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

A Few Publishing Facts by Lyle Mortimer/Cedar Fort

There are a lot of things about the publishing industry of which most authors are not aware. By learning about what goes on behind the scenes with your publisher, and in the industry as a whole, you will be better equipped to understand the environment in which you are trying to sell your book.

Here are a few facts.

Average book sales are shockingly small, and falling fast

Combine the explosion of books published with the declining total sales and you get shrinking sales of each new title. According to BookScan—which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books (including Amazon.com)—only 263 million books were sold in 2011 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined (Publishers Weekly, January 2, 2012). The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime. And very few titles are big sellers. Only 62 of 1,000 business books released in 2009 sold more than 5,000 copies, according to an analysis by the Codex Group (New York Times, March 31, 2010).

A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore

For every available bookstore shelf space, there are 100 to 1,000 or more titles competing for that shelf space. For example, the number of business titles stocked ranges from less than 100 (smaller bookstores) to approximately 1,500 (superstores). Yet there are 250,000-plus business books in print that are fighting for that limited shelf space.

It is getting harder and harder every year to sell books

Many book categories have become entirely saturated, with a surplus of books on every topic. It is increasingly difficult to make any book stand out. Each book is competing with more than ten million other books available for sale, while other media are claiming more and more of people’s time. Result: investing the same amount today to market a book as was invested a few years ago will yield a far smaller sales return today.

There’s little agreement among publishers about what advertising does, other than make the author and the author’s agent feel better, and demonstrate that the house is capable of spending money on ads.

If you’re lucky enough to publish with a house that has a publicity and marketing staff so much the better. You’re one of the lucky ones. Advertising and marketing are some of the gambles that make trade publishing so risky.

Most books today are selling only to the authors’ and publishers’ communities

Everyone in the potential audiences for a book already knows of hundreds of interesting and useful books to read but has little time to read any. Therefore people are reading only books that their communities make important or even mandatory to read. There is no general audience for most nonfiction books, and chasing after such a mirage is usually far less effective than connecting with one’s communities.

Most book marketing today is done by authors, not by publishers

Publishers have managed to stay afloat in this worsening marketplace only by shifting more and more marketing responsibility to authors, to cut costs and prop up sales. In recognition of this reality, most book proposals from experienced authors now have an extensive (usually many pages) section on the authors’ marketing platform and what the authors will do to publicize and market the books. Publishers still fulfill important roles in helping craft books to succeed and making books available in sales channels, but whether the books move in those channels depends primarily on the authors.

No other industry has so many new product introductions

Every new book is a new product, needing to be acquired, developed, reworked, designed, produced, named, manufactured, packaged, priced, introduced, marketed, warehoused, and sold. Yet the average new book generates only $10,000 to $20,000 in sales, which needs to cover all of these expenses, leaving only small amounts available for each area of expense. This more than anything limits how much publishers can invest in any one new book and in its marketing campaign.

You may have noticed that the numbers of bookstores have decreased significantly over the past decade. Most notably was the demise of Borders, which had a large market share. You have probably also seen that the ranks of publishers are thinning.

As you understand the risks and responsibilities of publishers you will be much better able to interface with them, your expectations will be significantly refined, and your project is much more likely to succeed.


Lyle Mortimer and Lee Nelson started Cedar Fort in 1986. Lyle has been an active participant in the company for over 25 years. Cedar Fort’s vision is to publish uplifting and edifying books. You can connect with Cedar Fort at the website, www.cedarfort.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 Going Through a Reputable Publisher Makes Sense by Rodney Fife/CFI

Recently, there have been many authors who have thought about self-publishing their book. While it is understandable why this may be attractive in regards to profit, there are advantages to going with a traditional and reputable publisher.  So you may ask, What does a Publisher do that I can’t do myself?

