In my February blog we talked about finding God’s will through the Bible, positioning ourselves to do His will, getting godly counsel, and rattling doorknobs. I promised to give you some personal examples of how I found God’s will in several areas of my life. Today I’m going to talk about how God led me through various steps in writing for Christian publication. I hope this will help some of you who are searching for God’s will in a similar area.
I enjoyed writing from the first time I had to write an essay for grade school all the way up to Bible college. I didn’t know anything about writing for publication, however, and I didn’t know if I would be “good enough” to do this. Early in my junior year at Faith Baptist Bible College I asked the Lord to show me if this is what he had for me.
God used a godly counsellor, one of my professors, to help me begin to think about this. Mr. Clarence Townsend taught both journalism classes the school offered at that time. He had published at least some articles. He was familiar with my writing. He asked me a scary question: “If you could do anything you wanted with your writing, what would you choose?”
I told him someday I would love to write a series of children’s books like the Chronicles of Narnia. He didn’t laugh! He told me to set that as a long range goal. That took my breath away.
Then he helped me form some short range goals to get to my long range goals. He showed me how to submit an article for a take-home paper with Regular Baptist Press. He showed me the writers’ guidelines and talked about the kind of article they would probably like to see. He helped me dare to actually submit an article. My first article or two were rejected, but I soon established a rapport with the editor and began submitting articles on a regular basis. Getting articles published was a short range goal that also allowed me to have a ministry in the short run.
I also pursued other short range goals: writing kids’ prayer letters, attending writers’ conferences, reading publications on writing, writing plays and puppet shows for ministry. All of these things developed my writing skill, taught me how to work with editors, and help me develop new ideas.
Writing Books and Ministry Materials
In the 1980’s I also wrote my first book. I submitted it to editors, had it critiqued by professionals, rewrote it, retitled it, submitted it to more editors. One editor had showed interest in the first chapter, but when I finished the book he was no longer interested. I spent 4 or 5 hours just printing out that book to send to an editor. I sent it by mail and waited months to hear about it.
At one point, while I was waiting to hear from an editor, I wrote another book. This was a kid’s book about a missionary kid who came from the US to live in Taiwan. This book was easy to write because the protagonist, Amy, dealt with some of the same issues I had to wrestle with as an adult who moved to Taiwan. While the first book has never been published, Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World was published by Bob Jones University Press in 1994. By now It has been printed seven times. It’s part of BJUP’s homeschool curriculum for third grade and has been used by many mission boards to prepare MK’s to go to the mission field.
With my first book in print I figured I could largely leave articles behind and begin to write kids’ books. In time BJUP did publish three more of my books for kids and teens. I also tried to market other manuscripts: a VBS program, Christmas programs, a puppet show book, an ESL Bible study book. I initially wrote these things for our own ministry, but wanted to be able to offer them to others. Some of these I successfully marketed to Christian publishers, some I didn’t.
Finding New Markets and Means of Publication
If you know anything about writing for publication you know that selling work to traditional Christian publishers changed dramatically in the early years of the new millennium. Things that used to be easy to sell, no longer were. Today traditional publishers are much slower to take risks. But now we see the rise of “indie publishing” in which independent authors self-publish or use small independent publishers and maintain complete creative control over their books. Indie publication is the great game changer that opens new doors for authors today.
After traditionally publishing four books, Edges of Truth, carried me into the new world of indie publishing. I felt the Lord leading me to write this true story of Mary Weaver, a godly Christian woman who was convicted of shaking and slamming a baby to death. God worked in amazing ways in the case of this innocent lady, but traditional publishers felt Mary wasn’t well enough known for them to take risks on her story. I self-published this book in 2013 without the need for years of searching for an agent and a publisher. Though self-publishing means I have to find designers to do what I can’t and do my own book promotion, I enjoy writing what I think the Lord wants me to write with the guarantee it can reach publication.
The internet also offers a digital platform to sell or give away writing in a myriad of forms.
In forty years of ministry I’ve written many ministry resources which, while helpful to us, were almost impossible to sell to traditional publishers. Though I wasn’t able to sell some of these puppet shows, programs, and ESL Bible studies to publishers, they created a lot of interest when offered on my website. Having your own website and blog gives you the freedom to write things your way and offer them to others.
Self-publication is becoming easier all the time, but if you are self-publishing you need to make sure you are offering a quality product. You need to be prepared to market that product in a variety of ways. Information about self-publication and marketing is available in many different formats over the internet.
So I still need the Lord’s guidance. I continue to ask him to lead me in the current writing process. I seek advice from Christian writers and groups who know more about publication than I do. I talk to editors and other writers at conferences. I submit manuscripts and pay attention to the reaction from editors and agents. I look for feedback from people I trust. I take the next step and ask God to lock the doors I shouldn’t go through, and open the ones I should.
God uses these things to lead me step by step forward. With each step the Lord shows me enough to take the next step. And we go forward together.
Perhaps you are beginning to write for Christian publication and you don’t know what to do next. Where can you go for answers to questions and suggestions for your next steps?
I have many articles that give tips on starting to write for publication. You might find them helpful.
Here is my article on Christian writer’s conferences and which ones I have attended and recommend.
May the Lord guide you as you work to find his will for you today.