A New Renaissance in Literature by Karen Jones Gowen, WiDo Publishing

One of the hallmarks of the Renaissance of the 15th century was that new voices were heard in the areas of art, literature, religion and basically all aspects of cultural life, touching and influencing thought from the highest levels of power down to the lowest, allowing the common man to finally realize his potential.  William Tyndale, who translated the Bible to English, was key in this transformation. He captures its essence in these few powerful words to a noted clergyman:  “If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!”

For the past five decades, the publishing industry, represented by what is commonly known as “the Big Six,” have been the ones controlling what books were available in bookstores and libraries. When the offerings were the best literary voices of our time, nobody complained; but when it veered to commercial garbage that sold in huge numbers (think Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susann and their copycats), then people wondered where all the good books had gone.

Small niche publishers emerged to offer books not available through the large publishers. The self-publishing movement is often seen as a backlash, not only to the power held for so long by the big publishers, but also to these small independents  with their choosy submission guidelines. By self-publishing, you can write what you want, how you want, publish it immediately, and avoid the gatekeepers altogether. This movement is quite accurately referred to as the “self-publishing revolution” because its proponents are revolting against all the old rules of publishing.

Although William Tyndale revolted against the rules of the Pope in his day, and subsequently gave his life for his principles, I believe his role was more Renaissance than Revolution. The word renaissance means “rebirth,” the word revolution according to Wikipedia is “from the Latin revolutio, a ‘turn around’, a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.” The Renaissance took centuries, a revolution happens quickly.

There’s no doubt that a publishing revolution has occurred, and it has been a very exciting time indeed.  However, I believe it is time for writers and publishers to use these opportunities to create a literary renaissance, not just a publishing revolution. How to do that?

Think of men like Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Michelangelo Buonarroti. Were they simply revolting against the status quo, or were they contributing knowledge and truth through the medium of their art? Scientists like Copernicus and Galileo Galilei were first and foremost seekers of truth in scientific knowledge and methods.  Religious leaders such as Tyndale, along with Thomas More, Martin Luther, and John Calvin fit into the same category—not simply part of a revolution but because of their devotion to truth and the good of mankind, were part of something much more than a tirade against the Pope or the Church of England.

Millions of books are now available that could never have made it through the gatekeepers of old. To name just a few types: poorly written, barely edited “novels” written fast and published even faster;  10 or 20 page ebook summaries using widely searched keywords, like how to simplify one’s life or write a Kindle bestseller; erotica, basically pornography masquerading as romance for women.

In other words, if you can write it you can publish it; whether it’s any good or contributes to the literary culture is beside the point. The focus is on the selling rather than on the writing. Really, how is this any different than the era of The Valley of the Dolls? The publishers may have changed names from the Big 6 to one million ebook writers, but if the focus remains on churning out stuff for the mass market, where is the revolution? It’s just a whole lot of people now trying to get in on the action.  What the self-publishing revolution has done for writers is what the state lotteries have done for gambling. Remember when people had to go to Vegas to gamble? Talk about the old days! Now you can go to your corner convenience store, buy a lotto ticket and hope to win big.

As writers, why not turn this revolution into a renaissance? Let’s contribute to the literary culture, not just churn out stuff as quick as we can. Let’s write stories that are true, with characters who are “real,” using language that transcends common everyday speech. Let’s write books that, using the very best of our skills, polished and practiced, will carry our readers to a greater plane of understanding as we enlighten and entertain.

It’s time for writers who care about books to contribute to a re-birth of literary excellence. Opportunities abound. Let us take advantage of the many ways to make our voices heard as we do our best work, write meaningfully and well, and become part of a new renaissance in literature.


About Karen Jones Gowen: Born and raised in central Illinois, the daughter of a Methodist minister from Indiana and a school teacher from Nebraska, Karen Jones Gowen has down-to-earth Midwestern roots. Karen and her husband Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing near Salt Lake City. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen’s writing. She is the managing editor for WiDo Publishing and the author of four books, all of which fit loosely into the category of LDS Fiction. Karen’s website: karenjonesgowen.com. WiDo Publishing website: widopublishing.com

An Unexpected Path to Publication by Darrel Nelson

LDSP Note: Normally, I don’t post personal stories of how a writer finally got published, but this is a unique case of an LDS author being picked up by a traditional Christian publisher. I get asked all the time if that can happen. It’s rare, but here’s proof that it’s possible!

My route leading to publication has been a thirty-year journey, culminating in a contract with Charisma House, a Christian publisher situated in Florida. An LDS author associated with a traditional Christian publisher? How did that come about? I could say accidentally, except that I believe I was guided to where I am today. Still, it’s been an unexpected path.

During my thirty-year journey I wrote ten novels, trying a different genre with each in hopes that one of them would be my “breakthrough.” I frequently queried Deseret Books and Shadow Mountain Publishing in Utah and every major trade publisher I could think of, but to no avail. Letters of rejection became a way of life for me, and I eventually gave up saving them because I ran out of storage space. But with my eleventh novel, the result took a pleasant turn.

It came about in this manner. One day my wife and I took our parents on a day outing to a heritage park. En route our parents began reminiscing about their courtships and how their friends had planned a shivaree on their wedding day. A shivaree was a local custom of friends separating the bride and groom after the wedding, as a prank, and keeping them apart for an hour or two. Harmless fun. Anyway, on the drive that day, our parents explained that for one reason or another, the shivarees intended for them failed to occur. But my mother-in-law reminded us that on her son’s wedding day, his bride was whisked away in a car by friends and involved in a car accident. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it got me wondering . . . what if ? So I grasped that thread of an idea and decided to see where the story led.

When I completed the novel, which was entitled In Due Season, I sent out the standard letters of inquiry. The result? Nothing! No one was interested. So I decided to take a leaf out of Richard Paul Evans’s book and turn it into a Christmas story, hoping to tap into that market. When the book (now retitled The Christmas Waltz) was done, I sent out more letters of inquiry—this time by email to literary agents. Within two hours, Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency replied: “This is such a beautiful story. I’ve got to have it.” I waited for more responses, but when none came, I decided to ride the horse in the direction it was going, so I signed with Joyce. I didn’t know at the time that she was a Christian agent who dealt exclusively with traditional Christian publishers. All I knew was that she was an agent who had expressed interest in my work when no one else had.

Joyce began shopping my book around, but after a year we had no nibbles. I decided that perhaps the book’s Christmas theme was too narrowly focused, so I took another few months and rewrote it again, changing the Christmas setting to an anniversary one. Now entitled The Anniversary Waltz, Joyce shopped it around for another year. And then, would you believe it, two Christian publishers expressed interest. Yes, two! In the end we went with Charisma House because they were willing to publish the book a whole year ahead of the other one.

This is the story of my journey to publication and how I ended up in the traditional Christian marketplace. The thing about the Christian marketplace that appealed to me from the beginning was a disclaimer Joyce posted on her webpage: If your book has bad language or sexual content or gratuitous violence, then I’m not the agent for you. The same standards apply to my publisher. Content is expected to be of a high moral level, which is exactly how I like it.

Now what about specific LDS content? I want my books to appeal to a broad cross-section of readers so that I don’t alienate anyone. Therefore, the religious content is presented in generalized terms. I use a recurring theme of love overcoming adversity in the face of overwhelming odds. People everywhere understand principles of love, faith, courage, and trials. I keep my message as inclusive as possible without compromising my personal standards. I don’t water down my religious beliefs, but I’m not “in your face” about it either.

