How to Write for Chicken Soup for the Soul

An Author Interview with Heidi Gaul

heidi-gaul-author-photo-2016Chicken Soup for the Soul has been sharing inspirational and motivational stories for over twenty years. More than 250 compilations have been translated into 43 languages, with over 110 million books sold in the US and Canada and over 500 million sold worldwide.

With about a dozen new titles being added to their list yearly, the Chicken Soup team welcomes writers to submit their stories or poems. They’re open to unsolicited submissions and have recently extended deadlines for a few of their upcoming compilations.

Though Heidi Gaul is not an employee or an official representative of Chicken Soup for the Soul, she has had eight stories published in different themed Chicken Soup books. Her work has also been published in The Upper Room and will be included in Every Day with Jesus, a Guidepost devotional book scheduled for release in 2017.

Please help me welcome Heidi as she shares personal tips that could help writers improve their chances of having their stories accepted for publication in future Chicken Soup for the Soul books.


Thanks for joining us, Heidi. In which Chicken Soup for the Soul books have your stories been published?

heidi-gaul-finding-my-faith-chicken-soup-book-coverMy stories are included in Finding My Faith, Angels Among Us, Touched By An Angel, Dreams and Premonitions, The Cat Did What?, My Very Good, Very Bad Cat, I Can’t Believe My Dog Did That!, and Thanks To My Mom. My favorites would have to be Finding My Faith and Thanks to My Mom.


What elements make stories or poems a good fit for Chicken Soup for the Soul?

Every story published by Chicken Soup for the Soul editors must be true, and must involve the writer, as opposed to being a story retold through the writer. Chicken Soup stories should relate one event or occurrence in a way that will draw in the reader, making them laugh, cry, or even get chills. The reader needs to not only feel empathy for the characters in the story, they need to trust the writer enough to feel themselves a part of the story.


How can writers benefit from submitting to compilation books like Chicken Soup for the Soul?

Because Chicken Soup for the Soul has such a large audience, it offers vast name recognition for its writers. With so many stories being submitted for every title, being included in the 101 stories they finally select is an honor. Plus, it’s a great avenue for inviting others to visit your website.


How can writers prepare themselves for submitting to a Chicken Soup book?

It’s critical to follow the guidelines. I usually print a copy of the specific story angles they’re searching for, and keep it handy, mulling over the key points for a few days. I want to understand the audience the editors are targeting, and submit a story that fits. We all have plenty of memories, but they might not align with the editor’s needs. If that’s the case, no matter how well the story is written, it won’t be accepted.


Please share your top tips for writers who want to become a part of the Chicken Soup family.

(1) Begin your piece with an action or some dialogue to set the pace.

(2) Don’t be afraid to offer as much of yourself onto the page as possible. Twelve hundred words are all you have to enrich the reader’s day. Make each word count.

(3) Take advantage of sensory detail to ground the scene.

(4) Write your first draft, then edit like crazy. Check every adjective and adverb, and if they aren’t important to the story’s tone, pull them.

The writing has to be clean—professionalism needs to be evident through tight word usage as well as your ability to take your readers to an emotional place you’ve created for them.


heidi-gaul-chicken-soup-thanks-to-my-mom-book-coverWhat should writers consider when submitting devotions, stories, or poems with Christian elements?

Chicken Soup for the Soul is not specifically a Christian publication, but more of a bridge. The books focus on an optimistic, healing perspective. When my Christian viewpoint is vital to a story, or a quote made by a Christian luminary strengthens it, I include it. But inserting a sermon or sharing a preachy message that doesn’t tie in will guarantee rejection.

And by the way, those pithy quotes prefacing each story? They are selected by the editors—the author merely okays them.


What can writers expect after they submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul?

I always tell people that they won’t hear from Chicken Soup until they’ve forgotten they even submitted. And sadly, if your story isn’t one that’s chosen, Chicken Soup won’t notify you at all, due to the number of submissions they receive.


What happens after Chicken Soup for the Soul accepts your story for publication?

First, you’ll be notified if your work is under consideration, and again later if it is accepted into the final line-up. If your story is chosen, you’ll be paid in a timely fashion and will be given several copies of the book that includes your story. In addition, you’ll receive a periodic newsletter from them—Chicken Soup for the Soul makes you feel like part of a family.


What do you consider the most difficult part of the submission process?

Pressing “submit.” And the second hardest part would be concentrating your story to a size fitting the guidelines while maintaining enough emotional swing.


heidi-gaul-chicken-soup-very-good-very-bad-cat-book-coverWhat is the most rewarding part of being a member of the Chicken Soup family?

Knowing one made the cut into a top-notch, wholesome line of anthologies—it’s not easy. Another blessing is when readers contact you, praising your story, and you know you touched their heart. That’s a wonderful connection.


What are some creative ways writers can share their books with readers after their work is published in a Chicken Soup book?

Chicken Soup provides each author with so many free books, I often sell the surplus. I’ve enjoyed success with marketing at writer’s conferences, online through social media, and at privately owned book stores. I love to do giveaways, and my readers have fun signing up for my newsletter in order to participate in them. (Spoiler Alert: There will be a giveaway announcement at the end of this interview!)


What final words of encouragement would you like to offer writers as they consider writing and submitting to this prestigious publication?

(1) The strength of a publisher like Chicken Soup for the Soul is great, and deserves respect. Many companies don’t reflect the light as well as they do.

(2) Your gift of writing is one of the most powerful means available for spreading the Word, and when finessed with subtlety and skill it will reach many.

(3) If you don’t already see your reader as a loved one with whom you’re sharing a life event, think again. They are counting on you to enrich their day—warming their hearts, bringing a smile to their face or a tear to their eye. So, what are you waiting for?


heidi-gaul-chicken-soup-book-coverThank you for sharing your insight with the Inspire family, Heidi. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the giveaway opportunity you mentioned.

Thank you for inviting me. It’s been a lot of fun!

Although I’ll be interacting with readers in the comment section of this blog post, I’d like to invite you to visit my website. Look around. Sign up for my quarterly newsletter, if you’d like. I do a drawing for a free Chicken Soup book with every 25 new names.


I’m on my way to sign up now, Heidi.


To encourage Heidi or ask her more questions about submitting to Chicken Soup for the Soul, please leave a comment below. You can also connect with her on her website and through her Facebook Author Page, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Click HERE to check out the current themes and submission deadlines for upcoming Chicken Soup books, to carefully review the guidelines, and to submit your story.

Please let us know if you submit a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul and if your story has been selected for publication in a Chicken Soup book. We’re looking forward to celebrating with you.


Author Photo 2016 - INSPIRE ThumbnailXochitl (soh-cheel) E. Dixon encourages women and teens to embrace God’s grace and grow deeper in their personal relationships with Christ and others. Her devotions will be featured in Our Daily Bread, starting in 2017. She’s been published in The Upper Room, ENCOUNTER, and Devo ‘Zine magazines, as well as in Inspire’s Victory, Promise, Forgiveness, and Joy anthologies.


When a Writer is Ready for an Agent

An Interview with Nick Harrison

nick-harrison-2016-author-photo-full-sizeNick Harrison has inspired readers toward magnificent Christian living for over two decades through his devotional writings in Magnificent Prayer, Power in the Promises, His Victorious Indwelling, and Promises to Keep: Daily Devotions for Men of Integrity.

His newest release One-Minute Prayers® for Dads will be released on April 1, 2017.

After guiding authors through their writing journeys as a senior editor at Harvest House for over 15 years, this accomplished writer and seasoned editor entered the industry as a Wordserve literary agent in November 2015.

As he builds his client list, Nick continues to invest in upcoming writers through his writing blog and by teaching at various writing conferences.

Please help me welcome Nick Harrison as he shares his wisdom and insight with writers who are considering seeking agent representation.


Thanks for joining us, Nick. As you’re settling into the exciting world of agents, please share how a writer can recognize a good agent.

A good agent will take an interest not just in your work, but in your writing career and in you as a person. It may take a while to find the right agent, but it’s worth the search. You want someone who “gets” what you want to accomplish as a writer. Don’t settle for less.


What must novelists do before they are ready to seriously pursue an agent?

A few years ago I would have said to simply finish a truly great story in novel form. But now I’m finding that many fiction publishers are requiring the same “platform” they require for non-fiction authors.  Now you no longer must write the story, you must demonstrate you can help find the market for the book.


What should nonfiction writers do before they consider submitting their proposals to an agent?

See what other clients the agent represents. If the agent doesn’t represent other writers in your non-fiction genre, there must be a reason. Either they don’t care for that genre or they don’t believe they can sell that genre to a publisher.

Ask your author friends for recommendations. Above all, go to at least one writer’s conference a year and meet agents in person. Talk to them and find out what they represent.

Of course, too, a good non-fiction author will have his or her platform in place and thus be able to demonstrate how the book can reach the intended market through the author’s efforts.


What should writers consider when interviewing agents to determine if they are a good match?

Many good agents have blogs. Read their blogs, look at their client list, and meet them in person. It’s kind of like dating. Your first or second agent contact may not be the right one. Keep looking, prayerfully.


When would you recommend writers to seriously pursue an agent?

It depends. If the book truly has great potential, the author should contact a good agent as he or she begins the book. This is when the author has some very timely story with national exposure possible. For instance, an Olympic Gold Medalist who wants to write his or her story needs an agent right away.  Most writers, though, need to finish the book (fiction) or complete a strong book proposal with three sample chapters. I prefer the first three chapters.


When would you encourage a writer to hold off on seeking an agent?

Another good reason for attending a writer’s conference is to gauge the interest in the book you want to write. If you query editors and agents at a conference and get zero interest, you need to rethink your book and possibly drop the idea altogether. Fiction writers should finish the book or at least get well past the halfway mark before looking for an agent.


In what circumstances would a writer be better off without an agent?

Really, the only case I can think of is if the author plans to be a one-book author and has a publisher already eager to publish the book. Even then an agent can be helpful, though both publishers and agents are far more interested in authors who will continue to write than they are in one book authors. Of course, self-publishing authors may prefer not to use an agent.


When, if ever, would it be wise for a new author to accept a contract from a publisher without being represented by an agent?

I would advise an author who has an interested publisher, but does not want to sign on with an agent, to at least hire an agent for a one-time fee to look over the contract.  First authors are a risk for a publisher. Sometimes an agent can negotiate better terms, but not always.


When would it be appropriate for that author to seek an agent with future books?

When they’re ready to establish themselves as a career writer. An agent is extremely valuable in helping an author with career planning.


If there are more than one agents interested in representing a writer, what should the writer consider when making a decision on who to work with?

Ask which agent is a good fit. Not just which will get me the most money, but which agent cares about me as a writer and wants to see me succeed. As I said above, it’s kind of like dating.


What should writers look for as warning signs when researching agents or agencies?

No author should pay an agent for fees to read his or her work. A freelance editor does that. Ask around. Ask some of the agent’s clients about their working relationship.


nick-harrison-book-cover-one-minute-prayers-for-dads-april-2017What final word of encouragement would you like to offer writers who are considering seeking agent representation?

Keep looking for the right fit and stick with that agent as long as they continue to understand your goals.


Thanks for joining us and congratulations on your upcoming release, available for pre-order now, One-Minute Prayers® for Dads, Nick. 


ASK AN AGENT: Nick has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us in the comment section. Please ask general questions in a positive way and stick to the topic of writers seeking agents. This is NOT an opportunity to pitch book ideas to Nick.



