Of all the markets open to new nonfiction writers, the devotional market is by far the most welcoming.
To get the lowdown on this vast opportunity, I went to the leader in the field, my favorite writing teacher in the country, Dr. Dennis E. Hensley.
Doc is chairman of the Department of Professional Writing at Taylor University and a monthly columnist for Christian Communicator magazine.
He’s also the author of 60 books, including numerous devotionals, such as Surprises and Miracles of the Season: for Christmas and New Year’s (Beacon Hill Press), and More Than Meets the Eye and Man to Man (both Kregel Publishers).
He has been head scriptwriter for the daily radio devotional program “Fresh Perspectives” on WBCL radio since 2006.
In more than three decades, I’ve never hosted a writers conference without asking Doc Hensley to speak. No one motivates writers like Doc, and no one knows devotional writing like he does.
So fasten your seatbelt and get ready to break into nonfiction writing with all the goodies he has to offer in this comprehensive guide.
I asked Doc about all aspects of writing and marketing devotionals, starting with what makes this such a huge market, especially for beginners.
Devotional books are released thematically for:
- College students
And just about any other people group you can think of
Devotionals are used by a wide variety of media, including large-circulation daily devotional guides, such as The Quiet Hour, The Upper Room, The Secret Place, The Word in Season, Devo’zene, and Pathways to God. (These links will take you to their submission guidelines.)
More than 25 devotional quarterlies each publish 365 new entries each year. Naturally, these need fresh material annually.
Publishers of vacation Bible school and Sunday school materials often include devotionals for teachers and students. Many independent and denominational magazines (such as The War Cry and The Baptist Bulletin) run devotionals in each of their issues.
Some publishing houses produce not only devotional books, but also devotional desk calendars and greeting cards.
Again, this market must be replenished annually. Publications can’t just recycle devotionals they ran the previous year. They depend on freelance writers to provide hundreds upon hundreds of fresh, insightful new ones.
What You Should Bring to the Table
Writers of devotionals should have a pure heart (James 3:8-11). With humility, graciousness, and spiritual sensitivity, you can create something that can alter a reader’s thinking and behavior.
You also need a focused mind (Ps. 1:1-3; 73:28). A succinct and powerful message must be distilled to 150-175 words. This demands clarity.
And you must have a burning desire (Jeremiah 20:9). Ask for God’s guidance to say the right words to someone who may be reading a devotional published a year after you write it.
God is the Alpha, but He is also the Omega. He knows what hurts and needs people will have in the future, and He can use you to prepare materials today to help people during hard times tomorrow.
You won’t get rich writing devotionals. In fact, you may have to write a half dozen to see more than $100. That’s why it’s important to write them in batches to make it worth your while—not that you’re doing it solely for the money.
You can revise and resell your print devotionals as radio devotionals for about the same rate of pay. And you can collect your devotionals and publish them as a book, receiving an advance and royalties.
But beyond payment, you may also enjoy the deep gratification of readers telling you your words changed a mind about an abortion, a suicide, or a divorce.
Meeting Readers Where They Are
People turn to devotionals to meet deep needs. Some have lost friendships, been divorced, suffered from criticism, betrayal, or the death of a loved one. They need the balm of God’s comfort.
Others seek intimacy with God. Their prayer lives are lax, their testimonies weak, and their church attendance sporadic. They need to find their way back to Jesus.
Some just want to grow spiritually or to discover a better way to share their faith. Your devotional may be their only connection to the Bible all day.
A harried mom may read one just before bed.