Publishing gospel music lyrics is a unique industry. Even though gospel music has come a long way since the 60's and 70's, don't try to publish gospel lyrics with a publisher who specializes in rock-n-roll and rap music. Most publishers are specialized and so are their connections. Having a specialized publisher will open more doors for you, because they have done all the legwork for you.
Self-publishing your song lyrics will give you more license for input. You have more control over what happens with your songs and how they are published. The drawback is that you have to self-promote your work. Another form of self-publishing would be to post your songs and/or lyrics on a website. Potential buyers can download your material for a set fee (see Resources below).
Create a demo. A demo can mean anything from a micro-cassette type recording of someone singing a melody to a fully produced master, complete with strings, brass, background vocals, etc. Should you make a recording of your song? Absolutely! Does it need to be an expensive recording? Absolutely not! Song demos (as opposed to artist demos) should be simple, inexpensive recordings. They are intended to showcase the song, not a producer or a percussionist or a vocalist. If you need to just archive your songs, a cassette work tape is sufficient. If you’re planning to pitch your songs, a clean, professional-sounding guitar vocal recording or a piano-vocal recording is very effective. Allowing them to hear what your music sounds like, will give your lyrics more credibility and opportunity to get your work published.
Find an established publisher who is interested in publishing your work in print. You may find many of these resources on the Internet (see Resources below). Contact other published gospel songwriters and gets tips from them on what publishing companies are open to new songwriters. They may be able to help you get in contact with established published writers and give you tips to getting your lyrics in front of the right people. Ask your local church music department about leads. Surprisingly, many of the singers leading worship in churches are aspiring gospel songwriters and some have made connections. They can lead you in the right direction.
Though long term, a more proven method is to build a network. Begin right in the area where you live. Start by networking with all of the people in your vicinity, who are in some way involved in gospel music. Perhaps you can get to know music buyers at various Christian bookstores where you buy music CD’s. Speak with local programmers at your favorite gospel and/or Christian radio station to which you listen. Many times they can help you get in contact with gospel music publishers. Consider all of the people these individuals know and who they know. In time, you can create quite a network. In the interim, keep perfecting your craft. Find every opportunity you can to write gospel songs and to share the good ones with your network. Experience says that the good songs and songwriters find their way through that kind of network and eventually will get the attention of the right publisher. When you think about it, what gospel radio station personnel wouldn’t want to boast of having been the guy or gal, who passed along a tape of a writer whose song is currently in the top ten? Consider how much more effective your query letter to publishers will be if it includes or comes upon the recommendation of “so and so” from the sales and distribution side of the company who knows the music buyer at the store where you shop. Networking is very most important!
Attending gospel songwriting workshops and music conferences is another way to build your network. Not only do you learn more about the craft of songwriting and performing, but most likely you will meet others who are networking as well. Who knows what new contact might open that last door you’re looking to enter. (See resource below)
Obtain strong financial backing in order to have a successful record. At first you may need to fork over your own money to get your songs into print. If you don't have a savings, seek out investors like family members or trusted friends. It may be necessary to take out a loan from a bank. You may be fortunate to find a publishing company that will let you pay in installments. So do not lose heart. As the quality of your work increases over time, you eventually won't have any trouble finding financial backers.
The best resource for finding print publishers is through the Writer's Market. It's also a great source to find a publishing printing agent or manager to promote your work. There are hard copies available in most bookstores, and they have a website available online for a small fee (see Resources below). Don't be discouraged by rejection. Some major publishing companies rejected the greatest songwriters of our day before their work becomes popular. One opportunity is all it takes for you to see your dreams come to pass.
Get your gospel song lyrics copyrighted. Today, music publishers are concerned with administering copyrights, licensing songs to record companies and others and collecting royalties on behalf of the songwriter. Publishers may also authorize translations in order to generate income from cover versions of a particular song in foreign countries.