The Global Bestseller First Published In the 21st Century

The Global Bestseller First Published In the 21st Century

Millions of books have already been published in the 21st Century, but few, if any, have exceeded the stunning success of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. Over 40 million copies have sold worldwide, now in multiple editions and languages. Jesus Calling has garnered widespread attention since its initial release in 2004. The book’s success can be attributed to its intimate and reassuring tone, with readers feeling as though a comforting voice is whispering to them. The devotions are short and easy to read, making them accessible to readers with a tight schedule.

Since its first publication in 2004, the book has been on several bestseller lists, including the New York Times bestseller list. Its popularity has not decreased in the 18 years after its release, and sales have continued to climb.

The story behind how the book came to be is also intriguing. Entrepreneur Byron Williamson, who founded Integrity Publishers in Nashville, Tennessee, stumbled upon informal, half-page articles that his marketing vice president’s wife’s weekly study group had been using. Intrigued by the intimate voice in the writings, Williamson asked the writer, Sarah Young, if she could provide 365 devotionals. She did just that, and Jesus Calling was born.

How Jesus Calling Came to Be

Williamson was so intrigued by the intimate and poignant voice he heard in the devotional thoughts he received that he carried them next door to his editorial director and suggested he take a look at them. The following day, the editor informed Williamson that his wife was familiar with the writer Sarah Young, who lived in Perth, Australia, and loved her writing.

Williamson was interested in obtaining more of Sarah’s writings and inquired how many more she could provide. To his surprise, Sarah responded that she had several dozen more. Williamson spent the next few days reflecting on the voice he heard through Sarah’s expressions and was reminded of a book called God Calling that he had seen on his mother’s bedside table years ago.

After researching God Calling and the author A.J. Russell, Williamson realized that there was a real difference in the voice and tone of Sarah’s writings compared to Russell’s. Russell’s voice was that of a powerful Father speaking authoritatively from heaven. At the same time, Sarah’s words were expressed in a more intimate voice. 

Williamson then had the idea to develop a year-long devotional, Jesus Calling, comprised of 365 of Sarah’s short, 150-word devotionals. He asked Sarah if she could write 365 devotionals, and she was able to do just that. The result was a devotional that his mother would have loved to read, which has since become a beloved and bestselling book.

A New York Times Bestseller

It’s not uncommon for a book to exceed sales expectations and become a bestseller, but the level of demand described is remarkable. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young resonated with a large audience and generated much word-of-mouth buzz, likely contributing to its continued success. The book’s message of finding peace and comfort in God’s presence during difficult times struck a chord with readers.

Jesus Calling was first released in the summer of 2004. No one imagined 40 million copies of Sarah’s works being sold, much less frequent appearances on New York Times bestseller lists. Quickly bookstores began to call Integrity Publishers, asking for multiple cases at a time because some customers were not buying just one copy but many copies to share with friends and family. Often single customers ordered total cases of 36 or more copies to give away. That trend cascaded into the following year. Before anyone realized it, sales had blown past 500,000 copies, and its velocity was escalating—the publisher couldn’t print fast enough.

Overall, the book sets a prime example of powerful writing and a compelling message to connect with readers and achieve widespread success.

Rights Acquired by HarperCollins

In 2007, the Integrity Publishing Group, the original publisher of Jesus Calling, was acquired by Thomas Nelson, a division of the Harper-Collins Christian Publishing Group. Following the acquisition, the management of Jesus Calling was assigned to Laura Minchew, a Thomas Nelson executive who had been part of the original Integrity team.

Under Minchew’s leadership, Jesus Calling grew in popularity, with the book becoming a household name among Christians worldwide. Minchew worked tirelessly to expand the book’s reach, exploring new markets and distribution channels and forging partnerships with other Christian organizations.

One of Minchew’s key strategies was to leverage the power of technology to bring Jesus Calling to a broader audience. The book was made available in various digital formats, including e-books, audiobooks, and mobile apps, allowing readers to access the devotions on their smartphones, tablets, and other devices.