Threat to society
Twenty-five rejection-proof markets
I had to condense Communicating to Change Lives down to 40,000 words, so a lot of good stuff ended up on the cutting room floor. But, ah, the joys of the Internet. Here's an item that was deleted in the final cut:
Changing Lives in Non-Traditional Venues
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message.
Let's begin by reading from the New Living King James Watkins Amplified Version:
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If a writer should say, "Because I have not been published in Christianity Today, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the Body. If the whole body was writing for Guideposts, who would write for take-home papers?
But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many kinds of writers, but one body.
A writer for Decision cannot say to a writer of a church newsletter, "I don't need you!" And a best-selling author cannot say to the one who writes letters to the editor, "I don't need you!"
On the contrary, those writers who don't command six-figure advances are indispensable, and the writers who don't appear on the cover of The Christian Communicator deserve equal honor as those who do. And the writers who are never interviewed on Christian talk shows are just as necessary as those in the spotlight.
But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part receives a rejection slip, every part suffers with it; if one part signs a contract with Tyndale House, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
How many of you believe that you are a part of Christ's Body?
How many of you believe that your are an indispensable part Of Christ's Body?
Unfortunately, the place you may feel least indispensable is at a writers' conference.
Christian publishing has a tendency to make us feel very
Several trends in the publishing industry can cause those feelings:
Good news: Standards in writing are rising in Christian publishing
Bad news: Standards in writing are rising in Christian publishing
"Good" writing is no longer good enough. Editors are looking for excellent writing!
Good news: There's still room for freelance writers.
Bad news: There's room for only 1 percent of freelance writers.
Fortunately, that 99 percent are the "posers."
Those who have never picked up The Christian Writers'
those who have never read a publishers "writers
For eight years I edited a magazine for Christian teens:
I was amazed the number of submissions
for therapeutic massage.
Some submissions were for very
If you'll simply do a bit of research, you'll increase your odds For publication exponentially!
Good news: Religious books are becoming best-sellers.
Left Behind series sold 65 million copies!
The Purpose-Driven Life is the best-selling nonfiction book of all time other than the Bible!
Bad news: Religious books are becoming best-sellers . . .
but only if your name is Jerry Jenkins or Rick Warren.
Here's a quick reality check:
According to Publisher's Weekly, in 2004, of the 1.2 million books tracked by Nielson Bookscan:
950,000 (79%) sold less than 99 copies
200,000 (17%) sold less than 1,000 copies (The average book sells only 500 copies).
25,000 (0.02%) sold more than 5,000 copies
500 (0.0004%) sold 100,000 copies
10 (0.0000008%) sold more than 1,000,000 copies. ( That's less than one in 100,000 copies will sell a million.)
Good news: You're at a writers' conference
Bad news: You're at a writers' conference
Here's why: In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul explains why we can feel
dispensable at a conference
or worse at International Christian Book Sellers convention
We look at the brochure featuring best-selling authors
who have sold a gazillion books.
I made the mistake of sitting next to Frank Peretti at a book signing on the west coast right after This Present Darkness broke sales records.
Write this down: never, ever sit next to Frank Peretti
at a book signing.
He had a line stretching to Nebraska.
I signed probably 20 books at night.
So I was writing entire essays:
Dear friend, thank you for buying my book so I
don't look like a complete loser with no one
standing in my line. I'm forever grateful. God bless you! Thank you! Oh, here comes someone
else, you can love now. 3 John 2, Jim
He was scribbling Frank! Frank! Frank!
So it's really easy to compare yourself to the "big" names at
And the next step on this downward spiral is to . . .
I'll write the next This Present Darkness.
I'll sell millions of copies.
I'll be interview on "Good Morning, America. "
And when it doesn't happen, we . . .
Well, his book started out really slow.
And the writing itself wasn't that great and . . .
For years I struggled to become a "big" author.
I had six books published, but they were small, denominational publishers.
I had over 300 articles published, but they were mostly in "take home" papers.
Then in 1992, I read Thomas 'a Kempis' Imitation of Christ.
And one line stabbed me right in the heart and then twisted the blade: "Be content as an unknown."
Was my goal ministry or marketplace?
Did I want to make a difference in people's lives?
Or make a difference in my bottom line?
I really struggled with being "content as an unknown"! (I could be such a witness as a member of Oprah's book club!)
