Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hope Within A Volatile Industry- A Guest Post by Allen Arnold

Today, I'm honored to welcome to the Alley an industry superhero who's also a dear friend and mentor, Allen Arnold. He is now offering freelance services to help writers shape the stories God has placed on their hearts. To read more about that, check out his bio. I hope this post encourages you today, whatever wilderness you're facing. - Ashley Clark 


The publishing industry is not for the faint of heart. Not for those working in it – or the writers desiring to be part of it.

Bookstores are closing. Christian Fiction – as a category – has been in a dramatic decline in recent years. Numerous Christian Fiction imprints have shut their doors, while the publishing houses that remain in business continue to reduce staff and marketing budgets.

If signing with a publisher seemed daunting in the past, the odds are exponentially smaller today.

That’s what is happening in the world around you.

Yet, you are called to write. The story burns deep within – consuming your thoughts and imagination. It isn’t something you can simply ignore.  The story demands to be told.

It’s hard enough just finding time to create between caring for your children, paying the bills, and keeping the chaos of your home at a manageable level. It feels like a losing battle.

But when the industry appears to be have lost its way too, it can seem too much.

It’s understandable that you’re weary and disheartened. You’ve put so much time into this story. Sacrificed so much to pursue your calling. But success hasn’t come.

If the world really needed your story, why hasn’t anyone else (starting with an agent and publisher) caught the vision? Or maybe you have an agent and have been published...but the results have been modest at best.

Maybe the current closed door is your answer. Maybe it’s time to accept reality and let go of your dream. Get busy doing something more productive.

That’s why I’m writing this post. God wants me to be a voice that reminds you of this fact. He loves your stories. He understands the cost is high, but it is worth it. Especially when you shift your definition of success to the time you spend getting to know Him as you create with the Creator.

The invitation is both passionate and intimate.

“Stay with me, __________  (put your name here). Take heart. We can do this together. Please don’t quit. Remember, you are not alone. I have given you this talent and longing – and I will see it through. Just stay with me as you create.”

Do those words sound too good to be true?

I didn’t make them up. That’s the invitation we’re given in Psalm 27:14. I just personalized it to the specific call He’s given you. Let the words sink in deep.

“Stay with God!
Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again: Stay with God.”
                       (The Message Translation)

Here’s the deal. None of us will ever control the publishing industry. It is filled with good people who love story and who are doing the best they can – but their world has forever changed and continues to change daily.

Publishing houses – once acclaimed for being influencers of popular culture by finding new voices to introduce to readers – now look to popular culture to tell them whom to publish. That’s why the first question asked in acquisition meetings is almost always: “How many followers does this writer have on social media? What is the size of their tribe?”

The ideas and content and storytelling used to come first. Those were the filters upon which publishing decisions were made. Now it is weighted far too heavily on social media. The problem is – a person can have a significant following online and sell very few books because the very followers willing to read the occasional tweet for free have little interest in paying $25 for a 100,000 word book.  And many talented writers find themselves without a contract largely because they have immersed themselves in the art and craft of story more than courting “likes” on social media.

I cast no blame on the publishing industry. I invested much of my career in that realm, and they are my colleagues. In any industry, less risk is taken in tough times. And unpublished writers with a huge following seem like a smarter bet than an unpublished writer with few followers. The problem is – this tact takes the publishing team’s eye off fresh ideas and their own instinct for good stories. The industry, in short, has shifted from being proactive to reactive.

This post isn’t about whether to pursue traditional or indie publishing. Either could work, and both options have costs and benefits. Ask God which path he is encouraging you to pursue. He’d enjoy having that conversation with you.

Photo by arztsamui from
I simply want to remind you that God loves writing with you. That is the primary reason he gave you the gift of story – so the two of you could create together. Spend time on the playground of ideas together. So you could get to know Him as Creator.

So remember, if God has given you this story, then He will see it through. What happens with it may be far different than you can imagine today. But if you stay with him, he will see your Story (the one you are living) and the story you are writing through.

I’m not a prophet, but I will go out on a limb and say the world of publishing will continue its volatile swings. New technology will emerge, and fresh ideas will continue to shift the balance of power. Those who know the reader best will do the best over time.

But no matter what happens within the industry, the world needs more stories crafted from those who are spending time in creative fellowship with God. It needs stories written for the restless from writers who have learned how to rest in the midst of the storm.

God is not worried one bit over the seismic shifts in the publishing industry. He isn’t confused about His purpose or timing for your story.

He’s inviting us to put on His armor and continue the stories we’ve been given. The ones we were born to tell.

And He’s told us how to do it.

Stay with Him, protect your heart, and don’t ever quit.


