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I'm writing a devotional book, and want to know about proposals. Is there another format instead of 365 daily devotionals? At the rate I'm writing, my 8 year old will be out of college before I finish a years worth.

Let me make a few observations:

If you are an unknown, don't call it a devotional book and don't write it in the usual formula way. Call it gift, motivational, christian living, anything else. According to recent studies, the Devotional Book market was over-published in the last couple of years and publishers have cut way back, except for Oswald Chambers, Max Lucado, etc. Be original and very creative.

Devotional books may be 365 - a page a day; 52 - a page a week; or 31 - a one month study. And some are not any of the above, but rather what "works" for the topic being covered -- as most devotional books are topical (ie. prayer, love, parenting, moms, dads, etc.) For a look at 2 of the newer styles, see:

BREAKFAST WITH GOD...Inspirational Thoughts to Start Your Day God's Way (A Quiet Moments with God Devotional, Honor Books) now in its 10th printing.

PRAYERS TO MOVE YOUR MOUNTAINS...Powerful Prayers for the Spirit-Filled Life, Thomas Nelson, 2000. (11 chapters with 9 or 10 devotionals in each chapter. a total of 246 pages)

As to how many to send with your proposal. None or one at first. Send a really tight query -- containing your thesis, handle, and synopsis and author bio sketch. Then their response letter or writers guidelines will tell you how many total pages (generally between 20-30, including your market analysis, comparative analysis, why this book, etc.) to include if they invite you to send your complete proposal. Everything starts these days with THE BEST LETTER YOU'VE EVER WRITTEN IN YOUR LIFE.

When meeting an editor at a writers conference, how do I impress him or her?

There are many facets to a good business relationship, but they can probably all be summed up by saying: Be Professional. There are at least 10 basic qualities that YOU, a Writer, are trying to imprint strikingly and memorably in the minds of the people you deal with:

1. BE POLITE. Relax with some small talk first. Be friendly but businesslike.

2. BE CONFIDENT. Learn the fine line between cockiness and confidence and observe it at all times. Hard-nosed editors will seldom admit that the confident stranger who pops in for an appointment with a good idea for an article or book has the edge over any other would-be writer with the same idea. But, believe me, he has. Doing your homework as honestly and thoroughly as possible will give you the confidence to fulfill your writing assignments with ease and to procure these assignments in the first place. The assured freelancer is in a much better position to sell to that editor because Confidence Is Infectious. If you have that sense of yourself and your abilities, as well as your idea, the editor is far more likely to be confident of it too. CONFIDENCE BUILDING BLOCKS: Whatever kind of writing you do, you probably won't feel supremely confident all the time. Some days you'll be up, ready to take on anything. Other times you'll wake not willing to drag yourself through the day, let alone out on a risky limb. What you need ¾ whether you're a beginner or an experience freelancer ¾ are steadying influences. Think of them as confidence building blocks, and don't be remiss in laying them down as foundations for a long career: writing friends, critique groups, fellowship meetings, sales/checks, writers conferences. Another building block for confidence is an active Imagination. Imagination produces good ideas for the right markets. Keep yourself thinking ahead.

3. BE COMPETENT. Have samples of your best work ready to show. Be there ready to meet on time...deliver on time.

4. BE REALISTIC. Don't overbook assignments when you find you're starting to get them regularly. Plan ahead what you can and cannot take on. At the same time you must maintain a constant alertness to new opportunities, which will appear at the most unusual moments.

5. BE TRUTHFUL. If it's not your type of work, admit it. If you already have too much to do, tell the editor. Many editors conferences turn out to be brainstorming sessions. According to a fine editor, "Having a sense of mission" may be the most important sales tool you have to convince a publisher of your worth.

6. BE AVAILABLE. Discipline makes sure that you are writing enthusiastic, well-crafted query letters/proposals and that those letters are being sent/given to the proper editors. Then you'll know when there is a need...a new line...or when you can just help an editor out in one way or another.

