Each of us has gifts and talents, and as writers, we have unique ideas about how to convey various topics via the written word. So why is it that some ideas make it to publication and others don’t?
Often, would-be writers claim someone “took” their idea when they see a book release on a subject they are interested in writing about. But I believe God gives his message, in different forms, to many different messengers. Some heed the call immediately and follow through. Others get bogged down in preparations or procrastination. Years after the idea’s germination, they are still pondering but haven’t thought things through fully enough to get to the nugget that will interest a publisher.
Here are some things to consider when determining if you idea is publishable:
• What are you writing?
While this may sound amazing, I often review a manuscript the writer thinks is a book, when it’s really an article or devotional. Or a writer refers to something as an article that is really a personal experience story. Or a writer isn’t sure if he’s writing fiction or nonfiction. If you are writing a book, do you know which category your book would fit in on the bookstore shelf? Publishers expect you to know. Until you categorize your work, your writing isn’t likely to get published.
• Who is your audience?
Do you have a magazine or book publisher in mind for your manuscript? Novice writers write first and then try to place their manuscript. Professional writers write to the market rather than chasing it. Until you know your audience, your writing isn’t focused.
• Is there a market like for your topic?
Have you done market research to see what else is available on the topic? Have famous authors, who are considered “experts,” written on the topic? If so, you may well have a hard time getting a publisher to consider an additional book on the subject. Can you refine your idea, making it narrower and exploring a different twist on the topic? For example, the subject of parenting is broad. Narrow it down by writing about parenting a techno-savvy generation or effective parenting despite your upbringing.
• Do you have enough material to support your premise?
Have you created a full outline to see if you have enough for a book, or enough for an article? Can you avoid repeating and rephrasing material? Are there other sources you can draw from and quote? (One caveat: there is nothing more boring than a book of quotations broken up by a little commentary!)
• Is your idea captivating?
Can you sustain the text and hold reader interest throughout the work? Many times writers repeat the same ideas others have already written on, or worse, paraphrase a seminar they’ve attended. If you idea isn’t involved enough to be captivating, or is pirated from someone else, it will never see publication.
• Do you have a compelling beginning?
Are you hooking your readers and drawing them in from the first sentence? Start with a story, yours or someone else’s. Write in a narrative format that makes readers want to know more. You have to pique the curiosity of an editor or agent first before moving further in the publishing process.
Candy Arrington’s writing provides Biblical insights and practical advice, often on tough topics. Her publishing credits include hundreds of articles in periodicals such as Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, Marriage Partnership, Encounter, Pray, The Lookout, The Upper Room, Advanced Christian Writer, CBN.com, The Writer, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s stories have appeared in the Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort series.
She is coauthor of When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House) and Aftershock: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group). Candy is on staff with The Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service and also provides private paid writing critiques and editing. She is on faculty for several national writers’ conferences and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.