on God for the wisdom they need to embrace their children's individuality. Tired moms will find support in Sandra Aldrich's Honey Hang in There! (Baker, Apr.). "We sold many right before Mother's Day," notes Baker publicist Karen Van Valkenburg. Mothers who like a dose of laughter to leaven the serious business of parenting should enjoy Cook Communications Ministries'Amusing Grace (Mar.) by Rhonda Rhea, touted as a "hilarious prescription for coping." Another book aimed at the humorous side of motherhood for the LDS market is Deseret's Take Two Chocolates and Call Me in the Morning: 12 Semi-Practical Solutions for the Woman on Overload (Apr.) by Emily Watts, a mother of five. Kregel Publications plans a national publicity campaign for To Love, Honor, and Vacuum: When You Feel More Like a Maid Than a Wife and Mother by Sheila Wray Gregoire (June).

Other new books recognize that fathers need encouragement too. Survival Guide for New Dads by Nick Harrison and Steve Miller (Harvest House, Mar.) is full of practical advice. Publicist Brynn Sarazin expects sales to exceed 10,000 copies the first year, with long-term backlist sales coming "as this title penetrates into specialized markets." Dads of older daughters can turn to LoveDecisions by Donald Harvey (W Publishing, June), in which a marriage therapist offers love and advice to his daughter about dating and developing healthy, lasting relationships. In Regal's Fathers and Daughters (May), Ed Silvoso and his daughters reflect on that special bond. Paul Pettit's Dynamic Dads (Tyndale House, May) offers practical ideas and strategies for fathers to support their kids. And, in Thomas More's From the Heart of a Father by William Johnson (Mar.), a dad shows how he wants his children to remember him through letters and stories.

With war still fresh in readers' minds, it might be the time to introduce values about nonviolence. A new and completely revised edition of Herald Press's How to Teach Peace to Children by Anne Meyer Byler (Apr.) offers options for making peace in the family, neighborhood and world. Marketing manager Patty Weaver plans to advertise the book in magazines such as Quaker Life, Sojourners, Christian Retailing and CBA Marketplace. Parenting may be serious business, but publishers haven't forgotten the role of fun. Tyndale's The Power of Parent-Child Play by child development and occupational therapy expert Laurie Winslow Sargent (Apr.) focuses on creative play that yields closer relationships with kids. And Alpha's The Christian Family Guide to Family Activities by Marilee LeBon, Amy Wall and Janet Lee (July) focuses on crafts, games, travel ideas and establishing family traditions.

The benefits of parenting go both ways. In Parenting, A Sacred Task (June), Hohm Press author Karuna Fedorschak argues that parents can use the process for their own spiritual development. "This book is positioned to be marketed mostly to women who have some familiarity with spiritual principles, say Buddhism or Christianity, and may or may not actually practice a particular faith," says Thomas Shelby, publicity director. In the Christian-based How Children Raise Parents (WaterBrook, June) Dan B. Allender, believes that parents can learn from their kids through developing listening skills, rather than following lists of parenting do's and don'ts.

Perhaps no other age group puts the gray in parents' hair like teenagers do, and publishers offer many tomes of advice and support. Catholic publisher Saint Mary's Press has two new books geared toward those who love teens: Finding the Calm: Biblical Meditations to Nourish Those Who Nurture Teens by David Haas (Mar.) uses scripture and prayer to help those who parent, teach or pastor teens to stay energized. The Power of Discernment: Helping Your Teen Hear God's Voice Within (May) by Maggie Pike promises to help adults and the teens they mentor deal with issues such as peer pressure, sexuality and friends. In Prayer Changes Teens (WaterBrook, Aug.) author Janet Holm McHenry asserts that prayer is the best tool for parenting teens.

In Sacred Gifts (Saint Mary's, Mar.) Tina Brennan writes about 10 "gifts" she received from parenting teenagers, including ideas about listening, forgiveness and loneliness. Celia Straus, author of Prayers on My Pillow, is promoting her new book with Ballantine, The Mother-Daughter Circle: Making Lifelong Connections with Your Teenager (Apr.) with a six-city tour supported by a 15,000 first printing and e-mail blast to her mailing list. Michael Koehler, grandson of Jim Thorpe, looks at a successful coaching strategy—using the "Seven C's of Character"—as a teen-parenting model in Coaching Character at Home (Sorin Books, distributed by Ave Maria Press, Mar.).

Parenting under the best circumstances can be difficult, but stepparenting adds another set of challenges. According to the Stepfamily Association of America, the most current estimates available (1988-1990) suggest that about 65 percent of remarriages involve children from the prior marriage, and one out of three Americans is a member of a stepfamily. To meet the needs of stepparents, Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City plans a fall print and radio publicity campaign for In Step with Your Stepchildren by Karen O'Conner (June). Kregel's April release, Daily Reflections for Stepparents: Living and Loving in a New Family by Margaret Broersma is being promoted by marketing manager Janyre Tromp through SpiritLed Woman, Marriage Partnership, and Christian Parenting magazines. And, in addition to including lots of general encouragement and advice for grandparents, NavPress publicist Kathleen Campbell notes that Off My Rocker by Gracie Malone (Aug.) includes tips for being a good step-grandparent. Campbell says the book has enjoyed high pre-sales in both the general and CBA markets.

Tying the Knot

Offering advice on how to navigate the often stormy waters of marriage keeps many authors and publishers busy. Each year there are 2.3 million marriages in the U.S., and according to Michael Lawler, director of Creighton's Center for Marriage and Family, half of all divorces occur within the first five years. What's a couple to do to stay the course?

Apparently, many head to the bookstore for help. At number two on CBA/ECPA's May "Marriage" bestseller list is Moody/ Northfield's The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (1992) which has sold almost 1,900,000 in just over a decade. And at Harper San Francisco, a second printing is already on order for The Committed Marriage by Esther Jungreis (May), which sold through its 20,000 first printing the first month. Jungreis promoted her book on a 21-city author tour in late April and early June, and HSF plans advertising in the New York Times, as well as in Hadassah and Heeb: The New Jew Review magazines and cross promotions with Jewish dating Web sites.

With the plethora of relationship books available, Baker's marketing director John Sawyer says it's important for publishers to find a niche. "In our case, the niche is Christian couples," says Sawyer. Revell, a division of Baker Book House, found success with Willard F. Harley's His Needs, Her Needs (1986), which to date has more than one million copies in print. Harley's original book has spawned numerous spinoffs, including a 30,000 first printing of His Needs, Her Needs for Parents (Sept.) which guides both new and seasoned parents through the why's and how's of sustaining romance in a marriage.

In August, Multnomah will release The Best Thing I Ever Did for My Marriage: 50 Real Life Stories by Gold Medallion finalists Nancy Cobb and Connie Grigsby. Joined Together by Ruth and Elmer Towns (Thomas Nelson, May) includes interactive exercises for couples, and Treasure of Marriage (Cook Communications Ministries, June) by Debby Cherry offers timeless principles for building a strong foundation. Rabbi Michael Shevack offers biblical perspectives for couples from all faiths and denominations about communication, sex and extramarital affairs in Paulist Press's Adam and Eve: Marriage Secrets from the Garden of Eden (Mar.).

Harvest House has two July releases for couples: What Husbands and Wives Aren't Telling Each Other by Steve and Annie Chapman looks at how communication can transform a marriage, and Why Men and Women Act the Way They Do by Bill and Pam Farrell examines the psychological differences between the sexes and how to use them positively.

Christian relationship expert Gary Smalley and his sons Greg and Michael penned Men's Relational Toolbox (Apr., 25,000 first printing) to help men build and repair relationships with the ones they love, including their wives. According to publicist Jill Swanson, Tyndale is promoting the book through a $60,000 campaign that includes a contest for retailers (with a toolbox prize) and a point of purchase kit for in-store promotion.

Regal hopes that the success of Dennis and Barbara Rainey's 1995 Moments Together for Couples, which sold more than 400,000 copies, augurs well for their gifty 30-day devotional Moments Together for Intimacy, (Apr., 20,000 first printing), which explores sexual, spiritual and emotional intimacy.

Moody will support The Ten Commandments of Marriage: The Do's and Don'ts for a Lifelong Covenant by Ed Young (May) with a $25,000 ad campaign, including mailings/e-mailings to more than 900 radio, print, TV, and the Internet media outlets and a direct e-mailing to pastors. The Laws of Jewish Married Life: A Lifetime Companion for Couples by physician and women's halachic adviser Deena Zimmerman (Jason Aronson, May) is a sourcebook for couples. Matchmaker by Divine Appointment (Dawn Treader Publications, July) details the stories of four couples who found lasting relationships; author Marsha Barth will promote the book through seminars, workshops and signings.

A unique flip-book format makes The Most Important Year in a Man's Life; The Most Important Year in a Woman's Life by Robert Wolgemuth and Mark DeVries, Bobbie Wolgemuth and Susan DeVries (May) unusual in marriage books—one half is for women, one half is for men. According to publicist Megan Rowden, Zondervan is supporting sales with an in-store merchandiser offering free gift wrap with every purchase.

Women are the primary buyers of religion titles, so it's no surprise that many marriage books are targeted toward wives. After selling more than 100,000 copies of Karol Ladd's The Power of a Positive Mom (2001) executive v-p Gary Myers says Howard Publishing will put $50,000 in print and radio advertising behind Ladd's The Power of a Positive Wife (Aug.) which promises to help women rediscover the joy in their marriage through seven principles. Love Your Husband by Gloria E. Baird and Kay S. McKean (Discipleship Publications International, Apr.) includes application questions and journal pages. Focus on the Family/ Tyndale House's Blessing Your Husband by Debra Evans (June) has advice for Christians on strengthening a marriage (16,000 first printing). And what's a wife to do when hubby retires or decides to work at home? Focus on the Family/Tyndale House's Honey, I'm Home for Good by Mary Ann Cook (June) offers wives advice on how to keep the relationship strong (15,000 first printing).

