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Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher,whose many awards include the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational, and RWA's Lifetime Achievement Award.   There are over six million copies of her books in print in fourteen countries.  A frequent speaker to writers' and women's groups, Robin is a past President of Romance Writers of America, Inc.   In recognition of her efforts on behalf of literacy, Laubach Literacy International (now known as ProLiteracy Worldwide) named "The Robin Award" in her honor. 

Favorite Verse(s): Ephesians 2:10  is the verse God used to call me to write for the Christian market.  Another favorite passage is Psalm 103:1-5. The list would go on and on from there!

 

 Getting Published 101: by Robin Lee Hatcher

A number of years ago, a Faith, Hope & Love member posted the following: Like many of you, my goal and hope [for next year] is to get a contract and be published. Of course that brings a whole bunch of scary thoughts with it. I would really like to hear from those recently published and those who have many books out there about how you accomplished this! Is there anyway we could hear via the loop or the newsletter or the writing tips...or all three! This could include many things, i.e., what publishers to start with, how do you really know what is going on in the market and who wants what, do you need an agent or not, how far can a contest take you, etc. I've read a lot and researched the market to an extent, but it seems tougher than ever. Please share your thoughts about this when you have time.

Here is my response, updated for this article:

Perseverance has much more to do with getting published than talent does, so that is where I like to begin. As with anything of value, getting published takes sacrifice and commitment. Are you willing to give years without seeing any visible results? Sometimes (many times) that's what it takes. I have two friends who both wrote 10 novels over about 10 years before they made their first sales. I have many other friends who have written far longer and never sold a book. Would you continue to write even if you never get published?

For Christians, of course, there's the faith element about their writing. Are you seeking God's face? Did He call you to write? Are you willing to follow Him no matter what, even if the road He takes you on diverges from the one you want to be on or takes longer than you planned?

 

I have often seen quoted a line that goes something like: "God wouldn't have given you the talent if He didn't want you to use it" or "God wouldn't have given you the desire to write if He didn't want you to be published." I don't agree. If you study your Bible, it's clear that God often uses people where we are the weakest and need to rely on Him the most (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). As for the desire to write, Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart." (NASB) This verse is often misinterpreted as, when you delight in the Lord, you'll get what you want. But the true meaning is, when you delight in the Lord and love Him above everything else, He will change the things you want into the things He wants.

Remember, there's a danger in wanting to be published so much that you make it an idol. Want Jesus more, and then be amazed by the blessings. Follow what He has called you to do, and you won't go wrong. If He has called you to write, then write. Pursue excellence with everything you have; don't give God second best. Write for Him and not for an editor or a critique group or even with the goal of getting published. Write to please the Lord. It's so easy to pursue success. I know. I did it. I compromised, and the regret is always with me.

What publisher do you start with? You must know your market. What sort of books do you most like to read? What published books are most like the one you're writing? See who that publisher is and start there. Go to your Christian bookstore and find what each publisher house is publishing. Get a copy of The Writers Market and The Christian Writers Market Guide.

 

I have often seen quoted a line that goes something like: "God wouldn't have given you the talent if He didn't want you to use it" or "God wouldn't have given you the desire to write if He didn't want you to be published." I don't agree. If you study your Bible, it's clear that God often uses people where we are the weakest and need to rely on Him the most (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). As for the desire to write, Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart." (NASB) This verse is often misinterpreted as, when you delight in the Lord, you'll get what you want. But the true meaning is, when you delight in the Lord and love Him above everything else, He will change the things you want into the things He wants.

Remember, there's a danger in wanting to be published so much that you make it an idol. Want Jesus more, and then be amazed by the blessings. Follow what He has called you to do, and you won't go wrong. If He has called you to write, then write. Pursue excellence with everything you have; don't give God second best. Write for Him and not for an editor or a critique group or even with the goal of getting published. Write to please the Lord. It's so easy to pursue success. I know. I did it. I compromised, and the regret is always with me.

