Wednesday, August 31, 2016


When you are sending for sample copies, keep a look out for those publications that also offer a theme list. A good number of publications are theme-oriented, which means that each issue—or at least a good portion of it—is devoted to a specific theme. Possible themes might include, prayer, faith, missions, politics, money/finances, nature, etc. Because they want to be sure they receive appropriate material to fit those themes, once or twice a year they will put out a list of upcoming themes. Some give just the overall theme like I did in my examples above, while others will list specific article ideas they are looking for. In either case, it is to your advantage to get a copy of the theme list and send material to fit.

Some lists will give you a specific deadline for each issue, but many do not. You can often get a reasonable idea of lead time by checking the market guide for how far ahead they want holiday or seasonal material. In any case, it is best to send such theme-related material as far ahead of time as possible. Don’t wait until the day of the deadline to get it there. Because they will be concerned about filling the issue, they usually don’t want to wait until the last minute to fill all the slots.

Some editors want a query for theme-related material, while others prefer to see the complete manuscript. Determine which your favorite editors prefer and send them what they want. Keep in mind that your chances of selling to a theme-related periodical are almost nil if you ignore the themes. While on the other hand, you increase your changes ten fold if you study the magazine to see how they treat their themes, follow the theme list, and get your submissions in in plenty of time. Also when submitting material to fit a theme, include a cover letter identifying the theme issue you are targeting.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Some writers are interested in selling material to foreign markets. That is an option, and the market guide does include a lot of Canadian markets and a few from other countries. However, there are some inherent problems with writing for other countries. You will find a clue to the first problem mentioned in a few of the Canadian listings. Some of those editors indicate that they do not want submissions from U.S. authors. That is not because they don’t like people from the U.S., but because our culture is so much a part of what we write that it usually does not fit the Canadian reader. So before you send anything to a Canadian or other foreign market, you need to edit out any such references. With some articles that may be impossible because the culture (or an understanding of the culture) is such a large part of the content. For that reason, not every article is suitable for foreign travel, so you will have to carefully select articles that will travel well to other cultures. Of course, some subjects are of universal interest, and the Internet has added to a more global view of the world—bringing us closer together. Foreign Christian markets are interested in how people in different countries live out their spirituality.

In selecting foreign markets, you need to limit yourself to English-speaking countries (unless you are fluent in other languages). But even though they speak English in England, you need to recognize and honor the differences in spelling and terminology. Avoid American slang or jargon that shouts “America.” You will also need to weed out any references to American history, organizations, statistics, etc.

Because you have likely only sold North-American serial rights to articles sold in the states, you are free to sell them in other countries (except Canada—which is still in North America). Also, if you are submitting the same article in several different countries, it is still not considered a simultaneous submission, because each query is going into a different market.

When mailing to foreign countries, find out the proper amount of postage and how long it will take for delivery—either by air mail or by surface. Figure those times into your calculations when determining how long you should wait before following up on a submission. Also keep in mind that foreign countries may have poor postal service or are subject to postal strikes which may slow down the process considerably. Never put U.S. postage on your SASE. (See Foreign Mailing). Of course, you can avoid all the mailing headaches if the publisher is open to receiving e-mail queries and submissions.

There may also be some problems with understanding pay rates and foreign exchange rates. For example, in selling to Canada, you may be told that they will pay you $100 for an article, but they will mean $100 Canadian, not U.S. currency. So with the exchange rate you may make about $75 U.S, or less. Some foreign markets will pay in U.S. dollars if you ask. Some U.S. banks charge to cash foreign checks and even charge you a fee if the money is wired to your bank here, so check out applicable fees at your bank and determine the best way to handle such payments.

One more consideration with foreign sales is the tax ramifications. Always claim the foreign income, although the foreign publishers aren’t likely to report it or send you any form verifying what they have paid you during the year. It will be a good idea to make a habit of keeping copies of everything, including checks, from foreign markets.