Sex, Money and Baggage

When you think about sex books, the religion market may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But titles advising married couples about physical intimacy often have strong sales. A perennial bestseller for the LDS market is Between Husband and Wife by Douglas Brinley and Stephen Lamb (Covenant Communications, 2000). After an initial printing of 6,000 copies, v-p of marketing Robby Nichols says the book has sold 114,000 copies and continues to sell at a rate of about 12,000 copies per year.

The Christian Family Guide to Married Love by husband-and-wife team Sybil and Stephen Clark (Alpha, Aug.) offers advice on how to work through sexual problems through better communication and adjusting expectations. God on Sex: The Creator's Ideas about Love, Intimacy, and Marriage by Daniel Akin (Broadman & Holman, June) explores misconceptions about sex.

Baker's Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships: God's Prescription for Enhancing Your Love Life by Chip Ingram (July, 20,000 first printing) is geared toward singles as well as married couples. Sawyer notes that the book examines why relationships fail, and also shows how a person's approach to sex is critical for building an enduring love life. Also from Baker is Birth Control for Christians: Making Wise Choices by Jenell Williams Paris (June), which guides couple through ethical, medical and relational questions about birth control options.

If couples aren't fighting about sex, they are likely arguing over money, and a forthcoming book from financial whiz Mary Hunt, Debt-Proof Your Marriage (Revell, Sept.), offers help to protect a couple's marriage and cash. Hunt, who at one time was $100,000 in debt (she's since paid it off) will tour for two weeks in September, and Revell plans to give away a six-month on-line subscription ($12 value) to Hunt's Cheapskate Monthly newsletter with every book purchase, according to Revell marketing manager Twila Bennett.

The role of family history in shaping marriage is explored in Unclaimed Baggage by Don and Jan Frank (NavPress, June). "There is a great need for a book that speaks candidly about how to deal with the less-than-perfect past lives couples bring into a new marriage or relationship," notes publicist Kathleen Campbell. Couples who marry late will appreciate authors Kay Marshall Strom and Dan Klines' two new releases: The Savvy Couple's Guide to Marrying After 35 (InterVarsity Press, Apr.), which explores some of the unique challenges of older adults tying the knot, and their devotional with Servant Publications Hand in Hand (June) for couples over 40.

For those taking a second trip down the aisle there is Making a New Vow: Entering Remarriage with Joy and Wisdom by Joseph Warren Kniskern (Broadman & Holman, Mar.), which offers help with guilt, finances, dealing with ex-spouses and children. Authors Dale and Jena Forehand, who divorced, fought a bitter custody battle, then later remarried, have penned Stained Glass Marriage: Hope for Shattered Homes (New Hope, Apr.); they were featured on The 700 Club.

Savvy Singles

Faith groups have long been chided for neglecting singles, and publishing houses seem anxious to take up the slack with a spate of new titles dealing with everything from sex to break-ups. Singles books are "a strong and growing" subcategory for the Mardel chain, Craig Stoll notes. He attributes that to later marriages, the prevalence of divorce, and some high-profile books such as I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris (870,000 sold for Multnomah since 1997) that lift the category.

George Barna's Single Focus (May, 15,000 first printing) from Regal helps identify the needs of singles and offers Christians effective ideas for ministry to this demographic. Publicity manager Marlene Baer says Regal plans to promote the book to pastors through a quarterly catalogue sent to 100,000 church contacts.

Bookstore browsers will find plenty of new and forthcoming books on the single life. A May release, Women, Celibacy, and the Church: A Look at the Single Life by Annemarie S. Kidder (Crossroad) affirms those who choose to stay single and takes a historical look at celibacy. Popular author T.D. Jakes's endorsement should help speed sales for Thomas More's Love Hangover: Tips for Christian Singles—Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends by Shewanda Riley with Germaine Hawkins (Mar.). Regal's Before You Live Together by David Gudgel (Aug.) will be promoted through 60-second radio spots on more than 900 radio stations nationwide. Teens considering dating will find a book geared specifically to them in Saving My First Kiss by Lisa Velthouse from Servant Publications (Sept.). Revell's Dateable—Are You? Are They? by Hayley Morgan and Justin Lookadoo (Aug.) is described by Bennett as a teen equivalent to Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (1993). "We know students are going to date," Bennett says. "We want them to be smart about how they do it."

As long as customers care about their spouses, kids, friends and assorted significant others, religion publishers will keep bookstore shelves well stocked with titles. No matter what the state of the economy, religion readers are sure to see their investments in relationships as the one "commodity" that never loses its value.