A reputable publisher can help you in many ways. First, most publishers have a marketing team that knows how to market and present your book to the media and ultimately the end-readers. These marketing teams usually have developed relationships with media sources. This allows them to get you attention from the media easier then someone going alone. The Marketing team also has experience in what works best for each genre. Hand in hand with the marketing comes the sales team. Most publishers have established accounts with large buyers of books. A lot of these buyers will not take a look at a self-published title.

Additionally, when publishing through a publishing house you have production support. The publisher usually has a design team, editing team and a warehouse. These are all services that come with the publishing contract.

When someone self-publishes they are alone. They either have to hire someone to perform a certain task or do it themselves. So they had to first write a great title. Then they have to design, edit, market then sell it. Just think about the effort, time and cost involved. The self-published author also has 100 percent of the risk involved with failure. How many self-published titles do you see on the New York Time’s Best Seller list?

Going with a reputable publisher is beneficial not just in the operational support. But, you have someone who is behind you 100 percent. Their focus is aligned with yours. They want your story to be told loudly so they can benefit right alongside you. A great publisher will always be there ready with advice, encouragement and support.

Rodney Fife is a publicist with Cedar Fort, Inc. If you are looking to publish a title. Cedar Fort Inc. is always looking for good titles. You can submit your ideas to submissions@cedafort.com or by filling out the form on http://www.cedarfortbooks.com/author-submission/

A Picture Book: What Do I Do Next?

I am looking for advice on publishing an LDS children’s book.  My book is in the very early stages.  I’ve written a first draft, and have an artist who has agreed to do illustrations.  Everyone who has read the story has told me I should get it published (without me asking, and without them knowing I’m thinking about doing it).  I’m just wondering if you have advice on the process of publishing an LDS childrens book.  What publisher(s) do I send it to? In what format? Thank you very much.

The children’s picture book market is a tough one—especially in the small LDS niche market. This is because, in general, the cost to print them is higher and the expected return on investment is less.

To increase the likelihood of success, do your research. First, read a lot of picture books. Study the ones that are really popular and determine what makes them so.

Second, write a unique story that lends itself to unique illustrations.

Learn all you can about the process of publishing picture books. For example, did you know that most picture books are 32 pages long—and that includes the title page.

Formatting for submitting a picture book is different than a standard fiction book. Research that so it’s easy for the editor to see where page breaks should occur.

Also, most publishers hire their own illustrators. It’s rare that they’ll use your illustrator.

Once you’re armed with a good story and knowledge of the industry, go to Deseret Book and look at the LDS picture books they have on the shelf. Write down the names of the publishers and then start submitting.


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.]

The Lowdown on Multiple Submissions by Anita Mumm

Is it okay to query several agents at once? Absolutely. In fact, we recommend it. If you wait to hear back from each agent before approaching another, you could end up waiting months or years for an offer of representation. But there is a protocol to follow. Here are some things to bear in mind as you get ready to launch your volley of submissions.

  • It’s not necessary to say, “This is a multiple submission,” in your query letter (though there is nothing wrong with doing so). Unless you tell an agent she is your one shot and you can’t possibly see yourself working with someone else, the agent will assume that as a savvy writer you are not putting all your eggs in one basket.
  • After you send your query, keep agents posted on any major interest you receive for the project. Always check the agent’s website, blog, etc. to learn her preferences, but in general that means an offer of representation; you don’t need to send updates if you get another sample or full manuscript request. Also, if you sent your manuscript to editors before seeking an agent, it’s good to mention this in your query letter, and definitely keep agents posted if you receive an offer of publication.
  • If you receive an offer of representation from an agent, you have two choices: (1) Let him know that you are waiting to hear back from other agents you submitted to and ask for a reasonable period in which to make your decision—agents hate being forced to read a manuscript overnight. Or (2) decide you want to go with him and accept the offer. Either way, let everyone else know immediately. It’s very frustrating for an agent who has just spent hours reading your manuscript, only to learn that it is no longer available.