What publisher do you start with? You must know your market. What sort of books do you most like to read? What published books are most like the one you're writing? See who that publisher is and start there. Go to your Christian bookstore and find what each publisher house is publishing. Get a copy of The Writers Market and The Christian Writers Market Guide.

 

On-line lists are excellent sources to know what's happening in the markets and who wants what. Visit the publishers' web sites frequently. Go to conferences where editors will be attending. The best source is the horse's mouth. If you can talk one-on-one with an editor, that is definitely a step up. American Christian Fiction Writers puts on a great conference each September. Other great Christian writers conferences include but are not limited to: Mount Herman, Sandy Cove, Glorietta. Invest in your writing by attending one of these conferences, particularly if your main goal is to publish with a CBA publisher.

"Do I need an agent?" This is the great, forever-asked, hard-to-answer question. It depends. It's often harder to get an agent than to get a publisher. And getting the wrong agent can be worse for you than no agent. I firmly believe that you should start marketing to publishers yourself and be looking for an agent at the same time. But don't sign with the first agent who says he likes your work. Take your time. Meet agents in person. Talk to them several times on the phone. Ask for client references, then call the authors and ask serious questions: How long does it take for the agent to return phone calls? How long to release checks? Does he/she read everything before it goes to the editor? Is he/she hands on (like a first reader) or is his/her primary role negotiating contracts? What do you like most about him/her? What do you like least about him/her?

 

You also must know what you want from an agent. Again, you discover this by getting with other authors and finding out what they want from their agents. I have friends who need/want their agents to be their first editor. I don't want that. I want a champion and someone who will help me plan my career steps.

A good agent will know who is looking for what. She will have a solid relationship with certain publishers and will often be able to get your manuscript before the right person at the right time. A bad agent will submit anywhere to anybody or let your manuscript linger on her desk for a year. (I have heard horror stories that could turn your hair white.)

I negotiated contracts for my first seven books myself. Then I hired my first agent, which only lasted for one contract. I have been with my current (second) agent for almost 19 years and it's been a very positive relationship.

Contests? I'm not sure a contest can take you anywhere, not even RWA's prestigious Golden Heart Award or the ACFW’s Genesis Award, but they might give you an edge. It can get you read when otherwise your manuscript might linger in a slush pile or not be seen by the senior editor with buying power. My advice is to enter only those contests where the final round and/or the winning manuscript is read by an editor. Contest wins on your resume may look nice, but they don’t necessarily carry a lot of weight. But being read by an editor in the contest itself just might get you a contract.

Is the market tougher than ever? No. I've been in this business for 27 years. It's always been tough. There are growth spurts in certain markets/genres, ebbs and flows. For a time historical sagas were king and a writer couldn't give away a single title contemporary. Thencontemporaries became the hot market. There have been ups and downs for romantic comedy, chick lit, and suspense over the years. I've seen things cycle several times in the past two-plus decades. I’ve known writers who have sold more then 50 books, then suddenly couldn’t sell anything again. One statistic has remained fairly steady over the years and that statistic saysover 100,000 novels are written every year and less than 1% get published.

 

And don’t get me started on the many different ways a writer can and will be rejected. It comes part and parcel with publishing.

Yes, it’s a tough business, but writers write despite the ups and downs, highs and lows, good times and bad times. It’s what we do. But the business will drive you crazy if you don’t keep your eyes on your true goal: To do God’s will. As long as you do that, He’ll work it all out for your good, published or not.

-end-

 

Robin Lee Hatcher

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Web Resources for Writers

There are many web sites with great information for Christian writers. Below are some that you might find helpful.

 

  • American Christian Fiction Writers
  • Christian Writers Fellowship International

  • The Christian Writer's Manual of Style
  • Writer's Digest
  • Writer's Market
  • The Writer's Magazine
  • Christian Writer's Market Guide
  • ACW Press
  • Writer's Edge (Manuscript Service)

  • More Author Tips

     • Words of Advice: Chris Fabry

     • Writing Advice: Maureen Lang