|Helping couples become ‘relationally wiser’|
|Written by Ken Walker|
|Thursday, 07 February 2013 10:53 AM America/New_York|
Publishers of love and marriage books ‘speak life, truth and hope’ into relationships
While societal attitudes towards love and marriage may be shifting, the category remains one of the strongest in the Christian products industry. However, cultural debates don’t drive interest in this topic as much as the number of hurting people in society, said Lawrence Kimbrough, who edits Christian Living materials for B&H Publishing Group.
“In no other publishing category do we have the opportunity to counteract this much personal pain or to cultivate this much personal joy than by speaking life, truth and hope into people’s marriages,” Kimbrough said.
B&H Books released the second edition of its best-selling The Love Dare in January—now with a free online marriage evaluation, new preface and reader testimonials—and will follow May 1 with the Love Dare Day by Day devotional. Associated with the film Fireproof, The Love Dare by movie-making brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick has sold 5 million copies.
Kenneth Petersen, vice president and editor in chief of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, said the central role of marriage in relation to theology, spiritual life and the church makes the subject extremely important.
“There is always interest in new approaches and new ways of thinking about marriage,” said Petersen, whose house will release Shaunti Feldhahn’s The Seven Secrets of Happy Marriages this coming December, with new editions of her For Women Only and For Men Only releasing this month.
Continuing interest in such titles demonstrates that concern about cultivating a quality marriage has increased, perhaps due to fears about the economy and culture, said Byron Williamson, president and CEO of Worthy Publishing.
“It may be that all the craziness in culture drives Christians to be even more vigilant about marriage,” Williamson said. “My visits with younger people suggest that they have greater caution than past generations about committing to marriage because they are determined to be successful when they do walk down the aisle.”
AN ‘UNCHANGING’ MESSAGE
While many say that marriage material doesn’t represent a significant trend, Aaron Dillon, publicist at Harvest House Publishers, thinks it is still a growth area because of questions that are surfacing as a modern generation matures.
“Men and women are marrying later in life, which raises a whole host of new questions and issues to address,” Aaron Dillon said. “[Yet] there is always an audience that supports traditional marriage values and those who see how things like divorce affecting families will want resources supporting those values.”
In February, Harvest House released One Minute Devotions for Couples and an updated edition of Romancing Your Husband.
“Our love and marriage books are based on biblical truths and teachings, which are unchanging,” Dillon said.
Barry Russell of Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City agrees with the need for consistency, but also said publishers must address societal changes. On April 1, Beacon Hill plans to release a revised edition of the 2003 title 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by marriage and family therapist Karla Downing.
“It appears that more families and marriages are in trouble than ever before,” said Russell, Beacon Hill’s chief marketing officer. “Trends in a society that affect marriages or views of marriage must be dealt with openly and honestly from a Christian perspective.”
That is the purpose of Stephen Arterburn’s forthcoming title, The 7 Minute Marriage Solution, to release May 21 from Worthy Publishing. The best-selling author and host of the “New Life Live” radio program plans to use the book as the centerpiece of a campaign aiming to turn around the divorce rate among Christian couples.
The theme of addressing relational problems also runs through many recent or upcoming releases such as Altared (WaterBrook Press, September 2012), the story of a formerly awestruck couple who ultimately decided not to marry; Married But Lonely (Siloam/Charisma House Book Group, February), which features therapist David E. Clarke’s reviews of ways for wives to move their husbands towards relational intimacy; and Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Marriage (WaterBrook, October), a follow-up to her 2007 title on destructive relationships.
The reality of marital discord is also spotlighted in: Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage by Greg Smalley (Howard Books, November 2012); The Good Fight by Les and Leslie Parrott (Worthy Publishing, April 23); and He Wins, She Wins (Revell, October 2013) by Willard F. Harley Jr.
In an autobiographical work, Joni and Ken: A Love Story (Zondervan, April 2), best-selling author Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband, Ken, explore the difficulties they have faced during their three-decade-long marriage. When Ken married Joni, he didn’t realize what a challenge it would be to be married to a person who is a quadriplegic. Ken found himself battling depression, and later the two also faced the diagnosis of Joni’s breast cancer.
‘RELATIONSHIPS THAT WORK’
Retailers have a prime opportunity to capitalize on the need to build a lasting, satisfying marriage, which is at the forefront of conversation for many Americans regardless of religious affiliation, said Morgan Canclini, manager of public relations for Worthy Publishing.
“A title with this subject matter can easily cross over from CBA outlets into mainstream media,” Canclini said.
Elizabeth George, co-author of A Couple After God’s Own Heart (Harvest House, January), thinks retailers can take a lead role in encouraging their customers to devote more time to God’s intentions for marriage.
“When couples take time to read a book focused on God’s guidelines for marriage—even for just five minutes a day—they will find themselves viewing marriage differently,” George said. “Going through a book about God’s design for couples can turn a marriage around from one of frantic survival to one of fantastic success.”
B&H Publishing recommends special placement of its Love Dare titles during wedding season, as well as targeted approaches to past buyers of Fireproof and other DVDs from Sherwood Pictures.
Russell recommends that stores inform churches hosting marriage enrichment events about the material they stock on the subject. Tracy Danz, Zondervan’s vice president and publisher of trade books, said relationship-themed endcaps are useful any time of year.
“Working on a marriage never goes out of style,” Danz said.
“I believe one of the (recent) trends is less of an emphasis on ‘the perfect marriage’ and more … on ‘relationships that work,’ ” Petersen said. “Books can help couples become relationally wiser, more effective and happier together.”
Still, retailers need to be cautious with inventory because platform is key in this genre, said Jennifer Leep, editorial director for Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
“It’s hard to break [in] completely new voices because of the trust factor when it comes to the topic of marriage,” Leep said. “It’s really required to succeed at a high level.”