A WORD ON SELF-PUBLISHING
ACFW’s mission is to promote Christian Fiction through developing the skills of its authors and educating them in the marketplace. As an advocate in the industry, we want our members to be aware of the advantages and challenges that both traditional and independent publishing present. ACFW encourages its authors to take the time needed to develop their craft to the level that will garner interest from literary agents and traditional royalty-paying publishers, or if they choose a self-publishing path, to be fully prepared, educated, and knowledgeable about that route. Too often, short-cutting the process for either publication path proves not to be in the best interest of the fiction author. Whether traditionally published or independently published, the goal is a great story, well-told, by a well-informed writer.
ACFW’s policies regarding independently-published books’ eligibility for our Carol Awards are changing for 2015. See the Carol Awards guidelines pages of the website (under the Contests link) for more information about those details as they are finalized.
ACFW: THE BEST ADVANTAGE
What can a writer do to gain the best advantage for getting a story from the seed of an idea into the hands of readers?
The theme song of publishing experts and accomplished authors is, “Learn your craft.”
- Study fiction craft books. Apply the principles.
- Study writing publications.
- Take online classes on the craft of writing.
- Attend writers’ conferences that offer high quality instruction on writing great fiction.
- Study the methods used in other authors’ novels.
ACFW excels in developing writers in the craft of Christian fiction. Check here to connect with ACFW’s archives of online classes. Click here for information about our upcoming annual conference that features a broad spectrum of fiction instruction.
Study the publishing industry.
- Discover what’s working and why, what’s selling and why, what’s expected and why.
- Study the publishing houses to determine the best fit and most likely match of story, author, and publishing house.
- Keep abreast of industry news and how it affects novelists.
- Follow publisher and agent blogs for insight and information.
- Get familiar with publishing house, agency, and writing instructor websites.
- Study publishing house guidelines. Follow them implicitly when writing and submitting.
ACFW’s main loop is a source for information about the publishing industry. Click here to sign up for that email loop.
Find a source for unbiased critiquing.
- Although some family members offer good advice for a novelist, the most valuable critiques usually come from people who are both prolific readers of Christian fiction and who have a working knowledge of Christian fiction principles and methods.
- Take advantage of paid critique opportunities at writers’ conferences.
- Some writers work best with a critique partner rather than a critique group. The point is that every writer needs the advantage of someone else to evaluate what’s been written, how the story flows, how it engages readers and holds their attention, as well as the mechanics of grammar, punctuation, and accuracy.
ACFW offers a large-group critique group—Scribes—for fiction writers. Check here for information on how to get involved. From that large group, smaller critique groups develop their own individual styles and interests. Paid critiques are offered as part of our annual conference. Click here for conference information.
Find a source of encouragement.
- Camaraderie with fellow writers affords the blessing of others with whom to commiserate when things go poorly.
- Writers also gain from having someone with whom to rejoice when the words or contracts flow freely, when characters behave themselves on the page, when the Lord sends a breakthrough for a plot point or a career move.
ACFW members appreciate the knowledge gained through ACFW’s main email loop in addition to the fellowship and encouragement those writers offer. Click here for more on the main loop. ACFW local chapters are also a key source of encouragement for writers. Click here for information on local chapters.
Prepare for the long haul.
- The stories vary, but it’s been said that novelists often have four or five completed novels on file before one is sold.
- The average length of time between embarking on the path to publication and seeing that first novel in print is seven years. Are there exceptions? Certainly. But novelists do themselves and their work a great disservice if they grow discouraged and give up after six months, thinking it’s taking too long. Publication is a long, arduous process, despite its joys and rewards. Those who succeed are those who recognize it is a process, not an event.
- Learn to make productive use of the waiting time. Write more. Pray more. Study more. Connect more.
ACFW comes alongside writers for the long haul. We make every effort to instruct, encourage, and support our members who are invested in pursuing publication in Christian fiction.
- Olympians and novelists have a lot in common. They invest many hours—a lifetime—working on their skills, repeating drills, practicing, practicing, practicing. Even the most naturally talented “pay their dues” on the track, in the pool, on the slopes, at the keyboard.
- Successful novelists view even discarded words as valuable—good practice.
ACFW’s Topic of the Week on our main eloop encourages greater understanding of the writing craft, the writing life, the publishing industry, and the power of practice. Click here for more information on our main eloop.
Work on writing relationships to form a team. Successful novelists need:
- Friends who understand a writer’s heart.
- Writers who are true friends and keep us on track with the Lord, our writing, our lives, and our careers.
- An agent who will champion the project and the author’s career.
- A great working relationship with editors.
- Connections with people of like interest, similar genres.
- Connections with people with different interests.
- Prayer partners.
