The price of a soul

This morning as I was having coffee and conversation with Our Lord (He leaves most of the carafe to me) we were discussing the nuances and importance of success (and by that, I mean He was listening, and I was whining), and it occurred to me in a profound way that success must be measured in comparison to the price of a soul. Epiphany of epiphanies, it was a concept I'd been bombarded with for longer than just this morning! (I think I heard Him say, "finally" on a sigh of relief.)

So how was I bombarded with this concept? First, I took note of a blog conversation that occurred over the weekend on the subject of Christian fiction and whether it remains in a vacuum of sorts (as in a preaching-to-the-choir fashion) or whether writers of Christian fiction should endeavor to crossover into the mainstream and perhaps garner more secular readers (in a spread-the-Gospel fashion). The conversation was lively, professional and brought up many interesting facets from all points of view. Issues were raised regarding Christian novelists winning awards, making the NY Times Bestsellers list, etc.

This discussion came on the heels of one of our own novels winning the Christian Small Publishers Assn's Book of the Year award, of a different book being critically praised for stretching the boundaries of Christian fiction in such a way that didn't offend Chrisitan sensibilities, one of our books being picked up for foreign-language publication and of another reviewer talking about how she could always count on one of our books to be an entertaining read. (yes, I know...what was I whining about!)

Add to that, my pastor's sermon this Sundayon the Good Shepherd whereby part of the story he told was about a priest of his own childhood who was influential in his own faith journey which eventually led to his ordination. (this may not seem as though it fits the topic, but it will.)

So, as I was sipping coffee and chatting with the Lord about success, this concept really hit home: Success must be measured in comparison to the price of a soul. (Souls are more precious than gold or silver, so shouldn't be measured by the ounce.)

What is the price of a soul? On one hand, we know the price of all the souls is Jesus' own life--but only if they accept Him (Yes, it still "cost" Him even if they don't accept, but the soul benefits only through its freewill acceptance.). That's where we come into play--being His hands and feet, voice and example. We are our brothers' keepers. Through our words, actions, or failure to act, we can effectively gain or lose a soul--our own and someone else's. So, if you had it within your power to save a soul, what would be a reasonable price? Five dollars? If God came to you and said, "Give five dollars to XYZ charity and that person over there will be saved" would you do it? How about one dollar? What if it cost only seven cents? Would you do it, then? What if it cost only a smile or a kind word? Would you do it, then? What is the price of a soul?

I'll tell you. The price of a soul is obedience. I have always confessed that Pelican Book Group belongs to God and I am just the steward (hopefully a good one who muliplies her talents). Because of that, I do take a rather unconventional approach to how I decide to offer contracts--I judge each manuscript on its own merit. I won't contract a book solely because it's written by a big-name author or because so-and-so's last book with us sold like hotcakes (nor do I reject a contract because so-and-so's last book took a nosedive). Sales figures and popularity don't play into my contracting decisions. (I know some will think that's bad business, but I feel it's the best way for me and my ambitions to stay out of the way, thereby leaving room only for His ambitions to flourish.) Only the quality of the manuscript at hand has a bearing on what we publish. And that is for one reason: The price of a soul.

For each book we publish, I believe God has a purpose, an intended readership. Sometimes that readership is many, sometimes it's few, sometimes it's exclusively Christians and sometimes it's Christians, non-Christians and those on the fence. I don't know who that readership is. I don't know what His ultimate purpose is for each book. Will I try to market and sell as many copies of each of our titles as possible? Of course. I don't think I would be a good steward if I just sat on my hands all day and waited for a miracle. (although I have seen miracles happen--quite often, actually.) Does it mean I don't want our authors to make money? Nope! I think it'd be cool for our authors to become millionaires. Does it mean I wouldn't be head-over-heels Snoopy dancin' if one of our titles hit the NY Times Bestsellers list? Oh, Snoopy wouldn't have anything on me, let me tell you! What it does mean is: none of those things are my goal. My goal is to remain obedient--to purchase a soul.