Monday, August 29, 2016


Sample copies or catalogs and guidelines are a crucial part of your marketing research, so begin collecting and filing as many as you can. (See Part 5 for ideas on filing them). One of the highlights of many writers’ conferences are their tables of samples and guidelines available free to conferees. Anytime you have a chance to pick them up for free, don’t pass it up. Sending for them by mail is expensive and time-consuming. Once you have them, spend some time getting acquainted with them before you file them away. This is comparable to chatting with customers in any other business. The better you know your customers, the better you can meet their needs. Your goal with the samples—like with your customers—is to be able to recognize and call them by name as soon as possible.

If you have guidelines and samples that are obviously not markets for you, there is no sense keeping them and cluttering up your files. Pass them on to a writer-friend or simply discard them. If you move into that area of interest in the future, you will need to get current guidelines and samples anyway.

Another source for market information on these publishers is their Websites. Most book publishers, and periodicals now have their own sights.  Many have guidelines available on the site that you can simply print off for your file. Many give you background information on the sponsoring denomination or organization, as well as sample articles from their publication or a list of upcoming book titles they are publishing. This is fast becoming one of our most valuable marketing tools.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


If you are seeking a market for a book, you go through much the same process, except that you will study the book publishers. Make your list of possible book topics across the top of your work sheet.

  1. Find the list of possible publishers under the appropriate topical list. Realize that in some cases you may have to cross-reference more than one topic if yours isn’t listed. For example, if you are writing an adult novel dealing with homosexuality, you would look at both “Adult Fiction” and “Controversial Issues,” and see which publishers are on both lists. Although “Controversial Issues” refers to nonfiction, you can usually assume that if a company is willing to deal with it in nonfiction they will in fiction as well.
  2. After reading the Alphabetical Listing for each publisher, eliminate those that don’t look like good prospects, based on any restrictions or problems you find there.
  3. Pull from your files or send for their writers’ guidelines and a current book catalog. Their book catalog will list new books they are releasing, as well as books still available on their back list.
  4. Carefully read the guidelines and highlight any information of particular interest, especially anything that indicates this might be a good publisher for your book project (or that it would not).
  5. Next, study the book catalog, following these steps:

  1. Get an overview of the whole catalog, noting what types of books they publish. Is there anything they publish you aren’t in agreement with? Would you feel comfortable having your book included in this catalog? If so go on, if not, cross this one off your list. (Note: In some cases you may want your book included where it can provide “Salt and Light” even when you are not in agreement with other books in the catalog.)
  2. Next, look for the section that would include your book, say it’s a book on (marriage). Do they have more than one book or a whole section on (marriage) books? If so, do they have a book on the same aspect of (marriage) that you planned to cover (check both front list and back list books*)? You want them to have a good number of books in the same general area, but if they have a book on exactly the same aspect of the topic, chances are they will not consider yours. Publishers typically will not publish a new book that is in direct competition to another book in their line. What you are looking for is a publisher who has a gap you can fill; where your book will compliment their current list. So, if they have a number of books in your interest area, but not one on exactly the same aspect, then leave them on your list. * Note: Front list books are books currently being released, and back list books are ones published previously.
  3. At this point, ask your self honestly if your book would fit naturally into this catalog.

  1. For the next step in your book marketing, go to your local Christian bookstore. Most authors overlook this important step in the marketing process. A bookstore can be one of your most important resources in finding a publisher for your book. While at the bookstore:

