Late this summer, Zondervan Corp., an evangelical Christian publisher, will release the memoirs of John Z. DeLorean, offering his view of his drug trial and emotional ordeal that was played out on national television before millions of viewers.
In his introduction, DeLorean writes that the book will describe his "reluctant journey from the pursuit of personal power and glory to the deepest meaning of life." That journey took automotive executive DeLorean from a pioneering attempt to found his own sports car company to a five-month trial last year on charges of drug trafficking and his ultimate acquittal.
The worldly DeLorean and spiritual Zondervan might seem an odd couple at first. But DeLorean's book chronicles what he says was his spiritual awakening. And for its part, Zondervan has become a leader in a movement by the billion-dollar evangelical publishing industry far beyond its traditional religious boundaries.
For Zondervan, which owns Zondervan Family Bookstores, the nation's fourth-largest chain, the DeLorean volume comes on the heels of another publishing coup -- "Breaking Points," a book by the parents of John Hinckley about their son's attempted assassination of President Reagan.
And, about two years ago, Zondervan acquired Fleming H. Revell Co., a leading publisher of titles that are dubbed "crossovers" to indicate that they have a large appeal to secular and religious markets.
"I think there's a hunger for inspiration and good news to be received by the secular market," explained Robert Manley, president of the Zondervan publishing group. "The market is wider than we thought before. We have a dual responsibility to our stockholders and to spread the word of God as far as possible."
Gary Sledge, the editor-in-chief at Revell, goes further. "Almost any theme that emerges with a secular publisher will have a Christian counterpart," he said. "Religious publishing is concerned with very contemporary themes. Self help and advice have replaced the devotional and meditational tone. . . . There's been a shift from preachers to psychologists."
The latest wave of crossover books are chock-full of advice on such seemingly mundane matters as how to lose weight, how to stay fit, pop music stars, personal finances, how to make your marriage work, how to be a happy single and lots more titles in areas that until very recently were considered off limits.
Another facet to the crossover current is that growing numbers of books by authors such as TV evangelists Robert Schuller and Pat Robertson, motivation consultant Zig Ziglar and Charles Colson are finding their way into large book chains such as B. Dalton and Waldenbooks in shopping malls across America.
Further, they are cracking some of the country's most select best-seller lists. Not surprisingly, many of the top authors also are pivotal figures in the world of evangelical television, and some are leaders of the Christian right.
Some outsiders, however, are skeptical about evangelical publishing. Said Cyd Rosenberg, director of membership for the American Booksellers Association: "It doesn't surprise me that they capitalize on the celebrity market where they can talk about rebirth. . . . Religion is big business in the United States."
Martin Marty, professor of history of modern Christianity at the University of Chicago, believes that the shift in evangelical publishing is due primarily to a change in the evangelical outlook.
Unlike earlier days, when they were very much against "success, charm, things of the body and things of the world," evangelical publishers are now quite worldly, Marty said. Crossover books reflect "a complete transvaluation of values and adaptation to the world."
As Marty sees it, the shift in evangelical publishing in a sense parallels the worldly successes of many evangelicals over the past 30 years or so, an increasing number of whom have moved to the suburbs.
"It's an ideological legitimation of their new life style and situation in the world . . . if you tithe, if you live well, if you work on your body, God will bless you. This is the popular religious expression of evangelicalism," although there is more to evangelicalism than this, he said.
Marty said that "the weight-loss books are the same as Jane Fonda's, and the success of Zig Ziglar is like that of Michael Korda. There is only a kind of Christian gloss to them. What you have here is a kind of paraculture. Everything the world has, they have an equivalent of.
Recent figures indeed indicate that religious publishing is growing. Several Wall Street stock analysts estimate its growth rate at 10 to 12 percent a year. Other healthy indicators include the following:
* Zondervan sales have roughly doubled in the last five years, from $54 million in 1980 to $115 million in 1984.
* The Christian Booksellers Association, with about 3,300 member bookstores, says that the average sales of its members have shot up from $123,000 in 1978 to $213,000 in 1983.
* And a growing number of large paperback publishers, including Ballantine/Epiphany and Bantam Books, are increasing their religious and inspirational output in response to the new market potential.
