Chicken 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 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?
My 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.
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.
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?
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.