Remember that there’s a balance to be found with multiple submissions. Approaching only one or two agents decreases your chance of success, but firing off dozens of queries will only cause headaches as you try to keep track of where you are in each agent’s submission process. Focus on a handful of your top choices, and if they turn you down, go to your Plan B list, and so on. The bottom line is to be courteous and considerate throughout the process—life is unpredictable and you never know when you might be agent hunting again.

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.

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?

Timing Your Submission

I love reading your blog, and when a question came up about publishing in the LDS world, I knew you were the first person I had to ask.

I have an LDS romance story that is about 99% completed right now. It’s in the final stages of revisions and I hope to have it done before the summer. My question is this: Is it worth my time to submit this to LDS publishers during the weeks surrounding Storymakers, or should I hold off? I know traditional advice would be to submit whenever I’m ready, but I don’t want to get lost in a blizzard of submissions surrounding the biggest LDS publishing event of the year. Would I have a better chance of being seen if I waited until the storm died down? (Like avoiding the post-NaNoWriMo rush)

Thanks for your time 🙂

Don’t worry about it. It’s not like your submission is going to get lost in the shuffle. Trust me, most legit publishers have a very good way of tracking submissions so they don’t get lost in the pile.

Yes, you may have more submissions in front of yours for awhile and it may take longer for the editor to get to yours, but those submissions are going to be there anyway. If you wait, there will be other submissions that come in while you’re waiting—and yours will then be behind those too.

The only difference I’ve found that a mass of submissions makes is how long it takes me to reply. It doesn’t make me grumpy or rushed. I still give each submission an honest look no matter how many are waiting for me.


Children’s Picture Books

Thanks for taking the time to write your blog.  I’m just getting my feet wet in the publishing world, and you have given me a place to start.  I have written a children’s picture book.  I’ve been rejected by three publishers so far, and searched dozens of other LDS publishers who are not accepting submissions in this genre.  Would you please direct me?  I don’t know what to do next.

The difficulty with picture books is they cost more to produce and yet the expected sales are lower than books for adults.

Extra costs for a picture book include the cost of illustrations, which can run in the thousands of dollars if they hire a really good illustrator, plus the cost of full color printing, which can be double or more than a book with no color on the pages.

In order for a publisher to justify the risk, you’re going to have to have a pretty awesome story line or be an established author with a large following to guarantee sales.

What you need to look for is a publisher who specializes in picture books. I don’t know if your content is specifically LDS, but if it isn’t, or if it can be changed to reflect general Christian ideas, you might want to try a Christian publisher. (Google “Christian Picture Book Publisher).

I’m not sure what to advise your for specific LDS content… Readers? Ideas?


Common Reasons for Rejections

Hello, [my trilogy] was just turned down by deseret publishing on my first book of this project. I’m 75% done with the second book and will then immediately complete the third of the trilogy. There has never been books like these as they are unique and experientially based. Can you help me?

It is not at all uncommon to be rejected on your first book and by the first publisher you contact. Don’t give up.

The most common reason books are rejected is that they are not a good fit for the publisher. Read the publisher’s submission guidelines carefully. Make sure the publisher you are submitting to is interested in your genre and topic. Make sure they publish things similar, but not the same as what you’re submitting.

The second most common reason for rejection is that the book is just not quite publication ready. Get some critiques on your manuscript. Join a critique group with experienced writers. Go to some conferences that offer critique sessions. Make sure your book is as good as it can possibly be.

The third most common reason for rejection is your query letter isn’t quite up to what it should be. Saying things like, “There has never been books like these as they are unique and experientially based,” is not really very helpful. Unique how? What specifically do you meant by “experientially based”? Is that experiential component going to add to the cost of creating the book? That might be an issue (or not).

And I can guarantee, the publisher/editor/agent is going to have seen something like it before.

Do your research and keep submitting. Good luck!