Author Photo 2016 - INSPIRE ThumbnailXochitl (soh-cheel) E. Dixon encourages women and teens to embrace God’s grace and grow deeper in their personal relationships with God and others. Her devotions will be featured in Our Daily Bread, starting in 2017. She’s been published in The Upper Room, ENCOUNTER, and Devo ‘Zine magazines, as well as in Inspire’s Victory, Promise, and Forgiveness anthologies.

The Author’s Elevator Pitch

'Quirky, elderly Mrs. Odboddy.....

‘Quirky, elderly Mrs. Odboddy lives in a small CA town during WWII. Though committed to ‘fighting the war from the home front’ by volunteering and freely giving her time, she imagines Nazi spies and black market conspiracies under every cabbage bush. When Mrs. Roosevelt comes to town, Mrs. Odboddy must prove she is, indeed, a hometown patriot.’

Trying to consolidate a 278 page humorous WWII novel into 57 words or less fails to explain the intricacies, humor, romance, intrigue, historical events, or plot in my cozy mystery adventure novel, Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot.

Elaine Faber, Mrs Odboddy Hometown PatriotEvery day, I sit at my computer and words fall onto the written page. I spend hours researching, taking notes, plotting out the mystery, thinking up red herrings, bringing bad guys to heel, writing and rewriting scenes, creating my characters by day and dreaming about them at night. Writing is my life’s dream and I love it.

However, when I wrote my first little ditties in high school, no one told me that ‘being an author’ would demand more than writing stories. Now, I find that I must master the skills of publicist, bookkeeper, full time blogger, cover artist, and skilled orator, keeping my eyes peeled and ears tuned for panel or speaking opportunities.

One more thing. As authors, we are expected to memorize an ‘elevator pitch’ about our books in the event at a conference or convention, we have an opportunity to impress a literary agent or publisher.

We must command his undivided attention with an opening hook, define our plot’s originality, create a desire to read our scintillating novel, convince him that our novel will become a New York Best Seller, and justify why everyone from a cowboy in Texas to a stock broker in New York will buy our book with their last dollar. All this in sixty seconds or less.

I get it. In these days of limited promotion from traditional publishing houses, or self-publishing, an author must be master at jack of all trades. It requires expertise in many skills or a staff of six to handle all the details. Though not necessarily a ‘master’ at any, I’ve become somewhat competent in most.

But never in my wildest imagination did I think I’d have to excel in a 60-second spiel about my book on the off chance I might find myself ‘riding in an elevator’ to the 38th floor of the New York Stock Exchange with a Zondervan publisher.

In my case, I imagine it might go something like this. “Uh, you’re that Zondervan guy, aren’t you? Here. Let me push this button and stop this thing. I wrote a book, see…called Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot. It’s about this quirky, old lady who sees Nazi spies…”

Elaine Faber leads an Inspire Christian Writers Critique group. She has published four cozy mysteries. Elaine’s humorous novels bring joy and laughter to her readers. Elaine believes that in this troubled world, laughter makes our days better.

The Ministry of Magazine Writing (Part 1)

An Interview with Agent Steve Laube

Steve Laube 2016During my first Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, I experienced a divine appointment with one of the industry’s leading agents, owner of The Steve Laube Agency, acquiring agent serving through Enclave Publishing, and manager of an award winning writing blog.

Under a canopy of redwoods, I thanked God for the opportunity and asked Steve Laube what advice he had for a fledgling writer.

Steve responded with a question and forever changed the way I approached my writing journey. “Are you in this to see your name on the cover of a book or to use writing for ministry?”

Without hesitation I said, “Ministry. I want God to use my writing to share His truth and love to the ends of the earth.”

He smiled. “Then don’t neglect the ministry of magazine writing.”

The discussion that followed brought me to tears, filled me with hope, and nudged me toward a path I never dreamed possible.

Please help me welcome Steve Laube, as he shares a snippet of our discussion.