7. BE CHEERFUL AND OPTIMISTIC. Life is traumatic and publishing is a business fraught with problems. Your attitude can be a helpful tool everyone will appreciate. You are in the process of winning friends and influencing people. If you want to try your hand at new jobs or types of writing, Show Lots of Enthusiasm. Let the editor know what kind of writing, editing and/or researching you do best. Keep 'after them until they give you an assignment. Then give it your all. Write for free. Write letters to the editor. Do newsletters for your church or organizations. Get bylines and writer's credits behind your name. Establish a portfolio.

8. BE AGGRESSIVE. There are many competitors out there. You'll be forgotten if you don't remind editors/clients now and then you're still in business. Keep sending out those manuscripts. Write letters to editors that you are going to meet -- both before and after the writers conference. Especially pay attention to personal letter rejections. The real professional has acquired a forceful, effective, yet graceful way of putting their message across. Professional promotion isn't bullying. It is effective persuasion/creative aggression. If an editor (or client) likes you as well as the work you do for him, he's far more likely to return for more of the same. It's as simple as that.

9. BE A HARD WORKER. All the above attributes won't help you -- if you aren't willing to work incredibly hard without constant reminders. Stay organized...a chart that includes ideas, number of queries written on each idea, where and when sent, responses, assignments, sales, etc. will enable you to keep track of everything and allow you to deal in volume writing projects. Be a hard worker by being Persistent. The main point to remember besides persistence is -- take any assignment offered you to get a foot in the door. If you do a bang-up job on it, you're sure to get other assignments.

10. BE PATIENT. No one starts at the top. It will take my experience it's at least 5 years of apprenticeship before you are really writing and selling consistently. But patience will facilitate your rise up the ladder. And all of this calls for the main basic quality...Energy...and lots of it! [adapted from Complete Handbook for Freelance Writers, Kay Cassell, p.319].

SOME DO's and DON'Ts

1. Don't ask the editor what his needs are. You're supposed to know.

2. Don't ask for a free sample copy at the same time you submit your manuscript. Get one first and study it. Better yet, borrow one or buy one if it's on the newsstands.

3. Don't ask for advice or criticism.

4. Don't say you're just a beginner and will sell cheap, or even let him have the work for nothing. (Nobody should be that desperate.)

5. Don't put a price on your work. In fact, say nothing about payment. The magazine has it's rates, and if your article is accepted, you will be paid accordingly.

6. Don't tell the editor your life story. Especially your problems. Editors are not social workers...their job is to find and pay for acceptable material.

7. Don't pester an editor for reports or updates on the status of your manuscript.

8. Don't accuse editors of stealing your ideas.

9. Never send in a manuscript that an editor has already rejected...unless you have a very good reason.

10. Don't submit anything that has not been edited and proofread carefully. Spell check everything.


I have noticed that certain very successful freelancers seem to have a real knack for developing warm, friendly relationships with editors who purchase their work. Others, however, tend to approach their relationship with editors in a seeming cold, businesslike fashion. It's an advantage to a freelancer to work on developing relationships with editors -- even when editors don't respond immediately. This is especially true when a writer just begins selling stories to a particular publication. I enjoy interacting personally with free-lancers as much as possible. I find that free-lancers who do make a point of sending notes along with their manuscripts and being friendly in general often get the assignments and the tips with regard to what our most pressing needs are before anyone else does. It really encourages me to know that a free-lancer takes his work as though it's a ministry, and often prays for the staffs and the ministries of the magazines in which his material appears. Editors are a tough breed to communicate with, especially when their schedules make it difficult for them to respond personally with the many freelancers who are in touch with them. But Prayer, Persistence, A Desire to be Sensitive to Their Needs and a Caring Attitude can make a difference.

ONCE A WRITER HAS ESTABLISHED A RELATIONSHIP WITH AN EDITOR: They are likely to come to know each other through letters. They will become respected colleagues, perhaps personal friends. Writers who become pests, however, are likely to find themselves with more rejection slips or fewer assignments.

1. Be realistic...

2. acknowledge all communications from the editor

3. meet established deadlines...there is too much competition in the free-lance field. Writers who keep their commitments can always be found.

4. build bridges of understanding, writers and editors need to do their level best to create working relationships which are fully understood and respected on both sides.

When simultaneously submitting to different magazines of different denominations, can the same article be sold to both? If so, how can you give them both First North American rights?

You can certainly TRY to sell the same article or story to non- competeting publications at the same time. You always have to tell them that this is a simultaneous submission and that you are offering one-time rights. Otherwise you sell First Rights to the first publication, and then offer Reprint Rights to the second publication. First rights can only be sold first. Here are some definitions that will help you understand the difference titles and meanings. KNOW WHAT RIGHTS YOU ARE SELLING!

FIRST SERIAL RIGHTS -- The periodical has the right to publish your work for the first time in their periodical. All other rights to the work are retained by you.

FIRST NORTH AMERICAN SERIAL RIGHTS--The periodical has the right to publish your work first in both the U.S. and Canada (since their U.S. publication may also be distributed in Canada).

FIRST U.S. SERIAL RIGHTS--The periodical has the right to first publication of your material in the U.S. A Canadian periodical could then come out with prior or simultaneous publication of the same work. When material is excerpted from a book scheduled to be published and it appears in a magazine or newspaper prior to book publication, this is also called first serial rights.

SECOND SERIAL RIGHTS (REPRINT) RIGHTS--The periodical has the right to publish your material after it has previously appeared elsewhere. Of course, you cannot offer second rights on a property which has previously been sold for ALL RIGHTS.

ALL RIGHTS--The periodical has exclusive rights to your material, and you forfeit the right to ever use it again elsewhere. Most major, widely-circulated periodicals purchase ALL RIGHTS ONLY, and therefore you should expect a better rate of payment when selling to these markets. However, should you desire to someday use this material in other markets (such as in a future book project), see if you can talk the editor into purchasing FIRST SERIAL RIGHTS. Usually, the rights being purchased are indicated on the check voucher the author receives. Some editors will reassign rights to a writer after a given period, such as one year. It's worth an inquiry in writing.

ONE TIME RIGHTS (also known as SIMULTANEOUS RIGHTS)--Many of the smaller religious periodicals will purchase SIMULTANEOUS RIGHTS if their audiences do not overlap. In this way, you can conceivably sell one piece to several periodicals at one time. Payment from these periodicals under SIMULTANEOUS RIGHTS, however, will be lower than what you would receive from an ALL RIGHTS PUBLICATION. A periodical that licenses one-time rights to a work buys the nonexclusive right to publish the work once.

FOREIGN SERIAL RIGHTS--If you sold only first U.S. SERIAL RIGHTS to an American magazine, and obtain the verification of assignment of all other rights from that editor, then you are free to sell that same work to a foreign publisher.

SYNDICATION RIGHTS--A form of serial rights. If you sell a series of columns, for example, to a syndication service, they will most likely purchase FIRST SERIAL RIGHTS from you. Or, a book publisher may sell rights to a syndicate to print your book in several installments in a number of newspaper across the country. If these rights were sold prior to book publication, the publisher would be selling FIRST SERIAL RIGHTS to the book. If after publication, they would be syndicating SECOND SERIAL RIGHTS. SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS--These are the rights, other than book publication rights, that should be covered in a book contract. These may include various serial rights; movie, television, audiotape and other electronic rights; translation rights, etc. The book contract should specify who controls these rights (author or publisher) and what percentage of sales from the licensing of these sub rights goes to the author.