The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, an industry trade group, recently released a survey showing that 37 million people bought Christian books last year, but only 48 percent were purchased in religious bookstores. Further, some 42 percent of the buyers say that they're not born-again Christians.
These numbers testify to the growing market for evangelical books, and religious publishers are not shy about courting a bigger audience.
"Part of my mandate is to break out of the provincial mode of creating religious products that speak only to religious issues," said Robert Wolgemuth, president of Nelson Communications, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers. "The watchword is to infiltrate Christian books into the general market."
These comments are echoed by Jarrell McCracken, president of Word Inc., a division of American Broadcasting Co., who said "sometimes there's a false barrier between the sacred and the secular. . . . Sound Christian principles sit well with sound psychology."
Almost all of the big religious houses are connecting with the apparent revival of family values in the country and the longstanding American penchant for self-help and popular psychology.
"The family is being emphasized because so many are breaking up," said Bill Anderson, an executive of the Christian Booksellers Association. "Dual-career families have raised more issues and increased interest. There's a back-to-basics approach in family books today." Anderson and others cite Dr. James Dobson, the host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Focus on the Family," as being the central figure in this movement.
Two of Dobson's works published by Word Inc., "Dare to Discipline" and "Love Must be Tough," have hit some national best-seller lists and, according to Word's McCracken, have struck resonant chords with other publishers. "The family unit is the key to society," said McCracken. "Teen-age rebellions lead to serious social disorders."
Word Inc. has pioneered in making cassettes and films of some of their leading titles, and Dobson has been marketed skillfully with a seven-part film series based on his "Focus on the Family." At its peak, Word rented this series to about 1,500 churches a month and still shows it at roughly 500 a month.
The range of family concerns now being addressed by evangelical publishers is indicated by a few other popular titles, including "Reconciliable Differences" by Jim Talley (Nelson), "The Teen I Want to Be" by Mary Ann Green (Nelson), "Rekindled" by Pat and Jill Williams (Revell) and the forthcoming "The Electric Woman" by Marabel Morgan (Word), described as an inspirational work suggesting that "most problems can be solved by individual initiative."
Another related shift in evangelical publishing has been the proliferation of self-help books. "Self-help has been the biggest change in the last 10 years," according to Gary Sledge of Revell, which has been in the forefront of this field.
Among the titles Revell publishes are "Secrets of Closing the Sale" by Zig Ziglar, "The Double Win" by Dennis Waitley and "Be an Extraordinary Person in an Ordinary World" by Robert Schuller. Schuller, Waitley and Ziglar are the lions of the self-help genre, offering advice on a wide array of financial and personal matters consisting of large doses of positive thinking as the key ingredient in success. Their writings are in the tradition of Norman Vincent Peale, whose most recent book, "Have a Great Day," also was published by Revell.
Notwithstanding all this wordly success, Bantam's religious editor, Grace Bechtold, laments that "authors who have sold millions of copies are still not known to people in the New York publishing business." But, Bechtold said, "These books don't die out like others do," giving them an edge over their secular competition.
Still another facet of the crossover phenomenon has been the diversification and acquisition campaigns of leading evangelical publishers in the last few years. In addition to buying Revell, Zondervan also purchased Benson Co. Inc., a Christian music outfit, and a European publisher, Marshall Pickering Holdings Ltd., which is based in the United Kingdom. He also publishes "Today's Christian Woman," a national magazine with a circulation of about 180,000.
Zondervan has had some financial reverses recently, however. In 1984, the company reported a net loss of $3.5 million. Wall Street analysts say that recent management changes should correct last year's difficulties.
Similarly, Thomas Nelson has branched out with its recent acquisition of the New York publisher Dodd Mead and the Morning Star greeting card company. Nelson, however, remains the largest Bible producer in the country, and Bible sales still account for 35 percent of its $65 million in yearly sales.
Word also is moving into new territory. Long a leader in religious music -- records, in fact, were its first product and remain its leading sales item -- Word is now a major force in Christian rock, with its own stable of stars, including the popular Amy Grant. This fall, Word's electronic publishing division will debut "Lifeware," a new line of computer products, including a game based on C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia.