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Questions for the Director – Getting My Song Published

This is a question I get on the regular. To write this response, I’ve asked long time hymnal editor and Fellow of The Hymn Society Bob Batastini to chime in. So here’s his advice:



The Question

Dear Brian,

I’ve written a congregational song (or hymn text, or hymn tune). How do I get it published?

The Answer

Congratulations on turning your writing skills to hymn writing! The Hymn Society is not able to accept hymns for review except in the case of advertised hymn contests. About every other year, thanks to the generosity of one of our members, we sponsor a contest for new texts and/or tunes on a particular topic–often coinciding with the theme of our next summer conference. Additionally, from time to time, denominations, individual churches and other organizations sponsor hymn searches (a yearly context is held by Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This year’s search can be accessed here). Being a part of The Hymn Society is a good way to keep abreast of those contests as they open. We announce contests through our monthly email newsletter, The Stanza. You may sign up for the newsletter at no charge and you don’t have to be a member to receive it. Just click here

I would encourage you to join The Hymn Society. It is a great way to be in touch with others who share your gift of hymn writing and to connect with lots of people who really love hymns. Our summer conference usually includes a short workshop on text, tune, and song writing that brings new writers together with widely published writers. The Center for Congregational Song, our outreach arm, also holds a multi-day retreat devoted especially to text and tune writing–many of our well-published poets and composers found those conference times especially helpful as they were getting started. Membership in the Society also provides you with our journal, The Hymn, which contains both scholarly and practical articles about hymnody and many fine resources for enlivening hymns in local congregations. Sometimes, the articles about particular hymns or writers can be a real inspiration!

In terms of getting your hymns published, there is not a quick and easy way. Firstly, and this can be a difficult picture to paint, it is a myth that you must be a well-known “celebrity” in order to be published. What it takes is that your work must be of a quality that warrants publication, and that is often determined by seeking the opinion of friends and colleagues whose opinion on such matters you trust. Sing your hymns with folks in your church, and welcome honest feedback. Like a book, essay, or other composition, a good congregational song often takes multiple edits, revisions, and/or drafts. This doesn’t mean you got it “wrong” the first time, but rather shows the depth and breadth of work that writing a good congregational song often takes.

The road to publishing begins with submitting your work to a publisher for review. Consult the copyright index of recent hymnals and you will find a significant number of publishers to consider.  It is a good idea to approach a publisher who seems to publish works similar to yours. You might contact the ones that interest you and ask if they are reviewing unsolicited submissions. Most publishers are continuously on the lookout for quality new material; it’s their lifeblood! It is not good etiquette to submit the same material to more than one publisher at a time. The publisher’s review process consumes time and cost, and if a publisher eventually decides to accept a work  only to find that it is no longer available, they may not look at that writer’s material in the future.  On the other hand, if you feel that the review process is taking longer than expected, feel free to inquire, and even withdraw the submission. Every good publishing house has a team of competent editors. If an editor approaches you to consider some adjustments to your material, you should seriously consider that kind of expert advice, but, of course, you are not obligated to agree.

Through active membership in the Hymn Society you have a way of keeping abreast of new denominational and commercial hymnal projects. Submitting your work to hymnal committees is another avenue for pursuing publication. When a group decides to create a new hymnal, they usually appoint a committee who searches the world of hymnody for their project, including new, never before published works. If yours gets chosen, you may have the option of retaining the copyright, or turning it over to the hymnal publisher. In the latter case, your contract with the publisher guarantees your rights. A word of advice on that subject: Copyright protection lasts a minimum of 70 years after the death of the writer. If you hold your own copyrights, your estate may not know how to handle them after your passing (there are a multitude of examples of this), and may lose potential income as a result.  On the other hand, it is in your best interest and the interest of the publisher to maintain stewardship so long as copyright protection exists. Each year publishers issue a multitude of royalty payments to the estates of deceased writers.

It is difficult to break into the field, and the first requirement, as mentioned above, is that your material be of appropriate quality.  Beyond that, networking with other writers, editors, denominational leaders, and the breadth of church musicians is a very good practice.  There is no better way to cover all those bases than with active membership in the Hymn Society.


A brief list of publishers in alphabetical order:

Convergence Music Project
PO Box: 45236
Madison, WI 53744-5236
608 577 8716

GIA Publications, Inc.
7404 South Mason Ave.
Chicago, IL  6o638
800-442-1358, 708-496-3800
708-496-3828 Fax

Hope Publishing Company
380 S. Main Place,
Carol Stream, IL  60188
800-323-1049, 630-665-3200
630-665-2552 Fax

Integrity Music
1646 Westgate Circle, Suite 106
Brentwood, TN 37027

Oregon Catholic Press (OCP)
OCP Music Submissions
340 Oswego Pointe Dr.
Lake Oswego, OR 97034

Selah Publishing Company
David Schaap, owner
PO Box 98066
Pittsburgh, PA 15227
(800) 852-6172, (412) 886-1020

Wayne Leupold Editions
8510 Triad Drive
Colfax, NC 27235


Thanks for Bob Batastini for this thoughtful and thorough reply!

Brian Hehn, Director of The Center for Congregational Song