5 Christian Publishers Taking Submissions without an Agent

There are many publishing companies who are willing to take fiction submissions without requiring an agent. Almost all of them are small companies, but many of them do quite well. Here are ten Christian fiction publishers that have a good reputation and are traditional publishers. Click on the name of the company for the link to their submission requirements.

Pelican Book Group (mostly sweet romance)

Write Integrity Press (mystery, suspense, romantic suspense, women’s fiction)

Desert Breeze (variety of genres in full length and novellas)

Enclave (Christian science fiction and fantasy)

White Fire Publishing (all Christian genres)

Common Publishing Terms

Sometimes the world of publishing is confusing to new writers. They seem to use a different language. Here’s some common definitions to publishing terms.

Submission Terms:

Agent – A person who will submit manuscripts to a publisher on behalf of a writer. A good agent will look out for the best interests of a writer and negotiate for better advances and royalties. Agents don’t get paid unless a book gets published. Never work with an agent that requires money up front.

Acquiring Editor – An editor who buys a specific book.

Book Proposal: Description of a proposed book that an author sends to a publisher, often including sample chapters and an outline.

Cover Letter – A brief introduction that is sent with a manuscript that lists your name, address, phone number, and email address. Do not confuse a cover letter with a query letter.

Critique: An evaluation of a manuscript, touching on issues such as structure as well as character and plot development.

Draft: The book’s manuscript at a particular stage. The first draft is followed by rough drafts, which are unpolished versions. The final draft is sent to prepress.

Exclusive Reading – A publisher who requests exclusive reading doesn’t want your manuscript to be read by anyone else. As a writer, you should always be aware of the length of time the exclusive reading is in effect. You shouldn’t allow exclusive reading writes for any longer than two to three months.

Manuscript – A book, article, or other document, that is submitted for publication.

Multiple submissions – Sending an agent or publisher more than one idea at a time.

Query – This is the letter you send to an agent or publisher that sells your book idea. A good query letter will contain a brief plot summary, your contact information, and is usually no longer than one page. You are basically asking for permission to send an agent or publisher your manuscript.

Reading Fees – Fees charged by some agents to evaluate a prospective client’s manuscript. The Association of Authors’ Representatives, a major trade association for book agents, prohibits its members from charging reading fees. Legitimate agents don’t charge reading fees.

Simultaneous submissions – Sending out a query letter to many agents or publishers for the same book. Many agents and publishers do not accept simultaneous submissions.

Slush pile – A collection of unsolicited manuscripts that are received by agents and publishers. Manuscripts that sit in the slush pile are usually read, but the time it can take for a manuscript in the slush pile to be read can be a very, very, long.

Unsolicited manuscript – A book that an agent, editor, or publisher did not ask to see.

Publisher Terms:

Advance royalties – Payment to an author in anticipation of royalties a book is predicted to earn. In most cases, the author is not compelled to return the advance, even if it exceeds total royalties eventually earned.

American Booksellers Association (ABA) – The national trade association, founded in 1900, for operators of retail bookstores.

Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) – The national trade association for Christian retail bookstores.

Copyediting – An editing process that checks for correct grammar, spelling, and punctuations. Copyeditors will also check any references made in the manuscript as well as fact-check.

Copyrighting– A way to protect a writer’s work. A writer’s unpublished manuscript is copyright protected the moment it was created in virtual or printed form. United States Copyright website. http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/

ISBN (International Standard Book Number) – A worldwide, numbered identification system that provides a standard way for publishers to number their products without duplication by other publishers. “ISBN” also refers to ISBN numbers themselves. The first part of the ISBN identifies the language of publication (“0” for English), and the second part identifies the publisher. The next string of digits in the ISBN identifies the book product itself, and is followed by a digit specifically calculated to ensure the integrity of the ISBN.

Mass market paperback – A paperbound book distributed chiefly through traditional magazine channels, including newsstands, variety and drug stores, supermarkets, and other mass markets. Also marketed to general bookstores, college stores, and department stores and may be either an original publication that has never appeared in any other format or a reprint of a previously published hardcover or trade paperback edition here made available at a significantly lower price.

Marketing plan – Prepared for each title on a publisher’s seasonal list, this plan itemizes the projected advertising, promotion, publicity, and sales activities and their associated costs. Included in the individual marketing plan are subsidiary rights and special sales transactions. Marketing plans are generally prepared after launch (concept) meetings for forthcoming titles and are subject to revision before and after sales conferences. If an agent or publisher requires a marketing plan before the contract, they are asking what the author intends to do to help market his book.