Looking for an LDS Publisher with National Marketing

Hi, I’m a fiction writer. I want to query one or more of the LDS publishers, but I don’t know which ones are the largest and with which one I would have the best chance of getting into the national market. I have already been rejected by Shadow Mountain. I’m thinking Covenant or Cedar Fort. Am I right? If so, which? (My book is absolutely clean, no profanity etc., but contains no references to LDS history, doctrine, or anything else LDS.) Is there anywhere to be found, a list of rankings of LDS publishers in terms of size, books published per year etc.?

In terms of size and name recognition, it goes

  1. Deseret Book (with its Shadow Mountain imprint)
  2. Covenant (also owned by Deseret Book; does not have a national market)
  3. Cedar Fort (has both LDS and national imprints)

In terms of the number of fiction titles released each year, flip that list upside down and you’ve got it.

There is also WiDo Publishing, a smaller new publishing company which markets nationally.

But I guess my question is, if you really want to hit the national market, why are you looking at LDS publishers? Look for a national publisher instead.


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.

Did You Just Call Me a Dinosaur?!?

I am an LDS author who announced last year I would embrace the new eBook phenomenon and self-publish 12 Books in 12 months (#11 is due for release June 1st)
With traditional publishing going the way of the dinosaur (if they won’t agree to a massive makeover) how does this affect you and your work?

Did I answer this question already? It seems familiar but it was still in my questions folder. So if this is a repeat, sorry.

First, good for you! I’m glad you’re meeting your goals.

Second, as I’ve said before, and I will now repeat, the biggest issue I have with self-publishing and cranking out those e-books is the lack of quality control—particularly in the areas of editing, book production, and targeted promotion and marketing.

It’s really hard for me to believe that someone can write and publish a book in one month, twelve months in a row, and have the end result be a quality reading experience. I’m willing to be wrong on that, but I seriously doubt that I am.

I don’t believe traditional publishing is going the way of the dinosaur, nor do I believe it needs a “massive” makeover. Yes, there are definitely things that need to change to keep up with technology and consumer expectations. But a savvy publisher is going to be doing this anyway, all the time. None of the big publishing houses are still doing business the way they did back in the early 1900s.

But to say that self-publishing and/or ebooks will put publishers out of business implies a basic lack of understanding of what a publisher does. A book is always going to need good editing. It’s always going to need someone to design and typeset a visually appealing product. It’s always going to need marketing to bookstores and to readers. It’s always going to need someone to make the initial monetary investment, create a solid budget, figure out how to recoup the cost, and track all the other numbers that determine the success of a book.

Most of the time, an author succeeds because they are good at writing; they have a talent for stringing words and phrases together to create a captivating story. This is an entirely different skill set than the one a publisher has. In fact, in most publishing houses, there are multiple people, each of which has ONE of the above mentioned skill sets—all of which are required to produce and market a book that will sell well.

It’s not that some authors can’t do it all. It’s that most of them aren’t highly skilled in every single aspect of producing a quality end product that will compete with products created by a team of people, each of which is (theoretically) highly skilled in what they do.

And for self-pubs and indies who say, “Well, I hire people to do what I’m not good at…”—then aren’t you, in effect, creating a publishing company?

Bottom line, how will it effect me and my work? It doesn’t. Not if I’m good at what I do.

Where Do I Submit a Story with a Taboo Topic?

I have just finished writing a book about the true story of placing my baby for adoption. I wrote it hoping to go through an LDS publisher, and it’s completely clean and has many spiritual aspects. I still wonder if LDS publishers would find the topic of teen pregnancy too taboo, even though it sends a great, positive message. What do you think?

Another reader asked:

I am currently preparing a proposal for a Book I am writing about conversations with Heavenly Mother. It is the first of it’s kind that I know of. Any suggestions?

Both of these topics deal with what might be called “taboo topics.”

What do I think? I whole-heartedly agree with Brigham Young who said:

Upon the stage of a theatre can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards; the weakness and follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed and how to shun it. (I don’t have the exact reference for this. If you do, please leave it in the comments.)

I think this also applies to literature. Personally, I don’t think any subject should be taboo—in and of itself. If it’s happening out in the world, there will be members of our Church dealing with it on some level, great or small. If members of the Church are thinking about it or dealing with it, then they would probably appreciate a book on the topic.