  1. Find the section where they sell your topic. See what is already on the shelf. Can you find a book the same or similar to yours? (If so, make a note of the title, author, publisher, and publication date.)
  2. While you’re checking out the books, pay attention to the covers, bindings, type styles, graphics, etc., for each publisher. Is there a publisher that is particularly impressive, or one you don’t care for? Make note of which ones they are.
  3. Which publisher(s) seem to have the most books in this section? Check to see if all the publishers you are considering have books in this section. If not, try to find out why not (ask the clerk, book buyer, or manager.)
  4. If possible, speak with the book-buyer. If it is a large store, you may need to make an appointment ahead of time. Tell them the book you are planning and ask which publisher(s) they would go to for such a book. Many authors do not realize that certain publishers are known for producing certain types of books—and those are the publishers a book store is most likely to go to when ordering that type of book. As an author it is to your advantage to be published by a publisher known for the type of book you want to do.
  5. Also ask them any other questions that have come to mind as you have checked out the book shelves. Ask if they get many requests for the type of book you are planning, and if so, what books do they recommend or sell the best in this area? (Make note of this information for the marketing section of your book proposal. These are also the books you should read if you haven’t already.)
  6. The bookstore is also a good marketing resource when you have an unusual product or topic in mind that does not fit the usual channels, or one that you can’t find in the topical lists. For example, I once had plans for a file of 3x5 index cards of ideas for teachers. Since it was not the typical product, I went to the bookstore to see if I could find any sets of index cards for sale. What I needed was a publisher who had worked in this format previously and would know how to handle the production end of the process. The same thing usually works with any unusual format or topic.
At this point you should have a fairly reliable list of potential publishers for your projected book project. However, I would also encourage you to ask yourself very honestly whether the world needs your book. If you are just rehashing the same old topic in the same old way, it probably doesn’t. If you have read the competing books you have found, you need to be convinced—and be able to convince a publisher—that your book is different or better than what is already available. If it isn’t, then move on to another topic that is.

That concludes this preliminary plan for both periodicals and books. When you reach this point in either process, you will be ready to go to work on those articles, stories, or books. The following sections will take you on to the next steps in the various areas of publishing.

Friday, August 26, 2016


With the current market guide in hand, it is time to look at a specific plan for selling. Unfortunately this is not a magic formula, but a plan that works only if you are willing to work the plan. The key to the success of this plan is time. Like with any other business, if you are going to be successful you must invest a substantial portion of your time developing a marketing plan. If there is one sure way to fail in selling your manuscripts, it is by not invested enough time in this area.

The underlying purpose in the following plan is to start determining which specific periodicals are the best potential markets for the things you are going to write. With hundreds of periodical markets included in the market guide, obviously you cannot (nor would you want to) submit to all of them. This plan will help you refine and narrow that list to those you can best identify with and that are most likely to buy from you. Marketing is not finding editors who will publish what you write, it is finding publishers you can write for.

As you begin writing, you will likely try your hand at a number of different types of writing. That is fine; it is one way to help determine what topics or kinds of writing you are most qualified to tackle, what kinds you most enjoy, what types sell best for you, etc. It is a natural part of the process. However, once you have begun to recognize your strengths, it is time to determine what topics or types of writing you want to target during the next 3-5 years. This is an important, but often overlooked part of the process. One of our goals as a writer is to have editors start recognizing our strengths and to give us assignments in those areas. If you write too wide a diversity of material, your name will never be associated with any particular areas of expertise.

Establishing those areas of expertise also prepares the way to write books in the future. One of the interesting things that happens when you are published regularly in a certain field is that it establishes your credibility in that field, even when you have no formal education or degrees. For example, I was published regularly in every Christian education publication over several years before I wrote my first Christian education book (I eventually wrote seven in that field). I had 20 years experience and no C.E. degree, but because of my extensive publishing credits, no one ever questioned my qualifications. You can do the same thing in your area of interest. Don’t feel you must limit yourself to only one area; the following plan will work in a few different areas at the same time.

Now, sit down with a large sheet of paper and make the following lists: 1. Topics you most want to write about, i.e., marriage, health, relationships, family, etc. 2. Types of writing you want to do, i.e., feature articles, interviews/profiles, poetry, devotionals, Bible studies, teen fiction, etc. 3. Potential target audiences for your work—which audiences/age groups are you most qualified to write for, i.e., children, teens, women, pastors, singles, etc. Keep in mind that this is a work sheet; you will be perfecting it and expanding it as you invest more time defining your market.