Press release – An information sheet about a book and its author, used as a publicity tool.

Print Run – The number of books printed in a particular run. The number of books a publisher agrees to produce in the first printing.

Publication date – The date when a book is made available to the public. Publisher’s representative / sales representative – A salesperson who visits prospective customers of a publisher (booksellers, librarians, university department heads, school authorities, wholesalers, etc.) to show samples of or literature about the firm’s forthcoming titles, as well as backlist items, to obtain orders for them.

Royalties – Royalties is a percentage of the book sales that is given to the author. There are two types of royalties: Net Sales and List Price. Net sales royalties refers to the percentage given to an author after the publisher’s cost has been subtracted. List Price royalties is the percentage given to the author based on the list price of the book.

Sell-through – Sell-through can refer to a couple of things. It can refer to how quickly a publisher makes its advance money back from a book, or, when the first print run has been completely sold, prompting a second print run. Either way, a fast sell-through is a great selling point for a second book.

Types of Publishers:

Commercial/Trade Publishers (Also called traditional publishers by self-publish companies) – Companies which purchase the right (usually the exclusive right) to publish the author’s work and then pay the author a royalty (a percentage of the sales – usually 7%-15%) for that right. Commercial publishers invest by producing the inventory of product (the book or other products), so they must choose wisely which books/authors will pay off for them in a reasonable amount of time. In other words, they choose to work with only a small percentage of the projects they review.

Mainstream publishers – Large commercial publishing companies that produce several hundred new books a year and pay advance royalties to authors.

Independent/Small publishers – Smaller commercial publishers that produce anywhere from 10 to 100 new books a year. Many independent publishers specialize in certain types of books. Usually small publisher don’t give advance royalties, or if they do, the advance royalties are smaller. But they do pay the author royalties, and they don’t charge the author a fee.

Micro publisher – Commercial publisher that produce one to five books per year. Some of these companies started as self-publishers, and some are nonprofit. These companies have a very narrow niche.

E-Books – Books distributed and read in electronic format. Instead of walking into a bookstore, to buy a book in an e-book format, you visit a Web site and purchase and download the digital file. You can then read the book on a computerized device such as a Palm Pilot, Pocket PC, laptop computer, or other device. Some E-book companies are commercial publishers and some are self-publishing companies.

Self-Publishing – A method of publishing in which the author does all the things a publisher does—from editing to printing and distribution – or hires a service to this for them.

Subsidy Press/Vanity Publisher – A publishing company that offers publication services for a fee paid by the author, and holds the copyright to the book, but does not generally promote or market the book. Bookstores often refuse to carry books published by subsidy/vanity presses.

Contract Publisher – A publisher that helps authors edit, design, market, and distribute their book for a fee paid by the author.

Regional Publisher – A publisher who specializes in subjects relevant to a particular part of the country, and sells its books mostly or entirely in that area.

POD (or print -on- demand) publishers – Print-on-demand self-publishing services utilize digital printing technology to provide publishing services to writers. They range all the way from bare-bones services which provide free online templates that allow anyone to upload and format a book that can then be ordered from the service’s website to expensive packages that include editing, custom cover design, enhanced marketing, and other extras. Most POD services charge a fee, but some take that fee out of royalties produced by sales. Some POD companies will let you put the name of your own imprint on your book and set your own cover prices. Essentially they’ll set you up with your own publishing company using their serves.

Independent Publishing – This is when you go through a place like Create Space and basically do-it-yourself. You design the cover page, edit, and format.

Christian Literary Agents

Here’s a list of Christian literary agents and their websites. Everyone on this list has a website and takes submissions from unpublished authors. Everyone on the list also represent Christian fiction. Please check guidelines before submitting to more than one agent in an agency.

Hartline Literary Agency

Joyce Hart

Jim Hart

Terry Burns

Diana Flegal

Linda Glaz

Andy Scheer

MacGregor Literary Agency

Steve Laube Agency

Blythe Daniel Agency

Books & Such Agency

Janet Kobobel Grant

Wendy Lawton

Mary Keeley

Rachel Kent

Rachelle Gardner

Publisher and agents change from time to time, so this list may not be accurate or complete. Do your homework.

How to Land an Agent

Many times, I hear unpublished writers lament about how hard it is to find an agent to represent them. Here’s a few tips to land an agent.