How it’s handled, however, is where I draw lines.

If a story is well-written, avoids use of things that would be offensive to most LDS readers (like gratuitous violence and language or detailed intimacy), and the main message supports the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then I’m good with it.

Unfortunately, not all LDS publishers are open to “difficult” or “unusual” topics. While individuals within the company may fully support books that deal with these tougher themes, the powers-that-be may feel the company reputation would be damaged by delving too deeply into the ways of the world or topics that aren’t quite middle-of-the-road-Mormonism.

If the big three (Deseret Book, Covenant, Cedar Fort) reject you, you’ll need to search a little harder to find a publisher who is willing to push the line a bit. They do exist.

I’m giving you the same advice that I gave on Monday. Make a list of LDS publishers. (I have a partial list here but no info or links yet, sorry.) Go to their websites and look at the books they publish. Have any of those books addressed themes similar to yours? Do they say in their submission guidelines that they’re willing to consider and/or actively seek books that address your topic or theme? These would definitely be publishers who would consider your book.

Is There a Market for LDS Reference/Study Guides?

Hello. Thanks for creating your blog. I just have a few quick questions. I’ve put together an [XYZ] reference guide. It’s for [a certain area of study] and has about 45,000 entries, in an [particular] format. Is there still a market for [this type of] reference book, and which LDS publishing companies would you recommend?

Yes! I think there will always be a market for LDS reference and study guides.

What you need, however, is a twist—something unique that sets your book off from those already published. What you need is a reason why someone would buy yours, as opposed to the ones produced by the Church itself, or those written by noted LDS scholars.

  • Is your guide perfect for children or teens?
  • Is it extra easy to understand?
  • Does it include something the other guides don’t?

The format you described (which I deleted to keep it private) may be enough of a difference to give it a selling point.

As for choosing a publisher, make a list of LDS publishers. (I have a partial list here but no info or links yet, sorry.) Go to their websites and see if they sell similar items. Look at their submission guidelines and see if they’re interested in reference books or study guides. Then custom tailor your query so that it clearly states why your product is compatible with, yet unique from, their existing products.

Publishing Artwork

I have a photograph I would like to get published of the Sacred Grove. Do you have any suggestions on how to publish art? Who is the best publishing company? Is Deseret Publishing the best route?

I am not an art publisher. At one time I worked for a company that distributed artwork, but later decided to drop the art and focus on books.

There are some companies that specialize in publishing LDS artwork. I did a post showing some of them from the 2010 LDSBA convention. You could try contacting them.

You might also Google “lds art distributor” and go from there.

Readers, any suggestions?

Move Over, Seventeen?

Hi, I’m thinking of starting my own LDS magazine for the young women. In this recession, would it be feasible to start something like this on my own?

I’m not an authority on magazines but there are similarities between a small niche magazine and a small niche book publisher.

In my opinion, launching a new print magazine is going to be difficult, expensive and very risky for one person to try to do (unless you’re independently wealthy with lots of money to burn).

In any economic climate, a print magazine in a niche market is risky business. A magazine targeted at LDS teen girls is even more risky because you not only have to convince the girls that your magazine is cool enough for them to read and discuss with their friends, but you also have to convince their parents that you’re safe and aren’t promoting anything contrary to LDS standards.

Like launching a small publishing company, you’ll face issues of promotion and marketing (letting your potential readers/subscribers know you exist), distribution (getting the product to market), and advertising (it’s hard to sell ads for an untried magazine).

You’re also going to have to answer questions in the minds of the subscribers:

  1. Are you competing with the New Era?
  2. How is this different from the New Era?
  3. If I read the New Era, why do I need anything else?

I’d suggest you look into creating an e-zine, or website. You won’t make any money from subscriptions, but it’s less investment up front and if you can prove your traffic, it’ll be easier to get ads.

If the website is a success, then you might want to consider a print magazine.

