Talented, but unpublished, new writers are about to get two helping hands from veteran authors—renowned journalist David Aikman and novelist Jerry Jenkins.
In recent years, publishers have grown more reluctant to work with unknown writers unless those writers have some kind of ministry platform, such as pastoring a large church. While Jenkins was successful in getting discovered by an editor years ago, he has learned that the publishing industry has changed since then.
Due to electronic publishing and higher quality self-publishers, traditional publishers are taking fewer chances with unknown writers. There is less risk in publishing books from leaders who already are active in ministry. Consequently, Jenkins has seen fewer alumni from Christian Writers Guild, the writer-training ministry he runs, land book contracts with established publishers.
To address the difficulty that new writers are having, Jenkins and Aikman are independently starting new initiatives they hope will improve the odds that fresh Christian talent can get work published.
David Aikman created the Aikman Opportunity Award for Young Christian Writers to give authors a start as well as persuade them to go into Christian writing as a career. The purpose of the award is to identify nonfiction Christian manuscripts to steer toward publication in 2014. The award is also designed to encourage a new appetite for stories of Christian conversion and transformation.
Aikman Award is restricted to writers who have not turned age 36 by Oct. 1 and are citizens or legal residents of Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom, or the United States. "We writer-reporter Christians need to ensure that before we are gone we can pass on the torch to younger talent," said Aikman.
Applicants must submit a 1,500-word article for stage one of the competition by May 1. The author of the winning book proposal will receive a grand prize of $20,000 and the three runner-ups $1,500 each. The winners will be announced on Oct. 1, 2013. Guildford Media, a Canadian firm, will have the right to publish the winning entries, but there is no guarantee of publication.
Meanwhile, Jenkins does not want any good writers left behind. In his own effort to help aspiring writers get published without having a "name" in the industry, Jenkins recently launched a self-publishing company, Christian Writers Guild Publishing (CWGP).
For years, the 12-year-long owner of the Christian Writers Guild and the co-author of the Left Behind series discouraged writers from self-publishing. The poor writing style, lack of editing, and tacky looks that characterized the finished books made it seem more like printing than publishing to Jenkins. But now Jenkins says that he has finally "seen the light" and had a significant change of mind about self-publishing.
Despite how easy new technology has made it to get writing online for anyone to see, Jenkins believes that writers still need to "hone their craft and polish their skills." This is why he designed CWGP to come alongside writers in a mentoring-like role.
Lynn Garrett, top religion editor at Publisher's Weekly and also a one-time critic of self-publishing, agrees that "There are an awful lot of really terrible self-published books." Garrett believes that what Jenkins is trying to do is well worth the effort. She said that there are signs that self-published books are improving their quality.
"The idea for venturing into this came as a result of brainstorming how we could help people realize their dream of publication without contributing to the spate low quality self-publishing," Jenkins said. "We determined that if we were going to do this, we would do it right, use the best people, and produce the highest quality we could."
Jenkins said writers should not send CWGP a check in hopes that a manuscript will get published. If writers want their manuscript published through CWGP, they must go through Published, a six-month email mentorship curriculum, costing $9,995. After completing the course, CWGP assigns an editor, a proofreader, a designer, and a cover artist to work with the writer. The initial course is intended for novelists, but Jenkins says that writers can expect to see a nonfiction course offered later in 2013.
Some readers online have written critical comments of the nearly $10,000 cost of CWGP's services, even calling Jenkins' new publishing venture a "scam." When asked about these remarks, Jenkins said of the cost, "It's reasonable only for those who can afford it and want the quality we offer." Additionally, manuscripts over 75,000 words will have a surcharge.
Some people who know the publishing industry well do not find the cost so unreasonable. "I don't think it's that outrageous," says Garrett, "If you buy all those services separately from a self-publishing outfit it could definitely run into five figures."
To keep writers from hurting themselves financially, CWGP will assess each applicant to determine if the program is a good fit. If CWGP does not seem like the best option financially, Jenkins says they will be happy to point the writer to other companies that may be more affordable. Jenkins ultimately wants to help talented new Christian writers get recognized in the way that is right for them.