The Seventeen Steps to Getting a Christian Book Published

I don’t do much author mentoring, because I have learned a painful truth: The vast majority of people who say they want to write a book for publication are not willing to submit to 1) the discipline of learning to write well and 2) then going through a frustrating and time-devouring process of personal inactivity (that’s code for “waiting and waiting and waiting”) to see it through.

I’m not a good example of the norm for getting your first book published by a major Christian publisher, because as a young author with a few magazine article credits, I made a chance comment about being a former Mormon to a published author I’d just met. She said, “I have a publisher who would love to publish a book by you,” — and within a few months I had a contract with Zondervan.

Not the norm. Did I say, “not the norm”? (I see it as the power of God, operational and irrepressible. And the book, The Mormon Mirage, has stayed in print, with only one small hiatus, for nearly 40 years.)

But now, even with almost two dozen published books, I submit myself to the process that may have only slightly fewer steps than that for a complete neophyte. For the sake of those of you who wonder what you might reasonably expect (divine intervention excepted, that is), here is an approximate timetable of the process of a nonfiction book represented by an agent.

I begin by saying that two things must precede this process:  You must have something unique and compelling and marketable to say (and if for the Christian market, inner assurance that you’ve been called to be a writer), and you must be able to write well. Please do not inflict yourself upon the overwhelmed professionals of the market if you have not fulfilled those two requirements.

Since most Christian publishers today do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, and if you do not personally meet an editor or agent who requests your materials personally at a conference such as Mount Hermon, I will start the process steps with the acquisition of an agent.

Please bear in mind that this is an approximation of the process which any number of factors can greatly lengthen or shorten.

1. Author completes a non-fiction proposal (including polished sample chapters) as per the style sheet or instructions on an agent’s Web site. This must be as perfect as he can make it because rarely does an agent ask for a rewritten proposal. At this point a very wise (and relatively inexpensive) strategy could be to pay a publishing industry professional to read and evaluate your proposal before sending it. (Sharon K. Souza offers such a service which I highly recommend. I also am a Senior Consultant with Credo Communications, which  evaluates manuscripts and offers editing services; but there are many such entities that offer such services. Just be sure and make sure the one you choose has an established reputation.)

2. Author seeks that agent with the completed proposal. If submitting to multiple agents, the author carefully fulfills each agent’s specific guidelines that may include parameters such as word count, line length, and manner of submission; and indicates in the cover letter that the author is pursuing multiple agents.

3. Agent typically takes several weeks/months to respond to proposal. Many proposals which have not followed guidelines, are inappropriate for the agent’s profile, are unremarkable, or are poorly written are never seen by the agent. An assistant weeds them out and rejects them.

4. If the agent likes the proposal, the agent will typically research the author’s Web presence, confirm any claims the author has made about himself if possible, and use any other resources the agent has (including talking to other agents.) If agent likes what he sees, he signs an agent’s contract with author. Author may want to have a lawyer look at this contract. (An author should exercise caution when signing with an agent who also offers editorial services for hire, or who works with a vanity publisher. Such an agent may have conflicts of interest.)

5. Agent will correspond with author for additional information such as specific marketing plans, then tweak proposal. Agent then asks editors if they want to see the proposal (this action is called a pitch.) Sometimes an agent will not pitch to editors with individual projects, but will wait until making appointments with editors at an industry event like ICRS (the Christian book industry’s annual conference), where the agent will maximize the editors’ time with one-on-one sessions in which the agent tells the editor of multiple authors’ projects appropriate for that publishing company. Therefore, a pitch can be inactive for several months before such a conference.

6.  At a conference or other face-to-face meeting, an editor will usually tell the agent which ideas are appealing and she would like to pursue by seeing a proposal.  If the pitch was via email or phone conversation, the editor expresses interest, sometimes quite a while after the conversation.

7. The agent sends the proposal to the editor. If the agent has pitched multiple projects to multiple editors, this may take a week or more as the agent returns home and tries to catch up on emails, etc.

