Publishing Advice and Randy’s Recommended Books on Writing

Books about writing fiction:

  • Stein on Writing by Sol Stein  
  • Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King  
  • Scene & Structure (How to Construct Fiction with Scene by Scene Flow, Logic and Readability) by Bickman  
  • The Complete Guide to Writing and Selling the Christian Novel by Penelope Stokes  
  • How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein  
  • Show, Don’t Tell by William Noble 

Books about writing:

  • Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph Williams and Gregory Colomb
  • Make Your Own Words Work by Gary Provost  
  • The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack M. Bickham  
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser  
  • Writing for Story by Jon Franklin 


Publishing Advice:

First of all, go to any Christian bookstore and look in the front of books related to the subject you’re writing on and gather names and addresses of the publishers you want to pursue. I suggest you send two or three sample chapters, not the whole book. Pick out your very best ones, but do include the first chapter and then a couple later ones. Publishers receive so many manuscripts and they will never read them all so it’s best to send something more concise.  

Include an introduction and overview of the whole book, also an outline or synopsis (chapter by chapter summary.) Tell what the book is about and who you see as the target audience or potential readers. Give them a vision as to why you think people would read it.

I recommend you purchase the current edition of The Christian Writers’ Market Guide. This gives the latest information regarding publishers and what they publish. This is a great resource book and you may find a wealth of information regarding writing and getting a book published. 

The Writer’s Market, is an extensive resource book that would also be valuable to check out. 

I highly recommend going to a Christian Writer’s Conference. For instance, there is an annual one at Mt. Hermon. There you can meet editors and writers and hear speakers giving great advice on writing. Check out this website for additional information about conferences at Mount Hermon

Here's another helpful thought on self-publishing:

...self-publishing means taking personal responsibility for the management and production of your content, this can be achieved as effectively via a single copy to be kept at home as the sale of thousands online. Self-publishing means recognizing, and preserving, content that has value for someone – but the process does not have to yield an income to be worthwhile. – TheGuardian books blog

Publishing Agent information:

Agents typically charge 15% of royalties (including advances against royalties) for their services. Many, perhaps most established authors now have agents, and some promising but unpublished writers are able to get agents to represent them. Some publishers prefer to work with agented authors. For possible agents I’d recommend consulting Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Guide (most recent edition) which has several pages on Christian agents. There is a list of Christian agents at

Some agencies I’ve heard recommended are Alive Communications, Sara A. Fortenberry Literary Agency and Sealy Yates. Some agents I know and trust are Mark Sweeney, Steve Laube, and Don Pape. I’ve met and heard good things about Jan Dennis and Janet Kobobel Grant.

I’ve met or had lunch with various agents that seem likeable and competent, but I don’t know them well enough personally to recommend them. I have heard a number of good stories about agents, and also a lesser number of bad ones. I don’t have an agent myself, so I don’t have any firsthand experience to offer.

I used to not have an agent and people often asked me why. I would tell them the following:

It’s mainly because Nanci and I decided that 100% of the book royalties would be given away to worthy Christian ministries. If I had an agent, 15% of royalties would no longer go to those ministries. While an agent would undoubtedly be very helpful in some ways, I’m not confident they would ensure an increase of royalties by 15%. And even if they did, we would no longer have 100% of my royalties given to ministries, which is what I have sensed God’s direction to do. (I think His blessing on the books may relate to this, and I do not want to do something that could impede that blessing.) So unless an agent volunteers to also give his or her 15% to Christian ministries, I guess I’ll just have to keep getting along without one. (Update: In the summer of 2010, God graciously provided a pro-bono agent for me, and he has been very helpful in going over my contracts.)

Publishing a Limited Book, such as a Bible study guide or educational book:

Unfortunately, it might be difficult to find a publisher for this, though I’d certainly try. It would need to be someone who does educational hands-on books of this sort, which most major publishers do not. One possibility is Standard, others are Baker, Chariot Victor and Eerdmans. Regal Books, which absorbed Gospel Light publications, might be open to it. Current addresses of all these and hundreds of others can be found in Sally E. Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide. (Available via Amazon.) I’d look under the category of Christian Education for some other ideas.  

I’d recommend making a list of ten or so publishers (not wasting time with the many who just don’t do this sort of thing) and make a simultaneous submission, indicating that’s what it is. It’s okay to do that as long as you say so. (If you submit this one publisher at a time it’s likely to sit for months on a desk, unread, then finally a rejection letter is sent, wasting a lot of time and conceivably postponing printing for years if you get a half dozen or more rejections, which is very common. If they’re interested, knowing other publishers are looking at it too is a good motivator to read and respond sooner.) Send a cover letter giving a summary and also three sample chapters, the best ones. If more than one publisher is interested, that’s great. But most will likely say no, as they publisher only a fraction of what’s submitted. Knowing this, it makes sense to get it out to a number of places simultaneously.  


The following is information from one Christian publisher which might be helpful to you. Not every answer will be the same from each publisher, but this will give you some ideas.  

Can I submit my manuscript directly to the publisher?  

Due to limited openings in our editorial list, we are no longer giving consideration to unsolicited materials unless presented to us by literary agents.  

(Note: Christian Manuscript Submission Services is an online manuscript submission service for authors wanting to present their own book proposals to the leading Christian publishers in the industry)

If I describe my book in an e-mail message, can you tell me if you want to look at it?  

Sorry, no. We do not accept queries via e-mail or otherwise.  

Can you recommend an agent for my work?  

We do not make agent recommendations. If you are looking for an agent, two good resources to start your search with are The Literary Marketplace and Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide.  

Can you tell me more about how to get published?  

The best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about how publishing actually works. One of the best resources for information is your local library. There, you should be able to find books that explain the publishing process from beginning to end.  

We know you put a great deal of effort into your work. As you pursue other avenues of publication, we recommend these resources to assist your efforts:  

  • The Christian Writers’ Market Guide A resource listing Christian markets open to writers. Includes book publishers, periodicals, and Christian literary agents.  
  • The Writer’s Edge Manuscript Service Manuscripts that meet basic publishing standards are included in a monthly listing sent to more than 45 Christian publishers. There is a fee for this service. The Writer’s Edge, P.O. Box 1266, Wheaton, IL 60189.
  • American Christian Writers A ministry providing educational and motivational resources to writers and speakers. There is a fee for the writers conferences and critique services.  
  • The ECPA Manuscript Service Post your proposals on-line in a private environment for ECPA publishers’ viewing. There is a fee for this service. Electronic submissions only.  
  • The Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service Providing Christian writers with manuscript and/or proposal critiques, e-mail and audio writing courses, books and pamphlets. There is a fee for these services. 
  • Xlibris A leading online provider of direct publishing access for authors.  

Do you employ freelance readers?  

No, we do not use freelance readers.  

To Would-Be Writers: My Advice on Writing and Getting Published—an article by Angela Hunt

Photo by Steven Houston on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries