Tough economic times encourage readers to get answers on money matters
With unemployment still high five years after the onset of recession, the U.S. Congress struggling to resolve the nation’s continuing deficits and worldwide financial instability, books on finance are of more interest than ever.
“Getting solid resources to struggling families is a seriously important ministry,” said Joel Miller, vice president of editorial and acquisitions for nonfiction at Thomas Nelson, now part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, which this September will release the 10th anniversary edition of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover.
Regal Books Publishing Director Stan Jantz said there is no question that recent challenges have led to increased interest in what the Bible says about money, and it goes beyond authors like Ramsey who dispense financial advice.
“Christians want to know two things,” Jantz said. “First, what does it mean to be the recipient of God’s provision in a time of economic uncertainty? Second, they want to know what generosity looks like in this current economic environment.”
Donielle Alicea, audience development manager at Moody Publishers, believes that debt, high-interest mortgages and failing marriages due to financial pressures have taken such a huge toll that people are clamoring for answers to age-old questions.
Last month, Moody released Living in Financial Victory, the first in Pastor Tony Evans’ “Kingdom Agenda” series of eight small books (64 to 112 pages) that address money matters. A standard-size trade title will follow this August, along with a 10-week companion curriculum from LifeWay Christian Resources.
“We trust this resource will be used by churches and ministries across the country,” Alicea said.
PRACTICING GOOD STEWARDSHIP
Some publishing executives see a spiritual crisis behind the economic one. Christian Ophus of Harrison House Publishers—whose money-oriented titles released in the past year include Think Like a Billionaire, Become a Billionaire by Scot Anderson—said the uptick in this category comes from people turning to God in desperation.
“Returning to the Bible for godly advice on financial matters is sometimes our last resort,” said Ophus, the publisher’s director of marketing. “It is interesting that Jesus taught more on the subject of finances than any other single topic.”
Believing that good stewardship requires a balanced approach, Jon Farrar, senior acquisitions editor for nonfiction at Tyndale House Publishers, said his company’s most successful authors focus more on life than money. For example, Today We Are Rich by business consultant Tim Sanders (softcover, November 2012) encourages readers to realize that no matter what their circumstances, they are rich in God’s blessings.
Tyndale’s 2013 releases include a March 5 title by leadership development expert Mark Sanborn, whose Fred 2.0 discusses how to create unusual service. Fred 2.0 is a sequel to 2004’s The Fred Factor (Crown Business), which sold more than 1 million copies.
“We find our best nonfiction authors in this category addressing how to manage oneself first in order to deliver extraordinary results,” Farrar said. “The money will inevitably follow the results.”
The elements of stewardship create an inevitable crossover with spiritual topics, such as Regal’s Fasting for a Miracle by Elmer L. Towns (December 2012) Among other things, it looks at how to fast in the middle of a financial crisis.
Regal’s forthcoming The Grace of Giving (March 18) by Ché Ahn, senior pastor of the unusually named HRock Church in Pasadena, Calif., points out that the Bible’s emphasis is on developing a generous heart, not on amassing personal wealth.
In Regal’s Feb. 18 release, A Time to Prosper, Chuck D. Pierce and Robert Heidler show Christians how to order their lives according to God’s seasons—which will help them walk in God’s blessings.
FINDING SUCCESS IN SERVICE
Speaking and broadcast platforms have long given certain financial authors the kind of visibility that drives sales. Examples are Howard Dayton, the former Crown Financial CEO who now leads a ministry called Compass, and Atlanta investment advisor Ron Blue.
Russ Crosson, president and CEO of Ronald Blue & Co., has written several money-oriented titles. Last month Harvest House Publishers released an updated edition of his 8 Important Money Decisions for Every Couple.
Two of the top authors in this category are published by Thomas Nelson. John C. Maxwell touches on financial topics in his 2-million-copy best-seller The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, which was revised in 2007, and Ramsey has seen his flagship title, The Total Money Makeover, reach 4 million copies sold.
“Maxwell and Ramsey are the biggest in this (genre),” Miller said. “Their success comes from service. They are showing people how to be more effective in leadership, relationships and personal finance.”
However, authors don’t have to command major organizations or present complex formulas to attract readers. Vicki Crumpton, executive editor at Baker Publishing Group, said syndicated columnist Mary Hunt has sold more than 1 million books.
“Financial experts sometimes speak a language we don’t understand, which just increases our stress,” Crumpton said. “Mary takes complex topics and explains them in everyday language.”
Hunt, whose Cheaper, Better, Faster (Revell) released in December, said: “Good stewardship walks hand in hand with frugal living. Books that are easy to follow and help readers simplify their finances and stretch their dollars to the max will always be in high demand.”
PROMOTING PERSONAL FINANCE
Publishers offer mixed opinions on whether there are enough titles to justify a separate section in Christian retail stores. Thomas Nelson’s Miller said it depends on the store and its customers.
“Personal finance should certainly be promoted on family and relationship shelves,” he said. “What sinks families faster than bad finances?”
Even a store with limited space can group books on finances and highlight them through effective signage, said Regal’s Jantz, who also suggests promoting the category via websites and social media.
“With all the attention being given to the economy by the media right now, there is an amazing opportunity to bring the principles of God’s Word into the conversation so Christians know how to be generous in all they do while living in a financially sound manner,” Jantz said.
Paul Engle, senior vice president of church, academic and reference resources at HarperCollins Christian Publishing, thinks only larger retailers can afford the “luxury” of devoting a section to finance. But he says that titles like Zondervan’s annual tax guides for ministers and nonprofits (January) should move to the front of the store during tax season.
“I think any retailer who wants to maintain good relationships with church leaders and wants them to visit their store can start by providing books like this,” Engle said.