Any readers out there that have experience with launching a magazine? I’d love it if you’d chime in.

10 Steps to a Good Query Letter

Your query letter is often your first and last chance to impress a publisher. You can find tips for how to do one all over the internet. They will vary from blogger to blogger, but there are a few basic rules that all good queries follow.

1. Follow Instructions. Check the publisher’s website and scrupulously follow any instructions for creating and sending a query that are posted there. This is the most important step. If there are no instructions, create a 1-2 page letter (1 is better) that is clean and crisp and follows standard business letter format. Some publishers now accept e-queries. They will state this in their instructions.

2. Finish your manuscript. A fiction work needs to be completed before you start sending queries. Make sure it’s your best work. If there are any parts that you feel aren’t quite up to snuff, work them out.

For non-ficton, a solid outline is usually adequate in the query stage, but a publisher want to see finished product before they offer a contract. Until then, you’re writing on spec. Hopefully, you write fast because “hot topics” can change quickly.

Before you call it done, have your manuscript read by at least 6 people who know something about writing in general and your genre/subject area in specific. These need to be people who will be completely honest with you and won’t pull punches. (Recommended: a good writers group; Not recommended: mother, sister, husband, best friend.) Clean up your manuscript based on the suggestions of your readers.

3. Do research. Research the publishing house you’re sending it to. Read the submission guidelines on their website. Make sure they are looking for manuscripts in your genre/area.

4. Address. Address the query to the right person, name spelled correctly. If the website doesn’t indicate a specific name (John Doe) or title (Acquisitions Editor) to send your query or submission to, you might consider making a quick call to ask the secretary.

5. Introduction. Introduce yourself and your book briefly, making realistic statements about your writing ability. Tell about your book. What is the genre? Include your word count. State how you came to submit to this editor/publisher. A referral by a current author or another publisher or someone the editor personally knows is a plus. But don’t name drop unless it’s legitimate. They will check up on you.

If you don’t have a personal referral, just state how you heard about them and why you think they might like your book. Example: “I saw your company listed as an LDS publisher on the XYZ list. I went to your website and noticed that you’ve published several [genre or topic]. I believe my book will fit nicely with those…”

6. Pitch. Give a brief synopsis. Who is your target audience? Why will they buy it as opposed to the 27 others like it on the shelf? Again, be realistic. You could say, “Readers who enjoyed ABC might also enjoy this book.”

Some authors do the pitch first, then the introductory information. That’s okay too.

7. Credentials. Brief description of your publishing credentials, if you have them. (Self-publishing only counts if your books were carried in bookstores and you sold more than 2,000 copies.)

Don’t be afraid to say this is your first book. Every single published author had a first book.

If you’re submitting non-fiction, this would be where you describe your expertise in the area. Example: a nutritionist writing about a new weight loss program. Life experience is also a credential, if it applies to the subject area. A formerly 300 pound homemaker can speak to weight loss as well.

8. Conclusion. If you have some good marketing ideas, you might do a 1-2 sentence pitch on that. Otherwise, just say something polite and end the letter.

9. Clean Up. Run the spell check. Let it sit for a day, then print it out and read it to make sure you haven’t left out words, etc. Print your query in an easy-to-read font: 12 point type, Times, regular spacing. If you e-query, do a virus check before sending it. Also, do not attach a document file as your query letter. Just copy and paste it straight into the body of the e-mail.

10. Include SASE. If you’re submitting my regular mail, include a SASE. I know some of you don’t believe in SASEs, but if you want to make a good impression, do it.

If you e-query, put the editor’s e-mail address in your address book so the reply does not bounce back. Also, if you have any of those annoying programs that make people “register” before they can send you e-mail, TURN IT OFF. Or get a separate e-mail address just for submissions, and don’t give out the address to anyone but editors or publishers. (An address like cutiepie@xyz.com is probably not the best for creating a professional, businesslike impression.)

