Drafting a Mission Statement for Successful Publication

Plan more effectively for your upcoming publication by dusting off and sharpening your mission statement or producing a new one. This brief exercise can help you define your purpose and audience, saving much time and resources.

To create a solid mission statement, you need to: 1) define a specific audience and get to know that audience well; 2) write a clear statement of purpose and objectives to be consistent from issue to issue; and, 3) find a way to evaluate what you are doing to make sure you’re meeting the purpose and objectives.

Creating a mission statement is fundamental to the publishing business—for a book or a magazine. Many editors have not thoroughly defined their market, nor have they written out a mission statement that will guide them day-by-day through the editorial process to the finished product. Then there are some editors and publishers who spent hours thrashing through a mission statement, put it in a drawer, and never looked at it again.

Try this exercise. Get your staff together—everybody who is involved in publishing the magazine or newsletter or newspaper. Ask each person to describe in 25 words or less the audience he or she thinks your publication is trying to reach. Have each person write out a statement of the purpose of your publication. Then gather everyone together and read the descriptions and statements aloud. You may be surprised at how different they are, and you may wonder if you’re all working on the same publication.

You can still write out your mission statement as an individual. Please let us know if this exercise is helpful.

This article was excerpted from MAI’s booklet, Editorial Vision and Strategy: How to write a mission statement and make it work, by Ron Wilson. Check out resources on writing and publishing on MAI’s website.

Photo Courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

“Is it true?”

When a child asks Katherine Paterson, “Is your story true?” she answers, “I hope so. I meant for it to be true. I tried hard to make it so.”

Some people think that because fiction is “made up,” it can’t be true. So storytellers are suspect. How can something which never actually happened, about people who never really existed, be true?

It’s a strange thing. But fiction can actually show us the truth  about people, about ourselves, about the world we live in. It isn’t the Truth, but it’s a signpost, directing us to what we might not find or see otherwise. As we read good fiction by the great writers, we recognize the truth, often with a shock of surprise, taken unawares. Things ring true.

There is another side to this. For the writer, serving the truth can be uncomfortable. It means seeing things as they are, not as we would like them to be. We cannot be sentimental about children or childhood. Children are not living in Paradise. We know they are not always at the center of a loving family. We know that they experience abuse, want, hunger, and many, many fears. How are we going to deal with that in our stories?

“The problem with these Sunday-school books,” a friend’s daughter remarked, “is that they are not very much like life.” Children are perceptive. They see through characters who are “too good to be true.” We have to be honest with them. You can’t set fears to rest by denying them.

The writer’s task is to help children face fear, face evil. We want to lighten the heavy burdens many children carry. We can’t do that if we have an unrealistic, idealistic view of childhood. We can’t serve up simple, packaged answers.

The encouraging thing, as Margaret Clark points out, is that writers for children (like writers for adults) cannot hide what their values are. The story will communicate them. If you are a writer your values will be revealed in everything you write.

To quote Katherine Paterson again: “The work reveals the creator—and as our universe in its vastness, its orderliness, its exquisite detail, tells us something of the One who made it, so a work of fiction, for better or worse, will reveal the writer.”

How did your favorite children’s book effectively convey values to you? Tell us here. 

This article was excerpted from MAI’s booklet, Effective Story Writing for Children, by Pat Alexander and Larry Brook. The booklet offers several practical tips for mastering the important craft of children’s writing. Check out resources on writing and publishing on MAI’s website.

Photo above courtesy freedigitalphotos.net




Serving the Guest of Honor: Editing as housecleaning

By Dawn J. Anderson

I think of editing as housecleaning. Someone else’s house. To prepare it for a party. A party where the guests need to be treated to nothing but the best. To go away satisfied in every way.

As we consider all that editing entails—so much more than just dusting for spelling errors and sweeping grammatical problems under the rug—this metaphor works on many levels. As the editor, I have to keep in mind that the house, or book, is not my own. It’s not my right to knock out walls (without permission). It wouldn’t make sense to move the kitchen sink into the sitting room. I can’t impose my own decorating tastes onto the home.

women cleaning by marin freedigital photosWhat I can do is make sure each room is displayed to its best potential. I can scrub walls, rearrange furniture, and highlight or tone down the author’s own décor. I can help the author choose what courses to serve when and where, but I can’t force liver pâté onto the menu. And I certainly can’t make the house my own.

As I’m cleaning house, I have to continually keep the end goal in mind: the party. What’s its purpose? Is it a children’s birthday celebration or an adult-only dinner party? Do we need party games or champagne? If the party will last the whole weekend, we’ll need mints on the pillows and extra linens. If it’s just a couple of hours, we’ll cut the frills and focus on good food.

Of course, every party needs partiers. Who are the guests? What are their likes and dislikes? Do they have allergies? Can I serve peanuts and put out candles, or is it best to put them away? Where will guests put their overcoats? Will they be dashing from room to room, lounging on the sofas, or simply standing in cozy, chatty groups? It’s my job to anticipate the guest’s wants and needs and to help the author mesharing treats freedigitalphotoset them in every possible way.

That’s the balancing act. Can a book be written solely for the author’s self-expression? Sure. But that’s like throwing a party without inviting anyone, and just hoping the right people wander through the door.

