By Jeremy Armstrong
At worshipleader.com, we are in the process of creating a platform for the highest quality worship writing that is being produced by worship leaders and worshipers. Below are some things to avoid when submitting an article for possible inclusion on this website. That said, if you have an article (or a blog that has been found to resonate with your community), we want to read it, and possibly re-publish it here. Read this article, make sure you aren’t making any of the mistakes, then follow this link to submit it.
In my experience as the managing editor for Worship Leader magazine I will admit that there is no guarantee or formula for the “right way” to submit an article to a publisher. In fact there are lots of variables that, in certain cases, can only be circumvented by chance. When did you submit your article? Was there a crunch in the publication schedule that took the attention of the editor? Did the publication just lose an intern (or just get one, who hasn’t gotten their feet wet)? Did you submit on a weekend allowing the email to get washed away in the torrent of Monday morning inbox blurs?
Sure, there are plenty of unavoidable hurdles, but there are also a few things you can do to get a better shot at getting read, and possibly even published.
Mistake #1: Submitting a Devotional Article
Worshipleaer.com is looking for very practical articles that you, as a worship leader can use to make your job and your life easier. Inspirational devotions are fine, and in many contexts and we will publish them from time to time, but you are more likely to catch our eye if you submit “5 Points to a Successful Rehearsal” rather than “Worship Thought for the Day.” We always need more concrete tools that save worship leaders time or offer insight on how to accomplish aspects of their jobs. These tools do however include biblical lessons about worship or theological pieces that help us keep our focus on a biblical approach to leading music in the context of worship.
Mistake # 2: Writing in First Person
If you are submitting what started out as a blog, make an effort to change the point of view from first to third person. What’s the difference, you ask? First person is typically autobiographical in style and uses the pronouns “I” and “We.” A rule that I broke at the opening of this very article, and just did again. Which illustrates that this is not a hard rule, just something to keep in mind when submitting. The primary reason to avoid the first person is that it tends to limit the view of the article to a personal view of the issue you are discussing, rather than a view of the broader picture. It is good to sate claims then back them up. In first person articles, it’s easy to slip into personal-opinion writing, rather than something useful to the community at large.
Mistake #3: The College Paper
Scholarly writing has its place … that place is in the academy. Enjoy watching paint dry anyone? Spice it up a little, and casual it down some, as well … but not too much. Balance is the key, and clarity is your goal. And remember, in the publishing world outside of the universities, there is no reason to utilize the word “utilize” when you could have easily used the word “use.”
Mistake #4: Sloppy Formatting
An editor’s decision is never easier than trashing an article that is in Comic Sans font. Or if it has multiple spelling errors. Scratch that, a single spelling error in the opening line. Or if the article uses all caps or bullet points without any narrative structure. If it is immediately clear that a good deal of editing is going to be required by an editor, most likely your article will get an immediate “pass.” Getting an editor to stop what they are doing and pay attention to a submission is an uphill race, so don’t disqualify yourself before the starting pistol has fired.
Mistake #5: Wasting Time
Time is of the essence when submitting an article, more specifically, the lack of time an editor has to spend on reading submissions. The best way to make sure your article will get more than the first line read is through strong, straightforward writing and solid reporting. Cutesy, overly illustrative, completely hyperbolic, peppered with alliteration—this type of writing feels amateurish when found in a submission. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are an amateur if you employ these styles of writing; some of the best most entertaining stories circulating certain systems are stuffed to the ceiling with alliteration. But remember, the editor doesn’t know who you are, make it clear in the first two lines that you mean business, you know what is important to the reader and you can get there quickly, clearly, and precisely.
Again, there is no formula for this. And if you happen to have an article that breaks any of the rules (except number 4, that one is a deal breaker), but still seems to move every person who comes in contact with it, take a shot. No matter what, we love hearing your stories, and coming in contact with the heart and love that comes with them. We appreciate what you are doing for your local communities, and the kingdom on the whole. So if you have an article that you believe with strengthen and empower your fellow worship leaders, submit it here.
Jeremy Armstrong is managing editor for Worship Leader magazine, as well as the content manager for all Worship Leader online properties.