There are two keys to getting published:
- Write. I could easily produce a complete post on just this. While there are things you can learn about writing in classes or while discussing with your local writing group, nothing replaces getting your backside on a chair in front of your computer and writing. Yes, you will often produce lousy material. That’s what the delete key/button (or the wastebasket) is for.
- Find a publisher that wants what you write.
This post is about key #2. Many authors are discouraged after one publisher rejects a manuscript, but unless it’s rejected because it is just bad, rejection by one publisher may mean nothing more than that the particular publisher had their publishing schedule full. At the beginning of the year we discuss what Energion may be able to accomplish during the year, and we accept manuscripts based on that schedule.
I want to make it easier for you to decide whether it’s worth your while to submit your proposal or manuscript to Energion, so I’m going to outline what we’re looking for.
The first thing to consider is the Energion mission statement. I regard mission statements as extremely important. For me, Energion is both a business and a ministry. In fact, I believe all business conducted by a Christian should be ministry. The mission statement tells you what we’re trying to accomplish here at Energion. If you aren’t comfortable with that, you may be looking at the wrong publisher.
I encourage all prospective authors to watch the video that’s included on that page and embedded below. Yes, it’s home quality. I just set up my camera and talked, complete with drawings on a piece of paper, but it will tell you why I founded this company and what I hope to accomplish through it, God willing.
To summarize, Energion’s publishing mission is built around a triangle of Christian positions: conservative, charismatic, and progressive/liberal. There are many ways to divide up the Christian spectrum, and this is just one of them, largely useful for defining the type of documents we want to publish. If you consider those three points pushing outwards, testing the limits, then consider the lines around the edges of the triangle (as drawn in the video) as providing the boundaries, which may be called Christian orthodoxy. You can find more specifics on this, as well as some notes on possible manuscript submissions in my earlier note, The Energion Mission Triangle.
Now that the general material is out of the way, let’s look at some specifics for our main line. (I will comment on Academic books, specific series, and our other two imprints in a future post.) The ideal manuscript for submission to Energion Publications for our main line should combine as much as possible of the following :
- Founded in scripture
- Historically aware
- Applicable to experience
- In conversation
Let’s take those one at a time.
Founded in Scripture
We do not require a particular view of the inspiration of scripture, but to be inside the boundaries of our mission, one must regard the Bible as foundational for Christian belief. We are open to a variety of views on hermeneutics in submitted manuscripts. We’re not open to publishing books that advocate simply ignoring scripture. Because of the centrality of scripture to our lives and mission as Christians, this is a key point. An ideal manuscript is going to be closely tied to scripture.
This doesn’t mean it must be expository in nature. Let’s say you want to write about your experience as a pastor. In writing about that, we want to hear how your life has interacted with your faith, and how that is tied to scripture. How did you understand it? How do you understand it? A good example of a manuscript we published in precisely this area is Finding My Way in Christianity, the story of a New Testament scholar.
On the other hand a book could be primarily expository, or primarily about scripture itself. Examples of this sort of book would include Why Four Gospels? and When People Speak for God. The first deals with details of the background and composition of the gospels. The latter discusses biblical inspiration. Our Bible study guides in the Participatory Study Series are examples of more expository works.
By historically aware, we mean that you write with an awareness of Christian history and tradition. Note carefully that I am not saying necessarily that you accept or endorse tradition. That is well within the bounds of debate. But in general, we’re not interested in material that is not historically unaware or illiterate. Often experiential books will be scripturally unaware, as the author treads a path through the wilderness without any particular guidance from scripture or tradition. If you’ve written a testimony telling us how you wandered until you found a spiritual place that was comfortable for you, without concern for the history and theology involved, we’re not interested.
From our current catalog, I think two books illustrate the idea of being historically aware. The first is The Jesus Paradigm, which is not at all favorable to tradition, yet which is very much aware of the history of the church and of the contributions of people throughout that history. The second is Holy Smoke! Unholy Fire! which is pastoral in nature, but draws heavily on scripture, tradition, and experience in making its case.
Applicable to Experience
In our general line, we’re not looking for books that are ivory tower academic. Speculation over minor details of scripture are not for our general audience. (Standards are somewhat different for academic titles.) We want books of experience that tie to scripture and the church.
I would cite two books with regard to experience. The first is my wife’s book Grief: Finding the Candle of Light and the second is Soup Kitchen for the Soul. Both books begin with experience, in the one case doing so on every page! Both then tie that experience to scripture and the church.
Experience is good. Relevance is good. But it’s easy to use pure experience and write about wandering in the wilderness. If you don’t ever make it to the promised land, it isn’t very edifying.
Here’s where I think most people confuse our mission statement. Energion Publications is not precisely ecumenical, in the sense of drawing people together on some small common ground and ignoring the differences. We’re about discussing the differences. We’re also not interested in downplaying differences or homogenizing theology.
So what makes a book be “in conversation?” Use clear statements of your beliefs and support those statements with facts and reason. A book filled with dogmatic statements that you don’t support doesn’t invite conversation. A book filled with firm statements supported by your discussion, will invite someone else to a similarly thorough and careful discussion.
On the other hand if you avoid saying what you really believe in order not to offend, that does not contribute to true dialog. I’m convinced that in the church today we’re losing true dialog. We’re becoming more and more divided into the folks who dogmatically assert positions and the folks who don’t think ideas and theology matter. I’m looking for the authors who believe ideas and theology are so important that we must be open to discussing and testing them, and we must be continually learning.
If you don’t have a passion for your topic and for expressing what you have learned about it, I doubt you will write this kind of book.
- Academic titles that provide sound scholarship, and yet are written in comprehensible language so they are useful to the student outside of academia. In particular, material on biblical criticism is very welcome. Current topics of interest in the broader church include creation and evolution, Calvinism/Arminianism, and the historical Jesus. And yes, we really are willing to dive right into the debates about Calvinism.
- Study guides for Bible books for the Participatory Study Series. If you are interested in contributing, begin with an e-mail query rather than a proposal.
- Short expositions of carefully defined topics in Christianity for the Areopagus Critical Christian Issues Series.
- Manuscripts dealing with applying scriptural principles to church ministry and mission.
- Good Christian fiction that reflects the same principles we have expressed regarding other books.
- Guides to Christian topics that will be useful in teaching new church members. These must combine reliable scholarship with clear and simple exposition. They must not assume substantial background knowledge.
- In filling out our mission triangle we’re short on both liberal/progressive and charismatic contributions. Don’t assume that because our balance in overall titles leans conservative that we aren’t interested in manuscripts from these two perspectives.
We don’t need:
- Devotional books. While we have a small market for our current devotional titles, that market has proven resistant to new material. We’ll look at these materials only if they are truly unique, but be aware that we have rejected quite a number.
I will follow up with posts on the specific needs of our book series, our special political category, and our two other imprints. Subscribe to our RSS feed. You can also follow us on Twitter, or check out our page on Facebook.