The most successful subcategory in religion in 2004 has been "religion/self-help," led by one of the fastest-selling books of all time: Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life (Zondervan). Although it's been out for more than two years, sales remain extraordinary; in addition to 20 million copies sold of the standard hardcover, nearly 6.5 million copies of gift editions, audiobooks and Spanish versions have rung cash registers. More than 11,000 churches participated in the "40 Days of Purpose" campaign in 2004, which helped drive book sales and generate word-of-mouth interest.
Another pre-2004 title tenaciously clings to the #1 spot on PW's paperback religion bestseller list: Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages (Moody), first published in October 1992. The English-language edition has sold over 2.6 million copies, nearly 400,000 of them in 2004, and all the combined niche products and books in the Love Languages brand have sold 3.5 million units.
There's a new kid on the block in the inspirational self-help category: Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now (Warner Faith), an October 2004 release that recently claimed the #2 position on PW's hardcover religion bestseller list and already has more than 850,000 copies in print. Houston megachurch pastor Osteen packed solid two huge October events at Madison Square Garden in New York, and Warner Faith has added seven more cities to his post-Thanksgiving national tour in order to capitalize on his popularity.
In PW's online study of book consumers, conducted in May of this year, 35% of respondents said they'd purchased a "practical life guide" religious book in the past year, and 21% had bought self-help. Since nearly half of the respondents were age 34 and younger, such interest bodes well for the future success of this booming category.