8.  If editor wants to pursue the proposal he/she received, he/she takes the proposal to a publishing committee. These meet sometimes only two to four times a year, some more often. Sometimes a publishing house has more than one committee to evaluate a book.

9. Marketing people do analyses, publishing committee members all read proposal.

10. If the publishing committee(s) decides to publish the book, the publisher sends a book contract to the agent.

11.  Agent negotiates the publisher’s contract. (This sometimes takes quite a while because of such things as electronic rights, royalty rates, and delineation of publisher’s commitment to marketing.)

12. Agent sends final publisher’s contract to author.

13. Author reads carefully and then signs contract — and only then can author correspond directly with the editor who is assigned to work on the book (sometimes not the acquisitions editor who first asked for the proposal or book.)

14. The author completes or rewrites the contracted book as per company guidelines. The contract specifies a deadline, and since many processes (such as catalogue listings) depend on this deadline, the author must never miss the deadline. Often first-time writers have to do extensive line edits or revisions after submitting what the author considered to be the “final” manuscript. (Here, too, is where a publishing professional’s evaluation and pre-editing can help. Even though I’m a well-published author, I use such professionals to tweak my manuscripts before submission. The writing/rewriting process can take months to complete — or longer.

15. Editor approves the final draft of the book. Author may or may not be included in such decisions as cover art, though an agent usually insists on this.

16. Author looks at page proofs to catch last-minute errors.

17. Usually several months, sometimes much more time–even over a year– transpires before the book appears in print. Some books are not scheduled for release for years or more after the contract is signed because of full publication rosters. Other projects get “bumped” by higher-profile books with time-sensitive subject matter.

Sometimes the process has “extra” steps. For instance, since my first book, The Mormon Mirage, was controversial and I was relatively unknown, the publisher sent my proposal (and then later the entire manuscript) to an expert in Mormonism to read. This evaluation (completely separate from the selection and editing processes) held up the publication for several months.

Published authors, do you have anything to add to my list?  Those of you who are pre-published, what do you think?

Latayne C. Scott is author of over two dozen books published by major Christian publishers. Her website is  Her controversial new novel — based on the premise that a woman wrote one of the Epistles in the New Testament– is A Conspiracy of Breath (TSU Press, 2017.)


  1. Carla Omoruyi
    Sep 25, 2011

    Thanks for the practical advice. Having just published my first book with and still considering other publishers I appreciate your honesty.

  2. Andrew
    Jun 19, 2012

    Very helpful article. There are some well respected publishers out there, Crossway being an example, who take direct idea and proposal submissions. What are your thoughts about the feasibility of pursuing this path? I would never do it with a “publisher” like Xulon where you pay to have your book published, but with a reputable company, are there any reasons why you would advise against this option?

  3. admin
    Feb 1, 2013

    Actually, with the emergence of options like Amazon’s CreateSpace (which I myself have used and been very satisfied), low-cost alternatives exist. Have you explored that?

  4. Ian amittai isaac
    Feb 9, 2013

    My book has the sign of the prophet jonah and moses’ 3-6-6-6 as opposed to rev 13:18, 6-6-6, but nobody considers it high profile.

  5. admin
    Feb 9, 2013


  6. Leonard
    Jun 3, 2013

    I am a new author and have completed two manuscripts so far awaiting publication. My specialty or preference is Christian books. I came across an advert of our main (TBN) Christian TV of a certain big publisher (based in US and Europe) who will not ask you a penny to publish your book. To my shock, after the manuscript submission and review, the said publisher who actually showed genuine enthusiasm to publish my book handed me a huge over 10,ooo euros bill. This is despite promising me a royalty of 38%. Talk about frustration. This left me asking, why advertise what you cannot deliver?

  7. admin
    Jul 12, 2013

    I am so sorry that happened to you. Do you know about Amazon’s Create Space publishing program? Almost nothing upfront and you get all the profits after the cost of the book.

