By Martin Wiles
Every writer wants their name in the publication light—and better yet, to get paid for it. I was no different.
Prior to 2009, I had written little, and published even less. Just a few poems here and there, and only one that I remember getting paid for. Then my father unexpectedly died, and things changed. What connection his death had to my seriousness about writing, I’ve never been able to determine. I only know my attitude changed. The genre I chose was devotions. Not as popular as fiction, but read by many just the same. And I had enough experiences under my belt to write them.
But merely writing them wasn’t enough. If no one else read them, what was the purpose of doing what I felt God leading me to do? I began looking for places to submit my devotions, hoping to get a few published. If I got paid a little along the way, that would be great too.
Of course, I began with what I call the little g, Google. One of the first hits was a place named Christian Devotions. They didn’t pay, but pay didn’t concern me so much. I just wanted to do what God told me to do—and see my name in print somewhere as an added bonus.
Cindy Sproles was the executive editor of Christian Devotions, and, at the time, the ministry was small and she was helping writers develop their skills. Like most inexperienced writers, I thought my devotion was perfect as written the first time. She thought differently. I recall the gist of her response: “Martin, the heart of your devotion is good, but it needs work before it’s ready for publication.”
The work entailed more than I imagined. For one, I had to stop preaching. (At the time, I was a preacher.) I also had to avoid the “that” trap and stop using so much passive voice. After several revisions—revisions I thought I’d never finish—she finally accepted my devotion.
I continued to write for Christian Devotions and also to search for other places to submit my devotions. I had a few published along the way, and was even paid for some. I also became a member of the five o’clock club—the a.m. one. Six days each week, I wrote a devotion. Before I knew it, I had several years’ worth of devotions.
I need to write a book of devotions, I thought. Unfortunately, I knew little about the publishing industry or about the scams that circulate within it. I suppose the company I settled with for three books—two devotionals and one commentary—was close to what I now know as a vanity press. Although they didn’t charge me anything to publish my books—and they did design my covers and list my books on Amazon—they didn’t edit my work or do any marketing for me. I later discovered they accept almost any manuscript sent to them and publish it as is. Since the books were so large, the price was prohibitive. Apart from those I sold to individuals, only a couple were sold on Amazon. I needed another avenue.
Shortly after this fiasco, I attended Writer’s Boot Camp (now Asheville Christian Writer’s Conference), directed by Cindy Sproles and Eddie Jones, co-founders of Christian Devotions website. Eddie had also begun a new adventure: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. His heart’s desire was to help authors get started and to produce quality books from a small publishing house.
Having met Eddie at the conferences a couple of times, I decided to send him a manuscript—365 days’ worth of devotions. By this time, my writing had improved, and, amazingly, he accepted my manuscript … with limitations. A years’ worth of devotions was too much, the book would be too large and costly, and very few would buy it. He suggested we split it up into smaller portions, perhaps as many as three books. Then, he proffered a Southern theme that became Grits, Grace, and God in 2013 and Grits, Gumbo, and Going to Church in 2016.
I was excited, to say the least, because I knew he didn’t accept every manuscript sent his way. I also knew they assigned each contracted writer an editor to work with, that they designed nice covers, and that they performed a fair amount of marketing at no cost to the author.
My editor, and now a good friend, was ruthless, but kind. Together, we produced two books I was proud to put on the market.
While I’m proud of my list of publication credits—and thank God for each one—not everything I’ve written has been accepted. My rejection scroll rolls out much longer than my acceptance one does. Such as the historical novel I spent months writing and rewriting. No publisher will touch it. It now rests lovingly on one of my book shelves where it may never see the light of the publishing world.
I recently signed another devotional book contract with Ambassador International. I look forward to what God will do through this book and to the long process that will precede publication. One thing publication has taught me is patience.
Because I believe God wants us to channel His grace and mercy, I now use what I’ve learned about the writing and publication process to help other writers and authors who are just beginning the journey.
And that editor who bled all over the first devotion I sent her? I’m now her Managing Editor and helping other writers the same way she once helped me. And the CEO of the publishing company who published my first book? I’m now one of his assistant editors also. God surely works in mysterious ways.
Click to tweet: I believe God wants us to channel His grace and mercy, and now use what I’ve learned about the writing and publication process to help other writers and authors who are just beginning the journey. #devotions #amwriting
Martin Wiles lives in Greenwood, SC, and is the founder of Love Lines from God. (www.lovelinesfromgod.com). He is a freelance editor, English teacher, and author. He serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and as an assistant editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is the author of five books and has been published in numerous publications.
Grits, Grace, and God
Grace & Grits & God offers personal insights and practical tips for dealing with life’s challenges, loses, and setbacks. As a pastor, Martin Wiles knows about tough times. He’s seen it in the faces of his parishioners—and his own. Find God’s spiritual truths in your daily challenges. Turn loses and setbacks into step-ups. Dish out blessings to others from your scraps. Show grit, love with grace, and trust God through the hard times and at all times.
Grits, Gumbo, and Going to Church
If you’re struggling with the real meaning of going to church and following Christ, then Grits, Gumbo, and Going to Church is for you. Martin Wiles has been in the pew or the pulpit his whole life. He has experienced the best and the worst in the church. He knows it can be a place of pain or a place of blessing.