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 has stayed in print, with only one small hiatus, for 30 years.)

But now, even with over a 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.

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 win a contest (like the NovelMatters“Audience with an Agent” contest) or 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.)

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 never sign with an agent who also offers editorial services for hire, or who works with a vanity publisher.)

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. Some of us Novel Matters writers use such professionals to tweak our manuscripts before submission, even though we are experienced writers.) 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 a dozen books published by major Christian publishers, including the new Discovering the City of Sodom: The Fascinating, True Account of  the Discovery of the Old Testament’s Most Infamous City


  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.

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