Editor: Christian Writers Market
Mary Rosenblum: Sally Stuart has been writing for 43
years—and has put out 25 editions of theChristian Writers' Market Guide. With
another dozen other books, countless articles and columns, and marketing
columnist for three writer’s publications, she is considered the leading
authority on the Christian market and is in demand as a conference speaker.
Sally, I am so pleased that you've been willing to spend some time with us! I've been referring writing students to your book for years as the comprehensive market guide for the Christian marketplace. Your credentials as a writer are pretty impressive, too! So how did this all come about? How did you begin writing and how did The Christian Writer's Market get started?
Sally Stuart: Actually doing the market guide was not even my idea initially. I was visiting an editor I worked with back then and asked if he would pay for a mailing if I sent a questionnaire to some of the publishers to get new market info for a class I was teaching later. He agreed, but later suggested I send out a few more questionnaires, put them in book form, and he would publish it. I agreed--having no idea that the project would dominate my life for over 25 years. Of course, God knew what He was doing.
As far as getting started in writing, I was not one of those people who always wanted to write. In fact, it could not have been further from my mind. But when I was a young mother and doing a lot of extra work at the church, I got frustrated because no one else was helping. For some reason, I wrote out my frustration and challenge to others to help in an article I called "How Much is Enough?" My husband encouraged me to show it to the pastor, and he encouraged me to send it to the denominational magazine. I did, and they bought it. I made $6 on that first article--but it was a start and I was hooked. I continued for the next few years to sell everything I wrote. I think God knew if I didn't sell it, I would probably stop writing. Now I can look back and see that He picked me up and threw me into writing because it was where He needed me.
Mary Rosenblum: That's such a cool beginning Sally.
I'd say that a roach was laid down in front of you, eh? Same thing with
the Writer's Market.
Have you discovered the other topic threads in the Professional Connection here? Just below this one, I started a topic on the Christian marketplace. I know quite a few writers are interested in selling to the Christian markets.
Lizbeth: Who are the biggest Christian authors right now? And biggest Christian publishers? I am familiar with a lot of the non-fiction Christian writers but who's big in fiction?
Pam Out West: I love your story of how it all began
Sally. If we only respond to God's nudging and train ourselves to bend to His
will, life reveals the mysteries. The challenge is discerning what is our will
and our 'great ideas' and what is His will and His ways; the
bending part is hard too!
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways
higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 RSV
Oh, we can hardly talk Christian without a Bible reference. Now we're on the page and connected legit.
Where have your articles been published? For starters, where did you publish "How Much is Enough?"
Thank you for spending time with us.
Sally Stuart: Lizbeth--There are a lot of rising stars in Christian fiction: Angela Ewell Hunt, Francine Rivers, Lauraine Snelling, Liz Curtis Higgs, DiAnn Mills--to name a few. The top fiction publishers are Thomas Nelson, Bethany House, Zondervan, Barbour & Tyndale House. Pam--I haven't actually sold articles for a number of years--since I started doing the market guide and other books. I did start out with articles, however. I wrote mostly for the Christian education market (how-to resources for Sunday school teachers), as well as articles for children's publications. I was published in all the CE and children's magazines or Sunday school take-home papers during that time. "How Much is Enough" was published in "Viital Christianity"--which is no longer being published. I really encourage writers to start with writing for periodicals to hone your craft, but also to start developing a reputation as someone who does a certian kind of writing or who writes on a certian topic. Although I had no formal education in Christian education, I went on to write 7 Christian education books. It was the reputation I had acquired through all those magazines that made me an "expert" in that field.
Mary Rosenblum: Sally, part of the reason I refer my students to The Christian Writers Market is that the Christian marketplace is very large, and I don't know my way around it the way I do in other areas of the publishing industry. What insights can you share with us about the Christian marketplace, what editors want, and what aspiring writers need to know?
Sally Stuart: If you have a copy of the market guide, the first thing to do is spend enough time purusing it that you feel comfortable handlng it and learn how it is set up. Although it's a big book, it is set up very logically and actually easy to use. The topical listings for both books and periodicals will tell you exactly which publishers would be open to submissions of the particular thing you have to offer. Look up the listings for those publishers, go to their website & print a copy of their guidelines. Those should give you a pretty good idea if that publisher is right for your writing project. If not a good fit, move on to another one on that topical list. Don't take shortcuts when it comes to marketing. It takes time, but the time invested pays off in sales.
Pam Out West: It has been a while since I've paged through your market guide, but please remind me, does the guide indicate fundamental differences in publications such as Trinitarian or non-Trinitarian Christian publications? I would think this world-view would make a difference in submittals, and efficient use of everyone's time.
