Want to Get Published? 3 Things a Publisher Must See

Note: This is the first post in a series of 4 posts: 3 Things a Publisher Must See.

3 things

You have a book in your heart that you’d love to see published. It may even be a great book. A publisher and her editing board need to see three things to say the “yes” you’re hoping for. They need to see: a unique project, a viable market and the right author.

1. A Publisher Needs to See a Unique Project

Although what you’re writing may seem fresh to you, know that publishers have already received countless pitches for “My Cancer Journey,” “My Eating Disorder Journey,” “My Spiritual Memoir.” Does this mean you scrap your project? No. But it does mean that you need to demonstrate how yours is unique. For example, these might catch a publisher’s attention:

  • Why Cancer Was The Best Thing To Happen to Me This Year
  • How My Eating Disorder Was Cured When I Won “The Biggest Loser”
  • I Was a Satanist High Priest and Now I Love Jesus

Make an editor curious enough to open your proposal!

One baby step toward publication: Read other books in your genre and identify what, if anything, makes yours unique.

2. A Publisher Needs to See a Viable Market

The publisher also needs to see that there is a market for this book. Who are the readers who will buy your book? What is the felt-need they have that will cause them to purchase your book, read it and rave about it to their friends? Research the market so that you can demonstrate that there are book-buying readers who need your book.

One baby step toward publication: Develop a one- or two-sentence “elevator pitch” that succinctly communicates the substance of your book, who will read it and what distinguishes it from similar books.

3. A Publisher Needs to See an Author Who Can Write and Promote This Book

A publisher is looking for authors who can write and who can also get that writing before an audience.

You’ve probably heard that author platform—your ability to reach readers—is the most important thing to a publisher. (And it’s pretty important.) But hear this: every publisher wants to publish great writing.

Chapters and pages and paragraphs and sentences and phrases need to engage readers. Your goal is to get a publisher (aka “reader”) to read the first sentence of your proposal and want to read the next one and the next one. You may think it’s an editor’s job to give your proposal a thorough reading, but it’s not. Her job is to find quality books to publish. When she is perusing your proposal, she can check out—and check facebook—at any point in the process. Develop your craft so that you can write prose that a reader does not want to put down.

And there’s also that platform business…

Who has platform? Oprah. Rick Warren. Francis Chan.

Intimidated? You don’t need to be. You can be building your platform right now by:

  • pitching and writing articles for publications
  • developing an audience for your blog
  • building your speaking resume by speaking places for free: MOPs groups, churches, etc.

The key is finding what works for you and sticking with it.

One baby step toward becoming a great writer: Sign up for a local writing class, sometimes available at city colleges, or attend a writer’s conference in your area.

One baby step toward building platform: Set a goal to publish one article or story, with a reputable national publication that appeals to the eventual audience for your book, in the next three months.

Cheering you on,

Margot

 

 

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Do I HAVE to Be a “Christian Writer”?

confused woman--question marks

For my first eight years as a publishing writer, I had a hot New York agent. She hung with me through high times and low—until the day I sent her my new manuscript, which was overtly faith-based. She dropped me like a potato on fire. I knew that would happen. But I had to obey God and offer explicit Scripture-based hope. Most of my subsequent books have done the same.

I never wanted to be a “Christian writer.” I never wanted to be confined to “Christian readers.” I wanted to write for ALL people, and I still do. But I also know my faith can turn people away. Here is our dilemma: how do we write the truth with integrity, yet speak to all people, regardless of faith? Here are some thoughts that guide me through the thorny “Christian Writers” thicket.

We need not tell all the truth about anything at any one time (even if we thought we knew it). Life, issues, experiences, even under the purview of God, are all complex, multi-layered, paradoxical. Communicating Truth and truths is a process that we engage in over a lifetime, encompassing many possible stages: plowing, sowing, watering, reaping. We need never feel that we have to roll out the entire plan of redemption in any one novel or memoir to make it “Christian.” There’s time. Think of your work as a body of work over your lifetime.

old books on shelf

Though I want all people to know Christ, more, I want Christ to be made known.
Because he is found everywhere in life, in all places, in all things, I am not only freed but compelled to discover Him and make some aspect of His being known through twig, creek, moonrise, miscarriage, forgiveness, cyclone, salmon, burial, and supper.

Belief in Christ’s truth-claims do not narrow our art. Christians are accused of being “narrow-minded” because they subscribe to Christ’s radical and exclusive truth claims (“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but by me.”) Belief in this claim does not confine, exclude, or narrow our art: nothing and no one is more capacious, more inclusive, more imaginative, more original than Christ himself, who created all things, who is before all things, who binds all things together, who can be found in every cell of creation.

Pacing in Writing | Wordserve Water Cooler

I intend to write only out of calling and passion. I seek that from God, not my agent, not the market, not editors, or even my publisher. This guarantees a wobbly path rather than a sure career. But, face it: there is no sure career in writing except the career of writing from faithfulness, obedience, and joy.

God’s truths are not just propositional and communicable by language: they are experiential, relational, incarnational. I desire to write from a faith that I am trying to live in and out of, rather than a faith I am simply pronouncing. Without lived-in faith, our words truly are noisy gongs. As Joy Sawyer has so brilliantly written,

“ . . . without an ever-increasing, tangible portrait of our God engraved upon our hearts, we reduce our proclamation of the gospel to the “clanging symbol” of language alone. Maybe that is why our message suffers so much when we rely upon mere rhetoric to communicate our faith: it’s simply bad poetry. Just as a poem can scarcely exist without images, we most fully express our poet-God by daily allowing ourselves to be crafted into the image of Christ.

I end here. I believe that writing is a calling, a kind of pilgrimage that takes us, like Abraham, from one land to another, through, of course, wastelands, where the promise of a promised land appears invisible and impossible—-but the writing inexorably, day by night, moves us closer to the city of God. And if we write well and true, we will not be traveling there alone. Others, at first reluctant, will slowly move with us, following our own feet and our words, drawn to the brightness of a city with open gates and lights that never dim.

Open gate--stone wall