Would I encourage other LDS authors to try the Christian market? Of course. My agent and my publisher have been nothing short of amazing. They are supportive and encouraging and have bent over backwards to help and guide me. Besides, most of us don’t have the luxury of being choosy. I mean, how many publishers or agents have come knocking at your door lately?

Having said that, I do believe that LDS readers accept general Christian ideals and standards more readily than Christian readers accept LDS ideals and standards. So personally I paint with a wide brush and am careful not to get “preachy” or “sneaky” in my writing. I don’t slip LDS doctrine in and then smirk to think I pulled one over on my readers. I have no hidden agenda. I simply want to tell a story that appeals to a broad base and makes my readers feel better for having spent some time with me.

Likewise, I hope those who read this article feel a little better for having spent some time with me too. We need to fulfill the Church’s clarion call for LDS writers, artists, musicians, producers, and composers to step up and make their voices heard. As standards continue their rapid decline, we can and must make a difference in this world.

Darrel Nelson taught school for 37 years and began writing full-time after he retired. He has two published novels, The Anniversary Waltz and The Return of Cassandra Todd. He’s currently working on a third novel, Following Rain, which deals with the saving power of truth and love. Visit Darrel at http://www.darrelnelson.com or email him at darmarn@telus.net.

Why You Should Avoid Succeeding as a Writer by Michaelbrent Collings

I am often asked questions about the business of writing – how to self-pub, how to market, how to amass a group of loyal fans – but the question I am most often asked (in some form or other) is this: “How do I become a successful writer?”

For a long time I tried to answer the question, babbling about sales and marketing and hard work and blahblahblahblah. But then I realized what I should have been saying, and what I now say to you: if you’re asking yourself – or anyone else – how to become a successful writer, you’re asking the wrong question.

Success is an ever-retreating illusion. Like the end of the rainbow, it looks beautiful, laudable, something that people just over there clearly can lay their hands on. So why not you?

Well, because even if you manage to get to the end of the rainbow, even if you somehow contrive to grasp the edge of that many-colored illusion, you will find in the next moment that it moves away from you once more. And your version of “success” moves right along with it.

How many times have you said this in your life?

“If only I could get that promotion – then I’ll be a success.”
“If only I could buy that car – then I’ll know I’m a success.”
“If only I could afford the big house – then I’d know I was a success.”

And what happens? You get the promotion, you buy the car, you put the down payment on the big house… and like the rainbow, your measure of success immediately moves. You’re not successful unless you are constantly moving onward, upward, forward. “Success” is a beast with a relentless appetite.

So what do you do? Is the only answer to eschew success as a writer? Do you put all your manuscripts in a box and bury them somewhere, then go off and live as a hermit in a cave?

Not at all. But you must stop thinking in terms of being “successful,” and instead ask yourself this: as a writer, what will make me happy?

In other words, what is my goal, my aim, which will give me satisfaction once reached?

Is it to simply write a book?
Is it to win an award?
Is it to pay the rent on a regular basis?

Each of these is an attainable goal, but each is different, and each carries with it different responsibilities. Recently, the finalists for the Whitney Awards were announced. Several of my friends were among them, which was great.

My name, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen on the list. I’ve sold oodles of books, my novels are consistent bestsellers on Amazon’s major lists, my most recent novel Darkbound is doing great and getting rave reviews.

But none of my books were there.

Did I break down crying over this? No. Because long ago I decided that my goal, my reason for writing, my “happy place,” if you will, was to write full-time, and take care of my family doing by doing so. So while it would have been nice to get on the list (if only to see the look on the judges’ faces, given the kind of books I tend to write), it mostly would have been nice inasmuch as it might have driven a few more sales my way. Because that’s my goal: to sell books.

Other people crumple into a fetal position when their names are missed for some honor or other. Not me. And it’s because I’m too busy achieving my goal – the thing that I decided will make me happy – to worry about incidentals.

How do you “succeed” as a writer? How do you “make it”? Beats me. But that doesn’t matter.  Because more important is your determination of what will make you happy. The question is subtly different, but the difference allows you to focus on concrete steps that will aid you in achieving that goal. It also allows you to avoid the poisonous practice of comparing yourself with others, because no matter how “successful” other writers may be, their success is irrelevant to the question of your happiness.

What is your goal as a writer? What is your happy place? Answer those questions. Then push away everything else, and work to achieve those ends. And once you have achieved them, recognize that you have done so, and find joy in the attainment.

But oddly enough, you will most likely find that in the doing you achieve as much joy as in the accomplishing of them.

Michaelbrent Collings has written numerous bestselling novels, including his latest novel Darkbound.  His wife and mommy think he is a can that is chock-full of awesome sauce.  Check him out at www.facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings or  michaelbrentcollings.com.

How to Get Your Books Into the Public Library by Natalie Giauque

Note: Natalie works for the Salt Lake County Library system and is speaking specifically to that. However, many of her tips will apply to any library system.

Have you ever wondered how to get your books into the Salt Lake County Library system?

Here is all of the information you’ll need, and a few helpful tips.

A little bit about me and what I do:

I’m Natalie and I’m the LDS fiction buyer for the Salt Lake County Library System. The SLCLS system consists of 18 branches across the Salt Lake valley, and I buy books for all of the branches. My job is to buy as much LDS fiction as I can, while keeping within my budget constraints.

Each month I order new titles from Deseret Book, Cedar Fort, Covenant, Brigham Distributing and Walnut Springs Press. So if your book is being distributed through these channels, I’m going to see it and I’m going to purchase it. For those of you who publish independently, things get a bit tricky. There are two websites that I use to find new books, LDS Publisher and LDS Women’s Book Review.  I’ll see a new title coming out, I do a little research and then purchase the title if I feel it will be of interest to my patrons. I have limited funds, so I have to be a bit selective. If you are an author I’m familiar with, I’ll buy more copies. New authors, I’ll pick up a few copies and monitor demand.

Here are some important points if you want me to see and purchase your books:

  • Make sure you have some sort of web presence. Promote your book! This isn’t a time to be modest. With any new author, the first thing I do is Google you. If I can’t find a blog, web page, or a Facebook page, I’m going to think you aren’t interested in promoting your book. If you aren’t interested in your book, why should I be? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve passed by because I couldn’t find any information about the author. Out of date blog? Forget about it. Promote! Promote! Promote!
  • Make sure that you have the title of your book on your webpage, the price, the ISBN, and where I can purchase your book. Make sure all of your links are current! This is really important. If I have to hunt for an ISBN or a price and it takes me too long, I’ll pass on your book. Make it easy for me. I purchase books through Seagull book and through Amazon, so if you get your books into those two vendors, I can buy them.
  • Understand that purchasing books, getting them cataloged and out to patrons takes time. It can take about three months from the time I make a purchase to the time the book is circulating. So please don’t send in purchase requests if you don’t see your book in the library catalog right away. If your book has been out for a few months and it isn’t in the catalog, go ahead and send in a purchase request, as I may have missed your book.
  • Once your book is in the library system, make sure your fans know this. If your books don’t circulate well, they may end up being deleted and when you publish your next book, I won’t buy as many copies, if I buy any.
  • I discourage authors from sending books to me for the library system. If the books don’t get to me, they will end up going for book sale. I prefer that you promote your book where I can find it and I’ll purchase it through my vendors.
  • What about e-books? Many authors are now publishing in this format exclusively. The library system uses OverDrive as an e-book vendor. If you publish independently and want to get your books into our catalog, you need to publish your book through Authorsolutions (www.authorsolutions.com) or Smashwords (www.smashwords.com). Make sure you choose OverDrive as a distribution channel. We’d love to have you in our e-catalog. OverDrive is working with other publishers to get more LDS e-books into our catalog as well.

