Monday, September 12, 2011

D-E-V-O-T-E-D: Seven Steps For Writing Devotionals That Sell

Do you have a desire to share your beliefs, experiences, or spiritual discoveries through writing devotionals that sell? Author/speaker Max Lucado, one of today’s most admired devotional writers, says, “In our faith we leave footprints to guide others. None should be left to walk the trail alone.” Like retired teacher Maurice Parsley Mallow, you may be just starting on the trail to expand your writing horizons into the devotional genre. Or, you may be a much-published author seeking to increase sales to devotional markets as I was when Maurice and I teamed to co-author Devoted to Writing, a collection of 70 inspirational devotionals with practical, fun prompts for believers who want to write, and writers who want to believe. No matter where you are on the spiritual writing trail, your sales will increase if you follow these seven steps of a D-E-V-O-T-E-D writer:
D-Develop a Larger Marketplace Mentality

Most of us who write from a Christian theology are as familiar with publications like Guideposts, Our Daily Bread, and Upper Room as we are with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Guidelines for submitting to these popular markets are readily available on the Web or upon request via snail mail.

So are guidelines for more than 300 other publications that use devotionals! For example, check out where you’ll find a list of devotional sites, many you’ve possibly never heard of. These are the Obadiahs, Zechariahs, and Malachis of the devotional world. Some may be lesser known, but are not necessarily lesser-paying markets for your work. Research their guidelines and submit to these markets rather than focusing all of your efforts on the more familiar. Editors may pay for your submissions if you will write what they are looking for, not what you want to sell to someone else.

Be aware that Christianity is not the only faith that beckons devotional writers. While Devoted to Writing reflects our Christian convictions, go to to see a spectrum of devotional writing from a variety of spiritual viewpoints.
E-Eliminate “I” Problems

Devotionals are often written in first person. Avoid repetition of the pronoun “I” a much as possible. I does not inspire. It irritates. Fewer Is for the editor’s eyes will give your writing more eye-appeal.
V-Verily, Verily, Verify

You may have memorized the 23rd Psalm, but do you know how to punctuate it when writing it on paper? Did you memorize the King James Version or the New King James Version? Translation differences may be subtle, but misquoting a version or misprinting that version’s spelling, punctuation, or grammar is a deadly devotional writing sin. Maurice and I used quotes from more than a dozen translations and paraphrase editions. We made mistakes in the process that would have caused an editor to question our credibility if we had not been vigilant in verifying the accuracy before we submitted our manuscript.
O-Omit Preaching, Pouting, Prodding and Pointing of Fingers

Short writing does not mean shoddy writing. Resist the urge to preach a sermon, pout for pity, use guilt to prod or point fingers with your words. Start with a title that hooks readers and draws them to you as if you were putting your arm over their shoulders. Use quick action and dialogue to move the conflict toward resolution, the search toward discovery, the dark toward the light. End with a satisfying conclusion. Allow the readers to take something away to praise or ponder from a new perspective, but don’t end with words that shove a finger in their chests and yell, “So there!”
T-Target Without Excluding

Our devotionals obviously target Christians who want to write. We also wanted readers who were not Christians, or who were struggling to achieve other goals to read our book. One of the best ways to target without excluding is to include feelings and emotions all of us experience—joy, sorrow, frustration, embarrassment, laughter, loss, gain, etc. Dusty Richards, Western Writers of America Spur Award winner, indicates we succeeded with his wonderful comment that graces the cover of our book: “Anyone will find this book a treasure of warmth, wit, and wisdom worth reading again and again.”
E-Expect to be Attacked by the Prosperity Pickers

The Prosperity Pickers are those who will attack you like a plague of locusts when they learn you expect to be paid for writing devotionals. Go to (DAN-link to “Investment Strategy” devo) and read “Investment Strategy” from Devoted to Writing. It will assure you God “hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.” Psalm 35:27 (King James Version). If you want to give your writing away, that’s your choice. If an editor wants to pay you for it, that’s God’s blessing.
D-Don’t Take Off Till You Know How to Land Getting paid to write devotionals for a website several years ago was like Moses tasting manna for the first time. What was it that caused me to ignore all other writing opportunities and plunge into producing devotional after devotional? My ego envisioned sharing a writer’s conference panel with Max Lucado or Joyce Meyer, and perhaps working with Billy Graham on his next best seller. None of those things happened. One of the first lessons I learned as a pilot was that there has to be a landing for every take-off in order for a pilot to be successful. In order to be successful as a devotional writer, you need to be like the shepherds who, after seeing the Christ child in the manger, returned to tending their flocks. My failure to “tend the flock” of improving my writing skills after that taste of success cost me dearly. Expect to make a sale with every submission. If you don’t, expect to land and take care of the sheep—improve your writing skills—then take-off again. It‘s part of being D-E-V-O-T-E-D to writing. Need a speaker for your next writing workshop or women’s retreat?