Earlier this year, Zondervan gave Kingsbury what is believed to be a "seven-figure" advance on a new nine-book contract that doesn’t begin until fall 2008.

Such lucrative deals once were reserved for more mainstream authors.

With religious books the publishing industry’s hottest sector— it was the biggest gainer with an 11% rise in 2004 — major publishers are seeking to lock up top or promising authors for the long term.

Read More