You see, for any given title, God may have only a readership of one in mind. Perhaps it's a lonely soul who's lost all hope and picks up one of our titles as an escape from a life he/she feels is wretched, and within the pages finds hope, starts going back to church, rededicates his/her life to Christ. That title is infinitely, profoundly successful--even if the NY Times doesn't say so.

Perhaps our books reach only a Christian readership. Does that mean we're not evangelizing and spreading the message of Christ to a secular audience? No way! Christians interact with non-Christians, lukewarm Christians and others every single day. If one of our books uplifts the Christian reader, gives that reader a sense of well-being, strengthens his/her faith, that reader will go out and affect (in a positive way, let's hope) each person he/she comes in contact with. (Which is where my pastor's sermon comes into account in all this.)

You see, his childhood pastor--the man who had such a profound influence on my pastor as he was growing up--was preaching to the choir. He pastored a flock of people who attended church every Sunday, who professed and lived their faith. He wasn't out pounding the pavement and talking to every non-Christian he could find. But, he had a positive influence on my pastor--a man, by the way, who was instrumental in the conversion of both my husband and me. So, that long-ago pastor, a person I never met, a man who didn't seek riches or fame, through his obedience to his ordination purchased a soul. Mine. Thank God he didn't decide to reach for the accolades of man. If he had, he may not have influenced that little boy who was sitting in the pew listening to his sermons. And that little boy may not have grown to enter the clergy, may not have become the pastor of my church, may not have been around to answer my spiritual questions and to be influential in my conversion. In my husband's conversion. In the conversion of my children.

If you are called to write, and called to write Chrisitan fiction, I implore you not to be tempted to water down the message so that  you can gain the accolades of man. Write with this in mind: Obedience to His will and the price of a soul. The confirmation is nice, yes. (Sometimes we never discover the true influence we've had on someone, and that's hard. My pastor's pastor didn't know he affected my life. But he did, and him not knowing doesn't make it any less so.) The rising bank balance is nice, yes. The public recognition is nice, yes. But are those things worth the price of a soul?

What is the price of a soul? If it would save a soul would you give up the back-pats from your family and friends? Would you leave the Pulitzer to someone else? Would you give up the royalty on one sale? On ten sales? On ten thousand sales? . . .What if the soul was yours?

I'm not saying don't strive for greatness or for your writing to pay off monetarily--or for your book to win some prestigious award. What I am saying is always check your motives. Store your treasure in heaven, not in this fleeting life where "our days may come to seventy or eighty years...for they pass quickly" (as the psalm says). Don't measure success by what you can see with your limited vision. If your story helps to save one soul, you are the success of successes (even if no one notices, and even if you don't discover so until eternity).

Amen. I'm done!

Go write, people. Be a success. :)


  1. Nicola, I couldn't agree with you more, especially this statement: The price of a soul is obedience.

    Thank you.

  2. Amen.

    Julia K. Moore

  3. What a BEAUTIFUL testimony - THANK YOU for the reminder!

    I've told the story before of whining to the Lord about sales (or the lack thereof) and how one day I just threw up my hands and said.... "Ok, God, I've always said it's not about the money, it's about the message but I don't know the message is getting out if there are no sales!"

    Oh how HE responded!

    Now every time I receive a royalty report or check the sales of my titles, I say Thank You for every one - because Each sale is a soul for God!

    Good luck and God's Blessings to EVERYONE (staff & authors) of PBG!


  4. Thanks, ladies.

    Pam, yours is a wonderful testimony about how God always works things out when we keep our motives in check.

    It is difficult sometimes not to get caught up in worldly ambitions, especially because there's nothing wrong or evil about ambition --it's all in how far we go and what we do because of that ambition that can become problematic. If we keep our mind, heart and actions centered on God and not on the monetary or prestigious gain, as you've attested, He always takes care of the rest.

