September 08, 2010

Writing and Selling Devotionals By Kim Sheard | printable version

Are you familiar enough with Biblical principles to write 100-400 words revolving around a scripture passage? If so, you can earn up to 20 cents per word with the single publication of a Christian devotional. In many cases, you can then alter the devotional slightly and submit it again to other publications. These short articles can be written quickly, and Christian devotional markets are wide open to new writers since they typically provide a new devotional each day of the year. Read on to get started.

Guidelines are Key

Before writing a devotional, it is best to pick a market where you will submit and read the writer's guidelines. The guidelines for these markets are very specific regarding the components that should be included in your devotional and the number of words.

The typical components of a devotional are as follows:

- Scripture: This may be a long passage for reading (usually not included on the devotional page) or just a few verses. Quote the version of the Bible indicated in the writer's guidelines. Bible Gateway (http://www.biblegateway.com) allows you to both search and browse most common versions on-line. As an example, one devotional I sold focused on Matthew 10:30, "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (KJV; public domain).

- Anecdote/Meditation/Reflection on the Scripture: The main body of the devotional is given different names by different publishers, but is generally either a personal story that explains or is sparked by the scripture or a new, personal explanation of the scripture. For instance, in the devotional for Matthew 10:30 that I sold to A Cup of Comfort Devotional, I talked about watching my long hairs flow down the drain as I shower and how I am constantly shedding and growing new hairs. I added statistics on the average number of hairs on a human head and the usual number shed in a day, and used these numbers to illustrate how awesome God is that he can track this for each of us.

- Prayer: A simple prayer related to the lesson learned from or about the scripture. Continuing with our example, an appropriate prayer might be, "God, you are awesome and trustworthy. Help me to keep my faith in you."

- Thought for the day or key thought: A very simple summary of the lesson learned, like "God is so awesome and caring that we need not worry."

Mix and Match to Resubmit

Personalized a devotional for a market and it didn't sell? Pick another market asking for similar components. Lengthen or shorten as needed, add to or modify the exact components, and send it out again.

Got the sale, but hoping for more? You may still be able to resell your concept, even to a market that doesn't accept reprints. Consider my example:

"Our Awesome God," complete at 182 words, was published in A Cup of Comfort Devotional, and I retained periodical rights. Lengthened to 344 words with mentions of several additional scripture verses and modified in format, it sold to The Vision. I then turned it into a 400-word children's story, where Grandma brushed a little girl's hair and they discussed the verse after exclaiming over the number of hairs left in the brush. That version sold to Keys for Kids. One concept, three sales, and my next concept is only a Bible verse away.

Paying Devotional Markets

Alive Now
Guidelines: http://alivenow.upperroom.org/writers-guidelines/, and must write to a theme, found here: http://alivenow.upperroom.org/themes/
Sample Devotional: http://alivenow.upperroom.org/
Components: Title, story or anecdote pertaining to theme, reflection questions
Pay: $35 and up for 250-400 words
Rights: Reprints OK. Limited rights purchased.

The Upper Room
Guidelines: http://www.upperroom.org/devotional/how_to_write.asp
Sample Devotional: http://www.upperroom.org/devotional/
Components: Title, scripture, story or reflection on the scripture, prayer, thought for the day, prayer focus
Pay: $30 for 250 words
Rights: No reprints accepted. Non-exclusive rights purchased.

Devo'Zine (for teens; must write on a selected theme)
Guidelines: http://www.devozine.com and click on "Writer's Corner"
Sample Devotional: http://www.devozine.com
Components: May include scripture, prose, poetry, prayers, stories, songs, art, photographs, action items.
Pay: $15-25 for 150-250 words
Rights: Buys all rights for 1 year.

The Secret Place
Guidelines: http://www.judsonpress.com/catalog_secretplace.cfm
Components: Title, scripture, thought for the day, meditation on the scripture, prayer
Pay: $20 for 100-200 words
Rights: No reprints accepted. Limited rights purchased.

Keys for Kids (for kids 6-14)
Guidelines: http://www.cbhministries.org/kfk/submission_guidelines.php
Sample Devotional: http://www.cbhministries.org/kfk/home.php
Components: Title, scripture, story, practical application, Bible verse to memorize, short key thought.
Pay: $25 for 375-400 words.
Rights: Buys one-time rights.

The Quiet Hour
Guidelines: Available on Request from Gary Wilde, Editor, gwilde1@cfl.rr.com
Sample Devotionals: http://www.davidccook.com/catalog/resources/samples/1085-1.pdf
Components: Title, scripture, anecdote and application of scripture to daily life, prayer or quotation
Pay: $20 for 145-175 words; writers are contracted for a week of devotionals at a time based on assigned scriptures (total payment of $140)
Rights: Work-for-hire (all rights sold to publication).

The RevWriter Resource (for congregational leaders; Advent and Lent seasons only)
Guidelines: http://www.revwriter.com/congregational/writerguidelines.shtml
Sample Devotionals: http://www.revwriter.com/congregational/resource/archives/_Past%20Issues/2010_03.html (Lent), http://www.revwriter.com/congregational/resource/archives/_Past%20Issues/2009_12.html (Advent)
Components: Title, scripture, anecdote or illustration significant to scripture, prayer
Pay: $10 for 250 words.
Rights: One-time rights purchased.

The Vision
Guidelines: http://cupofcomfort.com/CallForSubmissions/
Sample Devotionals: http://cupofcomfort.com/sample-stories/
Components: Varies by book. Generally title, scripture, anecdote, and thought for the day.
Pay: Varies by book. $13.50-$20, word count varies from 100 words up
Rights: No reprints from books accepted (periodicals OK). Limited rights purchased.

Kim Sheard sold her 27th devotional while writing this article, supplementing her income as a fiction writer and pet sitter. Visit her at http://www.kimsheardauthor.com.

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