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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Seeing your name in printcomment (0)

January 13, 2005

By Cheryl Sloan Wray


People have a wide variety of dreams, and for many of them it’s the dream of seeing their name on a book cover, a magazine article or a piece of sheet music — yet most people who have the dream of becoming a published writer don’t have the tools for finding publishing success.
   
According to experts in the publishing arena, however, there are things Christian writers can do to find success as published book authors, freelance writers, poets or songwriters.
   
While many people dream of being the next Max Lucado or Beth Moore, the road to getting a book published is not easy. According to Rebecca England, an editor at New Hope Publishers in Birmingham, there are many things that can help an aspiring book author to travel that road more easily. 
   
The first thing to remember, she said, is to keep your potential readers in mind. “Make sure your motivation is to help readers with their needs, their everyday lives, to help them understand God more fully and experience Christ in their lives,” she said. “Love your readers by caring about their needs, and doing the best you can to meet them through your writing.”
   
England said also that writers with expertise or experience in a specific area have a better chance at success. “Make sure that you have the life experience to credibly back up your message and a platform to speak about it regularly if possible,” she said. 
   
A great idea — and the experience to back it up — is one thing, but getting a book published is certainly another. The first step is to find a list of book publishing companies that might be interested in your book. Two good resources for this information are “The Writer’s Market” (an annual guide published by Writer’s Digest Books that lists book publishers and their needs) and “The Christian Writer’s Market Guide” (an annual guide edited by Sally Stuart that focuses on Christian publishers). 
   
Once a possible publisher is located, the writer needs to formulate a book proposal to send to an editor.
   
A book proposal includes a summary of your book idea, table of contents, sample chapter, marketing information and information about the author.
   
England said there are several keys to writing an effective book proposal. “Aspiring writers often put together proposals without thinking through how the book will be marketed. Does the idea have a great title? Is the premise easily understood? How is your book better than or different from other books on the topic? How can the publisher and author work together?” she said. “Write your own marketing copy, then see if it’s compelling. If it’s not, you may have to adjust the proposal.”
   
For many writers dreaming of having a book published, it’s often smart to start a little bit smaller.
Many editors encourage writers to write magazine articles, devotionals and other material before trying to land a book deal.
   
Sammie Barstow, a freelance writer and member of First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, publishes articles on a regular basis for Christian magazines and is also the registrar for the annual Southern Christian Writers Conference held at First, Tuscaloosa, each June. She said that aspiring writers can succeed by following some simple pieces of instruction. “Study writer’s guidelines in detail and do exactly what they say. Submit your best work, because neatness and professional format mean a lot,” she said.
“Also read books about writing, attend writing conferences, and find writing friends. And, of course, write and rewrite until it’s absolutely your best.”
   
Barstow also encourages writers to not worry about starting small. 
   
“Be willing to begin with the small publications, because once you get published in one you can use those credentials to submit to other publications,” she said. 
   
It’s also important, she said, to keep writing in perspective. 
   
“Writing is a talent and a gift and Christians are to be stewards of all our gifts, so look for ways you can use your gift of writing as an offering,” she said. “There are many opportunities to do that in your church. You might work on a newsletter, write or compile a devotional guide for a particular emphasis, develop brochures to promote church activities or write a Bible study for a specific age group or situation.”
   
Another area of writing that generates quite a bit of interest from writers who dream of getting published is poetry. Of all the writing disciplines, though, poetry is one that may be the hardest to get published. Christian writers, then, encourage others to write from their heart and for others.
   
Pat Taylor, a member of Unity Baptist Church in Rock Creek, has been writing poetry for almost 35 years and has been published in church newsletters, book anthologies, The Western Star (Bessemer’s weekly newspaper) and books self-published by individuals. 
   
She has written customized poems for people’s birthdays and wrote an “angel poem” for a local funeral home to use in a memorial flyer. More than anything, though, she writes for herself and to serve God.
   
“I usually write a prayer in the inside cover of a card when I give cards for different occasions. It is a way to witness to people without offending them, and if I can turn someone to the Lord with my words then I have accomplished my goal for writing,” Taylor said. 
   
“I also write prayers in a journal which are really poems, and are written to God to thank Him and praise Him.”
   
Taylor’s advice for aspiring poets is to ask God for direction in their writing. “Ask for God’s direction and ask Him to fill you with the words He would have you say,” she said. “Our words are great, but do they really help someone unless they have God’s blessing?”
   
She also encourages writers to “just write, write, write.” 
   
It’s important, she said, to write in a journal every day and to brainstorm freely. “Sometimes I am driving and a poem pops into my head and I have to stop and write it down,” Taylor said. “I keep a small notebook in my purse for my writing all the time. If you feel compelled to write, stop whatever you are doing and take the time to write it down, whether it’s on a napkin or a paper sack.”
   
Yet another area of writing that appeals to aspiring writers is songwriting; as is the case with other styles of writing, it is imperative to learn the methods it takes to get published in this area. 
   
According to Dave Byers, founder of the Web site www.christiansongwriting.org and author of “Songwriting Fundamentals,” it does take effort to find success as a songwriter. “Writing songs is just like anything else,” he said. “It takes hard work and study to be a good writer.” Byers said the key to success is perseverance — and writing what you’re passionate about.
   
“Keep writing and write what you know,” he said. “Write about what you live and how you see things. Be conversational and let the song dictate the words.”
   
Publishing success in songwriting is tied in directly with finding a publisher for your work. Byers said there are several guidebooks that will help the aspiring songwriter find a publisher. “The 2005 Songwriters Market Book,” “Music Publishing: A Songwriters Guide,” and “You’ve Written a Song, So Now What?” are useful in finding market information. 
   
It is also important, Byers said, to network with other Christian songwriters by locating fellow local writers through church or word-of-mouth, attending writers’ conferences and finding online support. “Sometimes finding local writers is not an easy task, so online communities can quickly connect you with other writers just like yourself. You can get feedback on songs and join in many interesting discussions on the subject of writing songs,” Byers said.
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