Write the best manuscript you can manage. Agents get tons of work come across their desk, but they only have a few slots for clients. If you write well and have a compelling story, you will go to the top of their slush pile. You may not believe it, but your competition is not that strong. Most writers aren’t ready for publication even though they think they are. To become a better writer, read novels in your genre, study writing books and blogs, get critiques, and keep writing and revising.

Submit to the right agent. No matter what some writing gurus may tell you, submitting to every agent in the Writer’s Market whether they represent your genre or not is annoying and will brand you as an amateur. Agent websites are great places to do your research. Don’t just read what the agent wants in the guidelines. find out what type of authors he or she represents.

Be careful to submit to legitimate agents. If any agent wants you to pay for an edit, office supplies, or representation, run for the hills. Good agents make their money from a percentage of the sales, not from a fee charged to the author. Another place to check out agents is Predators and Editors Website.

Follow the agent’s guidelines for submissions to the letter. Agents could so many submissions that they usually don’t even read those that couldn’t bother to follow their guidelines.

Conferences are a great place to connect with agents. Even if you don’t find an agent there, you’ll make contacts that might help you later. And you’ll take classes to help you become a better writer.

If an agent says no, keep trying. You may need to tweak you work, or the chemistry or timing might not be right. Remember, the people who find agents and end up getting published are not always the best writers. They’re usually the ones that didn’t give up.

10 Reasons I’ve Decided to be Commercially Published

Update: Since I originally posted this article in 2009, I have had some success toward my goal of being commercially published. I have a reputable agent, Linda Glaz from Hartline. Two of my novellas will be released in November and December in e-book form through reputable commercial publishing companies that pay royalties. I also have a publishing company that requested a full read on my full length novel. Being commercially published takes time, but it can be done.

10 Reasons I’ve Decided to be Commercially Published

Reprinted from earlier post in 2009.

There are so many ways to become a published fiction author these days. Vanity self-publishing companies charge a fee to print a certain number of books. Then there are POD (Print on Demand) companies that will only print as many books as are sold. Some writers choose to go through a partnership publishing company where the company charges the writer a fee but agrees to do some marketing and editing of the book. There’s even a POD company that will set you up as your own publishing company. Then there are e-books. Most commercially published books are available now in e-book form. But some writers self-publish their books in e-book form through companies that charge a fee only if a book is downloaded.

Some of my writer friends have decided to go one of these routes, and they’re happy with their decisions. I don’t fault their choices, but I’ve decided to take the long hard road to become commercially published by a publisher who pays royalties, prints a run of books or sells e-books in a variety of formats, and has contracts with bookstores and e-book companies.

I haven’t made this choice because I’ve found an agent to represent me or a publisher to offer me a contract. I’ve sent my first novel to many reputable Christian agents. Some were interested enough to send me notes, some asked for an entire manuscript, but every agent has sent me a rejection. One of the biggest reasons many of them gave was the story I wrote was not what was selling right now. So I’m currently editing another novel to prepare to send it to the host of agents I’ve collected in my database.

Getting a reputable agent to represent you, and getting a commercial publisher to offer a contract is a long shot. Very few are chosen. So why would I want to go down this narrow road of rejection and heartache when there are so many choices out there?

10. I’ve learned over the years if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Self-publishing and POD companies make a lot of claims. They try to discredit commercial publishers by calling them “traditional publishers” and saying that by going through the self-publishing companies, you can make a lot of money. But I’m not buying it. I pray those that make the decision to go this route do their homework and don’t listen to the get rich quick promises.

9. Commercial publishing companies do a better job with printing the books. The cover, paper, ink, and editing all point to quality. Self-publishing companies and POD’s are hit and miss. They might do a good job printing, but more likely they won’t.

8. I want to feel good about my accomplishments. Commercial publication is a long hard road, but when I get there, I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something great through hard work and perseverance. I won’t feel the same way if I pay to see my novel in print.

7. I want to be known as a professional author. I want to have that reputation. To me writing is a profession and a calling. In most cases, self-published authors are thought of as amateurs even if they gain some level of success.

6. I want the name of a commercial publishing company on my book jacket. I don’t want someone to pick up my book, see the name of the company, and snarl up his nose because he knows it’s been self-published. I want the publishing company’s reputation behind my novel. 

5. I want the resources commercial publishing companies have. Commercial publishers have copy editors and book designers. They have publicity people and sales representatives. They know what they’re doing. I want to participate in promoting my own novel. But I don’t want to have to do it alone. I want all of the resources a commercial publisher has including free copies of books I can give to influencers and advertisement on their websites and in their catalogues. I won’t get that from a self-publishing or POD company.