But I discovered something very profound
You'll want to write this down:
God has called me to be me
God has called you to be you
You see, I can be a second-rate Rick Warren
or a first-rate Jim Watkins.
So, I finally discovered my part in the Body of Christ.
I write things that don't allow Christians to sit comfortably in
their padded pews.
So in the Body of Christ, I'm a hemorrhoid!
As a NYT editor described our roles as writers, "We are to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
So, my goal is to be the best possible pain in the rear
So here's the good news!
Without a single "bad news" disclaimer!
You can be an indispensable part of the ministry of writing with these twenty-five rejection-proof markets
Many of them, like many of the parts of Christ's body,
seem insignificant, but in His eyes, you and I are indispensable!
Many authors never intended their writing to have a worldwide audience.
Emily Dickinson's poetry was written as encouragement in letters to friends.
She would become furious when they gave them to publishers.
Many of John Wesley's, CS Lewis' and Francis Schaeffer's letters were never intended for publication,
but have blessed thousands of readers.
And the greatest example of all: the apostle Paul!
Half of the New Testament were simply pastoral letters
to early churches.
I doubt if he ever sent out a query or proposal to
the Jerusalem Council!
So, you too can have a ministry of
1. Family, friends
The most life-changing piece I have ever written was the following song:
Woke up this morning
the two of you on my mind.
Thinking how you're changing me
seeing where I was blind.
And I look up to the sky above
and wonder if you knew
how nice it feels
loving God and you.
Sharing our dreams together.
Talking of His love.
Caught up in a triangle
with you and God above.
And I wonder how I got by
'fore I met the two of you
Now I'm compete
loving God and you.
I wonder if it'll last this time
the feeling 'tween me and you
or if it's another transition
from her to someone new
But if my wish is answered
and if it's His wish too,
I'll spend my life
loving God and you.
© Copyright 1973 James N. Watkins
Lois Farra said yes on February 12, 1973, and
on August 3, 1974,
she changed her name to Lois Watkins.
Now that was life changing!
Bob McDowell's wife was dying of cancer,
so each day he wrote her a letter sharing the qualities about her that loved and appreciated.
They certainly changed the last few weeks of her life.
So don't forget your spouse.
Write to your children and grandchildren.
Again, some of the most life changing writing I have done has been for my children,
and now, grandchildren.
I also have saved all the emails I sent to Faith and Paul during their college years.
I had always had a good relationship with Faith,
but in her college emails, she really opened up her heart.
When I asked her about it,
she rolled her eyes and sighed.
"Dad, I can choose my words carefully and I don't have to look at you."
Consider changing your children's lives with your writing.
And don't forget your friends.
Some of the best encouragement I receive is from a list serve of humor writers.
While I've never met them personally, they have become close friends.
And of course, there's Facebook.
2. Those away from home (collegians, missionaries, military personnel, prisoners)
With email, there's really no excuse not to keep contact with friends and family far from home.
In my three weeks in India, those emails were the only thing that kept me sane (or close to it).
I can't imagine being deployed and away from my family
for a year!
Or serving a four-year term as a missionary. Or a twenty-year sentence as a political prisoner.
They desperately need our love and encouragement!
Prison Fellowship can match you up with a prison desperate for encouragement from the outside.
And they make sure the prisoner does not know your last name or locale
so your new BFF doesn't show up at your doorstep when they're released.
3. Political leaders
Politicians believe that for every single letter from a constituent,
one thousand others feel the same way but don't write.
Here's a way to affect the country's direction! And legally vote 1,000 times in November!
And not to get political, but our leaders are in desperate
need of godly direction.
4. Church leaders, pastors
One note of encouragement can keep a minister going when
he or she is on the verge of giving up
and becoming an insurance salesperson or Wal-Mart greeter.
5. Members of church, shut-ins
You can have a huge impact on members of your Sunday school class, shut-ins.
I'm communications pastor at a large church and one of my roles
is providing encouragement to the congregation through
email and social media.
I love being their iPastor!
What's the biggest book in the Bible?
And what are the Psalms?
Writing to God!
And I can promise you, you'll never get a rejection slip from Him.
It's also a way to get your feelings out on paper
so you can effectively meditate and pray upon them.
II. Local church
7. Sermons, talks
I firmly believe that good speakers are first good writers.