Questions? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.


Dealing Positively With Negative Reviews by Michaelbrent Collings

Okay, so, you’re published. Your book is “out there.” It’s “in the world” and “up for grabs.” People can “read it” and “peruse it” at their “leisure” (I like quotation marks).

And at first, things seem all right. Fairly predictable. The book doesn’t become an instant bestseller, but it is selling. Your mom bought it, and your dad bought two copies, and so did that slightly weird person who sits in your closet and mumbles a lot. Or maybe that’s just what happens to me.

Regardless, your work is now on its own. Living, breathing, and (hopefully) being passed from hand to hand by readers who are—slowly but surely—going to become Your People. Your Followers. Your Army.

And then it happens. Among the four- and five-star reviews that have made you feel higher than a kite on meth, suddenly this rears its ugly head on Amazon:


I picked this boock up because of all the good revuews. But I guess the revuews were all dun by, like, the writers’ parents and stuff. Because the book stunk. It stunk a lot. It stunk like a dead skunk that has severe dysintary and then drowns in its own poop. Also, the author is a ca-ca doodie head and probably has lice and kix baby seals and stuff. Dont read this book, it will give you cooties.

– 1 star

You read it. And the questions start. Is my work really that bad? How could this reviewer have so completely missed the point of my book? Where did he learn to spell? What if I do have lice?

And, most urgently… how do I respond?

To that last, I have three little words: Ig. Nore. It.

Okay, maybe that’s four words, I don’t know.  I’m a writer, not an accountant.

Seriously, though, when you get a review like the above, you must simply rejoice within yourself. Why? Because it means your book is being read. It’s getting out into the world, meeting new people, getting beyond the closed circles of your family, friends, and writers groups. It will inevitably meet up with people that hate it—because it’s not their style, because you did an objectively terrible job writing the piece (it does happen), or even for no good reason at all.

And like any good parent, you will have the urge to rush to your “child’s” defense.


There are really only two likely outcomes if you choose to wage war on the review or (even worse) on the reviewer himself.

1)   You try to show the review is “wrong.” The reviewer takes offense and goes to war with you. You now have a dedicated enemy who will attack you at every possible turn, giving you low ratings wherever possible and urging his/her friends and family to avoid your work like a sack of rotten meat. You have just accomplished nothing more nor less than magnifying the effect and range of the viewer’s bile and hatred. Result: you lose.

2)  You try to show the review is wrong. The reviewer takes offense and goes to war with you. You mobilize your friends and followers and fight back. A comment war ensues! You beat back the scummy, evil, poor-spelling reviewer.  He/she is silenced forever. Huzzah! But wait… those comments are there forever. And you look like nothing more nor less than a prima donna bully. This will keep people from buying your books in perpetuity. Result: you lose.

Of the two, the second is gratifying to the author, but far more damaging. I am friends with a great many authors, some of them legitimately Famous People. And occasionally one of them will get their undies in a wad over some disparaging comment made regarding their work and will mobilize their fans to attack. The fans attack. Or some of them. Some don’t. Some become “un” fans, turned off by the author’s childishness. And though maybe Famous People can afford to lose fans, the average author just can’t.

An example: my most recent novel, Darkbound, just came out. It’s a deeply disturbing horror novel about six strangers who get on a subway train that turns out to go everywhere BUT where they want it to. When it was released, a very eminent horror review site called Hellnotes wrote up a stellar review. So did several other review sites. A friend who had received an advance copy sent me a note saying he was… well… less than enamored of it. It was too dark, too violent. Worried, no doubt, about typical author ego, he asked what my response would be if he posted such a review.

My response: “Do it!” People have a right to know others’ thoughts. The fact that this reviewer didn’t like Darkbound as much as he had liked other books I’d written was a bummer. But it didn’t mean the end of the world, and insisting that he love everything about my work, all the time, would be not merely ridiculous, but counterproductive.

The reviews of our work will at times be insightful, helpful, warming. And sometimes it will be shallow tripe that looks like it was probably written in crayon by a five-year-old struggling against some weird form of Tourrette Syndrome. Both are part of being a writer. Don’t respond to either (even the good ones—that can be a bit “stalky” and can also mess with your fan base). If you want to interact with fans, get a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or stand on a box in Hyde Park.

But leave the reviews—and reviewers—alone. Ig. Nore. Them.

It is three words. I counted with my fingers.


Michaelbrent Collings has written numerous bestselling novels, including his latest novel Darkbound. His wife and mommy think he is a can that is chock-full of awesome sauce. Check him out at www.facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings or  michaelbrentcollings.com.


Guidelines for Writing LDS Fiction by Karen Jones Gowen, WiDo Publishing

The LDS fiction genre encompasses everything from inspirational novels where characters accept the gospel and get baptized, to historical fiction about elements of Church history, and a whole lot in between.

The LDS fiction label can be a fairly clean novel written by an LDS author, with no Mormon characters or references, somewhat like the label “Christian fiction” might be given to one just like it. It can also be ascribed to a novel with some swearing or sexual scenes (not graphic however), but that contains Mormon characters and themes.

Surely there are books listed on Amazon under LDS Fiction that a reader might be offended by, and others that are so squeaky clean and spiritually uplifting as to be dull for those seeking the kind of conflict, tension and turmoil that a novel requires.

By now you may be thinking: But isn’t this a post on guidelines for writing LDS fiction? Then why is she essentially telling us there are no guidelines?

The fact is that ebooks have changed the guidelines. It used to be that LDS Fiction was what you found when you browsed an LDS bookstore.  The stores set the limits, sometimes restricting them so severely that shoppers got frustrated by the same formulaic genre.  Stores decide what they will or won’t carry. If it doesn’t suit them, they don’t order it.

For this reason, WiDo Publishing stopped accepting manuscripts that fit the strictest definition of LDS Fiction—Mormon characters and themes and squeaky clean. Reason being, there weren’t enough LDS bookstores around to sell them to, if you took Deseret Bookstores out of the picture. And other bookstores didn’t want “Mormon books.”

Hooray for the Kindle! We wish we could call up all those talented authors who submitted their LDS Fiction to us, because we can now sell it. In fact, it sells very well through the Kindle, which is how we distribute our ebooks.

Through the maze of inappropriateness that gluts their selections, LDS Kindle owners are desperately seeking clean fiction for themselves and their families. Even if it’s not “squeaky clean” or not strictly fiction, WiDo will label a book LDS Fiction if it fits three or more of the following criteria:

  1. It’s written by an LDS author.
  2. It contains Mormon characters.
  3. It deals with themes that are based on true principles.
  4. There’s restraint used in language and scenes, although we can’t always promise squeaky clean.
  5. We think LDS readers will enjoy it for all of the above reasons, and because they are seeking out the best books.

