FaithWords Celebrates 10 Years of Publishing

July 11, 2011

FaithWords. 10 years … 50 million books sold!

FaithWords Anniversary cake

This year is a huge milestone for our inspirational imprint, FaithWords. In September, we will celebrate our tenth year in publishing. Birthdays like this are significant, not just because they mark the passage of time, but because they mark the progress of effort. So much has happened that’s worth noting since we started.

We began this program in 2000 with a small staff of dedicated visionaries. Our first office was in the basement of an old schoolhouse in Nashville. Thank you Kathie, Preston, Paul and Leslie. We worked for a year to acquire, edit and promote our first list of books, and dreamed that we would be successful.

In the Fall of 2001 we published our inaugural catalog that featured such stellar authors as Jerry Jenkins and Patsy Clairmont. Karen Kingsbury, Tim LaHaye, Calvin Miller and Deborah Bedford were also with us from the beginning. I was in New York on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 to accompany Jerry Jenkins and Orel Hershiser who were scheduled to publicize their books for our first catalog. We had national media all lined up for a busy day of promotions. But events of that fateful day pre-empted our hopeful intentions for a big launch.

In spite of that inauspicious and unfortunate start, we eventually recovered and experienced a richness of accomplishments. Three events in particular stand out. In fact, they were major achievements of the decade in religious publishing:

• In 2002 we acquired the complete library of Joyce Meyer, the world’s best-selling female inspirational author. We have sold 20 million copies of her books in nine years.

• In 2004 we published the first book by Joel Osteen. YOUR BEST LIFE NOW sold more than 4 million copies domestically and 8 million copies in all editions.

• In 2008 we marketed and distributed THE SHACK by Wm. Paul Young. We have sold nine million copies of that remarkable novel.

During this decade, our Nashville division has shipped more than 59 million books. We have published more than 750 unique works and although they aren’t all bestsellers, we are proud of every one of them. This includes our relatively new imprint, Center Street, which features such well-known Christian authors as John Maxwell and Ted Dekker who write for the general market. The Center Street list is also noteworthy in its own right as a secular publishing imprint.

We may not know what the next decade will bring, especially with the emerging changes in technology, but we do know that our best days are ahead. We remain committed to talented authors, excellent books, and to the booksellers who have made it all possible.

This Fall we’re celebrating with the best catalog in the industry. Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, John Eldredge, David Jeremiah lead our list of incredibly talented authors. They have sold millions of books in their past, and we look forward to millions more.

Here’s to many more great birthdays!

Rolf Zettersten
Publisher, FaithWords/Center Street

FaithWords banner logo

Rolf Zettersten launched the Warner Faith imprint in September 2001 with no backlist and a few titles under contract. But there was a passionate team of dedicated professionals, and it has been built into one of the most respected inspirational publishing programs in the industry. In the first nine years under Rolf’s direction FaithWords has sold more than 50 million books.


ABCs of a Book Proposal

January 10, 2011

I am frequently asked by writers how we decide which books we will publish. While there are an unlimited number of factors in our evaluation process, we tend to ask some basic questions about all potential acquisitions. Here is a list of our considerations which I call the ABCs of book proposals.

Agent – Is this project represented by a literary agent? A good agent makes a significant difference.
Bio – What are the author’s background, qualifications, and expertise? What qualifies this author to write on this subject? This is also a consideration with fiction.
Category – Does the category suit our imprint’s mission and experience? It may be a great project, but we may not be the best publisher for it.
Delivery date – When will the manuscript be delivered?
Ebook enhancements – We publish every book in both printed and digital forms. Are there any features or applications that will enhance the eBook edition?
Format – What is the right format for this book (trade paper, hardcover, trim size, etc.) based on content and competitive titles?
Grammar – and Punctuation and Spelling matter. How clean is the proposal?
Handle – Can you describe the concept of the book in one sentence?
Inserts – Are there any other components in addition to the manuscript (i.e., photo, charts, index)?
Juxtaposition – Does the book express a contrarian position that will attract attention?
Kraft – Do the words represent an author’s craft and skill? (Sorry, couldn’t find a better K word!)
Learning – What is the take-away value of this book? Even memoirs and fiction should teach something.
Manuscript – We want to see at least a couple of sample chapters.
Niche – Some of the biggest bestsellers are written to very targeted audiences.
Outline – If we don’t have the entire manuscript, we need a summary or outline.
Platform – What is the author’s following on social media, website, etc?
Quotes – Does the author already have endorsements that can help sell the book?
Rights – What territories and subrights are being offered?
Sales history – What are the author’s prior sales and those of comparable titles?
Title – A great title and subtitle on the proposal will make a significant impact.
Uniqueness – What is fresh about this book? Does it reveal new information, research or concepts?
Vetting – Is there anything in this book that will require lawyers to vet it?
Word count – What is the page length?
Xtreme position – Does the book express an extreme position that will attract attention?
Yield – What benefits will this book offer the reader? How does it deliver?
Zip code – Are there specific cities, regions where this book should be marketed?