DRAMATIC, TELEVISION AND MOTION PICTURE RIGHTS--This means the writer is selling his material for use on the stage, in television or in the movies. Often a one-year option to buy such rights is offered (generally for 10% of the total price). --Elaine Wright Colvin, copyright 1994, Writers Information Network

SELLING REPRINT RIGHTS -- OR MULTIPLE MARKETING The best way to increase your product is to more fully utilize the work you are doing. This means take advantage of both simultaneous submissions and multiple marketing, two dissimilar concepts that you should understand. Since the 1976 copyright law passed, if the writer (you) leave the old tag "North American Serial Rights" off your manuscript, this allows you to sell the same manuscript to non-competing magazines without having to wait for publication in any one specific magazine.

1. Be sure not to try to sell the same piece to competing magazines of any specialty. Competing ones are those cutting across the whole spectrum of specialty. For example, in the field of religion in the USA are such general religious publications as Charisma, Christianity Today, Moody, Decision , The Christian Reader, World. Offer the manuscript only to noncompeting publications.

2. Send your query, enclosing a SASE asking if the editor is interested in the article idea, describe the content briefly, mention photos or other illustrations.

3. Tell each editor that the article is being offered to certain other periodicals simultaneously for reprint rights; list them and their editors. (This assumes you already have made up a list of possible interested editors.

4. Tell each editor that the article has been brought for first rights only by the magazine or paper that has done so. Indicate the approximate date of publication.

5. Ask the editors being queried if the will accept tear sheets, xerox copies, or computer printouts of the original manuscript and of the illustration.

6. Set a deadline for reply.

7. Suggest a time when you could send in the material; say that if there is a preferable date you will try to meet it.

8. Send a SASE with each copy of the manuscript when you send it to those editors who displayed interest in seeing it.

9. Say you will appreciate receiving several copies when the piece is published.

IS IT WORTH DOING? Why go to all this work?

1. You widen your influence as a writer, since thousands more people will see your words.

2. You increase your earnings, since each publication will pay for the second rights (although generally less than you were paid for first rights.

3. You make yourself known to editors new to you. The next time you want to publish an article in this manner it will be easier.

4. You may have requests for articles from some of these editors. They may wish to assign a piece for their exclusive use or one that can develop into a second right submission.


1. If possible, keep your query letter to one page.

2. Target the appropriate editor. Verify exact title and spelling of name. If necessary, call the publication; don't trust outdated market listings or mastheads.

3. Be sure you pitch an angle, not a broad topic. Have you given your idea the "angle test".

4. Open strongly enough to grab the editor's attention, then get to the point quickly.

5. Provide enough detail and substance to indicate what kind of article you plan to write, its scope, sources, etc.

6. Convey implicitly why your proposed piece will serve the reader without directly saying, "Your readers will really benefit from this article," or words to that effect.

7. Use anecdotes and examples to support your pitch, if appropriate, but don't crowd your query with too many.

8. Include only the pithiest quotations. Eliminate long-winded ones; paraphrase them tightly and to the point.

9. Use bullets in place of long, rambling paragraphs, but don't overdo it. Four or five should be plenty.

10. Include a title for your article only if it serves the query, is appropriate to the market and is fairly succinct.

11. Don't over-promote yourself; keep biographical data to a line or two. Let your query and clips do the selling.

12. Include the most appropriate clips to prove you're the one to write the article; three should be enough.

13. Craft your query as carefully as you would the final draft of your article. Proofread meticulously.

14. Include an SASE, with postage sufficient to cover all returning materials, including clips, photos, etc.

15. In general, let the editor suggest article length; that's his job. Ditto payment, deadline and so on.

16. In the case of timely or seasonal angles, allow for lead times and time for replies, research, writing.

17. Suggest sidebars only when they seem necessary and helpful to the piece.

18. Avoid foolish or amateurish questions, such as "Have you run an article recently about...?"

19. Don't tell the editor his business ("This is the kind of story your readers will love," "this kind of article would greatly benefit your readers"). Let that be implicit in your well-chosen idea and its presentation.

20. Never apologize ("I know that this idea isn't full developed, but...") If you must apologize in any way for your work, you're not ready for an assignment.

I want to self-publish my book of poetry. Who should I contact?

Contact Essence Publishing or call

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