By these guidelines, Jewish author Mirka M.G. Breen would no doubt be surprised to see that her middle-grade novel, The Voice of Thunder, about two ten-year-old girls in Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, is categorized by WiDo as, among other things, LDS Fiction.

And those of you who sent us manuscripts we turned down back when “we can’t sell LDS Fiction,” please submit to us again. Because now we can.


About Karen Jones Gowen: Born and raised in central Illinois, the daughter of a Methodist minister from Indiana and a school teacher from Nebraska, Karen Jones Gowen has down-to-earth Midwestern roots. Karen and her husband Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing near Salt Lake City. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen’s writing. She is the managing editor for WiDo Publishing and the author of four books, all of which fit loosely into the category of LDS Fiction.

Karen’s website: karenjonesgowen.com

WiDo Publishing website: widopublishing.com

3 Things Authors Should Know about Publicity by Josh Johnson from Cedar Fort

First-time authors often think the biggest part of their work is done when they put the finishing touches on their manuscript with their editor and send it off to the printer. However, they don’t always recognize that they, as the authors, can promote their book and interact with fans and readers—in person and online—after their book comes out.

Here are a few quick things that we wish all new authors would learn about publishing and promotion.

1) The future is online, and the future is now.

For the last decade, media and bloggers have been emphasizing the importance of digital promotion and talked about how the Internet would revolutionize the way that people consume news, information and content. But guess what?  The future they have been predicting for years has already arrived. Yahoo News already has a greater readership than the New York Times!

Authors that want to promote their work and realize their potential need to be engaged with their fans online. Whether that means a blog or website, or even just social media fan pages like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, engagement online is key.

2) And I should care…why?

Author engagement in any shape or form is really essential to helping a book do well.  Establishing relationships with readers will keep them coming back for more and help spread the word to more readers. Authors really are the ones who will promote their book better than anyone else could.

There have been barrels of ink spilled about the importance of self promotion online, some worth reading and some not, but one thing authors need to know more than any other advice is how they’re going to present themselves as well as the what.

When doing interviews, guest posts on blogs, pitches to media, and even just talking to fans during a signing, authors need to keep in mind a single key message: “What am I telling my listeners, and why should they care?”

This key message should be their mantra. They know their audience more than anyone. What are they telling their readers that is unique about themselves and their work, and why should they, as readers, care?  It’s best to follow this message up with what fans should do about the message (buy their book), but that’s secondary.

3) Content rules all online.

When authors are promoting and engaging with fans, it’s important to be frequent in communication. That doesn’t mean there has to be a new masterwork post or update every five minutes, but they should be posting regularly enough, with enough original content, to keep their fans and audiences aware of their material online, and wanting to learn more about them. Authors can get creative with how they engage, but they should try to be original.

That’s it! Stick to these basics and authors will go a long way with online promotion. And just think, by being online at all, they are beating an awful lot of folks who still think that the digital future is tomorrow, when it’s actually today.


Josh Johnson works at Cedar Fort as a Marketing Publicist and Public Relations Author Representative. Cedar Fort, Inc. is a book publisher in Utah. We publish fiction, nonfiction, you name it. We love new authors. See our site for guidelines & new titles. You can also visit Cedar Fort at www.cedarfortbooks, Facebook, or Twitter.

Ability vs Desire by Tristi Pinkston

My seven-year-old son is a total hoot. The other day he came up to me and said, “Mom, people are always asking the question, ‘How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?’ I think the real question is, ‘How much does he want to chuck?'”

Like any good mother, of course I immediately put that on my Facebook status, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Out of the mouths of babes, they say. His innocent little question got my brain spinning in a million different directions.

Let’s think about this woodchuck for a minute. Let’s say that he can chuck two trees’ worth of wood in one day. That is his capability. If he works consistently for eight hours, taking a half-hour lunch break, he can chuck two trees.

But how much does he want to chuck?

If he decides that one tree a day is just fine by him, he may only ever chuck one a day. That’s what all the other woodchucks (possessed of similar inclinations) are doing. If he decides to be like all the other woodchucks and produce one a day, no one will think any the less of him. A wood-chucking woodchuck is an awesome thing all by itself. He can get away with living below his potential.

But what if he decides he wants more?

If that woodchuck had enough desire, and he was committed and dedicated and focused, and maybe even skipped his lunch break because he was excited to be chucking wood, he might find himself exceeding his wildest dreams and chucking three or four trees a day. He might have believed his ability only extended to two trees, but when his desire was brought into the picture, suddenly his ability didn’t matter anymore. His desire took his ability and magnified it and expanded it until it was a non-issue.

When you want something badly enough, the facts don’t matter.

Of course I’m going to tie this in to writing. It’s very like me to do that.

As authors, when we think about our writing journey, we shouldn’t think in terms of what we’re “able” to do. We should think in terms of what we “want” to do. If I set a goal to write a book this summer because I want to, it shouldn’t matter in the slightest that I’ve never done it before. I have the desire, and so I can achieve it. If I say, “You know, it’s awesome that I’m an author to begin with. It’s okay if I don’t push myself,” my productivity might slacken and my quality might decline because I’m making excuses and resting on my laurels. I’m like the complacent woodchuck who doesn’t care that he could be chucking more trees.

And what if I don’t want to write a book this summer? That’s okay – if I forced myself to do it anyway, it would probably be a stupid book because my heart wouldn’t be in it. Only I can determine my desires.

In summary, your level of ability doesn’t matter. It’s all about your level of your desire. Desire will take you further than any other determining factor. It doesn’t matter how fast you type. It doesn’t matter how little time you have to write each day. Desire makes things possible. Are you ready to listen to yourself, to your hopes, dreams, and deepest desires, and follow them?

Tristi Pinkston is the author of nine published books, including the Secret Sisters mystery series. In addition to being a prolific author, Tristi also provides a variety of author services, including editing and online writing instruction. You can visit her at www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com or her website at www.tristipinkston.com.

Pen Names Anyone? by Rebecca Talley

LDSP Note: I can’t believe I forgot to post Rebecca’s guest blog last week! Soooo sorry. And it’s a good one too. Enjoy!

There seems to be two camps on pen names. Those who think an author should use his/her real name no matter what he/she writes and the other camp that believes when an author switches genres, he/she should have a different name distinguishing each genre.

I’ve published three novels for the LDS market. My current book is a young adult urban fantasy targeted at the national market. It has no LDS content or characters so I’m wondering if I should publish it under a pen name.

I’ve spent years trying to develop an online presence with my blog and website. I’ve made a lot of Facebook friends and have Twitter followers. It boggles my mind to think about replicating that with a whole new persona. And then trying to keep up with both “people” with my social networks—makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

On the other hand, would a reader who expected an LDS novel from me be upset with a book that’s about a teenage girl who fights demons?

Other authors have used pen names. Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, J.K. Rowling, Sierra St. James/C.J. Hill/Janette Rallison, Jeff Savage/J. Scott Savage, to name a few. They’ve all been successful with their pen names and it doesn’t seem to be an issue that people know these authors use pen names.

It makes sense to separate different genres under different author names. Readers would then know that even if this is the same author, books written under one name will be thrillers, while under a different name the books will be romantic comedies.