The trick, I suppose, the real art of being an editor, is to do all of the work invisibly. The party guests likely will not know that you’ve even been there. Once the party starts, your job is done. It’s possible that someone will comment on the sparkling chandelier, and at that moment the author might credit you with its shine. Or not. The author has every right to claim all of the finished work as his or her own. Ouch. There’s no room for self-promotion when you’re a housecleaner.

If there’s one snag in this analogy, it’s probably the fact that it’s rarely the homeowner who is employing the housecleaner. Most of the housecleaners, that is, editors, are being employed by a publisher, to work for the author. That creates another level of responsibility. To edit in such a way that both the author and the publisher are satisfied with a job well done. Both are made to look good. And in all of it, to serve the reader, our guest of honor.

Dawn J. Anderson is associate editor at Kregel Publications.

Skilled editors are often the missing link in the creation of quality books and articles around the globe. MAI is helping to develop editors in multiple countries, ultimately aiming to spur the creation of life-giving reads.

>>Check out our other articles on editing on the LittWorldOnline blog.

Top photo courtesy marin, Freedigitalphotos.
Bottom photo courtesy Stuart Miles, Freedigitalphotos.

An Accidental Children’s Writer

By Balázs Zágoni

Balazs and son
Children’s author and publisher Balázs Zágoni and his eldest son

I always wanted to become a writer. A novelist. While I was still a student I met a beautiful girl, we fell in love, got married and our first child arrived. I had to work and I still didn’t write my first book. I was frustrated. Instead of working on my novel, I told bed-time stories to my first-born son.

One day a friend who was editor of a Christian magazine heard my stories. She told me that if I wrote them down, she would publish them in her magazine. And so it happened. Later her publisher called and asked me, “How many of these stories do you have?”

“Three,” I said.

“Well, If you can write 25 then we can make a book of them.”

I wasn’t sure if I could write, but I said yes. So when my son was five, we attended the launch of our first book together. And we signed copies together.

Balazs Zagoni Barni book cover2Balázs Zágoni’s first children’s book, Czech edition

And my mother-in-law was proud, too. That was the really great thing!

Now I have one more book than child. Four books, three kids. God made me a writer in His own way. I never thought I would be a children’s writer. I wanted to be a “serious” writer. Now I am proud to write for children. They are such a faithful and attentive audience!

>>Read a sample from the first children’s book by Balazs Zagoni – The Book of Barni excerpt.

>>Did you fall into writing or publishing “accidentally”? Comment and tell us how it happened.

>>Check out these other related posts:
Writing for Children
Books for Different Age Groups

Balázs Zágoni is the CEO of Koinonia Publisher, a Christian publishing house in Romania that serves the Hungarian minority there and distributes to Hungary. He has written several fiction and non-fiction books for children. Balázs became a Christian in a student Bible study group after the fall of the communist regime in Romania. He and his wife have a son and twin daughters.


Ways to Help Authors Grow: Building strong relationships with your authors, Part III

As an editor, have you ever wondered how to encourage your authors?  How to inspire them to produce their best work?  MAI President John Maust collected tips from top editors around the world explaining their methods to build strong editor-author relationships. Part 3 of 3.

Challenge the author to pursue excellence 

  •   “[Harold Wallace Ross] saw his job as encouraging people more talented than he to do their work better than they had hitherto known how to do it, largely by being harder on themselves than they had been accustomed to be. Simple enough, but how rare! The principle that one must be harder on oneself than one knows how to be is, I believe, the only secret means that The New Yorker possesses for the achievement of excellence.”   Brendan Gill, Here at the New Yorker (New York: Random House, 1975), 288.

Admit your mistakes

  •   “When things go wrong, as they always do, explain clearly, apologize promptly, and put it right. Don’t make tedious excuses or cover your backside. It will not win you respect: honesty, however, always does, and it also engenders trust.”  Tony Collins, Monarch Publishing

Find ways to help your author grow 

  •   “Our Step Writers Workshops are really the meetings of writers over a theme and some practical exercises. We’ve done this year after year for many years. Some 80% of those who come are regular participants, thus forming a group. For committed writers who see writing as their God-given talent, it’s of tremendous help to know the group exists to encourage them in their writing and to foster relationships.”  Lawrence Darmani, Step Publishing, Ghana
  •   “We collect information on books that may be of interest to our different authors. I will even buy the suitable ones for them at the overseas book fairs as a kind of reference. They usually find this helpful and show great appreciation for that.”  Muriel Ma, former editor at Breakthrough, Hong Kong
  •   “We promote gatherings of writers. We also encourage our authors to read, and particularly those authors (Christian or no) who are writing in the same subject area as they are. We also encourage them to adopt a regular writing routine that includes short articles, such as blogs.”  Renato Fleischner, editorial director, Editora Mundo Cristão, Brazil

Encourage and inspire

  •   “I’ve tried to mentor writers: a word of encouragement, hearing them voice their frustrations, and giving them the assurance that a writer-friend is easily reachable and approachable. This helps them to persevere. Now we have a “Writer’s Room” in our office with computers and quietness for any of our writer friends who want to come and hide and write.”  Lawrence Darmani, Step, Ghana

How do you help inspire other writers?