s I visit camp meetings, conventions, and other meetings, invariably someone will approach me and ask, “How can I get my article or book published? How do you break into the field of journalism? Whom can I talk with? Can you help me get my work in print?”
For any aspiring writer, getting that first manuscript published can take as much effort as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The field of freelance journalism is extremely competitive, and it takes persistence to become successful at it.
One of the first lessons I learned as a budding writer was that editors and publishers often reject new material for reasons that are totally unrelated to the quality of the work. Even if your manuscript captures the tone, style, and subject matter of the publication, it still may be rejected. Here are a few reasons why.
Some publications don’t accept material from authors they don’t know. They may deal only with established authors with a proven track record. Other journals, such as the Adventist Review, may accept only a small fraction of unsolicited manuscripts they receive. Some book editors don’t accept manuscripts from authors directly. An author must secure an agent before their work is considered.
Though a well-written manuscript may offer a compelling message for a particular audience or demographic group, a publisher may realize that his organization is not positioned to reach that audience. Even Christian publishers, including Adventist entities, are concerned with the bottom line. They have to produce a product that their public will buy.
Another obstacle to publication is timing. When a writer submits an article or book proposal, the publishing house may have already covered the topic, or have a similar piece in the works by another author. Editors and publishers may also feel that the topic may be better dealt with by an author with more education and experience in that particular field. Or editors may conclude that a piece, written by an author with an established following, may generate more sales or reader interest.
Editors and publishers constantly receive dozens of manuscripts each month. For larger organizations, the intake is well into the hundreds. The sheer volume is much more than most organizations could ever publish.
Here’s a short example of how hard it often is to get published.
The late Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, authored 46 children’s books that sold more than 200 million copies by the time of his death. His books are translated into 20 languages. Geisel, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, was reportedly rejected by 28 publishers before his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was published in 1937.*Given the difficulty new authors have in getting published, it’s understandable that many writers face inevitable rejection and become discouraged. Discouragement is a dangerous emotion that can rob you of your dreams and ambitions. It can rob you of your desire to execute the plan that God has given you. It’s one of the most insidious weapons Satan uses to hinder the advancement of God’s kingdom.
That’s why it’s necessary for any aspiring writer to confront the discouragement with focus and determination. Here are a few simple steps any writer can take to pursue publication.
Sharpen Your Message--Make sure you have something to say and say it with clarity. Share your manuscript with friends for feedback on your ideas and writing style. If you have friends who are published, let them look over your work. Take a refresher class in English grammar and composition. Deepen your understanding of quality writing by continually reading. And practice your craft.
Know Your Audience--As you sharpen your message, determine the specific audience youÕre trying to reachÑyoung singles, retirees, African-Americans, professionals, or others. This will determine the publisher to send your manuscript to.
Create Your Own Opportunities--Talk to your neighborhood or college newspaper editor about writing a column or an op-ed article. Start up a newsletter and share it with friends and church members. Launch a blog.
Be Flexible--Adjust your priorities and goals. If all else fails, consider self-publishing as many authors have done. This alternative may work for you.
Pray, Pray, and Pray Again--Keep God at the center of the process. If He has inspired this desire to write, and you remain faithful to His will, He will open the door.
Carlos Medley is online editor of the Adventist Review.