4. I want my novel to be in print at a bookstore. POD and self-publishing companies are quick to point out that their books are available on Amazon.com and in bookstore catalogs. That may be technically true. But almost every book is on Amazon.com. That’s no guarantee that anyone will find your novel. Amazon.com promotes books that sell, books that are put out by commercial publishers.

Catalogues that bookstores use have thousands of books available. Most bookstores have limited space and are more likely to go with books by commercial publishers. They have an added incentive for doing this because commercial publishers will take the books back if the bookstores don’t sell them. The bookstores have a win-win situation here. If they go with a self-published or POD book and it doesn’t sell, they are out the money they invested. It’s good business for them to only order commercially published books. Also they know the sales representatives of the commercial companies and are more likely to go with them. An author carrying a box of books under his arms is not likely to hold much weight with a bookstore owner.

I want my books to be in bookstores. I want to hold them in my hand and point them out to customers.

3. I want my novel to sell. Many self-publishing companies make claims about how successful their clients are. There are a few self-published authors that end up selling a lot of books. “The Shack” is one book that is frequently used as an example. But the chances of that happening are greater than the chances of being published by a commercial publisher.

Not every commercially published book will sell. Those that do sell will probably not be best sellers. But most best-sellers are commercially published books. Most moderate sellers are commercially published books. And most commercially published books do sell better than most self-published books. Self-published books that sell a hundred copies are considered successful. I want my novel to do better than that.

2. I have a lot to learn. I’m glad I wasn’t published by the first person I sent my manuscript to. If I had been, I would have had a lot of bad reviews. I’ve learned a lot about writing since. And because I didn’t take a shortcut to publication, I’ll continue to learn until I’m ready to be published.

I think I’m ready now. But maybe that’s because I don’t know about the one thing I need to make my manuscript a better story, something that will touch the heart of somebody, maybe even their spirit. I know that even though I think I’m ready, I need a teachable spirit. I’m willing to wait and learn.

1. I trust God. That’s sounds cliché, but it’s my number one reason for waiting for commercial publication. God directed me to write novels. Since then, I’ve been compelled to write.

He has given me the stories. He hasn’t dictated the words I should use or all of the plot points, usually just an idea in my spirit. It would be so much easier if He hadn’t required me to struggle to work with what He gave me. But any writer who tells you God wrote their novel through them is not to be trusted. God authored the Bible through men, but He hasn’t done that since. But He has given me the desire and planted the seeds of the story within me.

So no shortcuts for me. I’ll take the hard narrow road. Since God is directing me, and since He’s given me stories to write, He will help me to write them. And when the time is right, I can trust Him to direct my paths to publication. But in the meantime, I’ll work hard, and I’ll wait on Him.

Linda Glaz – Advice from an Agent and Giveaway

Linda GlazAdvice from a Literary Agent

by Linda Glaz

I can’t stress enough how important it is, from an agent or editor’s point of view, for an author to do his or her homework before submitting material. A little side not—anytime I offer advice, it means it’s something I did wrong on my own journey and don’t want you to do the same. Spending years not paying attention is lost time when you might be getting published.

If you just blanket all agents with your work and get nowhere (and you’ll get nowhere), then the opportunity to actually make contact is gone. Most of us keep a record of who submits and when. So, if you try to sneak it in the door a second time, I’ll know and will send you a “friendly” reminder that I already said no.

But if you do the research of each agent, ask yourself these questions: Does Agent Smith handle my genre or type of work? Does he take nonfiction, fiction, literary, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, and on and on? Does editor Jones work with new authors or has she said specifically that she will only take a look at work from published authors? If she said it, chances are very good—she means it. Should I try and be sneaky and say I met with Agent Geezer at Such and Such Writers’ Conference? This can really backfire when you are approaching an agent with an amazing memory (Just cuz I’m old doesn’t mean I’m a dope). Does Agent Doozy charge a fee for looking at my work? NEVER pay an agent a cent. They work for you! The most you should ever encounter is copying costs if they have to send your work by snail mail which doesn’t happen often anymore. Have I gone to the agency site to see EXACTLY what the agent wants submitted? So very important; if you haven’t, you will probably get a “not for me” response. No agent wants to work with someone who isn’t going to follow directions. Would the agent be interested in going to my website to see my work? This happens more often than not, and I’ll be very honest, if you’re too lazy to put together the proposal we want, I’m not going to have a read, and I’m certainly not going to drop what I’m doing (unless you’ve already caught my interest with an amazing proposal) and go to your website to look up what you think I’ll be blown away by. And lastly (though the list could on and on), have I formatted my proposal in the correct manner? 1” margins, 12 pt. New Times Roman, widows and orphans turned off, first line set at .5, and finally, no fancy fonts, colors, lines, clip art, pics, etc.; need I say more?

