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Getting Published in Today’s Market

by Mary Sue Seymour
The Seymour Agency

Are pre-published authors getting published in today’s market? I just sold Dann Stadler’s Angels in the Fire, the true story of a woman rescued from a car accident by angels, to Tim Peterson at Bethany House. This was the first book Dann had sold. So yes, authors are breaking in.

I queried clients and editors to ask them what they believe would give a writer the edge to get published in today’s tough market. I’d like to share with you what each of them said.

Ami McConnell, an editor at Thomas Nelson, said, “Love your readers! Write with empathy about where those readers are personally. They’re all around you, wanting, needing to escape into a story that will refresh and renew their spirits. See them at the grocery store, in the drive-thru line at the bank. Imagine what they might need and want in terms of a story. And when you see them, ask them! Find out what they don’t want too. The love that you breathe into your story will shine through.”

New York Times best selling author, Shelley Shepard Gray, who recently signed a new 8 book contract with Harper One offered, “My advice would be to take advice. When an editor or agent takes the time to tell an author how a manuscript could be improved, it’s always a great idea to listen and make those changes.”

Harper Collins editor, Chelsey Emmelhainz said, “Build an online presence and be active on social media sites. Network with other authors and build working relationships with people in the industry.”

Thomas Nelson author, Beth Wiseman, offers, “I believe that anyone can get published, if you don’t let the rejections drag you down. Study the craft, and when you do sell, be prepared for an incredible journey…and to work harder than you have ever worked before.” The audio version of Beth’s book, “The Wonder of Your Love,” is currently up for the prestigious Audie Award.

Best selling Christian author, Amy Clipston, who writes Amish romance and YA for Zondervan and who is in the process of signing a contract for her story of donating a kidney to a stranger to save her husband’s life, stated, “Join a writers group, either through a national group like ACFW or just some writer friends who together.”

Kim Moore at Harvest House says, “Go to conferences, meet editors and wow their socks off with writing that sings!”

Mary Ellis, Harvest House Amish author who recently signed a Civil War deal with them, says, “Don’t give up! Keep writing and re-writing and submitting. Take classes, read books on the craft and read extensively in your genre. Your turn will come.”

Natalie Hanemann in editorial at Thomas Nelson offers, “Don’t take anything personal; they aren’t rejecting you, just your story concept. Keep your creative energies flowing and get those concepts out there. Work hard on getting the proposal in excellent shape. When you think you’re done, put it aside for 48 hours and revisit it.”

Harvest House author, Kelly Irvin, who is about to sign a new contract with her publisher, states, “Don’t get in a hurry. Don’t shop a manuscript before you know everything you need to know to make it the best possible story written with the best possible craft. Go to workshops. Polish and polish some more.”

Rebekah Guzman in editorial at NavPress says, “Now more than ever publishers are looking for authors with built in self promotion. It’s extremely important that authors develop their own promotional opportunities. They need to be proactive online in blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Also writers can’t create and perfect at the same time. You don’t have to get everything right on the first draft.”

Vannetta Chapman, a Zondervan, Harvest House and Abingdon Press author, believes, “Finish your book! A lot of writers never finish, so finish and then turn it in to the agent/editor who requested it.”

Revell editor, Vicki Crumpton, states, “Name any five bestselling authors and identify one thing they all have in common. Answer. There was a time in their careers when they were ALL unpublished.”

Summerside Press author, Jennifer Beckstrand, says, “Hone your craft. It is easy to get bogged down by all the marketing and agent shopping, but your most important task is to write a good book. A good book sells itself. Attend writing conferences. That will make you a better writer.”

Rachel Meisel, Summerside Press, states, “Get an agent. Chances are most editors won’t accept your proposal without one. Your agent will represent you, educate you, and help you get your foot in the door.”

Jen Turano, Bethany House historical author, believes, “Keep writing because you never know what project is going to sell.”

Another Bethany House author, Lisa Norato, suggests, “Writer support is so important in the pursuit of publication. Critique partners give you a fresh perspective on your work and help brainstorm ideas; critique partners act as another set of eyes to proof your manuscript. Writing groups are great for learning and keeping up on the industry, sharing ideas, and sharing the highs and lows of writing life.”

That’s a lot of advice! I hope you put it to good use. I am not going to offer advice on getting published as I believe it’s all been said. Instead I would like to talk about something totally different. I have been traveling to a great many conferences lately. Last weekend in Connecticut at the Connecticut Fiction Fest a colleague who supports a home for abused women in South Africa told me women of a certain race are denied access to libraries, and a missionary at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference told me she witnessed children searching through trash cans for food in Nicaragua. A professor at our local St. Lawrence University returned to his home land of Africa and was shot while walking to get his mail.

Whether we are published or not, we have to thank God each and every day that we live where we live and have freedom and basic comforts.

I wish you God’s blessings in your publishing careers!


Mary Sue Seymour, nominated for American Christian Fiction Writers Agent of the Year, has been agenting for 20 years and is currently listed as the number one deal-maker for inspirational fiction on Publisher’s Marketplace. She has sold multi-book deals to Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, Harvest House, Bethany House, Cook, Harper One, Guideposts, Abingdon Press and others. If you’d like to see current sales, conference pictures or recent covers of books she’s sold, please visit her web site.

Mary Sue likes to keep busy since her sons, Matt and Luke, named after the gospel writers, have grown up. The most important aspect of Mary Sue’s life is her faith in Jesus Christ. She attends two churches – one service at 9:00 – the other at 11:00 and she is never fearful of witnessing about the love of Christ.

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4 Responses to Getting Published in Today’s Market

  1. Rick Barry says:

    I enjoyed the many good quotes here. Thanks Mary Sue!

  2. Beautifully said, Mary!

  3. Jodie Wolfe says:

    Thanks for the insightful article. Do you have any pointers on how to approach an agent?

    Blessings,
    Jodie Wolfe

  4. Some good advice here–esp. love the one that if you don’t give up, you’ll eventually get published! And you learn so much along the way.