Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson’s 2004 devotional by missionary Sarah Young, surpassed 30 million copies sold across all editions and formats this month. Based on Young’s personal prayer journals, Jesus Calling features devotions related to pain, disappointment, joy, and redemption that are written as if Jesus is speaking.
“The staying power of Jesus Calling is truly a result of the very personal way it speaks to people and touches them right where they are,” says Laura Minchew, senior v-p and publisher of Tommy Nelson Children’s Books, Gift Books, and new media. “Whether they are going through a struggle or a celebration, it imparts words of peace and comfort.”
The highly popular 365-day devotional sold over 13 million copies over the past three years alone, due in large part to the 2016 launch of the Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith podcast and an original, web-based devotional video series of the same name. Featuring such speakers as Melinda Gates, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Reba McEntire, and Dolly Parton, the podcast has more than three million downloads and has landed at #1 on iTunes in the religion and spirituality category, while the Jesus Calling video series has racked up over eight million views, according to the publisher.
“Sharing the core message of the book with others in nontraditional ways, we’ve been able to feature great uplifting messages from individuals of all walks of life, which keeps the brand new, fresh, and relevant,” Minchew says.
Also contributing to its sales milestone, according to Minchew, is the “giftability” of Jesus Calling. “We speak to countless readers who tell us they stock their car trunks full of copies so they can give them to individuals they encounter who might need an uplifting message,” she tells PW. “This community around the book has been key.”
Additionally, Jesus Calling is available in editions for audiences that range from toddlers to adults; options such as floral cloth covers and neutral leathersoft editions also increase its appeal. “Our ability to offer different retail accounts different covers and formats that speak directly to their customers helps to keep the brand growing,” Minchew says.
Thomas Nelson will continue to expand the brand by publishing Jesus Calling for Easter (Jan.), which will feature a compilation of 50 devotions from Jesus Calling that focus on Lent and Easter seasons. Also releasing in January, Jesus Calling: The Story of Easter is a children’s book that explores the meaning of Easter through biblical stories, simple Bible verses, and short Jesus Calling devotions. It will be available in both a picture book (ages 4–8) and board book (ages 2–6) format, according to the publisher.
And in June 2020, a new version of Jesus Calling will combine Young’s original content with stories of struggle and hope from readers in Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions with Real-Life Stories. —E.W.