If you HAVE done all you are supposed to, contact the agent or pitch to him or her at a conference and just be yourself. Your work, as well, will speak for itself. Send a couple, wait for responses, and even if you’re rejected, you might glean some wonderful advice that will help your next submission be even better.

Good luck, and good writing!

Meet the Agent and Author:

Linda, married with three grown children and three grandchildren, is a complete triple-A personality. How else would she find time to write as well as be an agent for Hartline Literary Agency? She loves any and every thing about the written word and loves when families pass stories along through the generations. If she isn’t writing or putting together a contract, you’ll find her taking a relaxing bath with her e-reader in hand. Her background in karate, soccer and the Air Force has allowed her to meet a lot of “characters” along the way. If you find a strange and weird character in one of her books, watch it! It might be you!!!

Hartline Literary Agency

Click on the pictures below for information about buying her novels.

witheyesgood1Book 1: With Eyes of Love

Barbara (Bunny) Richardson lives a perfect life. Wonderful family, amazing voice, and very handsome, very wealthy fiancé. But it doesn’t take long for her to realize he will always make decisions that benefit only him and his business. Barbara will never know the desires of her heart, only that she will be the beautiful woman on his arm. Then, when traveling with her family, Barbara is stranded in a flood in Tennessee, and the handsome man who comes to her rescue turns her perfect life into chaos. Two years later, when they find their paths have crossed again, Jackson, holed up in his room, refuses to meet with her. How could she love a burned and scarred freak, a remnant of Pearl Harbor’s destruction? A man who didn’t save a seventeen-year-old seaman who was counting on him? But Barbara has other ideas. She intends to shame the pity party out of Jackson and when that doesn’t work, she tries a dangerous game of making him jealous at his sister’s wedding. How deep is beauty? And do we get the chance to see real beauty with eyes of love?

alwaysabby1Book 2: Always Abby

When Abigail Richardson visits the Judge family in Tennessee, the war is winding down, and Abby hopes to catch a peek of their youngest son and her pen pal for the last six years since they were stranded in the flood, William Judge. As he steps from the train and walks right toward her, her heart flutters in her chest. Yet, Will keeps on walking, all the way to the redhead beyond her. Jeannine. As he introduces the small orphan, Henryk, that he’s brought back from the concentration camp in Germany, Jeannine makes it clear she doesn’t plan to be a readymade mother. Abby, on the other hand, takes “Hank” directly to her heart, and it’s Will who sees more than just a freckle-faced pen pal. Abby’s all grown up. But what of his promise of marriage to Jeannine?

I love that these are part of a story of a family, and are based around the actual, though fictionalized, friendship of two women. My mom and my aunt. And while some things are VERY loosely based on their friendship, it’s the friendship itself that I wanted to bring to light. Two women who shared more than most close sisters do. The kind of friendship that anyone would give anything they had to possess.

Pearl Harbor is explored in book one to show the true horrors of war. As a veteran who served during Vietnam, I don’t have any firsthand experience of war, but male friends coming back gave me enough grist to help me understand just what our men and women go through. The surprise at Pearl left so many not only wounded, but scarred emotionally in a way that they never recovered completely. I wanted to show that aspect in the story and how a person could turn from God because of it. But also, how love can reach into the soul and help a person find their way back home, both emotionally and spiritually.

The concentration camps in Germany didn’t play favorites, they were horrible to everyone, Jews, Gentiles, minorities, it didn’t matter. If you were on the Third Reich’s hit list, you ended up in a camp, and children didn’t fare much better than adults. Again in book two is a sobering account of WWII, but also a wonderful romance of young love found, love lost, and love found again. And the trust and love of a child who has been through more than most adults have faced in their entire lives, but the innocence that reminds those around him of God’s love.

The Substitute Bride

What happens when a young woman traveling west is aboard a train that derails? Hit on the head and unsure of who she is, she is greeted at the next station by a handsome rancher who tells her they are supposed to get married. That day!

Book Giveaway:

Leave a comment on this blog post by next Tuesday for a chance to win an e-book copy of With Eyes of Love.

