Writer. Reader. Reviewer. Resource Maven.

Advice for Jewish Writers

I receive a lot of email. Increasingly, many of these incoming messages are from writers whose work – fiction, poetry, or nonfiction – features Jewish themes or subjects. Frequently, these writers are asking varieties of the same question: Who will publish my work?

Unfortunately, I’m not currently offering coaching or consulting services (if and when that situation changes, I’ll be sure to let you all know!), and I simply do not have the time to provide each correspondent with individualized advice. My hope is that this website – offering generalized resources for writers, information curated specifically for those of us who write on Jewish subjects, archived author interviews  (including a number of self-identified “Jewish writers”), frequent blog posts, and The Practicing Writer newsletter - can assist a large readership-that-writes.

But some questions are coming up so often that I’m inspired to offer some more targeted advice, publicly.

 

Which publishers are interested in books with Jewish characters/themes/subjects?
First, if you’re writing on Jewish themes, you should be reading books on the same. You should already have some of those books lodged in your consciousness, and it’s easy enough to look up who published them.

But you can always do a bit more research. For starters, take a look at new books that are being reviewed over on the Jewish Book Council’s website. Note who is publishing those books (each book’s publisher is always listed). Check the publishers’ websites. You’ll discover that many of those publishers don’t necessarily describe themselves as Jewish-focused, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in publishing books with Jewish content. On the other hand, in some cases, you will indeed find books being published by “niche” Jewish publishers (including some that are also listed here).

Which agents are interested in books with Jewish characters/themes/subjects?
Again, other authors’ books can help guide you. Authors frequently thank their agents in their “acknowledgments” sections, so it’s pretty easy to find out who represents this author or that one. One cautionary note: Don’t be disappointed if you query an agent only to find that s/he feels your work may be too similar to that of a current client, and for that reason, s/he can’t take you on at this time. (This research can also help you rule out agents to query. For example, if an agent is representing – and profiting from – books that demonize Israel, that’s not an agent that I’d even want to approach to represent me/my work.)

For some other tips and resources regarding finding and working with agents, check the items I’ve listed on this page of the website.

Which magazines/websites are interested in Jewish poems, short stories, and essays?
Again, just because a publication doesn’t advertise itself as seeking Jewish-focused material doesn’t mean that it won’t welcome this work. To that end, be sure to visit my general-resource page on “Where to Publish Your Work.”

When I teach seminars for Jewish writers, I like to cite the example of Margot Singer’s short-story collection, The Pale of Settlement (I also like to evangelize for that book whenever I can – I think it’s simply superb). Singer’s book was published when it won a “mainstream” literary competition (the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, administered by the University of Georgia Press); it features stories that were first published in “mainstream” literary magazines such as North American Review and Gettysburg Review. After publication, the book also won the Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction, which attests to its “Jewish” qualities.

At the same time, there certainly are venues that specifically seek writing that reflects an engagement with Judaism. And, again, you’ll find some examples provided right here on this website.

 

I hope that this information is helpful to those of you who are trying to find homes for your Jewishly-inflected work. As for those who are seeking suggestions for promoting this work once it’s ready to meet the reading public – another subject that pops up often in my inbox – I’ll try to draft another one of these advice posts sometime not too far into 5773 (consider that my Jewish New Year’s resolution!). Meantime, l’shanah tovah!

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8 Responses »

  1. Hi Erika,

    Thanks so much for all you do for writers! I’d also like to mention AJL (Association of Jewish Libraries) as a resource. The list of Sydney Taylor Book Award winners, honors, and notables offer a wonderful selction of excellent Jewish books for children. A great way to learn about the genre! AJL also offers a newsletter with reviews for members.

    Here is a link – http://www.jewishlibraries.org/main/

    All best – Shana Tova!

    Barbara Bietz
    Past Chair, Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee
    Association of Jewish Libraries

    • Thanks so much, Barbara. You’re quite right, of course–that’s a great resource. I don’t typically receive so many inquiries from children’s-book writers, but if there are any checking this page, you’ve certainly helped them out. Happy New Year!

  2. Dear Erika: If you did bot exist, I would have to invent you. Thanks is a limp response to all you have passed on in today’s blog. All My Best, rochelle distelheim

  3. Dear Erika, In the month or so that I’ve been reading your postings, I’ve learned a lot. You give a great, great deal. There’s no easy answers or solutions to getting published in a complex, radically changing environment. You do an amazing service as it is, sharing information and congratulating those who’ve written well. And if I can read between the lines of your helpful columns, it’s that you have to do your own work and out of generosity are pointing the way as best you can. Barbara Baer

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