What drives magazine editors nuts?
Again it’s not following their guidelines. If they say they want 1,500 words, don’t send 2,000 with the hopes they’ll edit it down to the right length for you. If they say they don’t accept poetry or Bible studies or devotions—don’t send them anyway because you’re sure yours are so good they will surely make an exception. They know exactly what they want and they expect you to discover what that is and respond accordingly. It is also important to them that you know and understand their audience. If you are giving advice/how-to, it had better be based on wide personal experience—not just theory or conjecture. If you include anecdotes or case studies, they need to be based on real experience, not fiction. Editors are looking for writers who understand the periodical, the audience, the subject, and can write to fit the editor’s/reader’s needs—not just write what they want to write. Your topic is only relevant and publishable if it meets the needs of that editor’s readers.
What kinds of changes in the Christian market have you noticed from when you first started publishing?
There have been so many changes in the Christian market since I started publishing—which was more than 40 years ago now. At that time there were very few Christian writers around, only a couple of writers' conferences, and just a few potential markets—mostly the denominational publishers or publications. I sold my first piece to my denominational magazine for $6. Since there were so few writers, most topics were assigned to pastors or denominational leaders. Few book publishers would have accepted a manuscript through an agent—there were simply no Christian agents around. Fiction—other than from Grace Livingston Hill—was nonexistent as well. I don’t remember attending a writers’ conference where they offered a class in how to write fiction until after Frank Perretti hit the scene. In those earlier days, Christian publishing hardly created a blip in the general publishing scene—and for good reason. The content and quality of Christian books has grown by leaps and bounds until it is now considered on a par with the general market. As a result we've seen so many general publishers trying to tap into this market with a religious imprint. Of course, the advent of desk-top publishing has opened up the publishing field to almost anyone who wants to be a publisher or put out a periodical. Over the years of doing the market guide, I added dozens of new markets every year. Magazines have raised their pay rates—from that $6 I got for my first article—and book publishers are paying advances and higher royalties as they compete for the best authors.
It used to be that you would always submit your manuscripts by snail mail. When faxes became more common and prevalent, that became the submission method of choice for some, but only for a short time. Some would accept phone calls then—few do now. I watched e-mail emerge slowly—embraced by a few—feared by the majority. Then over the last few years it has taken over and is now the preferred choice for contacts between writers and editors. Most editors have pulled their phone and fax numbers from the guide—preferring an e-mail contact, query, and submission only. There are virtually no publishers or publications who don’t have e-mail and a Website. There continue to be increases too in online publications, e-books, and print-on-demand. As print publications continue to decline, many are switching to an online publication just to survive. The changes continue year after year as we watch the Christian publishing industry emerge technologically—but hopefully with a message that still meets the needs of the seeker and the Christian reader.