In a sense, the question “Where to submit” draws the line between the writing hobbyist and the dreamer. There’s a sense of finality to it, at least for me. It’s like asking, “Where will I lay my hopes?” and, of course, that’s truly a part of it. So, while I would not presume to answer such a personal question, for now let’s consider some of the related questions that get us one step closer to finding our place (or places) in the world of writing.
Will your piece need an explicitly religious publisher?
Do you have a connection with any publishing houses? Or, do you know anyone with a connection to a particular publishing house? What you want is an invitation to submit a proposal, however that can come.
Is your piece particularly suited for a niche? Then where do others who write for that niche publish? For example, though I consider myself a fan of Concordia Publishing House, and really appreciate the doctrinal review process, there are some very interesting pieces coming through Wipf and Stock. I mean, I haven’t read Feasting in a Famine of the Word—super hot off the presses—but it sure sounds intriguing to these Lutheran ears!
Is your resume or curriculum vitae appealing, and are there additional ways to beef it up before seeking publication of a book-length project? Articles, blogs, essays, speaking engagements. (Any more that I’ve forgotten?) What you want is to establish credentials, as a writer and perhaps in an additional field or two. Magazines and journals can also be a handy way to gain contacts who could bring you a step closer. Admittedly, people may not ask to actually see either, but such shorter pieces also help to build an audience, something publishers strongly consider.
Is there any possible way to find an agent? (Oh, how I would love for there to be Lutheran agents! Your mission impossible, if you choose to accept it, is to attend conferences and seek out an agent for all of us! I jest a little, but I can’t help but presume publishing is easier with either an agent or a list of previous publications.)
You can also try to cowrite with someone previously published. That can help. It’s still a sell to a publishing company, though. While every book may be an opportunity for a writer, every book can be a significant risk to a publishing company.
Generally, every book begins as an email, sharing your idea (and hopefully your market) in as few words as possible. Competition is fierce, and the reality is that when publishing houses are swamped with submissions, everyone suffers. Stuff goes unread. Staffs stress out. At the same time, look at the website. Are they open to ideas at all? Some are; some are not. See what you can do, proceeding with care and respect. After all, you are offering, effectively, to sell them a service.
Those who aren’t explicitly religious in content, by all means dream big! I’d love for one of the top publishing companies in the world to run your pieces! Let me know and I’m happy to spread the news, bump up sales however I can, etc! The whole “Two Kingdoms” concept totally works with publishing companies too. You’re not selling out if you can publish with a secular group.
In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’d love for Christians with a solid understanding of the distinction of Law and Gospel to be all over the place! In every genre, every publishing house, every home. Even subliminal points in a novel are A-OK with me! Add in an appreciation of theology of the cross—hmm, could we call it a Christian understanding of divine irony?—maybe a nod to the means of grace and the power of the Word? I’d holler an . . . let’s say, “la-lle-luia!” (it being Lent and all).
There’s also a site I’m very curious about: http://www.christianmanuscriptsubmissions.com/. If you ever know anyone who uses it—successfully or not—I’d love to hear about it. Guest post!
Otherwise, it boils down to research or self-publishing. Who works with your genre? Who’s accepting unsolicited manuscripts? (And, correct me if I’m wrong, any publishing house that asks you to pay is probably more accurately understood as a form of self-publishing.)
I wish I could offer more assistance here—I can talk about proposals (the next step) another time— but where to submit may be one of the hardest questions a writer can ask himself or anyone else. But submitting a piece for publication, or gaining acceptance of a submission, is not the same as asking, “Am I a writer?” Because you are. And maybe your next project will be even easier to get published than this one! So, keep writing!