Even if you only "write" it in your head,
you need a good lead,
development of central premise,
and a good ending.
Sermons, seminars, talks
crash on take-offs and landings,
so I always write out, at least, my first few remarks.
And if I don't have my last few thoughts written down,
I find myself trying to bring it down by circling the field
with several "touch and go" landingswhich frighten your listeners. So, so them a favor and bring it in for a safe landing.
8. Midweek mailers, direct mail
If you offer to write and edit these for your over-worked pastor,
he or she will accept your proposal.
You'll be learning how to write on deadline,
develop the discipline to write when you don't feel "inspired,"
and learn how to write "tight."
Actually, writing midweek mailings is how Max Lucado started writing and he's done quite well.
Writing for your local church also gives you
immediate feedback and
encouragementunlike magazines which can take one year and
books that can take two years to put ink to paper.
One reason most church advertising fails is that
it stresses features rather than benefits.
Times and dates of programs don't inspire attendance
You have to show the benefits of
getting out of bed,
getting the kids fed and bathed,
driving through traffic to church.
Episcopal ran a great ad campaign years ago featuring a
TV with element of Communion sitting on top. Underneath, simply,
"Sony doesn't serve Communion. The Episcopal Church." Now that's a benefit over any TV ministry!
Millions of dollars are available to local churches
through charitable foundations.
At one church my wife pastored,
a major corporation provided a
video projection and sound system
for the church's senior adult ministry.
All expenses paid!
10. Bulletin material
A bulletin can simply tell one which hymn to turn to or
what night the board meeting will be held.
Or it can used to reinforce the week's focus.
Each Monday, the pastor of a friend of mine calls her with his
Then she writes a 150-word devotional for the back of the bulletin that reinforces that theme.
Keep in mind, we forget 90 percent of what we hear, so her devotional will help the message be retainedat least until the bulletin goes in the recycle bin.
11. Job descriptions, policies
Most church problems begin with petty problems:
How many hours is the pastor expected to put in each week?
Are the ushers adequately informed as to their duties?
Who clears the snow in winter?
Who get flowers in the hospital or funeral home?
Do you need to be a regular attender?
What constitutes a "regular attender"?
Christmas and Easter?
Is there a charge for using the church for weddings, anniversary
Is there a charge for custodians, sound techs?
Detailed job descriptions and written policies
help a church to function smoothly and fairly,
especially in times of crisis.
Staff conflicts are minimized when
each member know his or her roles.
Policies treat each parishioner fairly and impartially,
can reduce misunderstandings and hurt feelings,
as well as eliminate the need for special board meetings.
So, you can prevent a messy church fight or split if
you'll just offer to write a manual. That's a "ministry"!
12. History of church
An understanding of the church's history provides a sense of tradition,
loyalty, and a
sense of mission.
While my wife was pastoring,
I wrote up a revised and updated history of the 150-year-old church, which we discovered was the oldest church building in our denomination still being used as a church,
was an underground railroad station,
the site of one of the denomination's general conferences,
and where the first Wesleyan missionaries were
It helped a small, struggling church to feel better about its past and gave hope for the future.
13. Plays, seasonal programs
Most packaged plays and programs are
carefully designed as to not offend anyone from
Pentecostals to Presbyterians and
everyone in between,
so they tend to be safe and very generic.
A friend writes an annual Easter play for her church
that not only celebrates Christ's resurrection,
but celebrates the unique musical and dramatic talents of her church
with just the right number of cast members.
The same generic feeling is found in curriculum
from general publishers.
Offer to write a week or quarter of curriculum that
highlights your churches particular mission statement or emphasis.
15. Annual reports
BORING! But they don't have to be dry statistics that
induce a congregation-wide coma.
Use your best fiction techniques to tell the story of changed lives.
Put human flesh on visions and dreams with story-telling.
III. Local papers
16. Letters to the editor
Next to obituaries, letters to the editor are
the most read section of the paper.
Editors are desperately looking for
I started regularly writing letters to my local paper until
the editor called to say,
"Jim, how ‘bout I just give you a column every Monday
in the three papers we own?"
I did that for fifteen years.
17. Church news
If your church is having
a special guest,
celebrating an anniversary,
breaking ground for a new building, or
write a new release using the "inverted pyramid"
Five Ws and an H in first paragraph; less and less important information in each
Develop a "nose for news."