Julie Lessman – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Free Book Giveaway)

Julie Lessman 1THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

Memories of a Published Author (and giveaway)

by Julie Lessman

Close your eyes. Can you hear it? The jangle of the spurs? The reverberation of guitar strings? The haunting wah-wah voice while Clint Eastwood strolls into the desert graveyard for a showdown with an Italian cigar slowly rolling in his mouth? And then, all at once, beyond your control … your stomach growls and you realize you’re hungry for spaghetti. (Sorry, for all you sweet, young things out there, you’ll just have to ask a baby boomer what that means.)

Ah, memories. Ol’ Clint mowing ‘em down with his Colt 1851 Navy revolver in a movie about three gunslingers who dig and claw their way to gold buried in a cemetery. Which, now that I think of it, is faintly reminiscent of a writer’s golden dreams of publication—we dig and claw in the sands of unpubbed island in search of the “gold” while editors, agents and contest judges gun us down. And, as in the case of my 46 rejections for A Passion Most Pure—the potshots keep whizzing by, over and over again!

Sigh … to have our names emblazoned across the cover of a book—oh, yes—a golden dream to be sure, but as the old adage points out, all that glitters is not gold. Sometimes it’s the glint of a jealousy in one’s eyes when somebody gets pubbed instead of you or the sheen of tears when a contest judge slices and dices your ms., or even when a reviewer calls your work “scum reading.” Sniff … will somebody pass the Kleenex, please?

So … as a war-torn veteran of five years (which really needs to be multiplied by five given my CDQ personality that imposes excessive wear and tear on the mind, spirit and tear ducts), I want to talk about the “good, the bad, and the ugly, and no, I’m not talking how a baby boomer CDQ looks first thing in the morning after a rough night of sleep—I’m talking publication and beyond.

Oh, the wide-eyed wonder of being a newbie! There’s something so innocent about it, you know? Like after I finaled in the Golden Heart in 2005 and sent out 25 query envelopes to agents? Yeah, I even stickered those little suckers with a cute, little gold emblem that said “2005 Golden Heart Finalist” because I was certain that would open doors, right? Well, it certainly opened envelopes, yes, each promptly thrown away, no doubt, to the sound of maniacal laughter. But open doors? Uh … not so much.

Which brings me to the “GOOD” on my publication journey. One night an e-mail pops up in my mailbox from a certain Natasha Kern after twenty-four agents had already rejected me, and I’ll be honest—I thought it was a hoax! I mean, come on—I was savvy enough to know that Natasha Kern had appeared in Writer’s Digest Magazine as one of the top 25 agents for new writers to have, but when her e-mail asked me to call her at a Portland, Oregon phone number, I balked.

That’s the GOOD, now enter the “BAD” with fear, doubt, trembling and nausea … “What if it’s a scam?” I asked my husband, chewing my lip raw, “or a cruel joke somebody is playing on me?” My eyes flared wide. “I mean, Portland for heaven’s sake—everybody know agents only lived in New York!” “Well, you have nothing to lose by calling, Julie,” my husband said with a squeeze of my hand. Oh, yes, I did, I thought. My confidence (what was left of it), my hope and, yes, even my supper—in that order. I took a deep breath and reread the e-mail three times, which went something like this:

Julie, do you have an agent yet? If not, please call me at this number immediately. I am leaving on a trip and was hoping you could overnight your manuscript so I can read it on the plane.”

Yeah, right. Twenty-four reputable agents send rejection letters through the mail for A Passion Most Pure, and I’m supposed to believe somebody obviously posing as Natasha Kern wants me to express mail my ms. to OREGON, of all places??? And all this after seeing only FIVE pages and a synopsis (her submission guidelines back then) when all the others saw three chapters and a synopsis??? I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t buy it, and yes, the scary part is that I realllllly was that green, and I’m not talking environmentally.

BUT … I was also desperate, so I called … and the GOOD news is it WAS Natasha Kern and yes, she did actually sign me, the poor dear. The BAD news? She didn’t fully realize till after the ink was dry just how many times I’d been rejected. I believe the word she used was “daunting.” But apparently not too daunting for her amazing skills as an agent because she landed a contract for me within six months. OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!

So there I was, a newbie with a three-book deal, visions of sugar plums (masquerading as Ritas, and Christys and 5-star reviews) dancing in my head, completely certain that getting published would validate me as a writer. (Shaking head here.) Boy, did I have my pajamas on, ‘cause I was definitely dreaming.