When I first started writing, the advice was to stick with one genre (thus removing the reason for needing a pen name) and build up a readership in that genre. (As an aside, I’ve noticed in my experience that while LDS fiction may be a genre, there are many sub-genres within it, and romance seems to be very popular). That advice is great, IF you want to keep writing in one genre. For me, I have to write the story that’s burning inside me. If all my stories were romance, that’d be one thing, but so far that hasn’t been true. Forcing myself to write another romance to build up my readership in that genre (since it’s very popular) would take the joy out of writing. Since I have the attention span of a three-year-old (which is why I teach the Sunbeams), I have to write what is inside my head trying to claw its way out.

So, what do you think? Should authors who write different genres use pen names for each genre?


Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children’s picture book “Grasshopper Pie” (WindRiver 2003), three novels, “Heaven Scent” (CFI 2008), “Altared Plans” (CFI 2009), and “The Upside of Down” (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at www.rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com.

Getting Your Writing Groove Back by Anita Mumm

Kristin recently blogged about the fact that summer may not be your best time to query an agent due to the fact that no one wants to spend gorgeous days cooped up in an office with submissions. But with fall almost upon us, agents are going to start hunting for that next big project—just in time to shop it before the publishing world closes down for the holidays.

Are you ready?

If the answer is no, don’t sweat it. The kids are back in school, summer vacations are past, and there’s no better time for you to get your writing goals on track. Here are a few ideas:

  • Join a critique group. Check with your local writers organization for a list of critique groups accepting new members. If the organization offers classes, signing up for one can be another good way to find a critique group. When the class ends, ask other like-minded students if they’d like to continue meeting to share work. If you can’t find a group in your area, try some online options instead. WEbook.com is a great site for getting feedback on your work, and practicing your critiquing skills for others.
  • Polish your query. Stop toying with how to pitch your book, and just write the darn thing! Then take it to your critique group for a trial run. Ideally, your group members have already read all or part of the manuscript you’re pitching, so they’ll be able to judge whether the query gets at the heart of your story and shows off your voice.
  • Sign up for a writers conference. Many writers groups host both fall and spring conferences, so now is the time to register if you’d like to catch one this season. Writing can be a lonely task; the infusion of energy you receive at conferences can help you power through writers’ block and combat feelings of too much solitude.
  • Start building a platform. No, you don’t have to have ten thousand followers on your blog by the time you start querying agents. But since you will need a strong author platform when your book sells, it’s a good idea to start getting in the habit of promoting yourself. Having an existing fan base can also drive sales if you decide to digitally self-publish. Take this advice with a healthy dose of common sense: if your book isn’t finished yet, don’t spend more time blogging/Facebooking/tweeting than you spend writing the novel.

Anita Mumm is a Literary Assistant at the Nelson Literary Agency. This post was taken from their monthly newsletter and posted here with permission. To get more great industry news, subscribe to their newsletter.

What’s Hot by Sara Megibow

I brought home 18 books from the recent RWA National Conference in Anaheim. … I also have TONS of great submissions from the pitch sessions and author meetings.

Here are the notes I took over the course of the conference. Of course, Kristin and I are looking for good stories, well-told, but here are some additional behind-the-scenes requests from editors:

  • Small town, sweet, contemporary single title romance
  • OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon for the young adult reader (no, not a re-telling, but rather an epic romance for YA that tells the story of a love-that-will-know-no-bounds and perhaps have a paranormal or time travel element to it)
  • 20-45K word stories, preferably with tie-in capability or that can be linked together, to be made as ebook originals
  • More contemporary young adult with a strong romance (and yes, you heard me cheering from California – I adore contemp YA!)
  • Historical romance in time periods other than Regency (although I had several requests for Regency also)
  • No one specifically asked me for “more funny,” but when I said, “I’m personally looking for books with a good sense of humor,” everyone said, “Ooooo, YES!”
  • Smokin’ hot and unique paranormals – everyone was talking about FIRELIGHT by Kristen Callihan (Book 2 in her Darkest London Series, MOONGLOW, debuts this month)

We all agreed that authors who are members of RWA tend to present more publication-ready manuscripts. Personally, I find that RWA does a great job of educating writers, so I say join up!

Happy writing to all!


Sara Megibow is an Associate Literary Agent at the Nelson Literary Agency. This article was taken from their most recent newsletter and posted with permission. To get more great industry news, subscribe to their newsletter. Follow Sara on twitter at @SaraMegibow.

When the Publisher Says No by Kristen Nelson

[I know of several LDS authors who’ve been dropped—sometimes mid-series—not because their new manuscripts weren’t well-written, but because their books just weren’t selling quite enough for the publisher. What do you do? Digital publishing gives you options. Here’s what a national agency did for one of their authors.]

Maybe a metaphoric “thumbing one’s nose” at a previous publisher? I’ll let you be the judge. In 2005, NLA client Shanna Swendson debuted with a wonderful fantasy chick lit novel called ENCHANTED INC. It was the perfect hybrid between the two genres and the world was introduced to the charming Katie Chandler who is trying to make it in the Big Apple but is so ordinary, she’s extraordinary. She’s so ordinary, magic doesn’t work on her.

Consequently, the small town gal from Texas is recruited by a magical company called Magic, Spells and Illusions, Inc. to be their secret weapon.

Brilliant concept!

Three more novels in the series quickly followed to very solid sales. It used to be you could build an author’s career from there. Nowadays, sadly, it’s known as the dreaded mid-list and authors are often dropped by their publishers.

Much to our dismay, Shanna’s publisher declined to continue buying new books in the series. But get this. Shanna had a foreign publisher who loved the series and it had fabulous sales abroad. So Shanna’s foreign publisher contracted to have her continue writing the series. And she did. Meanwhile, for years I’ve been trying to convince her U.S. publisher to get back on board. No luck. The series still sells well but not well enough for the publisher’s bottom line.

I get it. It’s a business decision on their part. But hey, it’s 2012 and the whole publishing climate has changed. Just because the publisher said NO, doesn’t mean we have to stop. These books are amazing. Shanna can digitally publish them herself. Even have a physical edition available as well.

And that’s exactly what she’s doing!

The long awaited book 5, MUCH ADO ABOUT MAGIC, releases on August 15, 2012.

Rock on!

Kristen Nelson is President and Senior Literary Agent at  Nelson Literary Agency. This article was taken from their recent newsletter and posted with permission. To get more great industry news, subscribe to their newsletter.

Jessica Park’s Take on Traditional vs Self-Publishing

I just read Jessica Park’s recent blog post featured on Amazon.com’s front page on June 19th. Among other things, it lists her reasons why she would choose self-publishing over any traditional publishing deal nowadays. She also talks about publishing houses being out of date with the changing market. In your estimation, is the publishing world changing? How are publishing houses keeping up with the newest trends and writers being able to self-publish so easily?

Go read Jessica Park’s article and then come back and let’s talk about it.

In my opinion, Jessica Park is absolutely correct. Going with a traditional publisher has its down side. The marketing department carries a lot of weight in the decision to accept a book. You don’t have control over your title or your cover. Unless you’re an established name, an author has to do a lot of their own publicity. And by the time expenses are covered (yes, salaries, buildings, and other overheard are legitimate expenses), there’s not a lot of money left for the author.

When you self-publish, you have full control over everything. And the only salary you pay is your own.

However, what Park fails to mention is that while you may be able to sell your first book on hype alone, additional books are going to be a harder sell if you don’t invest some time, energy—and, yes—MONEY in the PRE-press development of your book. This is where a lot of self-publishers fail and why indies have a bad reputation.

