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:

Appendix B
Changing Lives in Non-Traditional Venues

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message.
Colossians 4:3

If you’ve familiar with the publishing business, you know that fewer and fewer publishers are producing fewer and fewer titles by fewer and fewer authors. But here are twenty-five markets in which to change lives with your writing.

Many well-published authors never intended for their writing to be widely published. Much of their writing was letters to friends, family, and local churches. Examples include John Wesley, Emily Dickinson, and don’t forget, the early apostles.

You, too, can change lives (and never receive a rejection slip) by sharing your insights and helpful advice with:

I. Family and friends

1. Spouse

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.

      © 1973 James N. Watkins

Lois Farra said yes on February 12, 1973. 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.

2. Children, grandchildren

Again, some of the most life changing writing I have done has been for my children, and now, grandchildren. Here’s part of a letter I wrote to my, then, nine-year-old daughter, Faith, when she and Lois went off for a weekend to have “the talk.”

      When you like someone, you like to share with him or her. You share your thoughts: what you like, what’s “yucky” or “gross,” ideas, stories, jokes, riddles, and things you’ve learned.

      You also like to share your feelings: what’s fun, what’s scary, what makes you happy, sad, proud, embarrassed or angry.

      You also like to tell that person about your spiritual life: what you think about God, what you pray about, how God is helping you.

      That’s what friends are for: to share your thoughts, feelings, and spiritual life.

      When you really like someone, you also want to share your body. That’s why Mom and I like to hug and kiss. And that’s why we like to hug and kiss you and Paul. There are also “tickle bug” attacks, scratching backs, wrestling, rubbing sore legs, and putting an arm around you when we’re talking or watching TV.

      For married people, there is also sex. Some other names for it are “making love” or “intercourse.” This is a special kind of sharing just for husbands and wives. It says, “I love you more than any other person in the whole world.”

      Some teens (and adults) think it’s fun to have sex with a lot of people. But sex can’t be special if you have it with more than one person.

      If Mom and I hugged and kissed every boy or girl we saw, hugging and kissing wouldn’t be special to you and Paul. Or if Mom kissed a lot of men, it wouldn’t be special to me.

      And so, sex can only be super special if you have save sex for your future husband.

      © 1987 James N. Watkins

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.

3. 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.

4. College students, missionaries, military personnel far from home

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).

5. Shut-ins

My wife pastored a church for sixteen years, and continues to minister by sending notes of encouragement to shut-ins and Hospice patients.

6. Legislators

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!

7. Prisoners

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.

8. Pastor, church leaders

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.

9. God

What are the Psalms but 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. Your local church

10. Sermons and 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. (Everything we discussed in chapter three.) Sermons 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” landings.

11. Midweek mailings, direct mail appeals

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.”

And, 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 encouragement (unlike magazines which can take one year and books that can take two years to put ink to paper).

Use what you’ve learned in this book to create effective advertising and appeals for your church. You know your target audience and will have immediate feedback on its effectiveness simply by looking at the attendance and/or offering postings.

12. Writing grants

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!

13. 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 message’s theme. 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 retained?at least until the bulletin goes in the recycle bin.

Another friend writes a poem each week for the bulletin, again reinforcing the sermon.

14. 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 celebrations? 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 offer to write a manual.

15. History of the church

An understanding of the church’s history provides a sense of tradition, accomplishment, loyalty, and 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 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 commissioned. It helped a small, struggling church to feel better about its past and gave hope for the future.

16. 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 her church’s unique perspective on Easter.

17. Curriculum

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 doctrine.

18. Annual reports

BORING! 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

19. Letters to the editor

Next to obituaries, letters to the editor are the most read section of the paper. Editors are desperately looking for well-written, rational, non-libelous letters.

I started regularly writing letters to my local paper until the editor called to say, “Why don’t you just write a weekly column?” I did that for fifteen years.

20. Church news

If your church is having a special guest, celebrating an anniversary, breaking ground for a new building, or adding staff, use the “hard news” format in chapter four and send the paper a news release.

Develop a “nose for news.” There are hundreds of stories hiding inside your church.

IV. Denominational magazines

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.

Again, 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 . . .

21. Letters to the editor

22. Church news

V. Your very own publishing company

23. Electronic newsletter

Each month, I send out my best (?) current article or essay, plus information on my books and speaking ministry to a few thousand subscribers. It’s a great opportunity to write to thousands of people, many who forward it to friends, with no envelopes, postage, or trips to the post office.

24. 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.

Here’s a chance to reach the three billion Internet users all around the world with your writing. My site ( receives between two and three thousand visitors each day. (I’ve had visitors from every continent except Antartica.) The site contains lots of humor and current interest topics, as well as a “seeker-friendly” plan of salvation.

Web sites and blogs are definitely the publishing medium for the twenty-first century!

(See Appendix A for the unique approach to writing online.)

25. Self-publishing

Self-publishing is 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.

Others who have self-published include Mark Twain, Zane Grey, Carl Sandburg, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Henry David Thoreau, Benjamin Franklin, and Walt Whitman

Before you self-publish, ask yourself three questions:

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. (My two self-published books were picked up by major publishers.)

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?

Do you have the money to produce a quality book?

There are three options:

E-books are downloaded by buyers. There is a set up and maintenance fee; then you make a royalty on each book you sell. The advantage is the cost: no physical books to print, no warehousing, and distribution costs. Unfortunately, virtual books haven’t caught on. Even Stephen King failed with his e-book. And, unless the buyer has a portable e-book reading device, few want to read a book off their computer.

Print-On-Demand books are individually printed on a laser printer with the same full-color, laminated cover as a conventionally printed book. 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 one hundred or five hundred.

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.)

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 represent a company who uses the same editors and designers as the major publishers, so you’re guaranteed a quality product at a reasonable price: ACW Press.

It’s all about changing others lives, not changing your lifestyle

Obviously, you’re not going to get rich writing to prisoners or contributing to your church’s midweek mailer! But you can be rich in the ministry you offer your readers.

Copyright © 1987 James N. Watkins

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