If you need more specific help, ask your published writer friends if you can see the query they used to get their book accepted. But don’t cookie-cutter it. You are original. Your book is original. Your query should be original, too. (And whatever you do, don’t buy one of those software programs that writes your query for you!)

From the Archives, 5/1/06

CFI Looking for Manuscripts

NOTE: I received the following e-mail from Cedar Fort and I’m happy to post it here, as requested. I just want to make clear that this is NOT an endorsement of Cedar Fort by LDS Publisher. I am committed to staying neutral when it comes to recommending publishers. It is YOUR responsibility to do your research, talk to other authors, and determine which publisher is a good fit for your personality, needs and story.

Hello LDS Publisher,

My name is Jennifer Fielding and I am the Acquisitions Manager at Cedar Fort. In an effort to compete more effectively in the national market, we are working harder than ever to acquire manuscripts to fill our production needs so that we have a full schedule that is one year out. While having to wait longer for your books to be published in not the most exciting news for an author, it is so important for marketing in the national market to be that far out that it will positively be worth the wait. The average national buyer needs at least 6 months from the time they are presented our titles in person, to the time those books hit their shelves to get their stores ready to receive the stock, set up the ebook purchase option on the their website, organize signings, etc. By getting a year out in our schedule, leading up to those six months, our marketing team can help our authors build a recognizable web presence and following so that the buyers have an even greater incentive to bet on our books.

Since many of your followers are Cedar Fort authors already, and all of them are interested in publishing, I wondered if you would be interested in posting a list of the topics we are currently looking for to help fill our schedule? This is not an exclusive list but these are certainly topics that will catch our immediate interest in acquisitions:

  • Prayer
  • The Book of Mormon
  • The Doctrine & Covenants
  • Church History
  • Mother’s Day: short stories and gift books
  • General Nonfiction
  • LDS Nonfiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • LDS fiction
  • Social and Behavioral Issues (i.e. Asperger’s, ADHD, suicide, eating disorders, body image) both nonfiction and fiction

All submissions should be mailed to our office at the address below, attention: Acquisitions. Please also include our Manuscript Submissions Form, as found on our website www.cedarfort.com.

Thank you for your time,

Who’s the Best?

I’m a writer, and after I put together my proposal I felt that maybe I should look into the world of LDS publishing because of the subject matter in my book. Which is the best publisher for LDS authors?

First, if it’s fiction, you’ll need more than a proposal. You’ll need the full manuscript. If it’s non-fiction, a proposal may be enough (check the publishers’ websites for submission guidelines) but you’ll need to be able to show sample chapters soon after, if they’re interested.

Now for the rest of your question. It depends on your book, it’s content, and what you want to do with it.

Deseret Book is generally considered the “best” publisher for LDS authors of books with LDS content because they’ve been in business the longest. They are very well established in the minds of the customer and they have a reputation for good products. They also have the largest distribution network for LDS books AND a zillion of their own stores.

For getting your book on LDS bookstore shelves and in front of the LDS reader, Deseret Book is arguably the “best”—if they accept your book.

But. Here’s the downside.

Because DB is at the top of the list in the minds of most LDS authors and readers, they also receive the most submissions and, therefore, send out the most rejections. The competition for acceptance at DB is fierce.

After an author is rejected from Deseret Book (I’m not saying that you WILL be rejected, just talking probabilities based on numbers), there are quite a few other LDS publishers to consider. I am not going to recommend any here. You need to do your own research.

Start by Googling “LDS Publishers” and see what pops up. Talk to published LDS authors about their experiences—which publishers they’d recommend and which they didn’t care for. Then find a match for you and submit!

Those Dratted Publishers!

Dear All Knowing One,

A quick question; I finally signed my first book contract. Aaahh!! (I got the 10% net on the first 5000, BTW.) I’m just wondering; I signed it on the 19th of February with an intended date of publication of on or before April 30, 2010, and got the e-file of the manuscript to them the next day. However, since then I’ve heard nothing from the publisher. About every ten days I’ve sent a short e-mail asking if they need anything from me, but haven’t even gotten a reply. Doesn’t it at least need to go to an editor? Can they really print a book in six weeks? What should I be doing here? I feel an urgency that they obviously don’t, but I don’t want to be obnoxious either.