- A growing circle of potential readers.
As mentioned earlier, the main eloop is one way to build relationships with other writers. ACFW’s main eloop for members is accessed here In addition to other sources, our annual ACFW conference is a key opportunity to interact with, learn from, and develop relationships with editors and agents in attendance or on faculty. Check here for information about the conference. ACFW’s prayer loop—click here—connects members and their needs in prayer. And ACFW’s Book Club unites writers and readers in a meaningful interchange of ideas—click here. A newer resource-www.fictionfinder.com—connects readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, and book clubs with the best in Christian fiction.
- Pray before pursuing writing for publication. Lord, is this what You want me to do?
- Pray before writing a word. Novels written in human strength alone show it.
- Pray after the book’s completion.
- Pray as it’s shopped around.
- Pray as it’s rejected or accepted.
- Pray as it’s printed and marketed.
- Pray as it reaches the hands of readers.
- Pray (as the Bible says) without ceasing!
ACFW members will pray with you, privately or through our ACFW Prayer Loop, accessed here.
Through its various programs and benefits, ACFW seeks to offer writers every advantage in their pursuit of publishing Christian fiction. We are at work behind the scenes every day to help make it a meaningful and rewarding experience for our authors and in turn for readers of Christian fiction.
I’m not published yet. Do I belong in ACFW?
MOST of our members are unpublished, but are working TOWARD publication. You’re welcomed with open arms. Here you will find training in fiction writing and information about the Christian fiction industry that will help you reach the Lord’s goals for your writing. Note that His goals may or may not include publication, but we will work with you, encourage you, and pray for you while you find out.
I write non-fiction exclusively. Do I belong in ACFW?
Although some of our members write both fiction and non-fiction, almost everything ACFW does is geared toward the novelist and the Christian fiction market. Good writing principles carry over into both “camps,” and using fiction techniques brings new life to non-fiction. But unless you write fiction, you may find it more beneficial to join one of the organizations that addresses non-fiction writing, publishing, and markets. Whatever you decide, you’ll want to note that discussion on the loop needs to stay focused on fiction writing topics.
I just want to promote my book here. Do I belong in ACFW?
Our primary objectives are training writers, educating them in Christian fiction, and serving as an advocate for the Christian fiction industry. Promotion of our authors is not a key function but a great byproduct of the relationships made within ACFW. The connections you make here—as well as the opportunities for enlisting book reviewers and getting your book considered for New Releases and our Author lists on the website—will help get the word out to other authors and the readers who frequent our website. But your strongest promotional endeavors will come from other sources than ACFW. However, education ABOUT promotion and marketing is one of our strong suits. Sharing information about promotional opportunities happens all the time within ACFW.
New innovations like FictionFinder.com offer ACFW members ever-expanding opportunities to get their books noticed. But your strongest promotional endeavors will come from other sources than ACFW. However, education ABOUT promotion and marketing is one of our strong suits. Sharing information about promotional opportunities happens all the time within ACFW.
I’m self-published. Do I belong in ACFW?
ACFW’s mission and vision are to prepare novelists for success in traditional publishing, helping our members strive for excellence in the craft and develop skills that will help their books attract the attention of CBA publishers. Other groups may focus more on self-publication goals. From the beginning, ACFW has sought to prepare authors and their books for acceptance by CBA publishers. We aren’t tailored to guide writers to well-respected self-publishers or to help promote self-published books. Self-publishing has a different dynamic, especially in the world of fiction. But there are still ways in which you may benefit greatly from ACFW membership. As you take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and information in our craft-training classes, our website archives, and our main loop, you will grow in your craft and become even more skilled at the kind of writing the Lord has designed for you, no matter what type of publication outreach He has in mind specifically for you.
I’m multi-published and have a strong marketing team, a great agent, and more contracts than I can manage. Do I belong in ACFW?
Do you need to know that other writers understand your challenges? Do you appreciate the encouragement of those who are blessed by what you write? If you are multi-published, you no doubt have learned the secret—that a writer can never stop learning. Just as a prolific author always is digging into (or back into) a craft classic, he or she can benefit from fresh ways of looking at subjects like POV, deepening emotion, writer’s block, character motivations… Or you may find your greatest joy in ACFW membership is the opportunity to help other writers over the hurdles you conquered long ago, or in some aspect of mentoring through your knowledgeable answers to the main loop. You’ll find both camaraderie with other multi-published authors and plenty of opportunity to assist the yet-to-be-published in their writing journey.
ACFW is always looking to expand and enhance what we offer to both the newcomer and the veteran novelist. We understand that we can’t meet every need, nor can we fully focus on every aspect of fiction that deserves attention. But we’re working very hard to show that if you’re serious about writing great novels, this is where you belong!