There are hundreds of stories hiding inside your church and
sitting in the pew.
IV. Denominational publications
Having worked at a denominational headquarters,
I know how anxious editors are to receive quality writing
from their constituents.
Make a list of all the publications your denomination produces.
Mine is a small denomination, yet produces
a denominational magazine,
a missions magazine,
a daily devotional booklet, and
an adult "take home" paper.
And all buy freelance material.
Personal contact with an editor helps you break into the publication. Visit your denominational headquarters
or meet them at regional meetings.
If you're a member of that denomination with
a portfolio of quality writing,
you will be asked to write.
Two easy ways to break in are . . .
18. Letters to the editor
19. News releases
V. Your very own publishing company
If you have a computer and an Internet connection
you have everything you need to become the publisher
of your own work
for a worldwide audience.
And, in many cases, without spending a dime!
20. E-mail news letters
Each month, I send out my best (?) current article or essay,
plus information on my books and speaking ministry.
It's a great opportunity to write to thousands of people,
many who forward it to friends,
and best of all with
no envelopes, postage, or trips to the post office.
With Constant Contact, Mail Chimp or other programs
you can include
photos, graphics, links to Web site.
It also allows people to subscribe,
automatically updates list and keeps track of how many emails are actually opened and other stats.
21. Facebook "Notes"
Don't discount Facebook's "Notes" feature
where you can post longer pieces. And it's a great way to target a very specific audience.
I have several writer friends who have exceeded the
current 5,000 "friend" limit
and have set up "Fan" pages.
22. Web site, blog
There are many free Web site and blog (Web log)
hosting sites and
none require any programming skills;
just point and click.
WordPress is my favorite.
Here's a chance to reach over 3 billion Internet users
all around the world with your writing.
I've had jameswatkins.com since 1997
and have received literally millions of visitors from
every continent except Antartica (computers must "freeze" up there).
Just recently, I started hopeandhumor.org with six writer
Now with mobile devices such as
tablets and readers
electronic media are the wave of publishing future!
Unless it's home videos of your family and friends,
videos need writers! There are endless possibilities from book trailers
to drama to music to . . .
it's only limited by your creativity!
I have sketches from my comedy/drama on YouTube.
The last two categories involve self-publishing books.
It's certainly not for "losers" who
can't get published by "legitimate" publishers.
The Living Bible was self-published
since no publisher saw a market for
a "paraphrased" Bible.
Ken Taylor edited it on his kitchen table and
launched a multi-million seller along with Tyndale House.
T. D. Jake's first book was self-published as well as
Gary Smalley's first two books.
And don't forget The Shack that sold over 7 million.
Others who have self-published include
Mark Twain (Twain had nothing good to say about publishers!),
Edgar Rice Burroughs,
Edgar Allan Poe,
Benjamin Franklin and
whose little book, Common Sense,
sparked the American Revolution.
Before you self-publish, ask yourself three questions:
1. Has a royalty publisher praised your book, but told you there's a limited market?
Most of the authors listed proved that there indeed was a market for their books.
Once they had proven they could sell their work,
royalty publishers picked them up.
2. Do you have a way of reaching that market? Do you have an active speaking ministry, radio program, Web site, etc.?
In the case of Gary Smalley,
he was successfully selling his books from the back of the room during his popular seminars.
With self-publishing, you are the marketing department.
So, you may want to also ask, do I have time to be marketer, order taker,
stock clerk, and
mail room employee?
3. Do you have the money to produce a quality book?
There are at least three optionstoday! (More keep appearing.)
At first glance, it appears ebooks cost nothing to produce.
You can upload your manuscript to Amazon Directat no chargeand you're in business.
But only 10 percent of a traditional book's cost is the paper and ink!
1. You need to have it edited.
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln's famous quote about
being your own lawyer:
"The man who is his own editor has a fool for a client."
You simply don't see you own errors.
2. You need a professional cover image.
Despite all the wonderful illustrator programs,
you can spot "self-designed" covers a mile a way!
There's a science and an art to cover design, so
hire an expert or contact your local college for design students
who need something for their class portfolio.
3. You need to get paid for all the non-book work involved.
25. Books in print
Print-On-Demand books are
individually printed on a laser printer with
the same full-color,
laminated cover as a conventionally printed book
in soft or hard cover.
