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Friday, January 25, 2008

Don't Write Me Off!

My copy of Sally Stuart’s 2008 Christian Writers’ Market Guide arrived today. Its 628 pages are crammed with helpful information, everything from resources for writers to 1,200 markets for the written word. It is worth far more than the $34.99 price. But writer wannabes would be wrong to think getting published is a piece of cake. It isn’t. The Christian who thinks he doesn’t have to write, rewrite, and rewrite a manuscript needs a reality check. If he thinks the Lord gives him every word, he may be surprised to find a publisher shaking his head and asking if that’s the best the Lord can do. A publishable manuscript, like a work of art, demands skill, creativity, and patience.

I mentor more than one hundred aspiring writers. Some will get published; many will not. Some have obvious talent; some obviously have very little, if any. Some will persevere until they acquire talent; but some should have repeated fifth-grade English. But I admire every student’s desire to launch a ministry of writing.

Christian publishing companies would quickly go out of business if they accepted articles and books on a purely emotional basis. So they ask hard questions: Does this article have take-away value? Is there a market for this book? Does it meet our literary standards? Is its theology consistent with ours? What makes it different from other books that deal with the same topic? How can the author help sell his book? What sales figures can we project for this book?

Often, I receive a request from a friend or a friend of a friend to read a manuscript and register my opinion. The expectation is I will evaluate it free of charge and render a favorable verdict. I have lost friends and friends of friends by insisting I can’t afford to work for nothing and by rendering a negative verdict after reading a manuscript that falls flat. Usually, I hear something like this: “My family and friends have read my book, and they all thought it was great and should be published.” I guess those family members and friends either didn’t read from a professional perspective or they were too loving (cowardly) to give the book a two-thumbs-down.

The world seems to be at its worst today, so it needs Christian writers to be at their best. We have a powerful, restorative message for readers, but we must present it skillfully, accurately, and persuasively.

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