    It's a beautiful thing to see happen (and a frustrating thing when He keeps you in the dark about it! :) )

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this! It made me think of an author who was ready to quit because of all the piracy of her works (she writes a popular, secular series and the pirates were sharing her work almost as soon as it came out.) After reading your post, I realize that that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. We're not just in it for the money : >

  6. Nicola, once again, you seal my heart with God's all-powerful sense of grace. Attitudes like yours are precisely why I consider it an honor and privilege to write for Pelican Book Group. Every point you made is spot-on, and ordained. In this world of Goliath, David is still going to be the victor, when his footsteps are in keeping with God. THANK YOU. I'm so glad you're at the helm of this ship! Blessings.

  7. Thank you for sharing your conversation, er, ah, whine session with us. :) Your words were very much needed. I published a Christian fiction with a secular publisher and doubt my decision daily...especially when I see the sales of the erotic novels. :( I will look at my sales differently now. A sale equals a soul. I can't even put a price on that.

  8. Robin, so true. The pirating is discouraging, and while we always do what we can to prevent or stop it, God does allow it to continue for a reason. At least with our stories, we know a good message is getting out there!

  9. Thanks for your kind words, Marianne. Much appreciated.

  10. :) YVW, Katy. Isn't it great when our whine sessions end in something productive? Proof that God can turn anything around.

    The difference in sales numbers between inspy and erotica is disheartening sometimes, but what can we do but fight the good fight, right? I'm glad you can see your sales in a positive light. Quality, not quantity. :)

  11. What a salve for the soul, Nicola! I have always said that my writing is not about the money (good thing, too!). It's about getting a message to someone. I don't know who...may never know. But I do know this: God WILL get my books into the hands of those for whom He had me write them. And I can't ask for more than that.

    I got an e-mail once from a reader I didn't know, had never met, probably never will. She said she believed God had me write one of my books specifically for her. ONE LINE in that book picked her up from a very low place and turned her life around. Nothing profound (I don't have profound in me!) or earth-shattering. Certainly not something I thought would have changed a life.

    But God knew it would. That was His plan all along.

    Nicola, I am so very glad that you are at the helm of the SSS PBG. :D It's posts like this, knowing your dedication and consecration to all things God that constantly reminds me how happy and honored I am to be a part of this publishing company. Thank you for sharing your coffee break with our Father! :)

  12. Nicola,
    Thank you for this inspiring post. I can't begin to tell you how profound this is for me. As always, when I ask God for guidance and confirmation, He answers. Today, He answered through you. God Bless you!!!

  13. Delia, thanks for sharing. What a wonderful testimony to how God works in "small" but important ways.

    Wendy: YVW. I'm happy to know the post helped. God bless you, too.

    And to all our authors, I want you to know that you are all an integral part of PBG. We couldn't do what we do without you, and you are all important.Praise God for your talent and thank you for your dedication.

  14. Nicola, shivers rained over me when I read your whining epiphany. I thank my God for you and all that is accomplished in the lives of editors, writers, and readers because we are in this together. How can we doubt any outcome if we begin with Him? As long as we have the single-minded goal of focusing on our future with the Lord, He will prepare us and work through us. To God be the glory, we are blessed!

  15. What a great reminder! True success is a soft, obedient heart to Christ.

    Thanks for the nudge to keep my gaze upon Him.

  16. Amen, LoRee...and Amen, JoAnn!

  17. What if every writer took this gentle reminder and wrote with the same passion? What if every writer wrote with the same conviction- to honor God and glorify Him with every word that flowed from heart to paper? It is these very principles that honor our Lord and He is, after all, the One Who inspires the creativity, whether people want to give God the credit or not. He is such a wonderful Savoir and I praise His name for leading me here and encouraging my heart to keep writing FOR Him, not fame. Remembering "For without me, ye can do that nothing."

  18. Being the "new kid on the block," I can't express to you all how glad I am to hear that honoring God and getting the message of Christ out is still top priority. Makes me proud that my debut novella will carry the Harbourlight name.