Secular and Christian publishers
face similar issues: tight deadlines; print runs; where to put the
advertising dollars to get the best returns; how to spot new trends;
how to find a real gem in the middle of the slush pile; and how to
attract new readers in a sound-bite world.
Even with all the similarities,
Christian publishers have a rather unique problem to deal with.
Okay, God is not the actual
problem. In fact, most people in Christian publishing circles are quite
fond of God, talk to Him on a regular basis, and know His Son on a
The real headache lies in their
dealings with writers who approach publishing as if God is their
exclusive agent. And while it is appropriate and important for writers
to ask God’s blessing on their work, some folks confuse Supreme
Being and Supreme Agent. And that can
lead to some interesting letters.
Generally they start something
I am writing to offer you the opportunity to publish my novel titled, Buffy
the Vampire Slayer Meets Godzilla at the Little House on the Prairie.
It runs 500,000 words and is the first part of a trilogy.
God told me to send the manuscript to you personally, so I know you
will want to publish it as soon as possible . . .
Or it may be a little more
God gave me this story and then told me I was supposed to send it to
you. You may send me the check and a contract today, and I will send
you the story as soon as I finish it.
In the immortal words of Larry
the Cable Guy, “If I’m lying I’m crying, and I ain’t shed a tear.” In
fact, I’ll bet you a signed photo of Steve Laube and two used Brandilyn
Collins typewriter ribbons that some editors and agents who are reading
this column right now can pull a few such letters out of their files.
What these writers seem to
forget is that if God told them to send the project to a specific
person at a specific publishing house at a specific time, it’s not
likely He would forget to tell the editor the project is on the way.
Please understand I am not
making fun of writers who put God at the center of their writing. In
fact, if we as Christians write anything from a book to a bumper
sticker, the first thing we should do is to ask God’s blessing on our
efforts. If God is not front and center in our lives and work, then
neither one will have anything of lasting value to say, and both will
Most certainly God guides and
directs our actions and our efforts as writers, but the sad truth is we
sometimes get so carried away with writing for God that we forget we
are still expected to edit the work, do market research, and carry out
the business of writing. If we do our part, God
will do His. And we won’t have to tell anyone that He was the source of
It will show.
On a similar note, I have heard
a lot of people at writers’ conferences and on online e-mail loops
agonizing about their call to write. Are they called to be writers or
I know how tough a call to
ministry can be. I am an ordained United Methodist minister and I
served churches in North Carolina and Georgia for fifteen years before
moving into this aspect of ministry. I remember being a high school
student and telling God I wasn’t sure if I was called to the ministry
or if I was doing the calling myself because so many people just
assumed I would enter the ministry.
So I told God I was certainly
willing. I just wanted to be sure He was the one doing the calling. Six
years later I knew. And I didn’t agonize over it very much after I made
the decision to let Him handle it. I just followed Him as best I could
and trusted that the same God who created the heavens and the earth
could get through to me if He needed to. My job was to be the best
follower I could be.
So don’t make the question
harder than it has to be. If you feel called to write, then write and
dedicate your effort to God. If you’re not sure you’re called to write,
but you enjoy it, then write and dedicate your effort to God. Ask for
His guidance and write for His glory.
I’ve never heard of a case where
someone asked God’s blessing, did something positive for His glory, and
realized He didn’t want it.
Maybe instead of worrying about
telling folks, “God told me to . . .” we should just do what we do for
Him and let it stand on its own.