Writer’s Guidelines for Unlocked

Unlocked is a daily teen devotional produced by Keys for Kids Ministries. We’re seeking devotional pieces that fit a variety of forms and genres.

Submit a gospel-centered devotional piece—whether it be essay, poetry, fiction*, or other written art form. Connect God’s story with any topic you see in the world. How does Jesus fit into what you are wondering about, writing about, or experiencing? Successful submissions connect Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection to the topic being addressed.

In your single-spaced document, please include:
• Your legal name (first and last)
If different from your legal name, your pen name/byline
If different from your legal name, who your check should be made out to, should your piece be accepted
• Your mailing address
• A proposed title
• Up to 3 proposed Bible passages for people to read before the devotion
• The body of the piece (see below for word count requirements)
• 2-3 proposed discussion questions for after the devotion (optional verse references for guidance may be included)
• A proposed key verse reference—what is the Bible verse you want people to walk away remembering?

Word count requirements for the body of a submission:
• Devotional essays and personal stories: 200-315 words
• Fiction*: 200-350 words
• Poetry: 16-23 lines

PAYMENT: $30 on acceptance

PLEASE NOTE—we are NOT able to accept the following:
• Pieces that have been published elsewhere—digitally or in print (see FAQs for more information)
• Pieces that are currently under consideration at other publications
• Pieces that include song lyrics (due to copyright restrictions)

*NOTE ABOUT FICTION: We are primarily looking for allegorical fiction, especially sci-fi and fantasy. While we do sometimes accept contemporary fiction stories, please make sure the characters, situation, and dialogue are not too young, wooden, or melodramatic. When in doubt, write for an older audience, not a younger one.


Do I have to be a teen to submit? Writers must be at least 13 years old. If you are not a teenager, we welcome your submissions (and the wisdom your age brings), asking only that you consider your audience carefully. How does your devotional piece add gospel-centered value to our young adult readers as they navigate today’s world?

How many pieces can I submit? We ask that each writer submit no more than 30 devotions per quarter. Our quarterly submissions deadlines fall on February 1, May 1, August 1, and November 1. So, for example, between August 2 and November 1 please only send us your favorite 30 (or fewer) of the pieces you’ve been working on. We also ask that you give each piece its own separate document.

Do you accept simultaneous submissions? No, we are not able to accept submissions that are also currently under consideration at other publications.

How often do you review submissions? When will I hear back about your decision? Typically, we will have our decisions back to writers within 3-6 months of submission. We wish it didn’t take this long, but we’re currently only able to review submissions on a quarterly basis.

Do you get back to writers even if their submissions are rejected? Yes. We contact writers via email about our decisions regarding their submissions.

Do you accept pieces that have been published or posted before? Content submitted must be original. We are not able to republish content that has appeared in its current form in another publication or that has been posted on the web (such as a personal blog post or social media post).

Do you accept pieces that have been written using AI? Even with the rising popularity of AI (artificial intelligence) such as ChatGPT, we will not be able to publish any pieces that are written using AI. Therefore, please only submit content to us that you have written yourself. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Your voice is important, and no AI can replace it.

What rights do you buy? The Unlocked devotional and its sister publication, the Keys for Kids devotional, have some unique editorial and ministry needs. Because of these needs (listed below), our submissions process requires that we buy all rights to devotional pieces:

  1. To allow Keys for Kids and Unlocked to minister to the greatest number of people, our Keys for Kids devotions are posted online and in our app, recorded in an audio version, and are translated, written, and recorded into other languages. They are sometimes even published into book compilations and other resources. Unlocked will continue in a similar pattern. Also, the daily devotions featured in Keys for Kids and Unlocked are on a four- to eight-year publishing rotation, being re-edited and rerecorded every time they come up in that rotation. Re-editing and rerecording happen so that we can update the devotions. With that much editing, posting online, recording, and translating into other languages, all rights is the most viable option for completing those ministry purposes.
  2. We’re a nonprofit with a very small editorial staff. Acquiring all rights is the best solution we have found that would allow us to get back to writers and acquire rights in a timely and fair manner. Toward that end, we individually review submissions. Then, when we accept a submission, we have writers sign a publication rights agreement before we proceed with the publication of a devotional piece.

That being said, we make every effort to accept devotional pieces that will be minimally affected by this editing process. Even with the unique editorial and ministry needs of our devotionals, we strive to make them writer-friendly publications. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact the editorial team at editorial@unlocked.org.

What Bible version do you prefer? We use the CSB, NIV, NLT, or WEB.