Not that good things haven’t happened, because they have, but NOBODY warned me about the roller-coaster ride ahead. Sure, I launched into the sky shrieking with hands high when Revell told me A Passion Most Pure was the “fastest fiction release” they’d ever had up to that time (the “good”), then whooped for joy when I crested the height of that coaster with five-star reviews that brought tears to my eyes. But I wasn’t prepared for the plummet down the rails (the “bad”) when sales took a dive along with the economy and 1-star reviews maligned my books, my character and my faith in God.

And that’s when the “ugly” began—tears and self doubts, jealousy and low self-esteem, causing me to question my ability as a writer and whether or not my type of romantic passion was what God had called me to do. An ugliness so painful that I actually considered quitting writing altogether at least a dozen times in the last five years, begging God to PLEASE lobotomize that part of my writer’s brain that was enamored with book sales, contest wins and 5-star reviews.

Well … He didn’t “lobotomize” me, although to some of you, I’m sure it seems like it at times. Nope, He did something even better—He taught me how to defend myself, to draw my Colt and gun down the bad and the ugly, and let me tell you—ol’ Clint has nothing on me! I have learned the true stance of a gunfight—to keep my eyes fixed straight ahead on God  (Proverbs 4:25—Let your eyes look straight ahead) and not look to the right: contest wins, book sales or good reviews—or to the left: not finaling in contests, low royalties and scathing reviews (Proverbs 4:27—do not turn to the right or the left) and above all else, guard my heart (Proverbs 23). For me that means:

Praying for blessing on every person who gives me a bad review (now, don’t take this as license to have me pray for you, please!).

Praying for authors of whom I am jealous to go to the bestseller list (my good friend, Julie Klassen is a good example, a true story I talk about in my Seeker blog entitled Oh, For the Love of God, Part 2 at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2008/11/oh-for-love-of-god-part-2.html).

Keeping my mouth free of perversity and corrupt talk far from my lips (Proverbs 24) by asking God to help me to repent and pray when I complain, whine or gossip.

And instead of praying for God to take the desire for awards, good reviews and sales away, to pray for strength to bear up under the job He has given me to do. (This has been a HUGE help to me because God ALWAYS gives you the grace to do what He has called you to do!)

There is no question the life of a published writer—Christian or non—is a blindfolded walk through a minefield of the good, the bad and the ugly. Where a writer can go from being awarded a booby prize for the most rejections in a year like I did at the 2005 ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers conference) … to winning the 2009 ACFW Debut Book of the Year for the very same book. But … as Christian writers, we’re not in this alone. We are writing for a God who according to Romans 8:28, makes all things—the good, the bad and the ugly—work out for the good of those who love Him (i.e. those who obey his commands, John 14:15—if you love me, obey me) and are called according to His purpose (which is all of us who are writing for Him!).

I don’t know about you, but for me I plan to aim high and go for the real gold—honoring Him rather than myself—in my attitude, my words and my actions, ONLY doable with His help, of course. Because take it from someone who’s been there WAY more than she likes—fixing my eyes, happiness and hope on contest wins, great book sales or good reviews is nothing but fool’s gold. And trust me—I may be slow for my age, but I’m no fool!

Over the last five years, I’ve learned a lot about the “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” as both an aspiring writer and a published one, so I thought I’d share a few of them with you today. Who knows? Maybe I can spare you some pain and give you a push in the right direction.

THE “GOOD” THINGS I DID AS AN ASPIRING AUTHOR:

1.) Joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers at http://www.americanchristianfictionwriters.com/), FHL (Faith, Hope & Love at http://www.faithhopelove-rwa.org/) and RWA (Romance Writers of America at http://www.rwanational.org/), both to get connected with other like-minded writers and to learn a lot about your craft.

2.) Took a fiction-writing class and attended writing seminars

3.) Attended writer conferences such as ACFW to learn, to make friends, to network and to pitch to agents and editors.

4.) Join a critique group (you can do that through ACFW).

5.) Purchase and study writing books such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King or Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas, AND invest in a great thesaurus such as The Synonym Finder by Rodale Press or utilize FABULOUS Thesaurus websites like the OneLook Reverse Dictionary(my writer’s bible!!) at http://onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml.

6.) Enter contests for invaluable feedback, growth, confidence, networking opportunities and to get your name out there.

7.) Frequent websites/blogs that deal with writing, such as The Seekers http://seekerville.blogspot.com/, http://www.mybooktherapy.com/index.html ,     http://www.rachellegardner.com/, Inkwell Inspirations (who have a GREAT page on writing resources!) http://www.inkwellinspirations.com/p/writing-resources.html , and Writer’s Alley http://thewritersalleys.blogspot.com/ to mention only a few.