Target Audience

A word about the target audience. Often this is an overlooked part of the equation. Most publications are closely targeted to a particular audience, so if you have no defined audience when you write, chances are you will not hit anyone with your material. For example, “adults” is not a target audience. Within the Adult designation we have college students, singles, young marrieds, families with preschoolers, families with school-age children, empty-nest adults, senior citizens, etc. That means your material has to target a specific audience and use illustrations, anecdotes, and references that the members of that group can identify with. The added advantage of looking at a variety of target audiences is that you can take the same basic material and write it up with a different target audience in mind. So instead of one article on a topic, you could write two, four, six or more, by simply changing the target audience.

Once you have the above lists compiled, what you want to do is to begin putting a topic, type of writing, and audience together into a potential product. For example: a feature article on marriage for newly-weds or a teen short-story on relationships. Come up with as many combinations as you can. Now that you have identified the product, you need to determine what publications will be interested in that particular product for that particular audience. What you want to do is name the product at the top of your sheet and under it start listing the potential markets for that kind of piece.

Identifying Your markets

The question then is: How do we know what the best markets are for each list? This is where we turn to our market guide and follow these steps:

  1. Turn first to the topical listings and look for your topic, type of writing and/or target audience. For example, if you have identified money-management for teens, go to the topic, “Money Management,” and then down to the list of teen publications.
  2. Look up each market on that list in the Alphabetical Listings, and read the listing. Every market may not be a good one for you, so look for those that indicate they might be, and eliminate those that aren’t. For example, you might eliminate those from denominations you aren’t comfortable or familiar with, or those that accept material only from teens.
  3. As you find possible markets, add them to the appropriate tentative list to be investigated further.
  4. After reading a listing that looks promising, pull from your files or send for a sample copy and writer’s guidelines. The listing will tell you how to order them (size of envelope and number of stamps). Note: See below for additional information on sample copies and writers’ guidelines.
  5. Carefully read the guidelines, highlighting anything that indicates this is—or isn’t—a good market for you. Read the copy or copies cover-to-cover, again noting anything you like or dislike about the publication. Based on what you discover, either drop the publication from your list or keep it on for the next step.
  6. The next step is to analyze the markets you are interested in. If no analysis sheet is available, answer the following questions about each market (this exercise can be more valuable if you can get together with other writers and analyze several different issues of each publication together). Look for answers to the following kinds of questions: What is the basic slant of this publication? Who is their target audience? What kind of articles do they seem to prefer? Are most long or short? Are most articles serious, factual, anecdotal, humorous? Do they seem to prefer 1st or 3rd person? Do they ever use 2nd person (addressing the reader as “you”). Do they use a lot of quotes from authorities, statistics, case studies, personal experiences, etc.? Do they prefer certain kinds of leads? Look at individual articles, paragraph by paragraph, and see what the author included. Simply ask yourself if your topic would fit in this publication, and could you write in a way to fit their style? If so, leave them on your list; if not, drop them.
  7. At this point you should have a list of potential markets for that topic or type of writing. You will repeat the process for each different list. Often you will do this for each topic as you are ready to write something different (rather than trying to complete all the lists at the same time). You will also continue to add and delete markets as you become aware of new markets or discover some markets are closed or unsuitable.
  8. Once each list is compiled, you may put it in any order you like, such as: best paying, largest circulation, most freelance, payment on acceptance, length, or whatever your priority is for that particular piece. It will not be until you reach this point that you will be ready to start writing your article or story.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Before we get into the actual plan, I want to give you a little background information that will help you better understand how this market is structured, so even the new or would-be writers will understand more about the world of marketing, especially as it has to do with the Christian market. I realize for many, this is like entering a foreign country where the customs and language are strange and unfamiliar.

Market Divisions

In writing for the Christian market, you have many different options. You can writer for magazines, Christian newspapers, or newsletters. You can write tracts, pamphlets, booklets, or books. The books will include most genres of fiction, as well as all types of nonfiction books, including gift books. These are listed by their various categories in the Christian Writers’ Market Guide. The guide also includes a section on greeting card and specialty markets—markets for all those gift items you find in a Christian book store that include some kind of text. Each of these different areas offer opportunities for the freelance writer. That, by the way is what you are if you want to write for publication—a freelance writer. It simply means you are not salaried as a writer, but work when and where you can find a publisher to pay you.

Although the market guide includes almost 1,000 markets, it helps to be able to categorize those a little more closely so instead of looking at those hundreds of markets as one pile, you can at least begin to break them down into separate and definable categories.

Denominational Markets

Some of the markets (both books and periodicals) are denominational, which means they are sponsored by the various denominations—Baptist, Catholic, Assemblies of God, United Methodist, etc. That information is given in the individual listings, as well as in the Denominational Index at the back of the market guide.

Denominational publishers like you to understand their denominational slant, or at least those things that distinguish them from other denominations. Some use only writers who are a part of their denomination, or prefer to, while others are open to any writers who can write to their needs. By reading their publications and guidelines, you can begin to identify any specific taboos they might have.

Denominational publishers are always interested in articles or stories on their own members or churches. That means if you are doing a personality profile, consider selling it to or doing another piece for that person’s denominational magazine. Also watch for churches in your area or places you visit that have significant programs in the community that could be written up for the denomination. In recent years, many denominational publications have expanded their scope to be of interest to readers outside the denomination, so are also more open to outside writers.

One big advantage of denominational publishers is that they tend to be non-overlapping or non-competing markets (they each have their own readership), so you can offer the same article to any or all of them (if appropriate), either as a simultaneous submission or by offering one-time or reprint rights.

Organizational/Educational Publishers

Some of the publishers are tied to religious or para-church organizations or colleges (such as Focus on the Family, the Bill Graham Assn., or Moody Bible Institute). When you see such a periodical or book publisher, you will find that the focus of the publisher will reflect the focus of the ministry, so if you are familiar with the organization you will already know a lot about the publication.

Keep in mind that both organizational and educational publishers tend to be extremely conservative in their approach to publishing and controversial issues. Most of these organizations are dependent on the financial support of their readers, so are not likely to print anything that will alienate any of their donors.

Independent Publishers

Some publishers are independently owned—which means they have no particular sponsoring denomination or organization. For that reason they are not as limited theologically, and see the entire Christian community as their potential audience. Some independent book publishers have a specific publishing image or niche, while others tend to be more general. More and more of these independents, magazines and book publishers, are ending up as part of one of the larger conglomerates, such as Christianity Today, Inc. or Cook Communications.

We often find that some of the newer, independent publishers are more likely to tackle the controversial issues because they are not governed by a long-standing, conservative constituency.

General Publishers Who do Religious Books or Have a Religious Division

Another category of book publishers you need to be aware of are the general or secular publishers who publish a few religious books. Keep in mind that these are religious books, not necessarily Christian. These publishers are very broad in their definition of “religious.” They will not do books that are strongly denominational, theological, or evangelical. They will be books of a religious nature, more likely about God than about Jesus (except from an historical perspective). These books are more likely to sell in the mainline church market, rather than in the evangelical. Books for this market must be geared to a broad cross-section of the religious community. Study their catalog and decide if you would be comfortable having your book included in their catalog.

Now, with that information as a background to help us put these publishers more in perspective, we can move on to the how-tos of marketing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Before we get into the actual details of how to sell your writing, lets go back for a minute and look more closely at how selling your writing compares to selling anything else. For example, let’s assume that rather than selling manuscripts, you were going to sell cookies. Before you opened up your cookie shop at the local mall, you would need to not only develop some great cookies, you’ll need to know who your customers are and what they want. You are not going to open a recipe book and start making any old cookies. You’re going to find the best recipes—the ones people love and are most likely to buy.

It is going to be the same with your manuscripts. It doesn’t make sense to start cranking out manuscripts if you don’t know who your customers are and what they are in the market for. That is a very basic marketing concept, but the one most writers miss or tend to ignore. You must have a clear concept of who your customers or potential customers are. It would be like going home and making a dress and then going door-to-door looking for someone to buy it. You would have to find a woman who was the right size, who liked the style and the color, who needed or wanted a dress, and who had the money to buy it. The odds of finding such a person would be pretty slim, and no one would be so foolish as to approach marketing in such a haphazard way, yet we do exactly the same thing every time we write a manuscript with no particular market in mind. There is a better way. Learning this process will make the difference between selling your manuscripts and dooming them to the rejection pile.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


I’ve been teaching workshops on marketing for a good number of years now. In all that I teach in this area, there are two underlying principles. The first is that as a freelancer, the stories, articles and books you write are a product that you are selling, and that they are sold like you sell any other product.

Before we go any further, I want to say something to those who view Christian writing as being too commercial—those who see the emphasis at conferences and in books like this as being too obsessed with selling. If you feel that way, then perhaps this is not a topic for you. My main objective is to help those writers who want to see their writing published so their words will influence or help in the lives of others. Although for many of them, ministry is more of an issue than money, the ministry does not happen until they reach the marketplace. For that reason, it is important for us to recognize the need for marketing skills.

One day at the end of a class I taught on marketing, a young women made her way to the front of the room so excited she could hardly contain herself. She explained that she had been trying unsuccessfully to sell her writing for some time, but all of a sudden it was as if a light had been turned on. “I work in marketing for a big corporation—that’s my job—but it wasn’t until today’s class that I finally realized that everything I know about marketing on my job can apply to marketing my writing. Why hasn’t anyone ever told me that before?”

Well, I’ve been trying. And that is what I want you to realize right up front. If you know anything about marketing any product, it will likely apply to selling your writing. If you can grasp that concept, all I have to say here will be more beneficial.

Let me start by recognizing that marketing is nearly every writer’s least favorite job. I rarely run into writers who bubble and gush about marketing being so much fun they can hardly wait to get started. Most of us are creative people and we’d rather spend our time creating—not selling. I can’t promise I will change that for many of you, but I hope I can make it a little easier, more understandable, and less intimidating. When we get to the bottom line, we all want to know which publishers are going to buy what we write. That is not only a beginner’s question, I hear it from more experienced writers as well—those who have not figured out how the marketing process works. By the time you finish this Blog, you should have a clear picture of that process.

Monday, August 22, 2016


You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. You need to trust yourself, especially on the first draft, where amid the anxiety and self-doubt, there should be a real sense of your imagination and your memories . . . romping all over the lace. --Anne Lamott


When you are introduced, have your coat buttoned, your notes in hand,
and be prepared to stand and walk to the podium as soon as the introduction is finished.


Join a critique group and attend a writers' conference.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Write your memoirs while they are happening—and you remember the details.

Friday, August 12, 2016


Below are some statistics that define your adult Christian nonfiction reader:

61% are women

39% are men

77% are age 30 & up

66% are active Christians (not seekers)

12% are professing Christians

64% earn $35,000/yr. or more

50% have a college degree or higher

42% live in the south


If there are other speakers on the program, be there to hear what they say.
Tie what they say into your own remarks, if possible.


“The dearest ones of time, the strongest friends of the soul—BOOKS.”—Emily Dickinson


Be courteous to everyone you meet,
speaking to those who want to ask you something or say something to you.


Learn the difference between the use of an ellipsis and a dash.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Bring your notes in a professional looking notebook or folder, instead of loose pages.


Meet with other writers as often as you can.


“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” W. Somerset Maugham

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Your audience will start to form their opinion of you as soon as they see you.
Make a good first impression.


Clean off your desk and writing space.


A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Thomas Mann

Saturday, August 6, 2016


An effective “stage presence” is a combination of professionalism and warmth. Your persona can vary depending on whether the audience is all women, all men, or both.


Be a mentor for new writers.


“If you want to be a writer, you have to write everyday don't go to a well once but daily.” Walter Mosley

Friday, August 5, 2016


As a speaker you need to realize that you are “on stage” from the time you enter the meeting room. Conduct yourself accordingly.


Be a mentor for new writers.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Avoid filling your speech with filler words, such as “um,” “like,” “a,” “well,” “you know,” etc.
Pay a friend a quarter for everytime she catches you using one of those in your talk.


Ask other writers for help or advice.