It’s hard to believe that the Christian Writers’ Market Guide has reached its 30th anniversary (2015-16 edition now available). I got an e-mail recently from an editor who was amazed at how much the guide had expanded since the first edition he had bought several years earlier. Because he was right about the constantly growing content, it seemed like a good time to offer some suggestions for how to best put that content to work for you.
As with any reference book, I encourage you to spend enough time working with it that you are comfortable and knowledgeable about how to use it. For that reason, we’ll look at the content and how to use the various sections.
Since the guide is so large and broken down into a number of different sections, you may want to do what I do. A couple of years ago I went to the local office supply store and bought index tabs that you can write on and are removable. A attached one at the start of each section, but can also remove them at the end of the year and use them on the new edition.
Following are tips on how to use each section:
* Table of Contents: Use frequently to find the various resource sections and the topical lists for books or periodicals. An asterisk before a listing indicates it’s new this year.
* Introduction: Read each year to find out what changes or additions were made to that edition.
* How to Use This Book: This section will take you through each main listing for books and periodicals, explaining the terminology or abbreviations. Start reading some of the listings first to see what questions come up, and then go to this section to find answers. There are also marketing tips scattered throughout this section.
* Additional Resources to Help with Your Writing and Marketing: A listing of over 50 resources you can order to expand your knowledge on almost any writing-related topic.
* Topical/Subject Listings of Book Publishers: This section will tell you which book publishers are open to which topics. Check introduction to that section for meanings of codes. Find the list for your book topic and use it as a starting place to determine possible markets for your book.
* Alphabetical Listings of Book Publishers: Here you will find pertinent information on each of the book publishers listed in the topical listings. Read listings and send for guidelines and catalog of publishers you are interested in. Highlight anything in the guidelines that indicate this publisher is or is not appropriate for your project. In studying catalogs, look for a publisher that does a good number of books in your category, but one that hasn’t done one on your particular aspect of the topic. Publishers tend to not publish books that are in direct competition to other books in their line.
* Subsidy Publishers: The above section includes royalty publishers (they pay all the production costs); this section includes those where you pay those costs. If you decide to pursue a subsidy or print-on-demand deal, be sure you know exactly what you are getting into, how much it will cost you, how much promotion (if any) they will do, etc. You can expect to do all or most of the promotion and distribution. If you don’t have a ministry or speaking platform to facilitate that, this may not be your best option.
* Listing of Distributors: Companies that distribute books to Christian bookstores. If you have a subsidy-published book, you may contact them to see if they are interested in distributing your book. It must be a book with a clearly defined market.
* Topical Listings of Periodicals: Look up topics of your articles here. Note meaning of codes used. These listings broken down by potential audience: adult, child, pastors, teens, women, etc. It is critical that you target your material to a particular age group or audience. Without a specific target you’ll end up missing the mark and will find no market for your piece. Use the Table of Contents to locate the right topic. In some cases you may need to cross-reference by selecting 2 or 3 topics related to yours and seeing which publishers show up on all of those list.
* Alphabetical Listings of Periodicals and E-Zines: Same as for book publishers, except you send for guidelines and sample copies. Read carefully to help you select those publications where your material is going to fit. Memorize the meaning of the codes in front of listings. These listings are also divided by audience.
* Greeting Card/Gift/Specialty Markets: Check out these potential markets for greetings, gifts, and specialty products.
* Conferences & Groups: Look for those in your state/area.
* Editorial Services: If you’re having trouble getting published, pay one of these professionals to tell you how to improve your writing.
* Literary Agents: Many major publishers prefer to work through agents, but many others will still accept a manuscript directly from the author. If you’ve sold books already, or have a book with a clearly defined, strong potential audience, an agent may be interested in representing you.
* Contests: Lists contests by genre or category. Check their Websites for rules and deadlines.
* Denominational Listings: Tells you which book publishers/periodicals are associated with which denominations.
- Glossary of Terms: Will define any terminology used in publishing, especially those terms included in the guide.
- Index: In addition to the names of all entries, it lists publishers not included for various reasons—indicated by a code that tells you why they aren’t included.
- Throughout the book you will find how-to articles that will be helpful as you learn about writing, marketing , and publishing.
The real key to successful marketing is finding potential markets for your topic before you write your piece, then write it to fit the guidelines or the specific market. Otherwise you are going publisher-to-publisher trying unsuccessfully to find one that fits what you have already produced. Publishers expect you to follow their guidelines. If you ignore them you greatly decrease or even destroy your chance of selling to them.
Here are the steps to follow for successful marketing: (1) Make a list of the types of writing you want to do (feature articles, children’s short stores, poetry, or whatever). (2) List the topics you’d like to write about. (3) List which target audiences you feel qualified to write for. (4) Use the topical listings in the guide to find a list of potential markets for the above categories (1-3). (5) Study the alphabetical listings for those you have identified and send for the guidelines and sample copies/catalogs. (6) After studying those materials, either keep them on your potential list or delete them. What you are doing is identifying a list of potential markets for each topic or type of writing you do. (7) Once you have compiled that targeted list or lists, go a step further by analyzing those you want to write for. Read the articles, stories, poems (or whatever it is you are planning to write) and determine what elements are included. An easy way to do that is to identify what kind of material is included in each paragraph (write it in the margin), such as an anecdote, quotation, quote from an authority, personal experience, or whatever. When writing your piece, be sure it includes as many of the identified elements as you can, or that fit your topic. The better the magazine, the more credibility your article must have by including those elements that indicate this is more than just your idea.
The Christian Writers’ Market Guide provides that critical first step—identifying potential markets—but it’s up to you to study those potential markets more closely and select those best fitted to what you have to write.Guide available at www.stuartmarket.com.