8.) Go for an agent first, publisher second.

9.) Query, Query, Query!

10.) Then pray your heart out and put it in God’s hands.

THE “BAD” THINGS I DID AS AN ASPIRING AUTHOR:

1.) Compared myself to others, inciting jealousy and ingratitude (http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2009/09/conference-cpr-julie-lessman-style-and.html  2.) Queried publishers without an agent (biggest reason my rejections topped at 45 rejections on A Passion Most Pure.

3.) Didn’t get a website or platform till a few months before my first release (NOT GOOD … need to start building that platform NOW.

4.) Wasted time over-editing books when I could have been writing more, especially since publishers pay editors to edit your book!

5.) Didn’t research publishers and their guidelines before I pitched to them. http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2008/03/buckle-up-its-going-to-be-bumpy-ride.html

THE “UGLIEST” THING I DID AS A PUBLISHED ASPIRING AUTHOR:

1.)    Went off hormones when I was entering contests — YIKES!! (http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2007/10/caution-hormone-free-zone.html

THE “GOOD” THINGS I DID/DO AS A PUBLISHED AUTHOR:

1.) Connect with my readers through blog interview/giveaways, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail as much as I can because to be honest, after writing, this is what I love to do the MOST!

2.) Issue a newsletter 2-3 times a year with book excerpts and new covers, giveaways, pix of my reader friends and contests such as having a character named after you in my books.

3.) Build my newsletter list with special contests/giveaways for newsletter recipients only.

4.) Speaking engagements and teaching workshops.

5.) Maintain a weekly personal blog called Journal Jots where I keep my reader friends apprised of all that’s going on in my life and feature contests/giveaways.

6.) Set up blog tours during a book release.

7.) Contact all good reviewers on blog tours and ask them to post their reviews on CBD.com, Amazon.com, etc. Pray for the bad reviewers while staying FAR away from them … J

7.) Sign up for Amazon’s Author Central at https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/landing?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

7.) Establish a group blog like Seekerville. J

THE “BAD” THINGS I DID AS A PUBLISHED AUTHOR:

1.) Scheduled too many book signings. To be honest, according to my publisher, book signings are not worth the time and investment, and I’m inclined to agree.

2.) Scheduled too many blog interviews during a book release—not a good idea if you actually want to write. NOTE: I do believe this is beneficial if you are a new writer trying to get your name out there, but according to my publisher, it’s not an effective use of a writer’s time after you are more established.

3.) Checked my rankings on Amazon WAY too much, which according to my publisher are not valid indicators of sales.

4.) Entered too many unnecessary contests, which is not worth the money, the time and the grief when you don’t final.

5.) Spent too much time on e-mails, especially to reader friends to whom I simply cannot write a generic note to save my soul.

THE “UGLIEST” THING I DID AS AN ASPIRING AUTHOR:

1.)    Compared myself to other writers. DO NOT DO THIS!!! We are all unique to God, and He has appointed each of us to a particular journey, so embrace where He has you and ENJOY it! Mantra: For His glory, not ours.

2.)     Measured my success and worth by sales, figures, contests wins and Amazon rankings, which might work in the secular market, but when you write Christian fiction, these things are NOT an accurate measure of either your success or your self worth … EXCEPT in how you handle them before God!

GIVEAWAY TIME!! Leave a comment by this week, and you will have the chance to win a signed copy of any one of my books including my upcoming release Love at Any Cost.

Thanks, Tamera, for this wonderful opportunity to appear on your blog! I LOVE to hear from reader friends, so if they like, they can contact me through my website at http://www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter at http://www.julielessman.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/.

Also, I have a cool blog feature on my website called “Journal Jots” at http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots1/, which is a very laid-back Friday journal to my reader friends that will give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Or readers can check out my favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of my books on the “Excerpts” tab of my website at http://www.julielessman.com/excerpts/. Finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.

Hugs,

Julie

Julie Lessman 2Meet the Author:

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 14 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction.”

Chosen as the #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also awarded #1 Historical Fiction Author of the Year in that same poll and #3 Author of the Year, #4 Novel of the Year and #3 Series of the year. She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter and is the author of “The Daughters of Boston” series—A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Book 1 in her “Winds of Change” series A Hope Undaunted ranked #5 on Booklist’s Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010.

Click on the pictures for information about buying Julie’s novels.

FINAL COVER- A Light in the Window v_5 low resA_A LOVE AT ANY COST_FINAL COVER

A_A Love Surrendered 2nd Model Cover