DLB: Sally, are fantasy novels with a Christian "slant" saleable to Christian Markets? I've only seen one fantasy novel written with a Christian "slant". It was the frist and last one I've seen. I write fantasy stories and want to show and talk about the love of Jesus in my stories but have trouble finding a market for them. Thank you.
Sally Stuart: Pam--The guide does not specifically indicate trinitarian/non-trinitarian, but a review of their guidelines will usually be pretty clear about where they stand. These days it is so important to get a copy of those guidelines--usually can be downloaded from their Website--and to study them carefully. Lately publishers are indicating that if you don't follow their guielines exactly, they can't be bothered to review your submissions. Concerning fantasy. Yes, there is a place for it in the Christian market these days. You will actually find fantasy included in the topical listings in the market guide. The whole area of fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction is growing--even Christian horror is beginning to show up. I wouldn't have believed it even 15 years ago.
Josh: Is this explosion of growth in the Christian market
due, in part, to the success of the Left Behind franchise? It seems that
whole phenomenon tapped into something previously untouched: faith based
Lizbeth: I know little to nothing of Christian fiction or markets (the last time I was in a Christian Bookstore was to buy Veggie Tales DVDs for the kids), but the whole Left Behind series seemed as big as Harry Potter at times.
I've read Christian fiction for years-but ironically never the Left Behind series- Taylor Caldwell, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis (one of my favorites), Philip Gulley (another favorite) and my all time favorite book The Shack by Andrew Young. Possibly the best book ever...
Sally Stuart: The Left Behind series certainly seemed to open the floodgates. However, it's Christian nonfiction that seems to currently be hitting the best seller lists. "The Shack" is one title that's stays on the list. As is "90 Minutes in Heaven" and several others. If you check out my blog (www.stuatmarket.blogspot.com) each week you will find a list of the Christian books currently on the New York Times Best Seller list.
Lizbeth: Sally, The Shack is fiction though, not non-fiction. I did read 90 Minutes in Heaven also - that was good too!
Josh: What's funny is that Tolken and CS Lewis (I read and re-read the Narnia books to tatters as a child) are among my favorite authors and I never really think of either of them as writing 'Christian' books. The allagory in Lewis is right on the surface, but the stories are so gripping and well written its easy to forget.
Ruthie: I checked out your blog, http://www.stuartmarket.blogspot.com/ Good information, thanks for directing us to it.
Lizbeth: CS Lewis did indeed write Christian books - he was one of the most influencial Christians of the 20th century -- I recommend The Screwtape Letters- excellent book!!
Mary Rosenblum: Sally, you have been writing for a very long time! What do you see as the skills that aspiring writers should focus on first, as they begin submitting their work to editors? What do you feel is most important to work on, if you want your work to be noticed?
Sally Stuart: Spend a lot of time developing your craft. These days, good writing seems to trump anything else you might do to get published. Studying the market is important, but if the writing is not as good as it can be, it will be much harder to get published.
Lizbeth: By "...if the writing is not as good as it can be, it will be much harder to get published." , do you mean story-wise, or grammar and punctuation wise?
Sally Stuart: Actually it is all three. Editors today have no patience--or editing funds--to do the writer's work for them. A clean ms is vital. If spelling, grammar, etc. are a problem for you, then it will be important to have it edited before you submit it. Editors are also looking for exceptional writing talent. As writers we need to be constantly honing our writing skills--which means reading how-to books, attending conferences, reading good writing in our area of interest-and writing-writing--writing.
Pam Out West: Do you have any suggestions how to write out articles or books to reach a broad Christian audience? To write with an interdenominational slant seems a bit tricky. Unfortunately Christianity in the U.S. seems to be multiplying in denominations rather than unifying. There seems to be a focus on differences rather than common truths. Thank you in advance for any insights.
Sally Stuart: Pam--There are a good number of denominations represented in the market guide, but many of them do not stick to a tight denominational slant. Denominational book publishers have come to realize that they cannot survive in today's market if they write strictly for those within their denomination. There are simply not enough potential customers. For that reason most of their books are written for the broader Christian market without any direct connection to their specific doctrine. As long as you stick to our common/universal belief in Jesus Christ you are usually on safe ground. Even in magazine articles, you just need to stay away from doctrinal issues.
Pam Out West: Thanks for the insight Sally. Do you have any favorite writing guide book titles that you'd like to share with us?
Sally Stuart: My how-to book "Sally Stuart's Guide to Getting Published" is a great resource for learning all the basics of getting published and being a professional freelancer (even if I do say so myself). Several groups have used it as a resource to study at each of their meetings--covering a different chapter each time. Actually, if you go to my Website (www.stuartmarket.com) and hit the bookstore, you will find a large number of resources for writers--covering just about every area of interest.
Mary Rosenblum: Definitely go there! And Sally, thank you so much for your sage advice! It will help a lot of new and aspiring writers. Enjoy our sudden summer! You have been a great guest!
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