  8. Stephen Brown
    Jun 23, 2014

    Hello, just read your advice about publishing. I have a book I’d like to see published but it appears that only the strong (and wise) survive in the book publishing world. Very discouraging before you even get started! Anyway,what is your professional opinion about “Christian” publishers like Xulon or CrossBooks? What might I realistically expect from those companies?

  9. admin
    Jun 23, 2014

    Hi Stephen. I don’t have direct experience with any of the companies you mentioned, although I do know an author who worked with Xulon and was very pleased. I self-published 2 books with Amazon’s Create Space (The Hinge of Your History: The Phases of Faith and Novel Tips on Rice.) Each was already edited (you must have someone edit your book to catch what you might miss) and had a professionally-designed cover. That done, there was no cost (other than ten bucks or so for an approval copy) to produce 1 or one million books. Also, Amazon automatically lists your book on I’ve been very pleased.

  10. Jocelyn
    May 24, 2015

    Hello, I wrote something about my 14 year-old son who passed away. Just want to help other people with this. God has done so much for us. But where do I start?

  11. admin
    May 26, 2015

    First of all, I am so sorry about the loss of your teenage son. May God bless and comfort you.

    In terms of where to start, I’d advise that you look to see if any organization (such as a Christian university) in your area offers writing classes, or if there are local writing groups that give seminars or hold conferences. I also strongly urge that you buy or check out from your library some basic books on how to write a non-fiction book.

  12. David
    Jun 3, 2015

    Thank you for your extremely helpful advice here. It is greatly appreciated. I am a newbie writer with three completed manuscripts. What are your thoughts of self-publishing, say on Amazon, and after building a good readership and platform, approaching literary agents for contracting possibilities with larger publishing houses? I have heard of this being done successfully before. Additionally, could you please suggest any other self-publishing, low cost options, to complement Amazon efforts? Any other ideas you might like to add as I am hoping to break into the industry following God’s call on my life to write?

  13. admin
    Jun 6, 2015

    Dear David,
    I’m glad my advice was helpful to you. I congratulate you on completing three manuscripts! That is true an accomplishment. Most people never finish their first.

    About self publishing– it seems to me that whereas self-publishing a promising manuscript was in the past the kiss of death for getting a traditional publishing deal in most cases; now many traditional publishers are actually impressed with good sales by self-published books. I was not able to find a publisher (even with an agent’s help) for one of my books and I was very satisfied with Amazon’s Create Space program. I really don’t know of others’ efforts except through Xulon and Lulu. (Friends of mine who went with them were satisfied, but I think Amazon is a much more economical choice.)
    My only advice is to keep seeking the Lord’s will and ask Him to put the right opportunities in your path. May God bless you.

  14. Edwin Ase
    Jul 19, 2015

    I love the simplicity and sincerity of your information. I am a young passionate writer from Nigeria, with few unpublished works. I would appreciate to be mentored by you, though you may no longer be interested in such. I hope to make significant global impact via writing and I was glad when I stumbled on this post. Please send me the website for the Amazon’s Create Space Program and possibly how I can go about it. Considering my location, can I partake of the platform? If possible, we can work together on this writing journey especially at this my starting stage.

  15. admin
    Jul 20, 2015

    Thank you for your encouraging comments about my suggestions.

    I’m sorry that my life circumstances don’t permit me to mentor anyone at this time (I work 3 jobs and have a disabled husband.) But I encourage you to participate in online writing critique groups– FaithWriters is one that might be helpful to you. About CreateSpace– I have been very happy with their helpfulness and the professional quality of their printing. Their website is Best of luck to you!

  16. Steven Gilkey
    Jul 22, 2015

    Mrs. Scott,

    I found this page while searching the web for advice on getting published. Thank you for providing such a clear and detailed (though rather daunting, I must say) appraisal of what a hopeful author-to-be can expect.

    I’m not sure exactly which paths God intends for me to travel as I share His messages. I just know that I hope to find some way to do this work full-time rather than as a moonlighter.

    Anyway, thank you for taking the time to share this information with the rest of us! God bless you and your work!