You can’t just slap an ebook up on Amazon and expect to experience the sales levels that Park mentions in her article. Here are the parts of a successful book:

  • A good story
  • Good writing
  • Tight editing
  • Memorable title
  • Eye-catching cover design
  • Intriging back copy (with optional blurbs)
  • Professional typesetting for print (generally, NOT Word)
  • Professional e-book coding (generally, NOT Smashwords)
  • Distribution—online &/or brick & mortar stores
  • Reader interest (letting readers know your book exists)
  • Sales (getting those readers to actually purchase the book)
  • Maintaining reader relationship for future book sales

In traditional publishing, the author is only required to do the first two, throw in some online buzz to generate reader interest, and have an online presence and/or do book signings to gain personal reader loyalty.

If you decide to go indie, you’re either going to have to learn how to do all these other things or pay someone to do them for you. It’s not a question of whether traditional or self-publishing is better. They both have their pros and cons. There are some excellent indie books out there and there are some traditional dogs. It’s a question of resources—do you have them?

Want another take that is very similar to mine? Go read Nathan Bransford (former literary agent & current author).

Readers, what are your experiences and opinions?

[Oh, and to answer your question. Yes, the industry is changing. How are publishers adapting? Some are burying their heads in the sand; some are adjusting their policies.]

Writers, Do Your Homework!

I get emails like this one all the time:

I can’t publish this as […] do to the fact that I cite Mormon scriptures. So I would like to copyright in with you. my work is far from done but I would like to see what you thinks.  [document was attached]

At least once a week, someone asks me to publish their manuscript, or look at it and give free feedback. (I don’t do that here.) And many of the questions I get have typos or incorrect vocabulary and grammar. (I almost always clean those up before posting, unless I want to make a point.)

(Today, I’m making several points.)

I am using this particular email as an example—not to poke fun or belittle, but because it contains examples of several common errors that I often see. This is a teaching moment. I don’t judge you here—just point out how to do things differently and correctly, so you’ll present yourself and your manuscript in a way that will give you the most mileage for your efforts.

As an unpublished author, your job is to make a good impression on the agent, editor, or publisher whom you want to have consider your work for publication.

1. Do your homework.

— Make sure the person you’re contacting actually IS an agent, editor or publisher.

— Make sure they are looking for your type of manuscript. You don’t want to send a religious work to a fantasy publisher, or a mystery to a company that specializes in romance.

— You can usually find these details on the company website under the About tab or in their Submissions Guidelines.


2. Understand the industry and vocabulary.

— Do some reading up on basic terminology and how things work in the publishing industry. You will need to be able to discuss terms and topics. Go to your library and look for books on publishing and self-publishing. Some of them will be pie in the sky nonsense, and some will be deep, dark depression. But amid those, you’ll find some very helpful jewels.

— I recommend this book The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Marilyn Ross (Not because I think you should self-publish—although you may choose that route—but because it gives a good overview of the business of publishing.)

— You do not copyright your work with a publisher. Sometimes your publisher will officially register the copyright of your work with the U.S. Copyright Office but the copyright remains with you.


3. Write a good query.

— A query is the initial contact you have with an agent or publisher. The email above is essentially a query.

— A good query has enough information to allow the agent or publisher to determine if it’s a topic they’d be interested in.

— A good query highlights a writer’s basic writing skills.  (See #4 below.)

— If I were an agent or publisher (and at this website, I’m not), the only thing I know about this manuscript is that it cites Mormon scriptures.

— Some agents and publishers will put sample queries or query guidelines on their websites. Follow those carefully.

— Or Google “how to write a good query“. (Click the link. Seriously. It will make you smile.)


4. Check and double check your query.

— Check for misspelled words.

— Check for typos or auto-corrects that corrected wrong.

— Check for grammar errors, punctuation, capitalization.

— Once it’s perfect, set it aside for a day. Then check it again.

— Have someone else read through it.

— Email it to yourself and read through it again.

— Check it one last time before clicking the Send button.


5. Do not attach a document.

— Unless their website specifically says to do so, do not attach a document to your query email. Most agents and publishers will delete those unopened. Like I did.

— If your query piques their interest, the agent/publisher will then request a document and will send you instructions on how to deliver it.

Traditional vs. Self-publishing is a False Dichotomy by Nathan Bransford

I really like Nathan’s take on this. Go read it!

Us vs. them is fun. It gets people’s blood boiling. It instills fear. It’s thrilling to be on a team, especially when you feel like your team is winning.

These days it seems like traditional and self-publishing are increasingly pitted against each other on blogs and forums, as if one side or the other is the bastion of all that is good and pure in the world and the other side is the bastion of all that is horrible and evil.

This is insane.

There is no “us” vs. “them.” Traditional vs. self-publishing is a false dichotomy. It’s an illusion created by people who either have let their frustrations get the best of them or are trying to sell you something. We’re all writers trying to figure out the best way to get our books to readers. We’re all on the same team.

Read the rest of the article here.


So what do YOU think?


Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow (Dial, May 2011), Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe (Dial, April 2012) and Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp (Dial, March 2013). He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. and is now the social media manager at CNET. He lives in San Francisco.

Is an ebook only publishing offer worth it?

Hi LDS Publisher!

A smaller, but quickly growing, publisher has very recently offered to publish my book (yay!). Because I am a new author, they want to publish it first as an e-book. If the book sells, then they would publish the book more traditionally. Is this a new trend in publishing? What are your thoughts?


I’ve seen this popping up more often. From a publisher’s standpoint, it’s a very safe offer to make. It limits the financial risk significantly. They don’t have to come up with the cash to invest in a full print run, the cost of warehousing and shipping the books, nor take the chance that they’ll end up with a stack of books they can’t sell and a loss in their profit margin. Too many wrong guesses and a small press is out of business.

From the author’s perspective, it’s not such a good deal. Yes, more and more consumers are using e-readers, but there’s still a large group of readers who want tangible print books. Your sales are limited right there. Also, the lower the financial risk to the publisher, the greater the temptation to give up if initial marketing tactics don’t work. Kind of the “cut your losses” mentality.

Here’s a checklist I’d go through with the publisher before signing:

    • What resources SPECIFICALLY are they going to put into creating your ebook?


    • Will it get a close edit?


    • Are they going to design a good cover that will help sell the book?


    • How will the book be coded? Are they just going to take your Word file and run it through an autocoder? (You can do that yourself.) Or will they actually take the time to have someone look at the code and clean it up?


    • What are their marketing plans?


    • How will they let the consumer know the book exists?


    • Will they set up a virtual tour for you?


    • Do they use the various social medias to spread the word?


    • Do they have a customer base they send emails to?


In my opinion, it’s better to stay unpublished than to have an unedited or poorly marketed book just sitting out there and languishing in cyberspace.

Another thought: If a publisher is going to assign resources to do a good edit, create a cover that will sell, and then typeset it enough to make a clean ebook, then they’re 90% of the way there for a print edition as well. They might as well do the little extra it takes and create a print version using CreateSpace (Amazon’s print on demand service) and at least have that available to online customers.

Readers, what do you think?

Author Platforms

Everywhere I look on-line I read that an author needs a platform if he/she expects an agent or publisher to accept the writer or the work.

