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ACFW REWIND: The Numbing Nature of Numbers

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This post originally published in May 2012 on ACFW’s blog. Allen Arnold was founding publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction, and now serves as a member of ACFW’s Executive Board.)

by Allen Arnold

We live in an industry with instant access to data. Numbers sorted in endless graphs, grids and pivot tables to tell if a novel, an author, a genre or the entire Christian Fiction category is rising or falling.

And the numbers change constantly. The cycle starts to feel like a dog chasing his tail.

Don’t get me wrong, numbers are necessary. They measure where we’ve been…as well as the wisdom of a deal. They serve a purpose.

But numbers can numb you if we look to them to determine what to write next – or to determine the value of your calling as a writer.

Because while numbers measure the past…they are woefully inadequate about shedding light on what tomorrow’s surprise bestseller – or next year’s hot genre – will be. Does the God who created everything really call writers to churn out Christian versions of the latest general market bestsellers?

More important, numbers are not an indicator of God’s calling on your life.

I believe God calls people to be writers – and then breathes life into their stories. If you’ve been called to write Christian Fiction, then write the stories that He gives you. Don’t chase the hot trend of the moment…and don’t obsess over your Amazon ranking or units sold. Really. Don’t.

Keep your eyes on Him…and treat your story as an offering to God. If it sells well, that’s a bonus. If it never sees the light of day, perhaps God simply wanted to share that time with you to draw you closer to Him. Write as long as He gives you new stories. For some authors – that may be a single novel. For others, it may be thirty novels. Don’t write because you need the next advance. Write because He is giving you more stories.

Anchor your identity in God. Remember He gave you the gift of story. Your identity is in Him. Not the most recent bestseller list.

Pursue holiness and wholeness by spending more time with Him and His Word than in a fictionalized world. Really.


Allen Arnold, recipient of the 2012 ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award, loves the story he is living. From the mountains of Colorado, he oversees Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart Ministries (led by John Eldredge). Before that, he spent 20 years in Christian Publishing. He’s honored to have been the founding Publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction, overseeing more than 500 novels during his eight years as Publisher. But that doesn’t really describe the man. Allen loves hanging out with his family, craves the beach, is more in awe of Jesus each day, drinks salsa from a glass, is hooked on the TV series “Once Upon a Time”, savors deep conversations of the heart, and is passionate about helping others, especially storytellers, discover the story God is writing with their lives.

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