You only have books printed as you need them,
so you're not stuck with a garage filled with unsold books
as often was the case before POD.
However, there are no quantity discounts, so per-unit cost
remains the same for five or five hundred.
Lulu.com offers free setup and printing of PODs
but again, make sure you
have a professional edit it and
have a professional design the cover.
Traditionally printed books are run on an offset press and
require larger press runs,
but the more copies produced the lower the per-unit price.
There are many reputable e-book, POD, and traditional self-publishing services that can produce your book.
The key is "reputable" as there are
lots of over-priced, poor quality "vanity" printers out there. They will print anything,
but don't offer editing and often have hidden charges.
(One infamous book company had an
additional charge for binding!)
And those promises of your book being advertised in the New York Times?
It's a classified ad with the publisher's name and info at the top followed by a list of titles and authors in fine print.
(Here's a link to help you spot the scams: Self-publishers and piranhas.)
Also, be cautious of "subsidy" publishers that
promise their company has a ready market for thousands of books, but they need another two thousand copies to make it
worth their investment.
The author buys two thousand copies at
an inflated price and
the publisher never prints the thousands for a ready market. There never was a "ready market"!
Do your homework in selecting a self-publisher.
I recommend ACWPress.com,
which uses the same editors and designers
as the major publishers,
so you're guaranteed a quality product
at a reasonable price.
So, there are 25 ways to start your ministry of writing, right now!
Okay, they're not all that glamorous,
but let's be real honest.
Most of the people at this conference will not write for Guideposts or Thomas Nelson.
Yet at some conference where I've spoken, the seminar offering included:
"How to write the world's greatest article"
"How to ‘Wow' an editor with your manuscript"
"How to get on radio and TV."
Even one called
"How to run with the big dogs."
I think they're sort of deceptive in the implied promises.
Not everyone at a conference is going to
write the world's greatest article,
get on the talk shows or
run with the "big dogs."
But every single person at this conference
has an indispensable part to play in the Body of Christ!
So, here my challenge:
1. As Christians who write, we need to concentrate on the ministry of writing.
Yes, it's important to talk about the mechanics of writing
because I don't believe there's such a thing as "Christian writing."
Good writing is good writing whether you're writing for
The Upper Room or Penthouse.
But there is huge difference in why we write!
And, yes, it's important to talk about the marketing of writing. After all, it is a business.
But, IMHO, there's too little emphasis on the ministry of writing at "Christian" conferences.
If you're in it for the fame and fortune,
write for Playboy and Cosmo.
2. Minister with your writing, right where you are, right now!
Pick one or two of these 25 markets and start writing now.
You're going to have immediate ministry.
Magazine can take up to a year to publish your work; books often take two years from contract to book shelf.
And you're going to perfect your craft
without the discouragement of rejection slips.
Instead of "Your ms. does not suit our editorial needs at
this time," you'll hear, "I loved your Facebook post."
"Your letter was just what I needed."
And it can lead to broader ministry.
My journaling has led to 200 devotionals in magazines
including The Upper Room, which goes to 7 million
readers around the world.
As I mentioned, my letters to the editor led to a weekly
newspaper column in three papers.
A self-published book was picked up by Tyndale House.
One of my Web site post was included in a gift book with
But, if your efforts don't go any further than the local paper,
1 Corinthians 12 reminds us, that's okay too!
Now in the ministry of writing, God has appointed novelists, letter writers, those who have the gift of poetry, local church reporters, best-selling authors, devotional writers, those who write their legislators, and those with the gift of writing advertising copy.
Are all novelists? Do all write letters to the editor? Do all have the gift of poetry? Are all local church reporters? Are all best-selling authors? Are all devotional writers? Do all write their legislators? Do all have the gift of writing advertising copy? No! But eagerly desire the greater gift of writing with love.
Angels don't rejoice when you sell an article to Guideposts.
Heaven doesn't get excited when you sign a contract with Thomas Nelson.
Gabriel doesn't blow his trumpet when you appear on The 700 Club or sell 100,000 books.
Angels do rejoice when your writing helps one person draw closer to God, because "you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is an indispensable part of it."
May God bless the reading of His Word.
Copyright © 1987, 2005, 2012 James N. Watkins (I have to keep updating it!)
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