Xochitl: Thanks for joining us, Steve. Please explain why you believe writing for magazines is such a huge ministry opportunity?

Steve: The nature of magazines is that they show up at someone’s house automatically whereas a book must be brought in intentionally. A book feels like a commitment of time. A magazine can be read anytime, anyplace. It is there where ministry can happen. Due to space considerations the writer must be laser focused to convey the point of the article. In that “big idea” moment wonderful things can happen.


Xochitl: Would you please share an example of how God has used a magazine article to minister to you?

Steve: I use magazines as a way to keep in touch with the varied ideas, philosophies, and even theologies that make up our world. Occasionally, I am confronted with a skilled writer who makes me think differently on a topic. But other times I appreciate the differing opinion because it helps me refine my own understanding as a counter.

And yet most often I am inspired by incredible stories of God’s goodness in someone’s life. A story that I would not read in book form but am happy to see in a magazine.


Xochitl: In what ways can writers benefit from contributing their work to magazines?

Steve: It teaches you to “write tight.” No unnecessary elaboration to fill the page. It makes a writer a better communicator on many levels.

I am also looking for great writers. In one situation I had repeated seen a specific author’s byline on articles that I appreciated. I did some digging and contacted them wondering if they had ever considered writing a full book. That author’s first full length came out shortly thereafter.


Xochitl: What tips would you offer writers who are considering submitting their work to magazines?

Steve: Do your homework. Review The Christian Writers Market Guide and the magazine’s web site guidelines. You can save yourself a lot of time by doing so. Also, think ahead. Start thinking now about a Christmas article for 2017.


Xochitl: Why would you advise established writers to invest their time in writing for magazines?

Steve: It can be another source of income for those who are full-time writers. I know of one author who was contracted to write three different monthly columns by three different magazines. The work paid well and gave the author great visibility. The writer was able to write all 12 of the annual columns in less than two weeks, for each magazine. Which is a great way to plan your writing.


Xochitl: What final word of encouragement would you like to share regarding the ministry of magazine writing?

Steve: Try not to fall into the trap in thinking that magazines are the “minor leagues” when it comes to writing. You can slave for years to write and publish a book and sell 5,000 copies. Or you can write one magazine article and reach 10,000 or more!


Xochitl: Thank you for being a wise guy who is willing to share your vast knowledge and experience with growing writers, Steve.

Attention Writers: My next post will include links to a few magazines that offer wonderful ministry opportunities, welcome unsolicited submissions, and pay writers!


Author Photo 2016 - INSPIRE ThumbnailXochitl (soh-cheel) E. Dixon encourages women and teens to embrace God’s grace and deepen their personal relationships with God and others. Her devotions will be featured in Our Daily Bread, starting Spring 2017. She’s been published in The Upper Room, ENCOUNTER, and Devo ‘Zine magazines, in Inspire’s Victory, Promise, and Forgiveness, and at

Crossing the Lines — An Interview with Jeanette Hanscome

How Niche Books Can Benefit a Variety of Readers in Unexpected Ways

Jeanette Hanscome - Author Photo 2 - 2015Every nonfiction writer must identify their target audience when preparing a book proposal. Effective marketing requires authors to know their readers’ preferences and needs. Other than the Bible, no book can minister to anyone in any situation at any time of their lives.

So, why should writers even consider the readers outside of their target audience?


A recent conversation with Jeanette Hanscome answered that question and changed the way I think about target audiences and niche books.

During her twenty years serving as a freelance writer, Jeanette has written for women (stories in 21 Days of Grace and 21 Days of Love), teens (ENCOUNTER−The Magazine), and even children (Running with Roselle). Her latest release, Suddenly Single Mom: 52 Messages of Hope, Grace, and Promise, is written specifically for women adjusting to life as single moms.

Writing for varied audiences has given this author a unique way of considering a wide range of readers while working on a project. Please help me welcome Jeanette Hanscome.