Okay, so that wasn’t a quick question. Sorry.

Also, I’ve been thinking of a way to repay you for your willingness to help without blowing your anonymity. I came up with an idea to leave tickets (in the name of LDS publisher) to something you enjoy at a will-call desk somewhere. Any favorites? Or other ideas? Thanks for you wisdom and great attitude.

Ahhh. The travails of publishing. I feel your pain.

Okay, here’s the thing. Almost no one hits their original release date—unless the book is a highly publicized and anticipated release. It’s much more likely that your release date will be pushed back at least once. Hope that it’s only by a few weeks. I know some books that are over a year behind their original schedule. (This happens in all markets—national and LDS.)

Upon submission of your completed manuscript, it should go to editing. Then it should come back to you for rewrites. Then it goes to typesetting. Then you see “bluelines proofs” (which aren’t really bluelines anymore but some of us old-schoolers still call them that). Then you send back final corrections. Then it goes to press. Then, depending on how they’re printed and bound, it could be anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks (longer if they go overseas for printing).

That’s how it’s supposed to work. Yes, it can be done in six weeks, but usually it takes longer because they’re probably working on multiple projects.

The fact that you’re going to most likely miss your original release date doesn’t bother me. It happens. What does bother me is that they aren’t responding to your emails. This could be for any number of reasons—like vacation, sick days, reassignment of jobs within the company. Or maybe they aren’t getting your emails or you aren’t getting theirs. That can happen sometimes too. (If they’re just ignoring you, that is unprofessional, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for now).

If by the time you read this (your email to me must have gotten lost over China because even though you sent it three weeks ago, I’m just now seeing it…) you’ve still had no response to your emails, I’d call them. (Yes, I know I say never call your publisher, but this is one of the FEW situations where it’s okay.) Tell them you’re concerned because your release date is fast approaching and you haven’t heard from them so you just wanted to make sure they were getting your emails.

And as for the tickets? The thought is wonderful but I’d be too paranoid to go pick them up. But you can always send me a comp copy of your book when it does come out. I lurve books.

Why Go with an LDS Publishing House?

I have been reading the posts and comments on your site and the more I read, the more apprehensive I become about submitting my manuscript to an LDS publishing house. From what I have gleaned, 1) books are published with less attention to grammar and quality than regular publishers, 2) royalties are very low, if not non-existent, and 3)the financial burden of publicity is carried mostly by the author. These problems don’t lend a lot of confidence in the LDS publishing industry. Since my manuscript is not themed heavily with LDS doctrine and could be accepted as regular fiction elsewhere, 4) could you give me any reason why I should consider LDS publishing houses? I would love to be surrounded by those who share my religious views, but I’m not certain if the trade-off is worth it.

  1. Some are; some aren’t. Depends on the publisher. Some national (“regular”) publishers are just as bad as the worst LDS publishers. Some LDS publishers are every bit as good as national publishers. What you have to do is take a sampling from the different publishers and decide which ones meet your standards of editing and quality.
  2. As far as I know, all LDS publishers pay royalties, so they do exist. That’s the good news. The bad news is, yes, in many cases royalties in our niche market are lower than what you would get from a national publisher, as they are in any niche market. Not only is the royalty percentage often lower than for a national equivalent, but so is the audience, which means the number of books that can be reasonably expected to sell is fewer.
  3. Again, depends on the publisher. General rule of thumb: the smaller the publisher, the less they spend on marketing and promotion. Also, the less your book sells, the smaller the slice of the marketing pie it gets. The better it sells, the more the publisher will invest in it. That’s also true of national publishers.
  4. The one and only reason to go with an LDS publisher is because your heart is there—you want to write books specifically targeted to and written about members of the LDS church.