by Joyce K. Ellis
Ima Writer couldn’t wait to get to her former college roommate’s fortieth birthday party. She placed her gift in a white box, added sparkly tissue paper inside, then wrapped the box in a flowery gift wrap she knew Hope would love. When she got to the party, many of their friends had already arrived, and a dozen gifts piled high on the table next to the black-frosted “Over-the-Hill” cake. Ima slipped her gift among them.
Later, laughter erupted as Hope opened gag gifts, such as Metamucil, denture cleaner, and Depends. But lovely gifts, such as jewelry, framed mementos, and a favorite movie soundtrack CD drew oohs and ahs.
Hope saved Ima’s gift for last. Pawing through the sparkly paper, she stared. Silence. Then she managed, “Um…a magazine?…Uh…thanks.” More of a question than a statement.
“Hope,” Ima hurried to explain, “remember I told you I finally got published? Look, my article is on page 40. Ironic, eh?”
“Great.” Hope’s cheerfulness sounded forced. “When you told me on the phone you finally got published, I thought you meant a…a…book. But this is…um…nice.”
Truly, in our society, people may not respect you as a writer unless you have written a book—even if you’ve written hundreds of articles. And writers who produce magazine articles may feel they haven’t arrived until they see their names on a dust jacket.
Far from being inferior, article writing can actually maximize our ministry potential, extending our reach more than we could ever imagine. Compare:
Average sales of first book: fewer than 5,000 copies, likely out of print in a year or less.
Now consider the circulation numbers of this sampling of Christian magazines. And remember, many copies are read by more than one person.
Did you hurry past those numbers? Read them again. Staggering!
The magazine market has shrunk considerably in recent years, and many print magazines have vanished or gone online. Still, a plethora of editors are still looking for a plethora (I do love that word) of good material. From freelancers. From freelancers who “get” that particular magazine’s style and audience. From freelancers who can bring a fresh voice while fitting in.
That’s why, in nonpandemic times, so many already-swamped editors take time away from work to serve as writers conference faculty. Even during COVID, they prioritize time for virtual appearances. They’re looking for dependable, skillful writers who have something worthwhile to say. The 2020 Christian Writers Market Guide includes almost a hundred pages of magazines looking for our work.
As a bonus, for writers tired of the word platform, article writing can stretch both time and dollars, often shortening the time between project completion and paycheck.
In addition to print and online magazines, of course, who can calculate the potential outreach of blogs and other online posts?
Bullet or Stalactite
Books and articles are both important, but I like to compare them this way: A book is like a bullet, a one-shot ministry opportunity. But articles are like stalactites—a steady dripping of hope into the hearts and minds of our target audience. And if we develop a good working relationship with an editor, we can often keep “dripping” into that audience for a long time.
Every article we publish is a precious, heart-to-heart present we can give to the Master we serve and to the readers we reach.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10, italics mine).
 Sources: The 2020 Christian Writers Market Guide, The 2020 Evangelical Press Association Membership Directory, and the Guideposts website.