Rolf Zettersten
Publisher, FaithWords/Center Street

FaithWords banner logo

Rolf Zettersten launched the Warner Faith imprint in September 2001 with no backlist and a few titles under contract. But there was a passionate team of dedicated professionals, and it has been built into one of the most respected inspirational publishing programs in the industry. In the first nine years under Rolf’s direction FaithWords has sold more than 50 million books.

3 Priorities of Performance Publishing

October 26, 2010

The past week I traveled out west and met with three bestselling authors who are all looking for a new publisher. Two of them are “franchise” writers who have made a career of regularly topping the lists. The third is a new writer whose first book was a number one NY Times bestseller and he is destined for franchise status, as well.

My trip to the West coast also included a meeting with a prospective first-time author who has a terrific proposal. He is considered by many to be the world’s best in his profession. He’s a no-nonsense guy who doesn’t mince words and he actually asked me the most direct question of any of the authors with whom I met last week.

“Tell me why you are better than your competitors and why I should go with you?”

I don’t disparage my competitors, but I never hesitate to boast about why I believe the Hachette Book Group is the top company in the industry.

“We are the best,” I replied, “because we do three things very well. I call them The Three Priorities of Performance Publishing.” I elaborated that while this business is extremely complex, it is also amazingly simple. Because we fulfill three basic priorities, we are a great publisher. So, here are the most important fundamentals (with apologies for my clumsy alliteration):

A Respect for Prose
More than anything else, we value the author and his/her message. This was the most overwhelming impression I had when I joined this company ten years ago (it was Time Warner Book Group back then) and it’s still true today. I am surrounded by colleagues who love authors and their words. We admire the genius of telling a great story. We respect the artistry and craft of creating beautiful prose. We appreciate the value of an advice book that can change lives. We know that this business turns on talent. Content and expression are our commodities.

A Well-Managed Process
While publishing is indeed art, it’s also a business that relies on sound management and successful systems. The process of great publishing involves a hundred steps that begin when the contract is signed and continue through the book’s backlist life. Authors can trust that when they submit their manuscript to the editor, we have systems in place to give it the best opportunity for commercial viability. These steps include everything from designing covers, writing sales materials, creating targeted marketing plans, brainstorming sales and placements, strategizing publicity angles, projecting inventory, managing deadlines, executing flawless distribution, etc. We do these fundamentals well, and it makes the difference in countless ways that are often transparent and hidden. We are a well-run company and that matters. It doesn’t mean we are perfect and it doesn’t imply that every book meets our expectations. But we have a great tracking system that avoids omissions of significant steps.

A Passion that’s Personal
The first two Priorities create a platform for success, but there’s a third principle that really pushes books over the top.  It’s passion. You can have a great manuscript and your publisher can have a strong process, but passion makes all the difference.  Authors usually measure a potential publisher’s interest on the size of the advance they are offered. That’s fair because it’s tangible. But passion outweighs the up-front money. If you have an editor, a sales director and a publisher who really care about your book, then you have something worth more than the advance. It makes such a huge difference to have people within the publishing house who really care about you and your book. I have witnessed it a hundred times. People within the house put that extra effort into a project because they care. They go above and beyond because they have a personal interest in the subject, the manuscript or the author. It’s the wild card in this formula for success. I love the exchange between Liam Nielson and the bad guy in the movie Taken. When he was cornered, the criminal says, “It was just business.” And Liam responds, “Well, it’s personal to me.”  Yes, there’s nothing like personal passion to drive you to the goal line.

Prose, Process and Passion. They are the ingredients of success for both the publisher and the author.

Rolf Zettersten
Publisher, FaithWords




A Word from the Publisher

October 18, 2010

It is often said that the publishing business is more of an art than a science. This is especially true when it comes to predicting bestsellers. In spite of the author’s and publisher’s best efforts, it is often difficult to foretell which books will be propelled to the top of the national lists. There is no formula or blueprint that guarantees any book will be awarded that status. Of course, it begins with the craft and artistry of the author. If he or she delivers a great manuscript, then the publisher has the source material to apply best business practices to attain the attention the book deserves.

For the better part of a year we have been planning the release of two books that we believed were destined for success. We launched these books this Fall with aggressive marketing campaigns that included television commercials, print ads, online promotions and media interviews. Those kinds of efforts will often pop a book onto the list, but it’s word-of-mouth that sustains their position there. We got attention and placement for these titles, but we didn’t really know if the consumers would vote in large enough numbers to put them on the list.

This week FaithWords celebrates the appearance of both books in the top ten of The New York Times Bestseller list (Advice/How-To):

POWER THOUGHTS by Joyce Meyer.

POWER THOUGHTS, Joyce MeyerFor both of these remarkable authors, this week’s list represents a notable achievement. For David Jeremiah, it’s the first time he has had a #1. He has had a number of previous national bestsellers, but never a #1. For Joyce Meyer, who is also no stranger to the list, it’s the first time she has been in the top ten for four consecutive weeks. These books also appeared on the USA Today and Publishers Weekly lists.

Based on the sales reports from our national accounts and the reorders, it appears that both books will be residing on the lists for several weeks ahead.  We have reprinted them a number of times in the past few weeks as we anticipate the demand.

We are grateful that so many consumers have discovered and spread the word about these two very fine books by such talented (and artful) authors!

Rolf Zettersten
Publisher, FaithWords

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