Ruth O'Neil headshotBy Ruth O’Neil

I have truly been blessed. There is a group of readers who are willing to read my books before they are published. These are my beta readers. These readers tell me when something isn’t working for them in my story. They pick out typos I may have missed. They even post reviews of my books once published and available for purchase online. But more than just readers and fellow writers, these people have become my friends.

By the age of nine I knew I wanted to be a writer. My mother, who was a great help and encouragement to me, gave me opportunities other want-to-be writers only dream of. Partly because of my mother, I learned at an early age to develop thick skin. She taught me that unless I could accept criticism, my writing would not grow and develop. Of course, I also had to learn which criticisms to accept and which to reject. That was a maturing process.

Proverbs 27:17 tell us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I need that. I need someone to give me honest and constructive criticism. Often people see problems that I didn’t because, quite frankly, I look at a manuscript so often that my eyes begin to cross and the story runs together. Fresh eyes help me see things I couldn’t see.

As Christian writers we need each other. We need the companionship of fellow writers. Let’s face it, when people know you write, sometimes the reaction you get is a little strange or disappointing. Writers understand writers, and even more so, Christian writers understand Christian writers. We can help shape one another’s writing (as the Scripture states) and we can bounce ideas off each other when we have no one else.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You so much for the writing friends You have blessed me with. I pray that I would be able to help strengthen and improve their writing with fellowship, discussion and prayer as they do mine. Amen.

Ruth O’Neil has been a US freelance writer for 20-plus years. She sees everything as a writing opportunity in disguise, whether it is an interesting character, setting or situation. When she’s not writing or homeschooling her kids, Ruth spends her time quilting, reading, scrapbooking, camping and hiking with her family.

This article was an entry in MAI’s LittWorld 2015 Devotional Writing Contest.

Can authors and publishers market books together effectively?

portraits of Dan Balow taken April 9, 2010By Dan Balow

Everyone knows that more can be accomplished when people work together. Whether it is a family or a community, church, ministry, business or country, the principles of cooperation and collaboration are always key to solving problems or accomplishing great things that benefit everyone.

Keys to collaboration are mutual benefit and humility. In fact, it has been said that there is no limit to what can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.

Does this apply to publishing? Of course.

Effective marketing of books requires that both authors and publishers cooperate in everything. But this is often the weakest link in the publishing “chain.”

The process of marketing and promoting a book begins well before the book actually is published. The digital world of social media and online selling has made cooperation even more important. Starting a conversation after the book is printed will not work well.

Pusonnam Yiri of Nigeria breaks down the process into three parts, his “Triple P Pusonnam YiriConcept:”


From here we can create an effective list of actions that will sell more books. In each phase, authors and publishers have tasks to accomplish that eventually lead to effective cooperative marketing. If they are not working together, Pusonnam compares them to a mismatched relationship: “When a fish marries a bird, where will they live after the wedding?”

The most important first step to effective marketing of a book is for the author and publisher to meet together and discuss specifics how to work collaborate. While this seems obvious, most publisher/author problems relate to a lack of communication. Each side assumed the other would take care of marketing.

Step #1 – Meet early in the process (Pre-Production Phase) to specifically discuss marketing collaboration.

Step #2 – Develop a specific plan of action with dates to accomplish and assignments for specific people.

Step #3 – Make ongoing communication (Production Phase) a priority. Schedule regular times to communicate (in-person, phone or email).

Step #4 – Decide to enjoy the process of collaboration and leave the results to God. (Post-production Phase) Disagreements will happen, but when each side views everything as a journey rather than needing to win or lose, good things happen.

Marketing plans are not chiseled on stone tablets like Moses on Mount Sinai! They are written on paper for good reason and can be changed when needed. If something is not working, change it and move on. Often problems occur between authors and publishers when one or both refuse to admit something isn’t working well.

Finally, we all know that when we serve each other and work together to accomplish something, God is honored and others are blessed by the humble testimony.

When publishers pray for their authors and authors pray for publishers, the barriers between them are broken down and great things can be accomplished.

When that happens, everyone wins.

This article is based on a webinar that Dan Balow and Pusonnam Yiri led for MAI in August. Watch the webinar video archive. Dan and Pusonnam will also be leading a workshop on this topic at LittWorld 2015 in Singapore.

Dan is director of publishing development and a literary agent with The Steve Laube Agency in the US. He began in Christian publishing in 1983, and over the last 30 years he has been involved in the business side of the industry in marketing, sales, rights management, foreign sales, audio books, digital publishing, web management and acquisitions.

The E-Reader Project

Robin Pippin

Robin Pippin shows the Kindle Paperwhites used in the E-Reader Project

By Robin Pippin

In the libraries of many theological schools in Africa, most books are very old and dated—and even at that, the collection is very limited. Given the cost of shipping books to and within the African continent, the scarcity of books is not a surprise.

In 2012, when staff of Discipleship Resources International (DRI) met with the faculty of Gbarnga School of Theology (GST) in Liberia, a United-Methodist-related school, we were surprised to learn that their classes were conducted with the use of only one book—the teacher’s. Students had no books, and if they intended to read an assignment before class, they had to take the book to the nearest town, where they had to pay a copy center for copies of each chapter.

Robin Pippin solar power

This solar charger can charge up to 10 e-readers at one time

Add to this situation the lack of electricity, running water, and internet at the school—and we realized this would be the perfect place to pilot the E-Reader Project—an initiative to bring E-readers filled with Bibles, reference books and helpful theological texts to under-resourced theological schools of the United Methodist Church. In 2013-14, our staff brought e-readers to faculty and students at GST, fully trained them on the care and use of the e-readers, and made periodic visits to evaluate their effectiveness.