  17. admin
    Jul 22, 2015

    My pleasure to be of service to you. And don’t disparage moonlighting! Almost every author I know has at least one other job.

  18. Tehila
    Aug 5, 2015

    Hi there, and I’m so pleased to have come across your website. This post was very helpful to me in understanding the intricate process of getting published.

    I was wondering whether I could bounce a question your way?

    I am a homeschooling mother of five young children. I have several books in me that I would like to write, and wondered what your thoughts were regarding timing. I am pretty sure that if I made the effort, I could slowly but surely write one at a time now.

    On the other hand, I know that my primary calling is serving my wonderful husband, raising my sweet children, and running our home. I’m torn as I’d so much like to do both, the writing and the homemaking…

    Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated…

    With blessing,

  19. Brenda
    Nov 26, 2015

    Thank you so much, I’m from Zimbabwe and I have a passion for writing Christian books, for empowering young ladies, so I’m almost done with my first book and I believe, It will be a huge success, because God keeps directing me to people like you, God bless you abundantly and your family, may He water you as you water others as well

  20. admin
    Nov 26, 2015

    Brenda, may God bless your efforts. I am happy to have helped you.

  21. Jane houser
    Feb 23, 2016

    I have a short book inspirational much like I’ve read other authors more of a coffee table conversation book. It would be around maybe 60 pages or more total, print, scriptures and other graphics. How hard is it to write and publish and market a small book like this myself? My daughter-in-law is a graphic artist so she is a great resource and help to me as well. Thanks for your help

  22. admin
    Feb 23, 2016

    I’ve had great success with Amazon’s CreateSpace. Take a look at two books I’ve done with them– The Hinge of Your History: The Phases of Faith and Passion, Power, Proxy, Release. With your DIL’s help, I imagine it is very doable.


  23. Rachel Cleveland
    Apr 11, 2016

    Well good morning! I have been writing a Christian based book for a while now and have about 3 weeks of writing on it left and it will be finished. It will be around 200-240 pages approximately. Since I’m so close to finishing I started looking for publishers and the information I’ve found has my head spinning with having to find an agent and editor and something said I had to do a non fiction proposal sheet to send to an agent. My question is, I’m not rich actually I am a high school English teacher who has been in the position as a substitute for the past 5 years and I don’t want to self publish how much will publishing this book cost me? Can you push me in the direction of an agent or publisher? I’m clueless.

  24. admin
    Apr 12, 2016

    Hi Rachel,

    Congratulations on getting so much done on your book. That is really an accomplishment.

    Yes, you definitely need a very professional-looking proposal for your book. But even before you get to that stage, there are some things that could really help you. One thing I suggest is that you attend a Christian writer’s conference where you can get some instruction on how to write a proposal (pretty technical stuff.) Also, many of these conferences will allow you to meet briefly with an editor or agent who’s attending the conference. I’m thinking of the Mount Hermon conference in California, as an example of a good conference.

  25. Scott Ballentyne
    Sep 3, 2016

    I recently published my book through Westbow Press a self publishing division of Thomas Nelson. My book is called: Christ For Life – A Story Of End Times. I can honestly say I would never go that way again. Sure the book is published and available but most (meaning 99%) of bookstores will never stock a book by a self published author as I found out after the fact.

    Not sure where to go from here as I have books, shirts, and hoodies to sell and I honestly thought it would be better received.

    It seems nobody is interested to even give you the time of day unless they have contacted you first. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a church or large Christian organization.

    What or who do you recommend to contact at this point? Obviously at this point it seems easier to give up rather than continue on but that doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. That being said, it is very discouraging..

  26. Daniel Willie
    Sep 8, 2016

    i have a christian book,please how can i get it publish?.

  27. admin
    Sep 8, 2016

    My best advice is to sign up for and attend a writer’s conference or a writer’s class at a nearby university. I would also tell you to join a critique group, because they will help you with your writing and give you some hints about how to get published. When you’ve done that, follow my list, and best of luck to you.