Now, I can see that if you have a published work to tout. A platform helps get a book the publicity it needs to be successful. The internet makes that relatively easy, yet time consuming. If you have a ready-made platform, all your “friends” on FaceBook and elsewhere have supposedly been following you and should be anxious to see your book.

But what if you don’t have a book to tout yet?

I’ve been struggling with that issue a lot lately. I have two books, one of which is probably ready for publication. But, without a platform is an agent or publisher willing to accept me or my book for publication? But how can I get a platform if I have nothing published yet?

Maybe someone can help me here. It seems like a dilemma to me. Frankly, at this point, being unpublished, I would rather spend my limited time writing.

Understanding what a platform is and is not trips a lot of writers up. Ten years ago, a well-written book was platform enough. An author might generate some extra publicity if the book was based on a timely topic, but it wasn’t really necessary.

However, now, when anyone with a computer can “publish” a book, and when traditional publishers do less to promote their books, having a platform is very important. All things being equal, an author with an established platform will have an edge over the author without one.

So, let’s go over this briefly.


What is a platform? It’s a tool or process used by an author to reach and build their target audience, usually through online visibility, to create a group of followers and/or fans. Sometimes it ties in with a topic or theme from their book. Sometimes it’s as simple as having a blog with lots of followers.

Jane Friedman has an excellent post on this. Go read it now. I’ll wait.

Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent, did a post on Author Platforms last year. Go read it. I’ll wait.

I found another good description for a platform by Karen Dionne: “Just as a real platform elevates a speaker above his audience, if fiction authors can find a way to make themselves stand out from the crowd, the odds of their fiction being picked up by a major publisher increase.” (Go read the entire article.)


What difference does a platform make? I’ve heard one LDS author say that it meant the difference between her book coming out as a midlist title (which is how it was originally scheduled) to actually being released as a frontlist, or lead title (one that gets more attention, promotion and marketing). If an agent can see you’ve got an established platform that works for you, they can use that to sell your book to a publisher.

Bottom line, life as an author is no longer just about creating the novel. The author has to spend some time in promotion and spreading the message.


How do you create a platform? Find an outlet that spotlights your writing skills and your message. A blog is a good way to do this. Readers will get a sense of your writing style and personality, and that will increase the chances that they’ll buy your book. You can use Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to enhance and support your platform. You can also do speaking engagements.


What’s your message? That’s up to you. It might be on writing itself or perhaps it ties in with the theme of your book. Click here to read a post from 2008 with a few examples.


Readers, do you have a platform? If so, what is it? Where is it? Please tell us in the comments below.

Nine Month Manuscript Approval Process???

I stumbled onto your blog tonight while searching for LDS publishers, and I think you might be able to answer my questions (or just put my mind at ease, at least).

Here’s my situation:
I submitted a manuscript to [ABC Publishing] last winter, and in May the editor told me they loved my book and went through the approval process, but couldn’t make it work financially for them. She said their overhead was too high to produce it. The editor passed my submission along to another editor at a smaller publishing company because she felt it would be a good fit for them. I called the new editor about 6 weeks later to find out what the status of my book was. She said she loved it, but the approval process could take another 8 weeks, give or take. I waited patiently for 6 months and called again. She said she was about to go into a meeting and would track it down and call me the next day. She never called. I left her a voicemail last week, which was never returned.

My questions: Should I keep bugging her? And, is it typical for editors to not give a response if they don’t want to publish something? Nine months seems like a very long time for an approval process. But I don’t really know… this is my first submission and I don’t know what is typical. I’d love to hear any insight you might have on this!

If a publisher/editor doesn’t like something, they usually respond fairly quickly—unless they’re just so bogged down with submissions and other work that they haven’t even had a chance to look at it yet. But my guess, based on your feedback from the previous editor, is that this editor wants it but is trying to figure out how to budget it.

My guess is they’re struggling. Publishing is in flux right now and many smaller houses are hanging on by their toenails. The fact that she didn’t call back and hasn’t returned your message is not a good sign.

Should you keep bugging her? YES! While this is typical behavior for some editors (particularly in small and understaffed publishing houses), it’s unprofessional and makes me really angry. (Although, I sometimes do it too.)

Here are my general suggested guidelines: If they tell you the approval process could take 8 weeks,  give them the full 8 weeks. Call them on week 9 for an update.
If your book is still in the evaluation process, ask them when you can expect a decision. If you’re okay with the length of time they give you, then be patient again. Don’t bug them during that time frame. If you don’t hear from them again, call and repeat the process.

Or withdraw your submission. If 8 weeks is their usual response time, then nine months is unreasonable.  Personally, I’d call and say I was looking at other publishers and if I haven’t heard from them in two weeks, I’ll assume they’re no longer interested. Then I’d start checking out other publishers.

A Little More on Giveaways

This post doesn’t deal with the legality of giveaways but rather the logistics. Tracking entrants can me a real pain—especially if you want them to do more than comment on a post.

For this site, I decided to try out a simple form system. I tested quite a few of the free ones and decided to go with Wufoo. It was easy to use and had a clean look, although it’s bigger than I’d like. But hey, FREE.

Here’s a site that lists several other free form makers.

If you want something more than a simple form, try Rafflecopter. I’ve used them on several sites in my real-life job.

Up until now, you had to ask to use them and wait for acceptance, but they’ve just done their official launch and anyone can use them now.

They’re also doing their own giveaway where you can win an iPad2 or a Kindle Fire. Here’s the link to that info. 

And while you’re there entering to win, browse their entire blog. They have lots of good ideas for holding giveaways. (Remember, I don’t know for sure that all their ideas are legal, as I am not an attorney, but some of the info is very, very good.)

Have you used something to track your giveaways that you can recommend? Let us know in the comments.

Sales Tax on Book Sales

I have a question. Do you know if, as a newly published author with a lovely new website, do I have to get a Sales and Use Tax number [from my state] to be able to sell books right off of my site? I’m not sure who to ask about sales tax on the web. Thank you so much for all of your invaluable knowledge.

Yep. If your state has a sales tax and expects you to collect it on items sold over the Internet, then yes, you’re going to need a tax number to do business.

Most states will have a website that explains the rules and how to do it. For Utah, you go here.

For other states, google your state name and state sales tax. Example: “California State Sales Tax”.

If you don’t want to deal with this, it may be easier to put links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and/or your publisher.


I’ve gotten a couple of complaints that comments aren’t posting. So I tested it. Sure enough. My comment was hijacked and sent to my “Spam Inbox”—which I didn’t even know existed!

This is what Blogger has to say about that:

Spam Inbox

Blogger now filters comments that are likely spam comments to a Spam Inbox, much like the spam folder in your email. When someone leaves a comment on your blog, it will be reviewed against our spam detector, and comments that are identified as possible spam will be sent to your blog’s Spam Inbox, found at Comments | Spam.

You can help improve our ability to automatically detect spam comments by checking your Spam Inbox and deleting spam comments and marking real comments that may have been flagged as spam as Not Spam.

We are always seeking feedback on how to improve this feature, so please share your feedback with us by clicking on the Report Spam Filtering Issues.

Anybody know how to turn this feature OFF? I couldn’t find a way to do that.

If you post a comment and it doesn’t show up, don’t panic. I will try to check my spam box daily (although honestly, it will most likely be a few times a week) and get your hijacked comments routed correctly. Sorry.

