Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, Sarah Young’s bestselling 365-day devotional first published by Thomas Nelson in 2004, reached 40 million copies sold across all formats and editions this month, according to the publisher. Young, a missionary who suffers from chronic health issues, modeled the devotional after her own prayer journal, and the book features personal reflections as well as passages from scripture. The latest sales milestone for Jesus Calling comes just three years after it reached 30 million copies sold, and it shows no signs of slowing down, according to Michael Aulisio, v-p and publisher of the Jesus Calling brand at Thomas Nelson. He attributes the staying power of Jesus Calling to one thing: content.
“I hear over and over again from regular people and celebrities alike who say, ‘It’s like it was written for me,’” Aulisio tells PW. “It speaks to various situations—the grief of losing a child, divorce, addiction, or giving thanks to God for the good days. That really appeals.”
Aulisio says the pandemic and a need for peace have likely contributed to sales of Jesus Calling in the past three years. Additionally, sales rose following the 2021 launch of Jesus Listens, Young’s follow-up to Jesus Calling. Jesus Listens, which is also a 365-day devotional, has sold “well in excess of 500,000 copies” Aulisio says, and two new editions of the book—one for children and a note-taking version—are expected this fall.
Also boosting the title’s visibility, the Jesus Calling podcast just marked 10 million downloads, and the publisher is in talks for a third Jesus Calling television series, which first launched in 2020 and airs on the Circle cable network. A free Jesus Calling magazine is available at Mardel, a Christian retail chain with 38 locations, and at all Books-A-Million locations. Finally, Thomas Nelson recently partnered with Zulily to sell Jesus Calling on its e-commerce website.
“As long as we keep adapting formats and working with new retailers, and finding new people too, we will keep seeing success,” Ausilio says.
Due to her health issues, Young does not participate in marketing and publicity for her titles, yet both Jesus Calling and Jesus Listens continuously chart on bestsellers lists—including PW’s Religion Nonfiction List. It’s up to the publisher to discover new partnerships and continue to drive growth for the Jesus Calling brand, which, for Aulisio, carries a strong sense of responsibility.
“Not every book impacts people this profoundly, but when you have something that helps people use drugs less, and when you have stories like one where a lady was going to kill herself, but the book was on the nightstand where the gun was… We’re so serious about continuing to get this message out,” Aulisio says.