I Was Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. You Can Be, Too!
If you would have told me a year ago that today I would be published in a book series that has sold over 110 million copies in the U.S. and Canada, I'd say you were C-R-A-Z-Y. But, alas, here I am; a published author in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul book: Messages from Heaven and Other Miracles.
I have been in love with the series since I was a teenager, never knowing that I too would one day be sharing my story to inspire others just as so many other writers have done for me. Since the book hit the shelves back in January I have had quite a few people asking questions about the submission process, timelines, writing styles, and more. With that in mind, I decided to answer some of these questions in hopes of helping other aspiring writers out there gain a better understanding of what it takes to write for Chicken Soup for the Soul.
But before I dive on in, let me just make one thing very clear:
Every single person has a Chicken Soup-worthy story to tell.
Yes, you read that right.
I truly, whole-heartedly believe that any person--no matter what their circumstances--has a story from their life that is worthy of being published in a Chicken Soup book. Why? Because these are real stories from real people living through very real life experiences. The dividing line between those who are published and those who are not comes down to only two things:
1. Actually writing your story down.
2. How you tell it.
That said, let's get started!
What makes for a great Chicken Soup story?
In my experience, how you tell the story is just as important (if not more) as the story itself. Just think about it--how many times have you made it to the end of a CSS story and couldn't help but feel the goosebumps pull at your skin, or have to pick your jaw up off the floor? Was the story great? No doubt about it! But I'd be willing to be the author told their story in a way that was inspirational, heartfelt, and never left you feeling bored, wanting to turn the page.
This is storytelling, after all. And just because a story is true does not mean it can't be entertaining.
If you are interested in submitting your own story, I highly suggest going back and reading a few other stories from past books. CSS is great because they actually provide some for free on their website. You can also sign up to receive daily stories straight in your inbox.
By reading from other writers that "did it right" you'll start to get a feel for the type of voice that takes a Chicken Soup story above and beyond everything else.
What types of stories are best for Chicken Soup for the Soul?
That's the great thing about CSS; they publish between 12 and 18 new books every year and the topics vary greatly. I've seen books for kids, teens, and adults talking about miracles, angels, animals, hobbies; the list goes on and on. Basically, if it is inspirational, you can bet CSS wants it.
What happens once I submit a story?
Unfortunately, CSS received hundreds of submissions per day to their website. Which basically means they don't have the resources to provide updates on stories and where they are in the submission process.
I submitted my story sometime early 2018 and didn't even find out I was a finalist until October. CSS only notifies authors that have been selected, so I had pretty much assumed I didn't get in. Imagine my surprise when I opened that email!
After I received my initial email saying I had made it to the first round of the selection process another month passed before I received another email letting me know I made it to the final round. Then one more month passed before I found out I was in.
I know, it's a long process, but writing is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time.
What benefits are there to being published in a Chicken Soul book?
I used half my free copies as giveaways.
Besides the obvious—just being published in a CSS book!—each writer is paid $200 per story featured. This money comes in approximately one month after the book hits the shelves. Writers also receive 10 free early release copies a few weeks before sales begin and they have the opportunity to buy more books in bulk at cost.
CSS also provides a professional Marketing and PR agency to assist writers (for free!) getting the word out in their towns. I was given a half-page feature in our Sunday paper which was wonderful. I also know many books stores are open to having authors in for book signings.
Tell us about your story.
My story, "The Difference a Day Makes," follows my pregnancy and birth story with my son back in 2015 and the amazing coincidence that coincided with losing my grandmother a year earlier. It's a story I have told many times to friends and family but wasn't until my mom and I were on a road trip that she mentioned I should try writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul.
I went back and forth on whether I should then, one day, inspiration just struck. I sat down at my computer and threw it all out there. I had it finished in an hour, which is crazy, let my friend and critique partner give it a read, revised once more, then pressed submit!
I never recommend doing anything so quickly, especially writing, but this was just one of those cases where the story was there, I had told it hundreds of times, and it was ready to be out in the world.