Allen Arnold's mission is to help artists pursue God and their gifting from an awakened heart in intimacy and freedom. He cut his teeth in the advertising world (think the HBO series Mad Men on steroids) and then spent more than twenty years in Christian publishing. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world's largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the transformative ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.

He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality.  He enjoys helping writers shape their stories and discover how to create with God. If you're interested in learning more, e-mail him at


Carrie Ann said...

Wow...what a powerful and encouraging post! Thank you...I really needed this today :)

Ashley Clark said...

So glad, Carrie! Thanks for stopping by!

Jennifer Major said...

Ronie Kendig is fond of Exodus 14:14. I am fond of it as well.
I am not taking on a story of light, airy sweetness. I am literally talking about a tribe and their suffering. If I tried to do this on my own, I would fail.
Thank you, Allen.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your honesty and uplifting words. I opened the blog today and started reading and it felt like one of those times that the preacher has his sermon directed at my heart. From God's heart to your fingertips to my life. I appreciate it.

Thank you for sharing this with us!

Angie Dicken said...

Thank you, Allen. This is such a great post, especially after this last ACFW. I remember a few years ago, that building a following was just not something mentioned much...and now, at conference, that was a big part of what I heard. It is fun to connect with others, but it is also time consuming. I must remember to not forfeit my actual writing time for social media! Something that I keep telling myself, is that no matter what...or what I do...I am pretty darn sure that God gave me this love of writing, and it will not be done in vain--published or not.
It has brought great peace to me lately. Just knowing that my writing is not a wasted pastime. Like I have said in past posts, I have gotten much out of my stories, and one day, I hope they will help others too. :)
Glad to see you on the Alley today!


Unknown said...

Jennifer, great reminder of our dependency on Him. Regardless of what we right, that's so important,

Sarah, I love when that happens. Thanks for sharing!

Ang, so true! Platform is obviously important, but it can't become more important than time invested in creating. But that's so hard sometimes when it feels like platform is becoming the priority for contracts! I think, like you and Allen said, our perspective of success is so important,

Pepper Basham said...

Ashley, thanks for bringing Allen to our alley today. His words are always so uplifting.

Thank you for being the voice of grace and hope in a world of rejection and discouragement. God has certainly given you words of light into the darkness of this present publishing world - to help us remember God's truths...and His call :-)

Thank you!


Allen Arnold said...

Carrie, Jennifer, Ashley, Sarah, Angie, and Pepper -

I appreciate each of your comments and insights. I am at a Captivating Advanced retreat - an event through Ransomed Heart ministry for women. It starts in the next hour and promises the hope of breakthrough for close to 400 women. I love how on this day Ashley also invited me to offer a post of hope to each of you. My prayer now is that God would confirm - in a unique and personal way to each of you - His pleasure and His purpose in the story you are currently writing. That though we don't place our hope in the publishing industry, we can have hope within the industry as we walk with God into the realm of creativity and story.
I am so proud of each of you for pursuing God and story in the way you do. It does both the seen and unseen realms in ways we can't fully fathom. - Allen

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

So good! Thank you so much for being our guest today, Allen! You have such a gift for encouragement, and we all need it, especially when pursing such a difficult dream. But we are called to write, and often, the time we spend with God and our stories is a time of devotion. An act of worship. And a time to open our hearts to let him speak through us. Amazing that he often uses our own words to work on the calluses on our stubborn hearts. So blessed by this today! As always, we are honored to have you here!

Elizabeth Van Tassel said...

Dear Allen,
Thank you for your caring interest in helping us have the right heart and mindset in pursuing writing. Definitely the most important thing. I so enjoyed meeting you at ACFW and you bring that quiet, informative "stillness" with the Lord to life once more here. It definitely requires the right armor and refilling daily to press on and press in. Thanks for helping us again!

I also appreciate Angie's comment. Being connected with other writers and readers is so important, but so is the main reason we're doing this!

Allen Arnold said...

Amy and Elizabeth - appreciated both of your comments. Thanks for all you do to give readers a glimpse of the eternal through your imagination and words. Amy - so good how you mention that our writing is an act of worship and time of devotion. Yes! And as you say, Elizabeth, the right heart and mindset is so essential to our life as writers. Because we really can't write a better story than we're living.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for lovingly reminding us that our work is, at its core, a beautiful partnership with God. I will continue to realize that I am writing in fellowship with my Father. It's very special. Therefore, I don't have the right to allow anything to make me believe otherwise. Out of this union can come something so beautiful, that many people are touched and led down the road to healing. This can never happen if we lose perspective of why we do what we do. Thanks again.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thank you, Allen.
Rich words.