  28. admin
    Sep 8, 2016

    I am very sorry to hear of your experience, Scott. I believe your book must have worth or I don’t think Westbow would have partnered with you. Nonetheless, being self-published is a lot of work, because you have to do the marketing yourself. At this point, I’d ask your local Barnes and Noble if they’d have an author signing for you? They’ve done that for me. Also, do any of your local Christian talk radio shows ever take guests? I’d run a copy by each of those stations and tell them you’ll give away copies to call-in guests if they’d like to do an interview. But before that you need a nice “one sheet” to give them that tells your credentials, describes your book, and has an endorsement or two from someone as prominent as you can get. Does this help at all, or have you tried these things?

  29. Vicki Twiford
    Nov 9, 2016

    I chronicled my journey of caring for my Dad while he had Alzheimer’s. I brought in childhood memories in which my Dad taught me how to see “The Silver Lining” in life experiences.

    Many of my friends and family members were greatly encouraged by the journal. They are now wanting me to publish it. I have titled the book “The Silver Lining”. Do you feel there is a market for such a boo?.

  30. admin
    Nov 9, 2016

    Vicki, I absolutely believe there is a market for such a book. I encourage you to go through the steps I outlined!


  31. Bruce R.
    Nov 26, 2016

    I am working late tonight on the re-write of my non-fiction book – years in the making. I was wondering as I wrote tonight if this should be a Christian story – or – a cop story with a Christian ending. I started searching the internet and came across your article above. Excellent, and the comments and replies were just as informative. The first write was mainly a cathartic release for me. It’s a very intense story involving serial murderers, crime scenes, politics of police work, betrayal, accusations and – well, you don’t want me to tell the story, do you? :-) I really don’t get into vivid details as that is not the story. It is my perspective going through all these trials, my responses and some bad decisions.

    I have heard it both ways; that this should definitely be a Christian book because of the darkness and then light at the end. Others saying that the final chapters don’t necessarily make it a Christian story as the majority of the book isn’t about becoming a Christian. My feeling is that many of us that find Christ find him after a lifetime of darkness and it might give one hope to see the light at the end.

    As a Christian author, I would value your opinion on this issue. FYI, I actually took a screenplay writing class and turned this into a screenplay. Still a possibility, but the screenplay doesn’t tell the entire story. I feel that the book really puts it all in context.

    Thank you for your “ministry” of encouragement to us want-to-be authors.


  32. admin
    Nov 27, 2016

    Bruce, congratulations not only for writing a screenplay and a book, but having the courage to revise! You are really passionate about your story, which is a great testimony to what you see as its value.

    If I were you, I’d educate myself on how to write a “one sheet” or short proposal. Then I’d draft and rewrite and rewrite: one for a secular agent, one for a Christian agent. I think that might help you get a feel for where you think the story belongs.

    Then I’d do an Internet search for writers’ conferences that you could attend. Many of them will allow you to sign up for a short (10 minute or so) session with an agent. Just a face to face might also help you get some clarity and direction — and perhaps even snag an agent for your project.

    I wish you the best!

  33. Linda Shirey
    Mar 14, 2017

    I’m amazed that you have time to do anything other than work 3 jobs and care for your husband – that’s an incredible amount that God is helping you work through! I just wondered, might you know of a Christian publishing group that’s willing to publish a controversial topic? A pastor I know has written a book called, ‘The Abusive Wife’, and I think it’s very timely (domestic violence statistics against men are rising), but he can’t get a Christian publisher to pick it up. Any ideas?

  34. admin
    Mar 14, 2017

    Linda, I have strength because God sustains me– I can’t claim it for myself.
    About your pastor friend — send me an email at and I’ll advise you on that.

    Bless you!

  35. Miku
    Apr 11, 2017

    Hi, I wants to write my book, it’s my life story that how I was caught in human trafficked and how i was been locked in the cage and was raised from dead from reaped, but the truth is I can write but I feel as God’s put in my heart to reach out to those that willing to help me to get this story of my life out there. Please help me to get it do or any refer would be really appreciated. God bless you.

Submit a Comment