Not surprisingly, GST students reported a marked increase in their reading for their courses and in reading overall. This mobile “e-library” suddenly provided reading materials that had never been available to them before. Recent graduate Wuo Laywhyee said that the Kindle has increased his “appetite to read.”

A glimpse of the hardware needed to load the e-readers

A glimpse of the hardware needed to load the e-readers

Student Brenda Taylor explained that her increased reading had helped to expand her knowledge of the English language. For many GST students, English is a second language to their indigenous language. The built-in dictionary feature is often mentioned by students as being extremely helpful in their reading comprehension.

The success of the pilot project has led DRI and its partners to expand the project to 18 theological schools in Africa and 6 in the Philippines. We offer the e-readers in Portuguese and French, in addition to English. Finding appropriate and affordable content for the e-readers is an ongoing challenge. To date, we have launched the project with two-thirds of these schools. Our vision includes expanding e-readers to more pastors, who have often have very little access to resources they need for ministry.

For more information or to support the project, see

Robin Pippin is Director of Contextual Resource Development and Distribution for Discipleship Resources International, a division of Discipleship Ministries, an agency of The United Methodist Church, located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Robin is married to Tim Pippin and they have three young-adult age children.



A million motes of dust danced in the tropical sunlight streaming through the Amy Carmichael older picturewindow. On the bed, prostrate in the heat, an old woman lay watching them spin in the air. Then she sighed, reached for the paper lying beside her, took her pencil in aching fingers, and began to write.

For the last 20 years of her life, Amy Carmichael scarcely moved from that bed. Behind her lay decades of trailblazing missionary work in southern India—work that had made her world famous. But a fall in 1931, along with other health problems, made her an invalid. From then until her death in 1951, she was largely confined to one room.

Yet Amy’s influence did not end with her mobility. For Amy was a writer, and God wanted to make her words run where her legs could not.

Amy carmichael book and photoAlready an accomplished author (she published 21 books between 1895 and 1929), she continued writing despite nearly constant pain. She wrote at a table when she could, or on a writing stand in bed, or resting the paper on a blotter as she lay on her back. In the end she resorted to dictation because holding a pencil was too hard. But still the books came.

She produced seven more during her illness, and a further seven were compiled from her unpublished writings after her death. Altogether her books sold hundreds of thousands of copies and were translated into multiple languages. And they galvanized untold numbers with a passion to reach the world for Jesus.

Amy Carmichael’s body was confined, but what God wanted to do through her wasAmy Carmichael not. He had purposes for her life—and her writing—beyond anything she could see. I realize the same thing about my own life whenever someone tells me how the Christian magazine I edited back in the 1980s was a lifeline for their faith. They still remember helpful things people wrote back then, 30 years later.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” When we submit our writing to Him, we never know what wonderful things He may do with it.

To echo a prayer Amy wrote in one of her books:

And now at His feet, who can use the least, I lay my writing again; for “to the Mighty One,” as the Tamil proverb says, “even the blade of grass is a weapon.”

Owen Salter contributed this article for MAI’s forthcoming devotional book, “Light for the Writer’s Soul: 100 devotions for global Christian writers”. The book will be released at LittWorld 2015 in Singapore this November. Owen will lead a workshop there on copy editing and be involved in a workshop, “Writing with a Local Accent.” There’s still time to sign up for LittWorld, our world conference of Christian publishing.

Owen Salter low resOwen Salter has worked as editor and writer for over 35 years. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife Jane, and together they have three children and four grandchildren. Owen is an MAI trainer and a member of the MAI-Asia board.

I Knew Nothing

Meet Nur Un Nabi, one of many worthy candidates for whom we are seeking to raise scholarships to attend LittWorld 2015, our unique Christian publishing conference.

By Nur Un Nabi, Bangladesh

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” –John 15:7,8

My father worked for a Christian mission as a maintenance worker. He swept the floor, cleaned the toilet, watered the trees, prepared tea for the staff and ran errands. The mission had a publishing department. I visited the office when I was 13. At that time I was a new believer from a Muslim background. I learned that the publishing department invited writing submissions for its Christian magazine. My father did not tell me to write for the magazine, rather a voice invited me to try.

I returned to our small and shabby hut. I started writing an article on Adam and Eve. I knew that neither my father, grandfather nor anyone in my family tree was a writer, let alone a Christian one. I knew nothing of the ways of writing. I had read nothing except textbooks from school. The voice just told me to start, and I followed. I wrote and cut, I cut and wrote. I thought and rethought what I had to write. I read and reread what I wrote.

IFB is publishing a free monthly magazine for MBBs called Omega Nur is a regular contributor He is showing his article in the September issue entitled Why are you called a Christian

Today Nur contributes articles regularly to Christian magazines besides serving as an editor and translator for a Christian publisher.

At last I finished my article and gave it to my father to submit to the editor. The editor graciously published my article, and I along with my father was very happy to see it published. It had been edited a bit but the publishing of my article ignited me to continue writing, especially for our Mighty Lord Jesus Christ.

Since age 13, I have remained in Jesus and His Word. I have not written a book yet but I have proofread, edited and translated many books. I regularly write articles for a monthly Christian magazine and believe that I am heading toward writing big things in His time, for Him. He is my master, speaking and guiding me continually in my publishing work. I am just His follower and agent of glory. What about you?

O, LORD, nothing is impossible for you. Make me your disciple as a writer. Amen.

Nur Un Nabi has been working for a Christian publishing house in Bangladesh as editor and translator for over 20 years. He contributed this article for MAI’s forthcoming devotional, “Light for the Writer’s Soul: 100 devotions for global Christian writers”.

Will you help worthy scholarship candidates like Nur gain valuable training at LittWorld 2015 in Singapore this November? Donate online now or email [email protected]