Book Wars! Currently playing at a Wal-Mart near you!

Did everyone see this article?

Book wars! Wal-Mart, Amazon slash costs

I’m proud to say that my first reaction was very professional: poo! poo! and double poo!

Wal-Mart and Amazon, in their fight to rule the world and having already killed a lot of the mom and pops, are going to bring down the rest of the smaller (by comparison) bookstore chains. Which, let’s face it, is bad news for the consumer if you’re looking for service-oriented bookstores with personality.

And bad news for authors, if you’re looking for places to do book signings (which, although they may do very little for an author as far as selling books, they do a lot for helping to spread the word that they exist).

And bad news for small, niche publishers—because your books will never get a loss-leader designation. It will stay regular price.

And, IMHO, this is really bad news for the book buyer in the long-term. Even though those lower prices are tempting, eventually, you find yourself facing a monopoly which can jerk prices any which way they want.

[deep. breath.]

How will this impact the LDS market? In the short-term, since neither Wal-Mart nor Amazon carry a full line of LDS products, and since Deseret Book and Seagull carry little, if any, national titles, life will go on as it is for awhile.

But you can expect to see people wanting lower priced LDS books—which they’re not going to get due to product volumes, unless publishers lower their standards yet again and do even less editing and marketing. (Bad, bad, bad idea.)

But in the long-term, things will work out. (Yes, my middle-name is Pollyanna, but that doesn’t mean I’m not right.)

See, the entire publishing industry is in the midst of re-thinking everything. To survive as a small, niche publisher, we need to move away from tried and true, and toward cutting edge.

We need to start thinking digital and POD. Lower costs, lower returns, but you get to stay in business—and a serendipitous outcome could be pressure on some publishers to raise their editing and submission standards, moving the overall quality of LDS books from mediocre to superb. (Not that there aren’t superb examples of LDS fiction out there; but if you line all the 2009 fiction releases in a row, IMO, we still have a lopsided bell curve that lists to average and below.)

Continuing on about digital and POD options, one quote from that news article is:

The price cuts come at a time when Amazon.com and other sellers have been charging just $9.99 for e-books, a price that publishers worry is unrealistically low.

What?? How is $9.99 unrealistically low for an e-book?

While pre- and post-production costs (editing, typesetting, design, marketing) remain the same for any book, the actual production cost for an e-book is almost nil.

If you connect your e-book to Print-On-Demand services, smaller publishers can produce books for much less of an upfront investment. Their net profits are less, of course, but so are the risks. A small publisher can make quality books available in both electronic and print forms at a reasonable price.

However, they still won’t be able to compete with Wal-Mart and Amazon’s loss-leader pricing strategies. With this being the case, it’s even more important that LDS fiction is QUALITY fiction—and worth the price.

So what do you think?

P.S. I have an idea. And a business plan. But I don’t have any money. Anybody interested?

LDS Agents

Say there was someone silly enough to work for chicken feed, and they decided to become an agent for LDS authors in the LDS market. What are the odds that the publishers would work with them?

Standard agenting fees are 15% of royalties (paid by the author), so unless you were really, really good at picking winners, it really would be chicken feed.

Would the publishers work with you? I don’t know. It depends on whether they see you as an unpaid asset that will help them find the better manuscripts, or as a pain in the side who is going to insist on contract changes they don’t want to allow.

I would be open to agents. I know some other smaller publishers who would. But I’ve also heard through industry gossip (so who knows if it’s true or not) that some publishers flat out refuse to work with anyone who uses an agent, unless they’re an author already established in the national market.

But assuming publishers are open to working with agents, there are two key stumbling blocks you have to overcome:

1. Convincing the publisher that your submissions are better than what’s coming in the slush and that working with you is easier than working directly with the author.

2. Convincing the author that you have a better chance at getting them accepted than they have on their own, and that you can get them a better deal than they can get on their own.

Good luck.

How I’m Getting Filthy Rich Off Gullible Authors

What is the average printing cost of a copy of a typical $15.95 LDS fiction book?

I always hesitate to answer questions like this because:

  1. I’m not privy to the numbers for any publishing company other than the one I work for,
  2. Some of my colleagues are gonna’ be ticked that I’m giving out this info; and
  3. I imagine this question is being asked by an author who thinks they’re getting ripped off based on the measly royalty they’re getting and the limited marketing/promotional budget their book has been given. And that many of my readers feel/think just like him/her and are going to yell at me in the comments section and via e-mail and threaten to smack me in the face because I’ve reduced their heart and soul to “product” status.

But I personally believe that there is some merit in full disclosure, so I’m going to reveal all the dirty secrets of the LDS publishing industry and once and for all admit that we’re getting filthy rich off the backs of you poor, gullible and naive authors. (I hope everyone caught the thick sarcasm there.)

So the answer is:

It depends on the number of books you print at a time, the number of pages in the book, the type of cover (matte, glossy, embossed, etc.), whether you print here in the U.S. or overseas, the relationship you have with your printer (for example, if you’ll be printing 10+ titles with them in one year vs printing 1 title with them), whether you use a standard press or a print on demand, shipping costs, etc.

Here’s a scenario with a title from our company. For us, this is fairly typical of a new author’s first fiction book.

Price: $13.95; 2500 copies, 6×9 trade paperback, 224 pages, 4-color flat gloss cover, printed within 100 miles of the warehouse, on a standard press = $1.40 per book.

Now BEFORE YOU GO ALL CRAZY because you just did the math and it’s completely unfair that the author is only getting $1.12 per book (8% royalty) while we’re raking in a big fat $11.43 per book in profit, you have to figure in a few more things. The true cost of the book is not just the printing, you know.

Print run: $3500
Editing: $500
Typesetting: $900
Cover Design: $500
Pre-release promo: $650
Initial Marketing/Promo: $2000
Total $8050
Per book cost: $3.22

Now, here’s how you use those numbers:
$13.95 (Retail) — $3.22 (initial cost) — $5.86 (avg 42% Wholesale Price) — $1.12 (Royalty) = $3.75 gross profit per book.

Out of that $3.75 per book, we still have to cover all our internal expenses and overhead such as rent, phones, staff, etc., etc. This particular book did not sell through its initial printing so we lost money. (We generally do not make money unless we go into a second printing within the first year of release.)

Now, these numbers are going to vary between publishers. The big two (which are now one) have the benefit of company name recognition (both with bookstores and individual readers) AND guaranteed access to the LDS market through their websites and shelf space in their retail stores. They also have the benefit of what we call “economy of scale” which is the more you do, the cheaper you can do it.

Smaller publishers have a much harder time just getting their product to market. They have to take the financial risk with no guarantee that they’ll be able to get their books on the DB/Seagull shelves or even on the DB website. And let’s face it, if your book is not there, 90+% of the LDS buying public will not even know that it exists.

The costs to the really small publisher is even higher. There are a few that I know of that use a print on demand service and their printing costs could be as high as $6.00 per title—which means if they do any marketing at all they’re going in the hole.

You may be thinking now, how do any of the smaller publishers stay in business? The answer is, a lot of them don’t. That’s why you see a lot of come and go LDS publishers. The ones that do stick around are ones who are able to get their books on the DB/Seagull shelves and who have titles that sell upwards of 6000 copies in the first year—or their fiction is a labor of love subsidized by their non-fiction titles.