How to Break into a Publisher’s Office

Today’s guest post comes from Jim Watson. He is the author/contributor to over 30 books and over two thousand articles and acquisitions editor for Wesleyan Publishing House. Jim also serves as an instructor at Taylor University  and minister of communications at The River Community Church.
“Whether I succeed or fail in those jobs, I know that my identity is secure in being an unconditionally loved child of God.”
SlushPileIt is hard “breaking into” the writing market, but not impossible. One problem is supply and demand. There are simply more articles being written than the market can bear. (About 1 percent of articles and book proposals submitted to publishers are actually printed.) But you can break through if you will work at the craft of writing:
1. Read. Read. Read. Read “how to” books on writing at your public library. My book, Communicate to Change Lives is available by calling Wesley Press at 1-800-4-WESLEY or ordering at It includes advice on the proper form and etiquette for submitting manuscripts. Also read books that contain good writing such as Annie Dilliard, Madeline L’Engle, and C. S. Lewis, and Philip Yancey.
2. Take a course at a nearby college or university. You’ll receive the kind of feed-back and critique that is so necessary.
3. Attend one of the regional or national writing conferences. “It’s not what you know, but who you know” in writing also! Conferences allow you to show your writing samples to some of the top magazine and book editors in the country. Plus the workshops are invaluable.
4. Join a writer’s club or critique group. Your public library should know the active groups in your area. You’ll receive helpful critiques and encouragement.
5. Research what the market is buying. Writer’s Market (Writers Digest Books, annual), which is available at most public libraries, lists hundreds of markets. Always send for a writer’s guide and sample copy before submitting. Magazines are much easier to break into. In fact, I’d suggest you do not attempt a book until you’ve established a good publishing track record in magazines.
6. Don’t quit your day job! If you want to make money, become a greeter at Wal-Mart rather than a writer. Fewer than 5 percent of writers actually make a living at it. Writing offers great satisfaction, but little money.
7. Most of all, be persistent as well as patient. Persistent because the majority of your (and my) articles and proposals will be returned. But, because I’m persistent I’ve had over 1,470 articles and fourteen books published–in spite of hundreds of rejection slips. And be patient. Most magazines take up to three months to respond; books up to six months. Editors, unfortunately, are too busy to be able to tell you why they can’t use your material, so don’t ask. I realize that is frustrating–to new and old writers! And remember, it takes ten years to become an overnight success!
Jim is an award-winning author of 16 books and over 2,000 articles. He’s an editor with Wesleyan Publishing House and ACW Press. Read more at
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