We’re in the early stages of a series on how to succeed as a Christian writer. First, let me add a note about my previous entry on the spiritual aspects of God’s calling as a writer. My friend, Brenda Scott, is right to remind me that not only should we pray about our writing, but we should also have some close friends around us who will pray for us. You might want to think about who those people are in your life and solicit their ongoing prayers.

Today, let’s look at factor number two.

2. Start learning about the publishing industry itself. This is a factor that really doesn’t have much to do with the actual writing. That will come as a later factor. Right now, especially if you’re early in your writing career, you really need to spend time understanding how it all works. Do you know the publishers who are currently publishing the sort of writing you want to do? Is that genre even popular right now? Which editors might be open to a proposal from you? That basic information, and much more, is crucial to your success. You need to follow the industry. Know which titles are on the bestseller lists each month. Know why those books are doing so well.

Not only do you need to learn about the industry, you need to enjoy learning about it. I want you to be excited about the latest bestseller list when it comes out. I want you to read with interest the reviews of new books being published. Salivate over the Christy Awards if you write fiction. Lean forward into both your writing and the world of writing and publishing. This is really not hard to do if you want to succeed. Most of you, I believe, already have an affinity for this knowledge.

When I was a teenager, I really loved the music of my generation. I subscribed to Billboard magazine and every Wednesday rushed home from school knowing the latest issue would be in the mailbox. I’d turn eagerly to the Hot 100 and gasp at what record had shot up the chart with a red bullet beside it. I’d lament the really great songs that never seemed to get the attraction they deserved. (No matter what anyone says, I still maintain James Brown’s version of “Night Train” was far better than his later, more popular hits!).

Now, of course, writing has supplanted music in my life. (And that’s good thing. I know far more about writing than I do about creating music). But that same interest I once had in Billboard magazine, I now have for Publisher’s Weekly, The Writer, The Christian Communicator, and other magazines popular in our industry.

Reading the magazines is one of the ways you’ll satisfy this craving to learn. Another is by reading popular blogs in our industry. I regularly search out the blogs of Chip MacGregor, Angela Hunt, BJ Hoff, Randy Ingermanson, Brandilyn Collins, and several others. I also read Publisher’s Weekly online and Publisher’s Marketplace. You can easily and quickly become educated in the industry by reading blogs and magazines. Also, while we’re on the topic of reading, you need to be a reader of good books yourself. And you need to be reading books on how to improve your craft. I almost always have a book on writing in my reading pile. There are MANY excellent books to choose from. I like the books on writing by Ray Bradbury, Lawrence Block, Ralph Keyes, James Scott Bell, and others. If you haven’t started your writing library yet, do so now. (And if reading about writing bores you, that may be another warning signal to you).

Finally, you really MUST attend at least one writer’s conference a year. There are plenty to choose from, no doubt some near where you live. At a conference, you will network with others who share your passion for writing. You’ll meet authors, agents, and other successful writers who will share their writing tips in workshops and small groups. Don’t tell me you can’t afford a conference. That, too, is not a good sign. There are partial scholarships to several of the good conferences. Save your money all year long and GO. Have a bake sale. Hold a car wash. Raid your kids’ piggy banks….whatever it takes….you need to be there. If you live in the northwest, we’re just a couple of weeks away from the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference. I count it as among the best I attend each year.

Bottom line: get hungry for knowledge about writing and the publishing industry. Then feed that hunger by magazines, blogs, books, conferences, and however else you can.

13 replies
  1. BJ Hoff says:

    An absolute MUST-READ series going on here, Nick! I’m recommending it to everyone who’s interested in or already involved in writing. This needs to go viral, and I’m doing my part to help it happen.

    BJ

  2. Richard Mabry says:

    Nick, Excellent advice. I have a three-foot section in my bookcase devoted to books on writing. All have been marked freely with highlighter, and there is no dust on any of them. As for the importance of conference attendance, it’s not only a wonderful learning opportunity and a chance to network with peers, editors, and agents, but it cements the feeling of connection to the writing community. Thanks for the post.

  3. Katy McKenna says:

    Nick, Thank you so much for writing this series. I’m entering a new season of prayer, based on your advice in post number one. Speaking of don’t-miss industry blogs, my agent Rachelle Gardner also writes a terrific one. I’ll be returning regularly to read here!

  4. terri tiffany says:

    Just found your blog and have enjoyed the past two posts. Hopefully I’m on the right track as I have been doing everything you’ve mentioned:) Thank you!

  5. Theresa Lode says:

    Nick- What a great blog you have! Sandra over at Chip MacGregor’s site gave you a shout out and it’s easy to see why.

    Another blog I find tremendously helpful in Michael Hyatt’s; he pours out a wealth of information. (For those who don’t know, he is the CEO of Thomas Nelson.)

    I look forward to learning more from you.

  6. Susy Flory says:

    I just discovered your blog. Kathi Lipp recommended it. I love it. So far I’ve particularly appreciated your thoughts on The Shack (perhaps it’s the sort of book that can’t be emulated?) and Writer’s Block (loved the quotes you included, especially the one about lowering your writing standards. I think that’s a common problem when one loves books so much that it creates a huge intimidation factor.) Thanks for sharing your experience and your hard-earned wisdom with us. Looking forward to the posts ahead.

  7. Julie Garmon says:

    Jumped over from Sandra Bishop’s blog. She’s my agent. So glad she pointed out your blog. I met you at Mount Hermon a couple of years ago. Great advice!

    Thanks!

  8. Sheila Deeth says:

    Wish I could afford to go to OCW. I’ve heard great things about it. Catch 22 – can’t spend what I don’t earn, and can’t earn till I spend.

  9. Caleb Griffin says:

    Nick, I’m told that it’s a waste to attend a conference without either a finished novel or a non-fiction proposal to pitch. Is there any truth to that?

    • Nick says:

      Definitely not true, Caleb. In fact, for your first conference, you might to just go and learn and not worry about pitching. If you DO want to pitch something, just take a “one-sheet” that briefly describes your book and make some appointments with editors and agents. Take workshops and enjoy yourself. GO.

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