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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Catching the Publisher's Eye

Allen Arnold loves great stories, passionate conversations and authentic living. As Senior Vice-President and Fiction Publisher at Thomas Nelson, he spends his days acquiring, reading and publishing world-class adult and young adult fiction written from a Christian worldview. Allen’s favorite way to spend the day is with his family – preferably with a C.S. Lewis book or Superman comic close at hand.

Catching the Publisher’s Eye (used with permission)

How can an aspiring Christian Fiction author best catch the attention of a publisher?

Yes, a well-written proposal is important. There are many sites that share how to create one. But there are even more essential traits that catch my eye. I’m drawn to writers who:

Create stories with intoxicating premises, brimming with rich characters and buzz-worthy plots.  ”Stirred” and written well.

Demonstrate their ability to sell ideas by first selling a book agent. If an agent isn’t interested, ask why and keep polishing.

Succinctly articulate their story in a fresh, memorable way. If you can’t – no one else can.  Nor will they want to.

Make rooms brighter with their personality and passion. Otherwise, the relationship isn’t fun. And life is too short for that.

Tell their personal story as powerfully as the story they’re writing. Because tribes (fans) are most drawn to those who can.

Listen well. The amount of time you listen vs. talk is your learning bandwidth. And you never learn while talking.

Seek long-term consistency in their Author Brand. Writers tire of a successful brand far sooner than fans. Stay the course.

Engage in blue-sky thinking with the publishing team about how to make their stories bigger, better, more. Always ask, “what   if?”

Celebrate victories rather than camping in the land of what didn’t go right.

Understand the definition of success for their story – but don’t base their identity on it.

Pursue their calling by pursuing first things first. Love God. Love others. Then write story. As you’re transformed, the story will follow.

Savor the journey. No one is guaranteed a bestseller or a next story. Remember what we do will echo in eternity. Echo well.

Yes, many of the above are more inner than outer qualities. More about the person than the story. Yet these are the qualities that catch my eye as a publisher. Because inevitably what’s on the inside shines through to the story. May you shine brightly as you pursue this high calling.


  1. Very good advice. More and more I'm seeing that what publishers want is a nice person. Great writing is secondary. :-)

  2. Are you sure what they want isn't platform with great writing secondary and being nice a distant 3rd? :)

  3. That cynical perspective Gina just shared sounds most likely. What is most important isn't whether you can write, or if you are a nice person. The most important thing is that you have a personality that wins a loyal audience.

    "Make rooms brighter with their personality and passion" sound like the most unlikely to occur as far as my chances for schmoozing the publishers is concerned. Maybe if I can pull the rest of it off I've got a chance.

  4. I think we can all agree that we have to work on it all, from the writing craft to the schmoozing/personable abilities to the platform. It's a tough industry now. Platform/web presence was a hoop so many now-famous authors didn't have to jump through years ago, but now it's just par for the course. Just goes to show it ain't an easy field to waltz into! Thanks for the insider's perspective, Allen!

  5. Great advice to follow, whether in a writing career or in life. Thanks for sharing, Allen.

  6. Awesome advice! Thank you!

  7. Very interesting blog! First time I have investigated it. Make a person reflect about the subject.Thanks for sharing....From.... Susan(at)two seven seven eight(dot)com

  8. I am a terrible writer, myself, but love to read a well written book! I have truly enjoyed all of Cindy's books and can not wait to add to the latest to my library! Thanks for a job well done!

  9. Thanks for the site. I love to read and really enjoy Cindy's books. I encourage my 8 children to be readers. One of them does like to write.,Joanie Nelson

    (totally unsure how to pulish as, so that is why I did anonymous)

  10. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to win one of your books! I love your work and would love to win one! Don't know what I'm doing here so will leave my email Black


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